[From March Issue 2014]
Meghan SAHARA from Pittsburgh, United States, teaches English conversation to junior and senior high school students at Musashino Joshi-Gakuin High School in Tokyo. She decided to come to Japan on the advice of a friend who had lived in the country. Meghan says she was already interested in Japan because she was fond of films by directors OZU Yasujiro and KUROSAWA Akira.
“I’ve been here nearly five years. It’s very easy to live in Japan and I like it. It’s safe and there are many kind-hearted people here. I like Japanese food. I can eat nattou (fermented soybeans), too,” laughs Meghan. She studied the Japanese language in college for about a year and says, “Japanese is a beautiful sounding language.”
Meghan studies Japanese at Iidabashi Japanese Language School at Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Honorific expressions and kanji make her feel that Japanese is difficult. “Kanji is hard, but fun. I use a smartphone app called ‘Anki’ in order to study it. The app works in the same way as flash cards and it’s handy that I can share vocabulary lists with friends over the Internet.”
Meghan got married to a Japanese man and moved to Tokyo in the summer of 2013. Before that, she lived in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture, where she taught English at a senior high school. When she met up with her friends over the summer to go to a festival, she met the man who is now her husband. On her days off she spends her time going out for meals or to the movies with her husband.
One of the tourist attractions she wants to visit in Japan is Tokyo Disneyland. Even when she lived in the US, her native country, Meghan had never been to Disneyland. When she said this to her students, they were very surprised. “They suggest I go soon,” she laughs.
When she started working in Japan as an English teacher, she was surprised at the strict timekeeping and politeness of students at Japanese schools. She was most surprised by ‘clean-up time’ (when students clean their classroom at the end of the day); something that doesn’t exist in American schools. Meghan says, however, that cleaning one’s school is a good thing. “I think it’s a practice that makes you proud of your school.”
In her classes she tells a lot of jokes and plays games to create a relaxing mood. “The practice of picking on students one after the other to speak out aloud makes them nervous. Because it’s so unfamiliar to them, it’s quite understandable that they are embarrassed of speaking English in front of classmates. So I first let them practice in small groups.”
Meghan says that it’s great fun to teach English conversation to students. “Once they understand they can speak freely, without thinking about entrance exams like in other classes, they begin to express their ideas with great flair. It’s rewarding to see the pleasure my students get from understanding what they’re saying in English.”
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi