Episode 1 Transcript:
What's the best way to learn English

Francis: [00:00:09] Minasan Konnichiwa! Hello and welcome to the global thinking Japan podcast. My name is Francis. This podcast is for those interested in how to think globally how to use English to improve your work or just for those who want to listen and learn more about English for your daily life. This podcast also accompanies the global thinking blog, social media channels and the website and you can find all the links in the podcast description just down below. Okay so let's get started with today's topic.


[00:00:53] So today's topic is a question I often hear which is I want to learn real English. I want to learn more English. What's the best way to learn.


[00:01:08] So I've been in Japan for 10 years now and of course I know and have worked with a lot of Japanese people. They're very different English levels. But the story is mainly the same. They have learnt English at school, at high school. They studied English to get into university. They've taken TOEIC they've taken Eiken. Some I'm sure some of the listeners here have also lived abroad and worked abroad and have come back to Japan.


[00:01:41] But still the question is still the same. I want to learn more English. I want to learn real English for business for work. What's the best way to learn? So everything I'm about to say is just my own personal opinion.


[00:01:58] There's no one correct way. This is just from my experience. What I feel is not a good way to learn English and also better ways to study English.


[00:02:11] So firstly I think I'm going to have to start with what I would not recommend for most people is to pay lots of money and go to Eikaiwa or English school. From experience and from the people I know it's not that useful for them and why I say that is because you go to an Eikaiwa lesson, an English school lesson once maybe twice a week for an hour maybe 90 minutes but you go to that lesson for 90 minutes.


[00:02:54] You study, you practice, you say some phrases, you have some homework but then you go back and you may not do the homework or you don't think about English for the whole week. And just before your next lesson or even literally the hour before your next lesson that's when you do the homework and that's when you think about what you learnt last week. And it's not enough.


[00:03:24] It's not enough to help you remember, to help you practice, to help you during the week. So that's a very quick summary of why I don't feel Eikaiwa is the best. And so if that's at the bottom what I would recommend for the best is something that you can practice every day. So I personally believe online lessons, online Skype lessons, online video calls, 15 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day, with someone who speaks English, native English speakers or maybe depending on the price that you want to pay. Southeast Asian English speakers, like anybody who speaks English as their main language. If you speak to them for 15, 20 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day it's great practice.


[00:04:26] It helps you listen. It helps you understand. You get to chat freely.


[00:04:34] It's not so structured like a class you can just talk. That is the best way I would recommend. And so if we say Eikaiwa is at the bottom and if we say online video calls 15 minutes a day is at the top, then what are the options in between?


[00:04:50] So starting from the bottom and going up how I would recommend learning more English is probably, if you are not that comfortable with listening and speaking then I guess reading would be a start. So everyone of course commutes or reads on their smartphone or tablet or Kindle or even on your laptops.


[00:05:20] Reading is something anyone can do. There are plenty of English websites out there and I don't even have to recommend any. You can just go to any news website or even Japanese English websites like NHK or Daily Yomiuri, any site that has English. You can find a level to suit you and any reading that you do daily, is better than no reading.


[00:05:47] Next I would say is if you don't want to read or if you're not that strongly reading; listening to English is very important.


[00:05:57] Now if you're at home I would recommend having English on in the background like background music like BGM. Just have English playing in the background so that you can listen to it. Now this English can be anything from English TV programs or English dramas to English radio or English songs or English YouTube; anything. You can listen to anything you want as long as it's English because that gets you used to listening to English, how it's spoken, all the different accents. I would highly recommend listening to English daily.


[00:06:40] And so I guess one level up would be actually listening to English podcasts. Of course this is an English podcast. You're listening. That's great, but there are other podcasts you can also listen to for example BBC podcasts on how to learn English. I'm sure NHK also has podcasts on how to learn English. There's Amazon Audible. You can listen to English books.


[00:07:08] Listening is very important and it's a good way to practice without you having to put in much effort, it's just listening.


[00:07:17] And I guess one up from that, which would be even more useful for practicing listening and speaking and just communication in general would be meeting some non Japanese people and taking those chances to speak. Now there are a lot of gaikokujin, there's a lot of foreigners in Japan. There is always a chance to speak to someone who is non Japanese.


[00:07:46] Now why I recommend that is because that's the most real way to learn. I know it might seem quite scary or it might, you might feel quite nervous but it literally is the best way to improve communication skills by speaking with someone who is a native English speaker. There are too many ways to suggest how to meet and speak with gaikokujin and I'm sure you already know, but just as some suggestions you can speak to people in your workplace who are not native Japanese. And if you don't have anyone who is non-native Japanese or if there isn't anyone who is a native English speaker at your workplace you can always go to an English speaking cafe where you can speak to native English speakers for free or you buy a coffee and speak to someone. Or you can go online and go to a website. For example, like meetup.com where you can just meet in groups; non Japanese people and hang out and just talk and you know, cultural exchange. There are many many ways and I'm sure you probably know ways that I don't know. But what I would suggest is of course speak to people who speak English and it's the best way to learn. If you're afraid and you don't want to go and meet someone alone of course you don't have to. There are many groups. Join a group, join a group of people who volunteer to help English speakers learn Japanese or join a group that meets up in Shibuya or Yoyogi koen or somewhere that just walks around and just speaks English.


[00:09:42] There are many ways and there's no reason not to speak to someone who speaks English.


[00:09:51] Next what I would suggest. Which is better than just meeting and speaking is literally practicing at home every day. And I know we mentioned that you can do Skype and online lessons daily at home. But if you really don't want to. The next best suggestion I have from my experience would be to watch English TV programs. Dramas, movies, anything you want as long as you do the following which is whatever you watch. You must watch it three times. Now why I say you should watch it three times is because I would suggest the first time you watch it, watch it with Japanese subtitles. Definitely have Nihongo jimaku in order for you to understand the story, what's happening. In order for you to enjoy the program the first time around, I definitely would suggest having Japanese subtitles. So you've watched it the once, you understood it, then watch it again.


[00:11:09] And the next time you watch it make sure that this program has English subtitles. I guess you should actually check before watching it the first time to see if there are English and Japanese subtitles.


[00:11:22] So the second time watch it with English subtitles because you already know the story from the first time. You already understand and you know what's going to happen. The second time watch it with English subtitles so that you can catch the words and what they are actually saying, and try to follow along.


[00:11:45] This will improve your listening. You may even hear or learn a lot of new words that you don't know, in which case if you're very, how I say this, studious. Studious just means if you really like to study. I would suggest that you sit there with a notepad and you write down, pause it and write down the words that you don't know. So you can check them later. So the second time watch it with English subtitles and then the third time watching it.


[00:12:23] So you've already watched it with Japanese subtitles and you understand it the second time you've watched it with English subtitles and you know exactly which words they are using the third time. Watch it again with no subtitles.


[00:12:37] This third and final time purely is to see how much you can understand. Remember how much of the words you can catch. How much of the meaning you can get. And the third time for watching it purely is for practice. Don't feel that you have to catch every single word. There is no pressure. You're just watching it. If you get it, great. If you don't get it, it doesn't matter. It's a TV program. It's a movie. It's just for your practice. It's not an exam. There's no test, watch as much as you want. Watch as little as you want. But the main point is you have to keep watching and you have to keep practicing. That one, I would highly recommend.


[00:13:26] A lot of these, as mentioned I have already done before but not for English of course. I did the same while trying to learn Japanese.


[00:13:38] I'll tell you a bit more about that in a moment but I'm just going to finish first talking about, again the final best way to learn English would be Skype practice or online video practice or online lessons every day.


[00:13:55] Of course when I say everyday I don't necessarily mean 7 days a week. That would be great. But everyday being every weekday after work or before work or even two to three times a week, once every two days that's still great practice. As long as it's constant and as long as it's often, it's very helpful.


[00:14:22] It helps you get into the mode and the mood of speaking English with someone who is not Japanese. It helps you think. It helps you learn new words, you get comfortable with speaking. I highly recommend that.


[00:14:49] So all of these as I mentioned, I have practiced before but not for English of course. I practiced all of these when I tried to learn Japanese.


[00:15:04] So for example I've been to Japanese school, in the evenings after work, a few months at a language school here and a few months at a language school somewhere else in Tokyo. It didn't work for me, I just couldn't concentrate. It was after work, I was tired, so that didn't work for me.


[00:15:23] Reading books, yes it's good practice but reading Japanese was very hard for me. I couldn't read all the kanji. I got sleepy trying to read books which have furigana next to the kanji because it's just so small to read. It made me sleepy.


[00:15:41] So for me watching for example movies and Japanese TV was great practice. I used to go to the DVD rental store near where I lived could Geo, and I would go to Geo and I would literally, every week borrow two to three Ghibli movies and I would watch that one Ghibli movie three times. First time with English subtitles. The second time with Japanese subtitles even if I couldn't read all of the kanji sometimes it helped. And the third time, no subtitles just to see how much I can understand.


[00:16:22] All of these I've done. Of course, I have Japanese friends, I try to speak to them in Japanese when I can.


[00:16:29] I listen to Japanese music. I watch Japanese YouTube. I bought a mini radio when I first came to Japan just to have radio, Japanese radio, on in the background so I could listen to it all the time and just get used to the sounds and and the words, even though I didn't understand anything. So everything I've said is useful.


[00:16:56] What is the best for you? You have to choose. So everything I've said is just my personal opinion and that's how I would rank them for learning. I've also done online Japanese lessons and I found them to be very useful. So that's how I rank them. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't go to Eikaiwa or English lessons. If it works for you, great! You should go, but everything I've said is just how I feel. And they are just some ideas.


[00:17:44] So in conclusion, we have covered a lot of ways to practice and improve and get used to English. We've mentioned some reasons of why I feel you should or shouldn't do certain methods but ultimately you have to choose whichever works for you.


[00:18:07] But whatever you choose from that list of suggestions, do choose one. And don't wait. There's no reason to wait.


[00:18:17] You can pick anyone and start. Especially, if it's something that does not rely on others, such as listening. You can listen on the train, you can listen in the background when you're at home. You can listen during lunch. You can read during lunch. Just listen to English, read English. Get used to it. Watch TV dramas on your smartphone, on your laptop. It doesn't matter which one you choose but whatever you choose. Just start, and just do it.


[00:18:57] That's it for this week's podcast. Next week, we will talk about the next question which is, "You've chosen a method of practice, now what contents should I study?". What contents should I start with? How do I choose those contents? That's what we'll cover next week.


[00:19:19] Now how is this week's podcast for you? What about your ways of studying? What methods do you use that you feel, work for you and that you want to share?


[00:19:32] Please leave a comment. You can send me a message. Follow me on social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or via the website. Send in any comments, any questions, you can add comments below as well. Tell me and let me know what methods work for you and how you're studying. I do read all the messages and I do reply so I look forward to hearing from you soon.


[00:20:01] That's all for this week. And thanks for listening. Have a good day.