Essays on English in Japan

Boring, but…

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What I am doing now

I am currently studying in UK major in master degree studying culture and creative industries seeing how these industries are linked to issue of globalization and international development. It involves a wide range of studies including creative businesses, cultural policy and management, and urban regeneration.

It was my long desire to study the relation between culture and business since I was in the university. Although I had an idea what my interest was, I had no clues how I can get into the field at that time. I even didn’t know there were academic research fields, therefore it was difficult for me to choose the direction to start with. When I decided to study abroad it took me several months to find the suitable course in UK after I resigned my job. Those several months were the most frustrating time for me because everything was too vague.  Nothing was sure; where I am I heading whether there would be exact course I am looking for, what will be the life after studying abroad.

However, while I was looking for the information, I met people who supported me to find the way. I can feel that it was difficult to have the right choice without meeting these people who carefully listened to my thoughts and visions, and provided me excellent advice. Through this experience I learned at any point in life, there would always be someone to help me as long as I have desire to achieve something.

I am now having a stimulating life here in the UK. It is not easy to follow the lecture after three years of blankness away from academic life, but I really appreciate the environment where I can expand my interest as far as I want. In addition to academic environment, life in the UK has brought me exciting experience living with French and Italian students. Sharing the life with different people with different perspective has colored my life more than I have expected.

How I decided to come here

It was a big challenge for me to resign my job and decide to go back to the study. Some of my friends were anxious about me taking the risk of quitting the job, but I was more afraid of continuing the life thinking something is missing in my life.

There are several reasons why I choose to come here. It was not only to pursue my interest on the relation between culture and business, but also to fulfill my study which I couldn’t realize in undergraduate. I enjoy university in my undergraduate, but honestly speaking, it was not stimulating and exciting academically. I was expecting much more challenging life, but in fact it was completely different. I remember I was feeling extremely bored and my motivation waned a lot. Therefore, coming to UK to study master’s degree had some sense of ‘revenge’ to my effortless undergraduate academic life.

Experience in University in Japan

From my perspective from my experience in university, English education was really not interesting. In terms of English module, it was like high school English class. There was nothing new to the students who have passed the entrance exam. I felt ridiculous, and at the same time, it gave me an impression that professors are not motivated, using the same textbook every year and not offering any creativeness. They even treat student as if they are elementary school children. Some students who like to spend their time having party all the time may appreciate this lazy style, but for me it was waste of time and money!

I understand maintaining passion or enthusiasm for studying is individual responsibility, but I felt English education in the department could have done much better to enhance student motivation. Personally I felt it was extremely boring and even felt coming to the university was a waste of time. At the university level, I expected I would have opportunities to be trained to understand English/American culture from literature. However, what actually happened was not something I have expected. In the literature related module I enrolled in, there were no assignments nor discussion nor any kind of task to make student actually read the original literature in English.

‘I like English’ and ‘but I hate grammar!’

As I have written above, I was not satisfied especially with the English in the university, which reminded me of study for the entrance exam for university which is heavily focused on grammars. It was far from real living English. So I was always thinking, ‘I like English and I can have communication with English, but I don’t like studying grammar’ since I was able to communicate in English from the experience of living abroad when I was small.

I am not trying to insist that grammar is not important. In fact until I started writing my huge essays in U.K., I was not keen about studying grammar. However, I face difficulty writing long essays without having proper knowledge on grammar. Although I understood what I wanted to write in my mind, I had trouble putting that idea into writings. After I finished my essay I asked for a proofreading to my flat mates and they were surprised to see how my basic grammar was not actually right even though I speak without any big mistakes.  When it comes to writing and speaking at advanced level, having appropriate knowledge of grammar is essential. In terms of speaking, grammar is not very important because there are other ways to support and convey what you really want to tell. Whereas for writing, I found out grammar plays significant role in order to write effective sentences. Thus, this experience made me to realize that even studying grammar is not interesting; it is not realistic to avoid studying them to obtain the skills to write effective essays.

Some of my friends who are excellent at English grammar are not confident on speaking English. They say that they tend to think the sentences before they speak out to check if their English is correct. Studying English from grammar sometimes have possibilities for students to have fear for speaking out incorrect English.

In summary

My experience of coming to UK and going back to my first interest of studying culture and art has taught me various things. Most difficult time was the moment I resigned my job, when I was not able to determine which way to go. By meeting people who would support and encourage me had made me think at any point in life there is always someone besides me as long as if I keep passion to realize something.

So it is important to keep the passion in your life, and try to never end up with regretting ‘I should have done this and this and this…’

Other thing is being big fan of English is crucial for the students who wish to have English related job in the future. However, I would suggest for those students to have one step further than this from my personal experience. ‘I like English’ is not enough; it needs to be skillful and professional in terms of communication and writing. I was fed up with the grammar oriented English education, which had nothing useful at all, but there is an advantage and disadvantage.

There are so many things that I am learning here not only the language, but also new perspective on life and the way of looking the world. It is sure that these few months in UK had changed my life in positive way, and regardless of what career I will have, I believe it would be fruitful future building on the experience of having lived in an English speaking environment.

One of my former students

June 2009



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About The Author

Michael is currently teaching at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan, in the American Literature section of the English Department. More information in the About Me page.