Yes, yes, I know the blog post title is a bit weird. I should have used the word “well” instead of good, right? If you didn’t catch the English mistake you should seek professional help immediately because you too are losing your English skills (just kidding…maybe). Do you know what’s even weirder than my strange blog title? Having days in Japan where I really feel like I’m losing my English abilities. I was reminded of it the other day, when my newest co-worker, Karl, and I went to JUSCO (our local grocery store) during our lunch break. Karl saw a huge-ass jar with a big blueberry sticker on the front and he said “Is that jam?” After examining a bit more closely he said “No they’re not jams.” He then paused and looked at me because he knew the English sounded funny. Karl’s been screwing up sentences all week long, and it’s been so entertaining because we’ve all been there. We love ya buddy!! Sometimes I wish I had a camera going 24/7 because I’d be able to make some great gag reels (I would definitely have some personal bloopers on them).
One of the downsides about being here for so long is that I do find myself struggling to find words more often than I ever did while living in the United States.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
There is no solution…YOU’RE SCREWED!!
No, I’m just kidding.
Solution 1: English Media
I think the best way to maintain, or even enhance your, your English abilities is to feed your brain with a good dose of healthy media. Reading books & newspapers, listening to online radio, going to the movies, watching DVDs…there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of sources to hear natural English on a regular basis. You should try them sometime. I mean, is there really any information in this day in age that you can’t gain access to?
Solution 2: Get a Hobby
Having a hobby that incorporates the use of English can be wonderful language, brain fodder. For example, I always had a huge interest in stocks, bonds, and investment. Being in a country where saving is so common, that’s one habit that rubbed off on me. I am happy to report that I re-opened my investment account, and this is the longest I’ve gone without touching one cent of the money that’s in there.
Having this interest really encouraged me to read more about the subject. I ordered the Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (Warren Buffet’s teacher), Common Stocks Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher, and a host of other books…some I haven’t even read yet. Some authors had different strategies about buying securities and I had to discern which concepts I agreed with and which ones I didn’t. Doing this allowed me to get some great reading in, get some English exposure, learn some investment jargon, and do some thinking along the way.
Solution 3: Meet With Your Non-Japanese Friends From Time to Time
During your stay in Japan, you will more than likely run into other foreigners who are in your same situation, they are living abroad away from their family and friends, too. In these cases you’ll have a lot more in common than you might realize and it creates an opportunity to make a new friend. When you make a new friend, build the relationship: call them, email, go out to eat. This helps you to stay social while maintaining your English.
Solution 4: Call Your Family
I am so guilty of not following my own advice here. Because I’m in Japan, my family doesn’t call me all that much (even with something as cool as Skype). Truth be told, my family doesn’t email me the much either. Hmmm… But for most people, your family will contact you. When they do, call them back. Not only will this help with the living abroad blues, but it’ll give you a chance to speak normally without having slow down or use broken English to accommodate your students and Japanese friends.
Solution 5: Write!
Journals, blogs, Facebook pages, these are all great ways to get ideas out of your head and into reality. Writing helps to keep your brain sharp and keep your English skills even sharper. Part of the reason I started writing this blog is to keep from turning into an big, bumbling African-American mess.
So the next time you find yourself bewildered at how tough it is to make a decent sentence, it may be time to think about forcing some English into your life. If the solutions here don’t help you…get help…somewhere…
Thanks for reading,