/ Blog List（2021年度のコラム）
12 .20A smartwatch or fitness trackerWith the spread of smartphones, the number of people who wear a watch has probably decreased. In fact, I do not see many students wearing one in my classes. I also stopped wearing a simple wristwatch at some point after getting a smartphone.However, I see more and more people wearing high-tech gadgets on their wrists recently. Some wear a smartwatch, and others wear a fitness tracker. Are there clear differences between them? In the past, there seemed to be a clearer divide, but they share some common features now. Which one sounds better to buy?A smartwatch is usually more versatile than a fitness tracker. Trackers are usually devices intended to monitor health and physical activities whose features often include steps, heart rate and sleep tracking. Some of the more advanced ones even track stress levels, skin temperature, and breathing rate. Smartwatches usually come with all these features plus even more.Smartwatches are like extensions of smartphones. You can text and answer phone calls on the smartwatch, and some advanced ones allow you to pay train fares like built-in Suica and PASMO. However, more is not always better. Smartwatches are generally more expensive than fitness trackers. Smartwatches also tend to have large displays, which can be uncomfortable on the wrist.After debating which to buy, I actually bought a fitness tracker a few years ago, and I think I made the right choice. It has motivated me off my couch. It tracks my daily activities such as steps taken and calories burned, in addition to my heart rate and sleep. Being able to see how many steps I take every day makes me want to walk more than I usually do. I was once both surprised and excited to see I took more than 16,000 steps on campus. Another feature I really appreciate is sleep tracking. My fitness tracker not only tracks how many hours I sleep but also the amount of time I spend in light, deep, and REM sleep. By syncing my tracker to my smartphone app, I can see my weekly sleep patterns. I have figured out that my brain and body function well when I sleep for about seven hours and a half. I am pretty happy and satisfied with the features of my fitness tracker, but if you want to enjoy more features and can afford one, a smartwatch may be a better choice for you.Photo Credit: PixabayQuizQ1. Does the author have a smartwatch?Q2. What kind of features does the author’s gadget have?Q3. What does the word “versatile” in the third paragraph mean?Scroll down ↓ for the answersA1. NoA2. It tracks steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, and sleepA3. It means “able to be used for many different purposes.”Sachiko Aoki
12 .13A Year on Planet 9Wasei-eigo words may sound very similar to the English versions, but such words and expressions have quite different meanings to their English counterparts and can be the cause of some confusion! For example, ‘ソーラーシステム’ also refers to an electrical water heating system powered by sunlight, whereas ‘solar system’ refers to the eight planets and their moons in orbit around the sun, together with smaller bodies such as asteroids, meteoroids, and comets.For those who are interested in English and astronomy, naming the eight planets of our solar system in English should be a simple challenge. (Hint: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles) Most of the planets can be seen in the night sky with the naked eye at some point throughout the year. Mars reflects sunlight off its red sands, while both Saturn and Jupiter shine brightly due to their great size, whereas Neptune and Uranus require a powerful telescope to be seen.Did you also know that there were officially nine planets for a brief period of scientific history, between 1930 to 2006? Pluto is the name of the previously ninth planet. However, it has a surface area of only 3.3% of Earth’s, which is roughly equal to Russia’s, and other similarly sized objects in Pluto’s part of the solar system were later discovered. These facts meant that Pluto was eventually reclassified to ‘dwarf planet’ status and the list went back down to eight.However, Pluto was not simply found by looking at the night sky. Although it is visible by telescope, it is extremely dim due to its size and distance. After the discovery of Neptune in 1845, astronomers who were beginning to understand the formation of our solar system, had also found evidence of an object at 250 times the distance of the earth to the sun which was affecting the orbits of smaller nearby bodies. In the search for this mysterious object, Pluto was found, but we now know that it is not the cause of the orbital anomaly. In the same way that our moon is held by the larger Earth’s gravitational pull, this orbital anomaly has recently been calculated at about five times the mass of Earth’s. Could there actually be a large ninth planet? If so, where did it come from? Was it formed in our solar system or is it a rogue planet from another system captured by the gravitational pull of our sun? At such a distance, Planet Nine could take a minimum of an incredible 10,000 years to orbit the sun.Other theories posit that the anomaly may even be a black hole. Which would be more exciting to discover and confirm? There is still so little known about the outer edges of the solar system, but research like the hunt for Planet Nine goes on.Photo credit: PixabayQuizQ1. What are the three types of lesser sized objects in the solar system?Q2. What are the names of the eight major planets?Q3. What is an alternative idea to the existence of Planet Nine?Scroll down ↓ for the answersA1. Asteroids, meteors, and comets.A2. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, NeptuneA3. There is a black hole at the edge of our solar systemBen McDonough
12 .06We All Have ChallengesIt can be easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. You have too much homework. You don’t have enough money. You can’t go out to enjoy time with friends because of the Covid situation. It’s natural to feel pessimistic sometimes and wish for a better or easier situation to be in.I guess I am no different than others in that respect. However, recently I came across three stories of hardships that made me realize challenges in our life come in degrees. There are situations more seriously desperate than the one I am presently experiencing.The first story I found in a YouTube video. It was a dramatic recreation of the shipwreck of a man sailing solo across the ocean. He lost his ship in a storm and escaped in a tiny inflatable raft. He had some tools, some floating stills to make fresh water, and some cans of food and water. His raft almost sank once after he accidentally ripped a hole in it. His raft was hit by a large shark. He could sometimes see ships in the distance, but none noticed him. He spent more than a month drifting alone with little or no food. He was desperate, exhausted and lonely. When he was ready to give up, he reached a small island and was found by fishermen.The second story was a book I read about the ‘underground railroad’. This was a name given to the escape routes for slaves during the 1800’s in the United States. The unbelievable hardships experienced by slaves and the dangerous attempts at escape showed the cruelty and inhumane treatment they experienced. Slaves who managed to escape and reach relative safety could often never again see their families who remained in captivity. The stories of struggles of the slaves and the support they received from people who helped them reach freedom were powerful.The last story I also saw on YouTube. It was an interview with a man in America who has survived two attacks by a grizzly bear in the same day. The man encountered a mother bear with two cubs in the forest. After the bear attacked once, it ran away. The man thought he then had a chance to hike back to his car. A short time later the bear returned and again attacked him, severely cutting his head and breaking his arm. After that the bear stopped attacking and left. He was seriously injured but managed to walk back to safety. He even drove himself to a local hospital.The hardships experienced by people in these stories and the ways they overcame them were very inspiring to me. We all have troubles in our daily lives, but we need to keep things in perspective. There can be chances to change our situation for the better.Photo credit: Janko Ferlic@pexels.comQuizQ1. How long did the man spend in the raft?a) 3 weeksb) 25 daysc) More than a monthQ2. What were the people using the underground railroad trying to escape?a) Slaveryb) Droughtc) FloodsQ3. How many times was the man attacked by the bear?a) Twiceb) Oncec) Five timesScroll down ↓ for the answersA1. cA2. aA3. aAnonymous
11 .29Which is better: Consistency or speed?
If you were forced to choose between being consistent or speedy, what would be your choice? Now, many people might feel compelled to answer, “well, I would choose both.” But besides this being a cheat answer to the hypothetical question, you may want to think about the implications for this preference. In the end, rather than focusing on too many things at once, we should aim for being a dependable, rather than fast, person.
Of course, being able to consistently meet deadlines while also finishing tasks well before their deadlines would be great in your future workplace. However, the truth is that we don’t have unlimited time in such demanding environments. There are only so many hours in the day to complete seemingly never-ending work. The implication here is that by choosing to pursue both traits, we place equal importance on them. Why is this troublesome? Well, a professor once told me, “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” Indeed, when we choose everything equally, we are, in fact, choosing not to place higher importance on anything. Realistically, just as some work tasks should have higher priority than others, so too is there higher importance for the traits we decide to develop in ourselves. We must understand that not all attributes are created equally.
Now, going back to the question, I ask you once more, which of the two traits would you choose? To give you the answer, let me provide you with a real-world example. Before moving to Japan, I worked for a large corporation in the United States. Within this company, I worked closely with a diverse team of co-workers to complete deadlines together. My fellow workers came from various backgrounds and had many different preferences and work styles. Amongst them, there were people who preferred to power through tasks and finish them as soon as they were assigned. This may seem great, yet these people lacked the consistency to keep this up for long. Yes, some tasks were finished quickly, but others would go unnoticed for weeks at a time. Ultimately, I couldn’t trust these employees to follow through on tasks and had to keep reminding them to make sure that they would meet the deadlines.
Next, there were other types of co-workers who were the opposite. I might have sent them an email and then not heard back from them for several days. For sure, this was not considered fast compared to the abovementioned workers who would respond within seconds. The difference here was that I could always count on these people to meet the deadlines despite completing things at a slower pace. Where they lacked in speed, they most certainly made it up in being dependable.
Overall, in your future workplace, you might first strive to portray every positive attribute at the same time. But once you come to the realization that we cannot always do things perfectly, you will adjust your priorities. When this day comes, I hope you will become the type of person that others can depend on.
Photo credit: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q1. What does 'if everything is important, then nothing is important' mean?
Q2. What does the author mean by the word ‘consistency,’ and what is the author’s opinion about it?
Q3. What does the author mean by the word ‘speed,’ and what is the author’s opinion about it?
Scroll down ↓ for the answers
A1. By placing equal importance on everything, we do not distinguish one thing from another. Therefore, our priorities are spread too thin, and ultimately, nothing becomes important.
A2. Consistency is when someone is dependable and always finishes a task in the end. The author believes that, while consistent people do not always complete tasks quickly, knowing that they will follow through on the task is better.
A3. Speed is when someone finishes a task quickly. The author believes that, while it is great to finish tasks speedily, many speedy people cannot continue this consistently and sometimes do not finish tasks.Shawn Andersson
11 .22Going on a Bug Hunt
Japan has a wide variety of insects. The hot humid summers and the less frequent use of agricultural insecticides means that insects thrive in Japan. Japanese culture and the Japanese education system encourage an interest in bugs and insects that many other countries do not support. In summer in Japan, you can easily walk into a DIY store or sometimes supermarkets to buy either goods for catching insects or live stag beetles of various types. One-hundred-yen stores bring their stock of nets, cages, insect food and accessories to the front of the store for a summer of insect-hunting. While you might be able to find some of the same goods in some Walmart stores or similar big-box stores, keeping insects as pets is much less common outside Japan. Most people buy bug spray in the summer rather than bug nets and bug food. If you want to buy live insects, you often have to go to specialty pet stores, where they sell live insects as food for snakes and reptiles.
The bug hunting obsession has caught on with my children too. Every rainy season as the muggy humid conditions shift to sweltering heat, signalling the start of summer, my kids bring out the big encyclopaedia of insects. The pages with life-size pictures of stag beetles are well thumbed and adorned with sticky notes. They sit together and plan which ones they are going to catch. However, each year we end up buying beetles from a store or visiting the “Kabuto Mushi House” near Hiezan. They have yet to catch anything in real life, but this year might prove to be different.
By luck, as my son was closing the window a young stag beetle flew into the bug screen on the window. Becoming trapped between the window and the bug screen, the beetle was easily caught by my son. This sudden new information that they could catch beetles at the back of the house encouraged them even more. They needed more information and before I could say anything they had booked us all on a bug hunting training session at the local nature reserve. My wife who hates all types of insects agreed after much argument and persuasion, so we headed out one evening for a very dark nature reserve.
Walking slowly around the nature reserve led by the guide, we learned how to make banana traps to attract stag beetles. Old bananas are fermented and then inserted into a semi-permeable tube, such as pantyhose. The fermented bananas then very slowly ooze out of the tube, which is tied to a tree. Stag beetles love the smell of the banana pulp and fly to the tree. Landing on the tree, the beetles suck out the banana pulp. You can then easily catch them. The guide showed us several stag beetles that were feasting on their dinner of fermented bananas.
So, the bug hunting obsession is renewed again in our house. The kids are armed with new bug cages, nets, bug food, very old and smelly bananas, and a handful of old pantyhose taken from my wife’s sock drawer. My wife will soon find out why the kids are stuffing her pantyhose with smelly old bananas and hanging them outside the kitchen door. Hopefully, she won’t be too upset about the pantyhose, although I think she might be upset if they attract too many bugs.
Photo Credit: Cervus@pexels.com
Q1. What is more common in Japan than other countries?
Using spray to kill bugs
Keeping insects as pets
Q2. What is an "agricultural insecticide''?
A type of bug
A spray to attract insects
A chemical used by farmers to kill insects.
Q3. What do you need to trap stag beetles?
Fermented bananas and pantyhose
A net covered in honey
Scroll down ↓ for the answers
11 .15Color and Gender: Mother’s Struggle in Choosing Her Daughter’s Clothing
Do you have any colors you like to wear? I like black and white best, but I also wear red, green, and blue. Adults choose whatever color they like. What about children? You rarely see a kindergarten boy wearing a pink shirt or a little girl wearing a dinosaur printed T-shirt in your neighborhood.
That’s because there are gender norms in our society: we unknowingly follow the social values of women being womanly and men being manly. We are not asked or ordered, but we tend to follow the rules. These social norms limit one's actions and choices in life. It has been pointed out that women, in particular, are disadvantaged in their daily lives and in situations such as finding employment. I knew it was not a good idea to do anything that would instil such norms in children from an early age.
However, when I had a daughter of my own, I faced a problem when it came to choosing her clothes. In the kids wear section, there is a clear distinction between clothes for girls and for boys. The colors of girls' clothes are pink and pastel colors with flowers, strawberries, or ribbon motifs. For boys, the main colors are blue and green, and the patterns are mostly vehicles and dinosaurs. If you had to choose from the two, who would choose boys’ wear for girls?
When I have to purchase my daughter’s necessities, I am always faced with a dilemma. My 65-year-old mother used to say that girls should wear pink and bought her granddaughter pink clothes. I talked to my mother about the issue, and then, she accepted my idea and tried to choose other colors too. Yet sometimes I don't know what the right thing to do is. My daughter was often mistaken for a boy. Each time it happened, I wondered if I should have dressed her in pink. However, I didn't want to end up in a situation like the one in JeongMee Yoon’s photographs. The artist took pictures of contrasting children's rooms: girls' rooms filled with pink, and boys’ rooms filled with blue. This is what I've been worrying about ever since she was born. Now I try to balance between my beliefs and common sense.
The other day, I had to prepare a pair of sandals for my daughter because she uses them at daycare. I’d been looking at several online stores and finally decided to get pink ones with white polka dots. I liked the functionality and the reasonable price. How do you think my daughter reacted to the sandals? For the first time, she got interested in her stuff and wanted to put them on by herself!
According to Hidemi Horikoshi's "Do Girls Really Like Pink?", many parents in Japan and abroad are troubled by the fact that their young girls have become obsessed with pink. I shudder at the thought that one day my daughter will be crazy about pink.
JeongMee Yoon’s website: http://www.jeongmeeyoon.com/aw_pinkblue.htm
Photo Credit: The Author
Q1. According to the article, what pictures are usually on boys' clothes?
Robots and spaceships
Vehicles and dinosaurs
Trees and flowers
Q2. Did the author's mother respect the author's views on children's clothing?
Yes, she did
No, she didn’t
She didn’t give an opinion
Q3. What were the sandals the author bought for her daughter like?
Pink with white polka dots
Pink with green polka dots
Pink and white stripes
Scroll down ↓ for the answers
A3. aYumi Yamamoto
11 .08An Urban Nature
I’m from a small city called Lichfield in the middle of the UK. It has a long history, but probably the most famous person from there is Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). He wrote a dictionary that the Oxford English Dictionary – and all following English dictionaries were and, are modelled on. I once had coffee in Dr Johnson’s house, but that’s a story for another time…
In Japan, I have lived in Osaka, Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures and a few years ago I moved to Kyoto. I do not live in the city centre, but I do not live in the countryside either – kind of on the edge. Of course, with this being Kyoto, there are many beautiful temples and places of interest, but I like nature.
The town I live in is quiet and there are many trees and mountains nearby. Also, there is a small stream near my house and that is the most interesting. There are river crabs and crayfish in it and occasionally there are frogs too. I sometimes see birds or weasels fishing in it, and I’ve even had a raccoon come up and sniff my shoe while by this stream.
Perhaps the best time by this stream is in June – that is when the fireflies come out. Although I’ve lived in Japan a long time and I lived in Mishima, Shizuoka (which has a firefly festival), I had never seen fireflies until moving to this area last year. In June, I can now sit outside my front door and watch them every night for a week. They are fascinating and move gracefully like I imagine Tinker-Bell would do.
This year I spent every night of the firefly season (sometimes until 3am) watching and photographing these wonderful creatures. Of the, probably, hundreds of photos I took, I may have got one or two that were kind of not too bad. However, I was happy with that and felt privileged to see them again this year.
They are beautiful predators – yes, they are hunters. And, they have lived for nearly a hundred million years, but worldwide populations of fireflies are declining and that is mostly because of us. We are destroying their environment. I see this in my stream, as people throw their bottles, cans or cigarette ends into this precious ecosystem.
This stream died before and the local residents cleaned it and made it a safe place for all these animals to live once again. There is hope that we can keep it safe and clean for all of the amazing animals. And if it can happen in one small place in Kyoto, it can spread to more places.
Photo Credit: The Author
Q1. When was Johnson born?
Q2. How many places do we know the writer has lived?
Q3. What is causing the decline in firefly populations
An increase in predators
Scroll down ↓ for the answers
A3. aGareth Howells
11 .02Make Your Dreams Come True
On my 11th birthday, my cousin gave me a Carpenters record as a present. Of course, I didn't understand English at all at that time. However, I was fascinated by the beautiful singing voice and melody and wanted to know the meaning of the lyrics. That was my first encounter with English.
At the age of 12, I was impressed by the impressive singing voice of The Three Degrees, who were as popular as the Carpenters in Japan, and became interested in black music (soul music). However, it was a group of five black brothers called Tavares who I saw on TV the following year that caught my heart. I became a big fan of them and joined the Tavares fan club, which was backed up by a Japanese record company (Toshiba EMI) when I was in junior high school.
Perhaps because I was enthusiastic, I ended up becoming the president of the fan club when I was a high school student. At that time, I held Tavares record concerts and even went to radio stations to promote their new songs. My dream was to go to a Tavares concert and meet them in America someday, so I studied English hard to make that dream come true. Tavares eventually disappeared from the music scene in the 1980s, not releasing any more records.
When I gave up my dream of meeting them, I heard the news that Tavares was coming to Japan to give a concert! I wrote to their record company in English even though I wasn’t sure if it would reach the group. At that time, I really wanted to thank them for their music, which enriched my life and gave me a lot of happiness. It is no exaggeration to say that they helped me to become an English teacher. On the day of their concert in Osaka, my dreams finally came true. Not only was I able to hear their singing live, but I was also allowed to meet them in the dressing room. Tavares looked at me and said, "You are the one who wrote us." Yes, they had received my letter! The members were very happy, and we took pictures together. The photo is still a lifelong treasure. Through English, I was able to fulfil my dreams. I hope that all students will meet many wonderful people and have valuable experiences through English. I want you to make your dreams come true!
Photo Credit: Vannessajg@Creative Commons
Q1. What was my first encounter with English?
a) Receiving the Carpenters' record as a birthday present from a cousin
b) Hearing the Carpenters on the radio
c) Seeing the Carpenters in concert
Q2. What did I do as the president of the Tavares Fan Club?
a) Made badges and T-shirts for other fans of Tavares
b) Recorded concerts and went to radio stations to promote Tavares' new songs
c) Followed Tavares around on tour
Q3. How did my dream come true?
a) When I met Tavares backstage when they came to perform in Osaka
b) When Tavares wrote to me, thanking me for being a fan club president
c) When Tavares performed for me at my 11th birthday party
Scroll down for the answers
A3. aNobuaki Irie
10 .25How to Learn more Vocabulary
Students often ask me how they can improve their English. My advice is almost always the same: you need to review new vocabulary a lot. Everyone knows this, but it can be difficult to get motivated to actually do it. Research shows a student needs between 3,000 and 5,000 words in order to understand an unsimplified text. Making it more difficult, it takes between 5 and 16 exposures to a word before it can be learned.
So how can you even begin to recycle so many words, that many times? Flashcards are great, and many students already use them, but it can take a long time to make good sets, and they can be lost easily.
Luckily, there is an app for you, and it is free and popular. Some students already know about Quizlet (https://quizlet.com). You can use it on your smartphone or tablet, or play it on your computer through any browser.
To get you started you can find and use any number of word-sets such as TOEIC words, for example. Even better, you can make your own flashcards, or adapt ones that have already been made.
You can choose to have the meaning of the words in English or any language you choose. You can write the definition yourself, or use ones supplied in the app. You can even add pictures to help you remember.
Once you have some flashcards, there are various ways to play. You can do the traditional flashcard way of looking at the definition and trying to recall the word; you can listen to the word and practice your spelling; you can drag and match the meaning to the word, and you can even play a game of Asteroids. Finally, you can also play live games against your friends, which is very motivating and fun.
I have used this app with many students over the past 4 years and it is always very popular, so please do check it out. It is not magic - you will still need to put in the time, but it should make it easier for you to learn new words.
Photo Credit: Pixabay@pexels.com
Q1. How many words does a learner need to be able to understand an authentic text?
a) Between 3,000 and 5,000 words
b) Between 4,000 and 6,000 words
c) Between 2,500 and 4,500 words
Q2. How many times do you need to review a word before you can remember it?
a) Between 12 and 18 times
b) Between 10 and 20 times
c) Between 5 and 16 times
Q3. Do you have to make your own flashcards in Quizlet?
a) You can, but you can also use sets that have been made by other people
b) You need to buy them online
c) You can borrow them from a friend or classmate
Scroll down ↓ for the answers
A3. aEric Lynch
11 .18Dealing with Stress
I don’t really like stress. Not that I can think of anyone who does, but it is often the case that I will be happy when I’m done feeling it. At times, stress can seem to push me to try harder and to do more, but it can also leave a mess along the way. I often find that experiencing stress can become less about what is stressing me out and more about how I respond to it.
A person does not need to be taught what stress is in order to know what it feels like. For every person it can be something different. What stresses one person can be nothing to another, and what is a small problem for one can be huge for somebody else. When I am dealing with stress, I find I first need to be open with someone who knows me well enough to understand how my stress is affecting me.
That wasn’t always the case. In college, it was more difficult for me to adjust. I didn’t know too many people and college was very new for me since it wasn’t very common in my family. I was more concerned with just getting through the first semester, and, perhaps, the rest of my time at the university would follow.
Obviously, it eventually did work out, but not because I kept to myself the whole time. I had friends along the way and people I talked to who helped give a different perspective on things. I am not in contact with them so much now, but their perspective then helped me to see beyond the initial stress.
While that was years back, being able to look around me and get other perspectives is still important. It doesn’t have to be a huge number of people, but hopefully it is more than just one. Why? Because we’re all human, and sometimes the ones we lean on may need to lean on us from time to time.
Stress is something we all share and have in common. It isn’t the only thing we’ll ever feel in life, but I’m grateful to not have to be alone when I feel it. Remember to keep your head up and look around you.
Photo Credit: Andrea Piacquadio@Pexels.com
Q1. What is the first thing the author does when dealing with stress?
Be open with someone that knows them
Hides away from everyone
Writes down problems in a journal
Q2. When was it more difficult for the author to adjust to stress? Why?
At home because sometimes problems are difficult to share with family
When alone because there was nobody to talk to
In college because going to college wasn't common in their family
Q3. What is important about having friends when dealing with stress?
They offer a different perspective on how to deal with the issue
They help you forget about your problems
They agree with everything you say
Scroll down ↓ for the answers
A3. aJesse Patterson