例えば、Washington PostやNewyork TimesのWEBサイトで社説を毎日読む。大変なことのようです。分からない単語だらけで長続きできそうもないと感じるかもしれませんが、半年頑張ってやってみましょう。世界の情勢や世界の考えがわかるようになったとき「頑張り」が「楽しい」に変わります。
[uncountable] knowledge or skill that you gain from doing a job or activity, or the process of doing this
the information, skills, and understanding that you have gained through learning or experience
Being a good writer: two hats
Imagine you have two hats next to your computer. Suppose one hat is red with tiny yellow pens, orange pencils, and blue bookmarks on it. The red hat is your writing hat. Your first name is embroidered on the top of the hat, and after your name is the word writer.
When you wear your red writer’s hat, you are a writer. Your writing skills are numerous:
you have imagination
you are able to analyze
you have experience
you are able to link one idea to another
you are able to introduce your topic
you are able to conclude your writing
you are able to summarize
you are able to give examples
Now, imagine another hat. The second hat is blue with tiny red commas, green question marks, green light bulbs, and brown exclamation marks on it. The blue hat is your editor’s hat. Your name is embroidered on the top of the hat, and after your name is the word editor.
When you wear your blue hat, you are an editor. Your editing skills are numerous:
knowing where periods, commas, and all other punctuation marks belong
knowing where sentences begin and end
knowing which words require capitalization
knowing where to start and end paragraphs
knowing spelling and knowing to use a spell checker
knowing to use a varied vocabulary
knowing to use a variety of sentence lengths
Working to keep the two skillsets separate, writing and editing, will help you to become a better writer.
Live in, live on, and live off
I have a friend who lives in San Francisco, a friend who lives on an island, and a friend who lives on a boat. I had a friend who lived on coffee and beer too. I haven’t seen him for many years. I hope he is doing okay, but too much coffee and too much beer are not a winning combination.
I am writing this now, responding to a virtual friend who asked about live always taking the preposition in.
I remember when I was in elementary school, or perhaps middle school, and my English teacher told me that every rule has an exception or two or three or more. Actually, she only said that every rule has an exception, but many rules have more than one exception!
Live always taking the preposition in is one such rule. It is true that we usually live in a place, but we live on boats and islands.
What about living off coffee and beer? Imagine what that would do to your insides… (Yes, you can live off coffee and beer or you can live on coffee and beer.) That does not mean that you live on top of them. It means that they are what keep you going.
If you really love coffee, you could also live for coffee. That means that coffee is your reason for living! People do say that. They may not really mean it, but they do say it! Starbucks hopes they mean it…
So, I live in San Francisco means that I live there.
I live off San Francisco would mean that the city supports me, perhaps with money. This is not a very pleasant implication though. It sounds rather dishonest. Maybe I steal from tourists for my living?
I live on San Francisco might mean that San Francisco gives me my energy and keeps me going.
I live for San Francisco means that it is what I truly want and desire.
Please understand, in closing, that these examples are not perfect. They do not have context. Language needs context. They could mean as stated above, but in another context they could mean something different.
Here are some more examples:
I live in California.
My friend lives on a boat.
Farmers used to live off the land.
When we are university students, we live off our parents.
Sometimes we live in apartments or dormitories.
I lived in the countryside for two months.
When I lived in the countryside, I lived for swimming.
In the winter, I lived in the mountains. Then, I lived for snowboarding.
Now, it’s time to stop and have a cup of tea. After all, I live off tea.
話は変わりますが、英文の中に、イソップ物語の the Turtle and the Hare が出てきます。日本語では、「ウサギとカメ」となりますが、英語では、順番が違うようです。ウサギに対応する英語は、hare なのですね。
More Regular Practice
In Chapter 1, we talked about three ways for regular practice. We suggested them because almost everybody has a TV or radio and can practice regularly with NHK, TV, and movies. For most people, in most situations, these will be the three best ways for regular practice. There are also other kinds of regular practice that we would like to suggest, but some of these may not work as well. Some people may not have access to some of these methods and some people may not have interest.
Volunteering is a great way to practice if you are in an environment where you can volunteer to work with English speakers and practice that way. Can you have English speakers do homestays with you, volunteer with international associations, and find other such ways to practice your English?
Pen pals, or key pals, which are pen pals via the Internet are another option. Look on the Internet and try to find keypals. Another option is chat rooms. There are many avenues for communication on the Internet. Just keep at it!
We would also like to talk about reading in this chapter. Reading is not popular with everyone, but reading is one way to improve your English. There are two kinds of reading. One is where you read difficult things and look up many words. This is fine for learning new vocabulary. If you do this on the computer, you can use computer dictionaries to look words up easily. This is good as you can read what you are interested in and learn vocabulary.
The other way to read is to read things that are easy for you, things that you can understand without a dictionary. This will not help your vocabulary much, but it will help your grammar greatly. This reading helps you improve your fluency for both speaking and writing. How can this help when you are reading something easy? Because it is easy, it is easy for you to read. You are not working hard. So, you can read and remember the language naturally. You cannot do this when you are reading something too difficult.
While reading is not popular, reading is very important. People who really want to get good at English should read. Spoken English that we hear in conversation, in movies, and on TV uses less vocabulary and is simpler. The English that we read is much richer, using more vocabulary. To truly become good at English, reading is essential.
Different people like different kinds of regular practice. To improve, you need regular practice. Think of the Aesop’s story of the Turtle and the Hare. Slow and steady gets you to the English finish line. Studying one hour a day is more productive than studying for 10 hours every Sunday. Living in English for one hour a day is better than studying for 10 hours every Saturday. Regular hopefully means daily. You need to spend a lot of time at English to make significant improvement. We hope you can take time every day. While 10 minutes is better than nothing, it is still not much. We would suggest at least an hour a day.
If you remember only one thing from this book, we hope that you will remember regular practice, living in English.
1. I want him to repair my radio.
2. I want my radio repaired.
3. I want my radio to be repaired.
The grammar puzzle
At Aaron Teaches, we are frequently asked grammar questions.
Here is one such email:
When I was a student, I asked Japanese English teachers about three sentences.
1. I want him to repair my radio. [OK]
2. I want my radio repaired. [OK]
3. I want my radio to be repaired.
They said Example 3 was wrong, but they could not explain how or why.
We were not sure how to reply. All three of the sentences could be correct, depending on the context. The first two sentences seem as if they would be more commonly used.
However, all three sentences feel rather abrupt. If I were to bring my radio to be repaired, I would express myself a little differently.
4. I would like my radio repaired.
Example 4 feels better. Examples 1, 2, and 3 sound harsh. In particular, Example 3 seems to imply that there was some trouble. Was the person refused service? Did the repair place say they could not do it? Or, more likely, did they fail to repair it? Or has the person been waiting a long time? We don’t know.
We do know two things:
Sentences do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in context. The context is important. It gives meaning.
A number of students of English in Japan seem to enjoy grammar studies and to appreciate discussing grammar points. That is why we have so much grammar discussion at our site.
Note, however, that most of it is in English. Therefore, while you are reading this page, you are learning more than just grammar. You are receiving our communication in English. We would be less excited if the explanation were taking place in Japanese. Then, the explanation might help your academic knowledge of English, but it would not help you get much better at English.
Think of playing the piano. Do you get better by listening to lectures or by practicing?
Read every day
Yes, we give the same advice on every study page. Regular study makes you improve.
Read something interesting Yes, we give the same advice on many of our pages. What are you going to read more of? Something interesting or something boring?
Do extensive reading
This means things you can read without much effort and without a dictionary. This kind of reading helps your reading fluency and grammar skills. You need to read easy things to internalize language.
Do some intensive reading
Intensive reading is reading that takes more work and a dictionary. However, dictionaries take time. Instead, try reading on the Internet. Open two windows, one for reading and one for your dictionary. When you find words you don’t know, just drag and drop in the dictionary. Quick, isn’t it?
5. Keep reading
Yes, reading takes time. We have to practice to get better at something. You need to read every day, and your reading will get better. Please note that reading more will also help your listening and speaking. You will hear some of the words you read. You can use them when you speak too.
I Thought my Father was God は、どんな英語の本でしょうか？次の説明を聞くと、きっとこの本に関心をもたれると思います。
アメリカの有名な作家、 Paul Auster がまとめた本です。彼が、ラジオのリスナーから送られた 5000 にも及ぶ各人の人生に纏わる実話の中から、最もすぐれた作品をいくつか収録しました。
Here’s a reading suggestion: I Thought my Father was God
Are you familiar with Paul Auster? If not, he’s a well-known American writer.
Briefly, here’s how this book developed. Mr. Auster suggested that people listening to a public radio station program send him stories about their lives, short stories. The stories had to be true. Unexpectedly, he received about 5,000 stories. He selected some that he thought best and put them in a book, I thought my Father was God.
The stories are sad, happy, funny, ironic, and poignant. The writers are Americans writing about love, romance, childhood, war, home, friendships, coincidences, family, death, and life in the United States. Reading the stories might stimulate your thinking, enlarge your vocabulary, and enrich your database of collocations and grammatical structures. You’ll meet Americans who may be very different from you, and you’ll meet Americans who may be not so different. Plus, we think you’ll enjoy the stories.
What is surprising is how well and how interestingly non-writers write.
Let us at Aaron know if you decide to get the book and what you think.
Only Japanese People Can Eat Natto
First, we would like to start with a grammar point. The title of this chapter, “Only Japanese People Can Eat Natto,” is a grammatical mistake. If it were true, the correct title would be “Only Japanese People Eat Natto.”
Continuing with more grammar, if you meet someone from overseas and want to ask if they eat natto, the correct question would be as follows:
Do you eat natto?
Can would not be used, because it implies that some people can and some people can’t. We don’t talk about food like that, whether it is natto, vegemite, or chitlins.
Chitlins: cooked pork intestines. The proper name is chitterlings.
Vegemite: an Australian spread made from yeast products.
Can is used with some eating questions like the following:
Can you eat 10 hotdogs in 10 minutes?
Can you eat glass?
Both of these questions ask things that are not normal. Therefore, we use the word can.
Returning to the natto question, probably very few Westerners spend more than a week in Japan without being asked if they can eat natto. In English, many people say natto. If that is not understood, natto can always be explained as fermented soy beans.
Some people eat natto and some do not. Natto is a very healthy food and Westerners interested in good health are probably more likely to eat it. Like many other foods with strong tastes, natto is an acquired taste. Some people acquire it and some do not.
If you would like to ask a Westerner living in Japan a question that they are often asked, and probably tired of hearing, asking them if they eat natto is an excellent question.
Please note the sarcasm in the above sentences.
Sarcasm: Saying something when you don’t mean it.
Is this great interest in natto another part of believing in the uniqueness of Japan?
What is it that makes Japanese believe in uniqueness? Or looking at the other side of the coin, why do Americans believe that everyone who immigrates to America can learn English and how things are done in America?
英語のテレビ番組やDVDでの映画鑑賞もよいでしょう。大切なのは、聞き取れなくても気にせずに続けること。Keep at it.（根気強く頑張ろう）とあるように、語学の学習には地道な努力が必須。「継続は力なり」です。
Our Three Favorites for Regular Prac
Regular practice may be the two most important words for improving your English. If you truly want to improve your English, you need to practice regularly. You may wonder how regularly. That depends how much you want to improve. Improving your English substantially will require significant time. In this chapter we would like to discuss some options for regular practice. Please note that most of these options are free or almost free. While taking classes at English conversation schools or having writing coaches as we do at Aaron Coaches will help you, they are not regular practice. Regular practice is what will improve your English so you can speak better at English conversation classes or write better with your writing coach.
The first option we would like to present is NHK English classes. We will be the first to admit that NHK English classes may not be the most exciting way to study. Let’s look at the advantages though. Firstly, they are cheap. Secondly, they are available for all levels of students. Thirdly, you have a written textbook and audio. The written textbook saves you from having to look up words in the dictionary again and again. If you tape the classes from radio or TV, using a timer if you are not home, you can listen to or watch them at your own convenience, again and again. NHK English classes are not exactly what we would describe as living in English. However, they have a large audio component and are easy to study. Most Japanese are comfortable with them. If you pick an NHK English class or two, and stick with it, doing all the classes and studying the book, your English will improve.
The second option we would like to present is TV. Yes, television. Japanese television offers hours and hours of English programming. Sit down in front of the TV, turn on something in English, without any Japanese subtitles, and just watch. You may feel uncomfortable at first. Then you may feel unhappy because you cannot understand much. Don’t worry though. Just relax, have something good to drink and a snack. Watch some English TV every day and you will start to catch more and more. This is listening practice. Our brains are remarkable. If we listen, we will catch more and more. The key point here is not to worry about what you don’t understand. The key point is to keep watching and listening and you will understand more and more. Keep at it.
The third option we would like to present is watching movies. DVDs are amazing. You can select the language you hear and the subtitles you see. We recommend that you listen to English, but we leave the subtitle decision up to you. You can watch the movies with English subtitles or without subtitles. We suggest that you do not watch with Japanese subtitles. Our brains tend to stop listening to English when we can read the Japanese. If you really like a movie, you may want to watch it over and over, with English subtitles and without subtitles. Each time you will catch more and your English will get better. You get out what you put in. Keep at it.