Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Importance of learning another language

All Japanese people learn English in middle school and high school. It is mandatory. And most American people around me learn foreign languages, so I thought all Americans also have to learn other languages. But recently, I heard that American people do not need to learn any other languages. Is it true? and What percentage of American people learn the second language?

I told a guy who has not learned any other language that he is lucky. But he said he wanted to learn another language so that he can communicate with many different people.

It is true that English is like a common language in the world and you might not need to learn another language unless you need to communicate with foreign people. But I think that learning languages is not only for communication tools literally but for other important things, such as understanding people and culture.

I work at a university where everyone has learned the second language and is used to people who are non-native English speakers. Therefore, even though I am still studying English, they understand most of what I want to say. Perhaps more accurately, they somehow try to understand.
Recently, I met someone and talked with him. But he did not understand my English at all. I tried to say it in different ways using different words, but he still did not understand me. He did not know how to understand me. He was not a bad person and he apologized to me. I felt really bad.

After that, I was kind of traumatized and afraid of speaking English. But I met another person and he said that he had learned other languages so he understands how difficult it is to learn languages and also to enjoy different cultures. He also said that when he went to Japan, he could somehow communicate with Japanese people without their common language.

For understanding other people, you have many tools beside language itself. You could use body language, write down and draw pictures. We could communicate with each other if we really want to. The more important thing is whether they want to communicate. I think that learning languages is one of the incentive to know different people and culture. And it might be important for getting along with other countries in the world.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

American sweets

Merry Christmas!

It is the season where we eat a lot of sweets :) I have a sweet tooth. I have always liked sweets even when I was in Japan. But I think American sweets are much much sweeter than Japanese ones, and that's why when I first came to the U.S. I didn't like them that much. But now, I got completely used to them and I think they taste good. Now, some Japanese sweets are just not good enough for me.
But I still feel weird about cakes decorated with red, yellow and blue frosting. Even though I enjoy looking at them, they are not like things for eating... All of my friends who visited the US took pictures of the frosted cakes in a show window. But I have never seen Japanese people actually eat them.

...I can eat them. I became a "super" sweet tooth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The importance of Christmas in Japan

Christmas is coming soon. The whole town is decorated with lights and Christmas ornaments. I decorated a big Christmas tree at my place.

Today, I would like to talk about Japanese Christmas.
Most Japanese are not Christian, but everyone celebrates Christmas. Because Japan does not celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas decoration and sales start very early, right after Halloween.
They have the same concept in that Santa is coming to give presents to children. But how they celebrate Christmas is totally different from the US.
I think, American people spend Christmas with their family. And some people go to church. On the other hand, Japanese people spend Christmas with their lovers. Therefore, before Christmas, single people desperate to look for their partner. If they do not have a lover, they get together with their friends and have a party.
Japanese people want to go to classy restaurants and eat stake, or have fried chicken at the party. Seriously, Kentucky Fried Chicken is very busy on Christmas.

After Christmas, Japanese next become Buddhists. They go to a temple or shrine on New Year's. I will talk about it later. But isn't it funny?

Monday, November 28, 2011

College students in the US and Japan

"How hard do collage students work?"

I have many friends of undergrad and graduate students here, in the US. Everyone looks very busy. They often say things like "I have a test tomorrow", " I have a lot of homework" or " I slept for just three hours". They look tired and sleepy everyday. They sometimes cancel plans to meet up (I do not mind, though). Once, we talked with one of my friends about how hard college students work. The undergrad student said that they are supposed to study at home for two hours per class, besides homework and preparation for exams. That means, if a student takes 15 classes a week, he has to study for at least 30 hours at home a week. Do you think this is true?

Compared to American college students, Japanese students have more free time. Even though it depends on the department, students enjoy drinking, club activities, and part time jobs. I majored in pharmacy which is one of the hardest departments in Japan. I had classes from 9am to 5pm with only an hour lunch break everyday. But we did not have homework. We did not need to study after classes. We had exams which were very hard, so that we had to work very hard before that. But it was only once in a semester. At that time, I envied other students from other departments,who needed many fewer and much easier classes. But now, I realized how hard American student work and how much free time I had. I should have studied more.

Are Japanese students lazy? I actually do not think so. Japanese companies do not consider college grades in hiring. They select students by the college name. Therefore, high school students study really hard to enter good colleges. To do that,they first need to go to good high schools. So students in middle school and even elementary school have to study hard to prepare for their future. Finally, they enter university, and they are free to relax!

It is strange, isn't it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shall we dance?

I am taking swing dance classes. It has been about a year since I started. It is a drop-in class with $5 for an hour, and it is held once a week. Partners rotate in the class and we do not need to bring a partner. So it is a good deal.

The first time, my American friend brought me to the class. That time I had no idea what swing dance was, and I never had done any kinds of dance before. It was a beginner’s class, so I thought it would be ok. But I was really nervous. First of all, I (like most Japanese) am not used to physical contact with other people like shaking hands or hugging, so I felt somewhat embarrassed when I got paired. But I got used to it quickly. Second, I had trouble with listening and I did not understand what the instructors said. Once, the instructor said “…..raise your right hand” so I raised my RIGHT hand. But I looked around and I found that all female raised LEFT hands and my friend (she) waved her left hand to me. I understood the instructor said “ ladies, raise your LEFT hands, and guys, raise your RIGHT hand” . I was embarrassed. I still find it difficult to understand everything they say, but I can learn from watching them.

Now I am not nervous and I really enjoy swing dance. I moved to an intermediate class. But my goal is not to be a professional dancer. The class is good for practicing English and for interacting with many American people. And most important thing is I am enjoying it!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


I had a discussion on the topic below, when I took an English class before. I thought this topic was easy at first, but I learned that this question depended on American culture and mindsets.

== (the discussion topic) ============================
You will be part of a committee which has been assigned the task of creating an evaluative point system for the admissions of undergraduates at a large university.
Using a 100-point scale, decide on the criteria to be used for evaluating students and then assign a number to each category.

Now my idea is:
Test score 30
GPA 20
Personal interests and achievement 15
Extracurricular activities 10
Underrepresented geographic area 8
Race and ethnicity 8
Athletics 5
Work experience 2
Family income 2
Alumni relationships 0

What do you think? Can you tell me your idea?

When I prepared the answer this question by myself, I assigned the most points to “Test score” and “GPA”, because academic excellence is most important. And I gave just few points to “Geographic area” and “Race and ethnicity”, but I did not give any points to “Family income” and “Work experience”.
In fact, students are evaluated only by “Test score” in Japan.

But I discussed it with a couple of Americans, and I found out that my thinking was from a Japanese perspective. They said that we should take “Geographic area”, “Race and ethnicity”, “work experience” and “(low) family in come” into consideration, even though academic excellence is important. They said it was because these things would increase “Diversity”.

Diversity? Why is it so important? I was confused.

Japan do not have big diversity and Japanese people do not think about diversity. And they feel comfortable when people who have similar characteristics and abilities get together. From this discussion, I learned that America is very diverse and Americans emphasized diversity.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why do I like the US?

I have stayed in the US for six years and I want to stay here indefinitely. I want to get an academic position in the US someday. This is my dream.

Many people ask me “Why do you like the US?” or “What is better in the US than in Japan?”
These are hard questions for me. Actually, I do not know the exact answers. I just feel more comfortable in the US. But I will try to answer those questions here.

One reason is that academic research environment is better in the US. In the US, government give more money for academic research. Furthermore, in Japan, we are very busy because we have to do many other things besides our research. In other words, in the US, we can concentrate more on our research and make more progress.

The Second reason is about the people. Americans are very friendly. Even though I am Japanese, they talk to me casually. Also we feel more free to talk with teachers or superiors in the US.
From another point, Americans respect the individual personality of each person. In Japan, it is important to go along with other people. “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” I do not want to care how other people think about me. I want to be myself.

The third reason is that I like the rich nature in the US, though it might be only the place I live. I do not like crowded cities in Japan.

I think I have other reasons. Of course, I have pros and cons for living in the US. If I have another opportunity, I want to talk about the disadvantages, too.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I am coming close to my dream of living in the US!?

I finally started applying for permanent residency in the US, this is called a green card. I have stayed in the US more than six years and I have come to like here, so I want to stay here indefinitely. To fulfill this dream, I have to get a green card. But it is not so easy. I have to claim that I am a valuable person to live in the US as a prominent researcher. To prove this, I have to prepare a lot of documents and letters, and write two essays. That is hard and time consuming. I hired an attorney. It is costly. Even so, I am not sure if my application will be approved. It is not fun. It is stressful... Sigh,I am still far from my dream...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Volunteer at a Bird Center

I think volunteer work is more common in the US than Japan. There are many opportunities and people are willing to work as volunteers here, in the US. That is great! 

So I also started volunteer. Since I like wildlife, I work at a bird center as a volunteer. At the center, we take care of wild birds that are injured or orphaned. I go to the center every week and I feed baby birds and clean cages. We have to feed them every 30 minutes! They are noisy but so cute. They are waiting for food with their mouths open. There are many kinds of birds including sparrows, finches, doves, blue jays, robins and geese. All those birds are brought by kind people who found a bird that cannot survive in the wild. There are about 100 birds at the center at a time, and a few hundreds birds during a entire summer season. After we take care of the birds and they become big and healthy, they are released into the wild again. That is happy and sad moment.

I like this work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hello my friends!

This is my first post.

I am Japanese. I came to the US for my research about 6 years ago. At that time, I was thinking it was just experience to study abroad, and I was planing to go back home in a few year.  Actuary, it was not fun. I could not communicate with other people because of my terrible English skill (even though I still found it difficult! lol), I faced many culture differences, and those things made me feel depressed. But I could learn many things by my experiences. And finally, even though I am still struggle with language and culture, I enjoy my life with those problems. I love the US!

I decided to start my blog because I would be grad if I can share my experiences and opinion about culture differences with other people. But I am not the specialist, so do not take them seriously! just enjoy my funny/dramatic/happy/sad stories.

Thanks for reading. I hope to talk with you soon :)