Totally Unprofessional - Two Teachers Talking™ Podcast - Student Download Page - English Portal 

I used to teach…

Now that retirement is here, it seemed a good time to try something radical: separating personal and “professional.” Or, maybe post-professional. I will not be updating the Download or the Portal pages, but they will remain accessible (links at top of page.)

When I come across items that I think may be of interest to my former students and colleagues, I’ll share them here. Please share suggestions and comments:

Please stop by from time to time, and feel free to visit my personal page, Totally Unprofessional, as well. 

Us and Them: An Intercultural Communication Textbook for Japanese University Students and Their Teachers. 

A Quick and Dirty Guide to the Japanese Business Meeting. 

April 6, 2024

Some of you are beginning your working lives, and some of you are starting your last year of university studies. Each situation sufficiently complex to make you want to sit down and think for a bit. I remember moments like that in my life long, long ago. Savor them. その瞬間を味わってください。 

I’m starting to plan one of my trips back home to Chicago even though our house here in Querétaro is still not quite finished. Sometimes things can’t be forced. Querétaro and the surrounding areas are having something of a drought ( 干ばつ ); I think the last rain we had was in January. But, every day is comfortable, sunny, and, yes, dry.

Two items of interest today. 

One is an old Portuguese-English phrasebook - written by a Portuguese man whose English was not that good.

The other is an essay about “learning curves.” 

I think you’ll find both of them interesting.

Enjoy the hanami, and thanks to all of you who are keeping in touch!

March 28, 2024

One April Fool joke that comes to mind is one from the mid- or late-nineties. On my web page and in an email to my Mac user list, I said that I was switching from Mac to Windows. As a reason, I gave the many more applications available on the Windows platform, specifically a (imaginary) farming application. (I can’t even grow weeds.)

Be careful on Sunday!

The origins of April Fool

February 26, 2024

BIG congratulations to those of you who are graduating at the end of the semester. That would be the last cohort group that I taught face-to-face, pre-pandemic. Wow. And warm thanks to all of you who keep in touch despite your busy schedules. Please keep me up to date on your adventures in the workplace.

You are not entering the adult world at a particularly good time. While the COVID crisis seems to have passed, worries remain about the next pandemic, as well as the increasing likelihood of a world war. This was unthinkable just ten years ago. No one seems to have the will to put on the brakes. Terrifying.

Something you might find interesting, especially those becoming teachers, is the March 1 episode of the Two Teachers Talking Podcast. The topic is a comparison of teaching English in Japan and in Mexico. Have a listen!


We discussed this phenomenon in some classes, especially the intercultural communication classes. It’s still a thing.  Paris Syndrome

I suppose the expected need for people in the mental health field says a lot about our times. Best jobs

January 4, 2024

明けましておめでとう!I hope your holidays were good, though it has been a hard start to the new year for Japan. 

If you didn’t get enough of Christmas, here’s some interesting information about how St. Nicholas became Santa Claus. This was discussed in many of our classes, but there is more detail here. 

Some of you in some of my reading classes did some reading about Pompeii and how a sudden volcano eruption buried the city. It seems some recent digging in Italy has revealed more surprises: 

All is good here in Querétaro, Mexico. We’re in our new house, but it will be a while before the builders actually finish it and we can then fully unpack. I’ve moved several times in the past two years, and I am not at all fond of the nomadic lifestyle. Even now, it’s sometimes difficult to accept that I won’t be moving anytime soon.

Enjoy the last days of the winter vacation, and good luck with your final exams. (And big thanks to all of you who continue to stay in touch. It means a lot.)

December 4, 2023

Hope the semester is going well for all of you. Winter break will be here soon, so hang in there.  

This time of year usually brings a tsunami of retrospectives, and no doubt I’ll be including a few here. Jumping the gun a bit is Merriam-Webster with its new words for 2023.

In many classes we discussed the Rule of Thirds, a way of composing a presentation slide, photograph, or other graphic art. Here are some examples from movies

There is a lot of discussion these days about personal pronouns, a lot of which I try to avoid, but this discussion should be non-controversial, unless you’re Swedish. It’s an interesting contrast to Japanese.

August 31, 2023

It’s been a while, but you guys have been on break, so  we’re even. I’m trying hard to push the builders to finish our new house so we can move from this expensive AirBNB. At least the car I ordered LAST AUGUST has arrived. 

Only two links in this post, but both worthy.

There is a lot of negative press about the negative impact of COVID and online learning. No surprise, but it’s not so simple. Students in my online classes may not have had as much fun as they might have had they been sitting in classrooms, but fewer got sick, and, I believe they learned more in my online classes than they might have in classrooms. But, here’s another surprising result.

Second (reminder: no -ly needed), I know I post a lot of links to New York Times material, but this is a nice introduction/explanation of all the free resources they offer

Their explanation: 

In short, The Learning Network is a free resource that has been bringing the world into classrooms for 25 years. Via features like writing prompts, contests, discussion forums and lesson plans, the site provides fresh opportunities daily for teenagers to both learn more about what’s happening in the news and raise their voices in response to it.

Check it out. You’re welcome!

Hope the heat isn’t too bad for those of you in Kansai. Try to enjoy every second of your break.

July 17, 2023

Students in Japan are finishing up another semester. Congratulations! It looks pretty warm there, so it should be a relief not to have to slog to classes in the heat.

In several classes, we discussed Plato, platonic forms, and the story of Plato’s Cave. Here’s a video of the allegory with some explanation.

Some of you are familiar with the idea of false memories. Our memories aren’t nearly as reliable as we’d like them to be. It seems that using a second language reduces instances of false memories.

Finally, here’s another article about the value of learning a foreign language.

Enjoy the break!

June 8, 2023

Again, it’s been a long while. It would be nice to to know how many of you are still checking in. First the links, then the news.

Workers in which countries get the most paid vacation days?

Gender disparity isn’t getting any better in Japan.

Smiling. I have read that there are classes in Japan teaching people to smile again after COVID. This is something different.

Hey, old people, kill yourselves! Reality. Fiction.

Multi-lingual/Multi-cultural relationships

Since my last post I did manage a short trip home to Chicago. Of course, the completion of our house is behind schedule, so I’ll be living in an AirBNB for a few weeks because we need to leave this house by June 30. Inconvenient and costly, but not a crisis. 

Best, I did enjoy a wonderful visit from one of my former students. She was a Handai student in my last year of teaching, and in her third year she went AWOL for a trip around the world! We missed meeting in Chicago, but she included Querétaro in her Mexico visit, and we spent a few good days together. When I met her at the city bus terminal (she was coming from Mexico City), it was the first time we met in real life. I think she enjoyed her time here - and then headed to Guanajuato (Mexico) and then Columbia.

I persuaded her to do an interview for my teacher podcast and you can hear her story here: Two Teachers Talking Podcast

I hope the next time I write, it will be from our new house or some idyllic outdoor spot that I’ve found in my new car (still waiting!). 

February 14, 2023

Congratulations to those of you still in school on finishing another year. And, BIGGER congratulations to those of you who graduate in a month or so. お疲れ様でした。🙌🏽

If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will soon: ChatGPT.  It’s an interesting tool for teachers, students, and workers. It’s far from perfect, however, so use with caution. Also, don’t try to use it to write papers for you…it’s not that good. Yet. I will be making presentations on ChatGPT next month at Arkansas State University in Querétaro and at MexTESOL in the fall. I will post links to related materials sometime in March.

Here’s an interesting article about one of the mysteries of the English language. You COULD try to memorize the rule, but I think reading, watching movies, and speaking English is a much less painful way to learn it. 

Meanwhile, ENJOY THE BREAK! (And hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day…)

January 17, 2023

Today marks the 28th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. (Yes, one of the big factors in the Querétaro selection was its freedom from earthquakes.) As this newspaper story notes, more and more people alive today had not been born in 1995. Here is a collection of images courtesy of Google. I’ll save my personal photos for the 30th anniversary. 

On a happier note, the yen is getting a bit stronger, making international travel a little easier for you guys back in Japan. And you have lots of destination choices!

Hang in there…the end of the semester will be here soon.

December 22, 2022


I hope classes have ended for all of you and that you’re beginning your winter vacations.

Since Christmas is just a few days away, I’ll start with some Christmas links.

A truly bizarre (from my perspective) is this very different kind of Christmas tradition. I have mentioned this one in some classes, so it may seem familiar. KRAMPUS

More familiar to those of you in Japan is the tradition of Christmas Cake. What?! It’s a Japanese tradition? Yes, the first time I’d heard of “Christmas Cake” was after arriving in Japan: Japanese Christmas Cakes This term also used to have another meaning

Central to my ideas about Christmas customs is the Christmas tree. Our family would always have a natural, freshly cut Christmas tree in our living room. The hunt for the perfect Christmas tree was an annual ritual that my father, my brother, and I would undertake. The tree we’d bring home would always be criticized as much too big by my mother. All part of the fun! The History of Christmas Trees

OK, I may be retired, but I still like to teach. Here are some articles I found interesting: 

Teacher karoshi. Please be kind to your teachers, even when they might not deserve it. 

Here is a great summary of the different models people have of exactly how we learn, regardless of whether it’s English, math, or a video game. 

For those of you studying foreign languages, it might be interesting to consider exactly where or what language is inside your brain

The COVID years have been hard on everyone. Here is a study that looks at what those years have done to young people’s brains. This means you. 

Finally, a look at the value of the movie Mr. Baseball when trying to make sense of US-Japan differences. I used this movie for many years in my intercultural communication classes. 

So…have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 来年もよろしくお願いします。

November 17, 2022

Life in Mexico continues. I enjoyed a three-week visit to Chicago…catching up with family, friends, routine medical things. I had great weather throughout and and had a wonderful trip, but I was unprepared for the crazy rates being charged for rental cars. OUCH.

Interesting observation: A few people in Chicago speculated on how much easier the trip from Mexico to Chicago must have been than flying from Osaka. Not really!

The plane to Dallas leaves here at 6 am, so even though I’m only 40 minutes from the airport, that’s an early morning. There’s an hour stop in Dallas, where I need to go through immigration and customs, and then a flight to Chicago. So from airport to airport is only about 7 hours. 

However, that early morning is killer. The planes are small…and they feel it. The planes are full, the seats are small. The service is nothing like what is offered on international JAL (or ANA) flights. The reality is that I don’t feel any better after one of these trips than I do after a 24-hour trip (door to door) from Osaka to Chicago.

Yet, being retired and not having the vacation squeezed into academic calendars is less stressful.

So, for today’s links, an interesting combination of cross-cultural items.

August 2, 2022

For anyone who still checks the page, apologies for the long dry spell. It’s been a while. I hope the items here make the wait worthwhile.

Have an essay to write or a speech/presentation to make? Looking for ideas? Here are two links that might help. The first is a collection of essay “prompts” from the New York Times. I’d suggest this list as a source of ideas rather than actual topics. Pay attention to the specifics of your own assignment as well as your own ideas and interests. I offer the list as a collection of seeds for thought.

The second is a very short list of topics that generated the most student interest in the US. Again, use the list as a stimulus for your own thinking.

Then there are a couple of extra links: one about a very gifted student, one about employment and recruiters, and another about cheating. 

May 12, 2022

Hope you all had a good Golden Week - do you remember Golden Week? Anyway, hope you enjoyed the time off.

In several classes, we discussed LBGTQ issues, and if we had time, shared a YouTube Trevor Project video of Apple, Google, or Microsoft employees entitled “It Gets Better.” Here’s a recent survey with sobering results:

"Nearly half of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide, survey finds"
Trevor Project: 

April 14, 2022

I’m a bit late with this. I’d hoped to get this out before the new semester began, but things just happen. Now I’m guessing you’re all way to busy to be reading this, but I thought I’d get it out anyway. Actually, my internet service is out, so now is a good time to sit down and do some writing.

I’m sure those of you still studying foreign languages will find this interesting. We learned the words multilingual and polyglot in class. Well, this man is a “hyperpolyglot.” Amazing. 

The sadness in Ukraine continues. I’m not making any excuses for Putin or Russia, but there is a lesson to be learned. This disaster is not just Russia. It’s what war always looks like. What’s happening in Ukraine is horrible. War is always horrible. 

For a look at what’s going on with me personally and my move to Mexico, please check my personal page: 

Good luck with the new classes and the new school year. Good luck with the new jobs for those who are entering the working world. Be careful, stay healthy, be happy.

I miss you guys.

March 26, 2022


For a look at what’s going on with me personally and my move to Mexico, please check my personal page: 

Or, take a look at some interesting things I discovered over the past few months.

The benefits being multi-lingual:  

This is a fascinating project. People taking old film and applying contemporary video tools to bring history to life. SEE THIS! Old Japan:

This will be of interest to those of you who are studying Korean or are of Korean ancestry. American Han:

Also, kudos to Japan for stepping up for Ukraine and standing up to Putin. A lot better than the shameful acts of Mexico in the last 24 hours.

Hope you make the most of the last few days of the break - at least those of you who are still in school. I miss you guys.

As always, thanks to all of you who make the effort to keep in touch! 🙏🏽

December 30, 2021 - Sayonara, Japan 👋🏽

As the year finally winds down, many changes to report here.

First, today is my birthday. Not a big deal, as I don't like celebrating my birthday at all, as many of you will come to understand as you get older. I will be enjoying some Kobe steak later today, and that I can enjoy.

Second, you all know I retired from teaching earlier this year. I now enter the next phase of retirement. In February I will move from Japan to Querétaro, Mexico. Sayonara, Japan.

My thoughts and feelings are complex and mixed, and the logistics of the move keep me too busy to deal with them in a satisfying way. I just booked my one-way ticket to Chicago. I will be using the miles I accrued over the years for a first-class ticket. I plan on staying awake for the entire trip (12 hours, Haneda to O'Hare) and use the time to reflect on the amazing years I've spent here in Japan. I thank all of you for what you added to my experiences here. Without question, my relationships and interactions with students were the best part of living in Japan. You made my stay here very special. Thank you very much. 🙏🏽

Please keep in touch.


December 14, 2021 - Royalty-free media

First, sites with royalty-free pictures. Save these links for when you need photos, images, or graphics for a project. Pay attention to the license requirements. Even if they are free, many items require proper attribution (like reference citations).

Second, while the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are marked each year in Japan, Americans remember December 7 (8 in Japan) more clearly.


December 2, 2021 - Good news, bad news

Hisashiburi, folks. 

The good news is that I am free from my two-week quarantine. The bad news is that one of my best friends in Japan passed away last week. It was quite a shock, and I am doing my best to cope with the loss.

You might remember from class discussions one of the fundamental cultural differences between Japanese and American cultures. In Japan, it is rare that anyone will be blamed for inaction, whereas doing the wrong thing carries considerable risk. The opposite is true in the US, where doing nothing is rarely the best choice. If things go wrong, one can always say, “At least I did something.” In an article about President Biden’s decision on a travel ban–which will be old news even before I post this–this statement supports what I tried to teach you about US culture. Direct quote: "Better to be criticized for something you do, rather than for something you don’t do." 

Some of you may find this online tool useful. It is a simple, easy way to take notes while you are watching a YouTube video called YouTube Notes.

Take care, stay healthy.

November 20, 2021 - Travels and English stuff

It’s been a while, and a lot has happened. I’ve been to Chicago and Mexico, and survived the necessary 14-day quarantine on my return to Japan. My return flights were canceled THREE times, and finally getting back required me flying Chicago -> New York -> Helsinki (!) -> KIX. I left my brother’s house in Chicago on a Tuesday afternoon and walked into my place in Osaka on a Thursday afternoon. Everything in-between was airports and planes. The quarantine ended yesterday.

I’m guessing your school festivals have passed. Most of you have a short sprint until winter vacation and then another until final exams, and that will be another year complete. Hang in there.

Along the way, I’m guessing you’ll have a number of assignments and papers that will be graded by your professors, and maybe even by your classmates. As you look through the comments and corrections, you might find the ideas here concerning the psychology of red pens interesting. Worth reading for students and teachers alike. 

I know many students are curious about the English differences among British, American, and Canadian speakers. This short video might be fun during a  break - about 20 minutes. For reference, here’s some data on English speakers worldwide.

Those of you who were in one of my Intercultural Communication classes might remember the movie, Mr. Baseball. I came across a series of scenes that were cut from the final movie and thought you might be interested.

Finally, an interesting story about the origins of the Japanese language.

Again, a big thanks to those of you who are finding the time to keep in touch. I appreciate it!

September 30, 2021 - Relearning history and a little Zoom reunion

As October is about to begin, we find ourselves between two dates that are remembered very differently in the US and in Japan: December 7/8 and August 6. 

The very different views of history signaled by these dates caution us to realize that the history we are taught in school is rarely complete. There is always more to learn. This is true of these events of World War II, as well as Japan’s actions in Asia in the first half of the twentieth century, and more recently, the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Regarding World War II, a shameful chapter in American history that deserves more attention in its schools is the internment of Japanese American citizens. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were sent to camps. More were also interned in Canada and Mexico.

This article explores the different ways the 9/11 event is taught in different countries: 

Finally, thank you Miyu for organizing our little Zoom reunion with students from the 2019 A class. I had a great time! Thanks to everyone who attended!

September 12, 2021 - Learning Network, World Values, and September 11, 2001

I hope everyone is enjoying the break. The Delta variant is not making it easy, but with care and precautions, we can still make the most out of every day. Rely on your family and friends, even if it’s online. We will beat COVID-19.

Meanwhile, this is an interesting collection of people’s experiences with teaching online. Their stories might help you put your own experiences into perspective. A little difficult and a little long, but I found the article very interesting.

I don’t work for The New York Times (Really! 😂), but I do find lots of interesting things on its various sites. Here is a general guide to its Learning Network. Maybe you will find something useful - there is a lot there.

The title of the organization tells the story: World Values Survey. Their site is not easy to use and much of the data is in raw format and difficult to understand. Luckily, someone went through the data and exported it to graphics that make the data easier to understand. Start there and if you want to do more research, go to the World Values Survey site.

For those of you who are curious and haven’t been in touch (BIG thanks to those of you who are!), I am still in Osaka. This fall, I will make a trip to Chicago and Mexico. I’ll then return to Osaka to start preparations for my move. The pandemic has had many unexpected effects.

Finally, some of you may not have been born yet on September 11, 2001. It was a day that changed the world. If you haven’t before, I encourage you to do a little research on the events of that day and the days, weeks, and months that followed. That morning did much to shape the world you were born into. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy your break!

August 28, 2021 - Movie, news, vocabulary


All efficiency today - few words, lots of links.

The Killing Fields

First, a film recommendation. We are all aware of the tragedy that has been unfolding in Afghanistan. Almost 50 years ago, a similar scenario unfolded as The Khmer Rouge moved into Phnom Penh and British, American, and other embassies were evacuated. Very true to history, a ver good movie, but very strong.\_Killing\_Fields\_(film)


A news story about the changing population of the United States. "Census Shows Sharply Growing Numbers of Hispanic, Asian and Multiracial Americans"

Reading and Vocabulary

First, a fast reading/vocabulary quiz.

How did you do? Here are two links that can help you do better:

"14 Ways to Learn Vocabulary and Explore Language With The New York Times"

“Words of the Day and monthly challenges to learn vocabulary”

August 13, 2021 - Free online classes / Courage / Language and the mind

More online classes?!  (But, they’re free…)

I know, I know.  🙄 But some of you might be looking for some learning during the break. Not all the courses are free, but maybe you can find something that’s of interest. 

Congratulations on getting through another semester. I hope you learned a lot, did well, and enjoyed your classes.


I’m not suggesting that this is what you need to do in your lives. But, there may be times when you will need to draw upon all the strength and courage inside you.

This is what courage looks like. 

"Charged With Treason, a Genocide Survivor Opts to Fight, Not Flee"

Language and the mind

The title of the first article tells the story. I think it’s good reading for any foreign language learner. If you're interested in the topic, you might enjoy this podcast interview I did with with one of your sempai from 阪大.

July 31, 2021 - Sunisa Lee, Women’s Gymnastics Gold Winner

Sunisa Lee, a Hmong American, wins women’s gymnastics gold medal winner

Those of you who were in my Intercultural Communication classes will (I HOPE!) remember the movie Gran Torino\_Torino. It was the story of an aging retired Polish American factory worker coming to terms with his changing neighborhood and his own mortality. One of the changes is the influx of Hmong immigrants. While the movie is set in Detroit, it is actually based on the reality of Minnesota, where Sunisa Lee is from. 

"Lee, a Hmong American from Minnesota, went to the gym every day for all the people whose parents had immigrated to the United States with nothing after escaping war zones. She endured grueling, painful, practices to honor her father, John, who put her in the sport when she was six and who now uses a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury."  

America isn’t all Trump, guns, and anti-vax stupidity. I know it sometimes seems that way. 😞

More about Hmong refugees:

July 25, 2021 - PDA and Pronunciation


In several classes, we discussed the different cultural norms regarding PDA (public display of affection, or, long ago, personal digital assistant, the forerunner of the smartphone).

OK, now back to work:


Word of the Day: This looks like an interesting “word of the day” site that might help you improve your English vocabulary:


I came across some interesting items related to pronunciation. Some are useful, some are funny, some are both:

Pronunciation Studio:

Why do Japanese mix up "L" and "R"?

The English Language in 67 Accents & Random Voices (Not bad for a kid!)

Hang in there, folks. You’re almost there. 

July 15, 2021 - Study tips, Part 2

This advice was written for teachers. Read it. In this Pandemic Era, it is more important than ever that you take control of your own learning, that you become your own teacher.

Explain to Students How Learning Works 

Students labor under many myths and illusions about learning that cause them to make some unfortunate choices about intellectual risk-taking and about when and how to study. It’s the proper role of the teacher to explain what empirical studies have discovered about how people learn, so the student can better manage his or her own education. 

In particular, students must be helped to understand such fundamental ideas as these: 

  • Some kinds of difficulties during learning help to make the learning stronger and better remembered. 
  • When learning is easy, it is often superficial and soon forgotten. 
  • Not all of our intellectual abilities are hardwired. In fact, when learning is effortful, it changes the brain, making new connections and increasing intellectual ability. 
  • You learn better when you wrestle with new problems before being shown the solution, rather than the other way around. 
  • To achieve excellence in any sphere, you must strive to surpass your current level of ability.
  • Striving, by its nature, often results in setbacks, and setbacks are often what provide the essential information needed to adjust strategies to achieve mastery.

Brown, Peter C. Make It Stick (pp. 225-226). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition. 

Good luck on your final exams, みんなさん。

July 8, 2021 - Study tips, Part 1

Finals are coming up. Here are some ideas about how to study more effectively from a student who figured out how to excel. I’ll have more next week.


Timothy Fellows, Intro Psych Student 

Stephen Madigan, a professor at the University of Southern California, was astonished by the performance of a student in his Psych 100 course. “It’s a tough course,” Madigan says. “I use the most difficult, advanced textbook, and there’s just a nonstop barrage of material. Three-quarters of the way through the class, I noticed this student named Timothy Fellows was getting 90 to 95 percent of the points on all the class activities—exams, papers, short-answer questions, multiple-choice questions. Those were just extraordinary grades. Students this good—well he’s definitely an outlier. And so I just took him aside one day and said, ‘Could you tell me about your study habits?’ ”

The year was 2005. Madigan did not know Fellows outside class but saw him around campus and at football games enough to observe that he had a life beyond his academics. “Psychology wasn’t his major, but it was a subject he cared about, and he just brought all his skills to bear.” Madigan still has the list of study habit Fellows outlined, and he shares it with incoming students to this day. 

Among the highlights were these: 

  • Always does the reading prior to a lecture
  • Anticipates test questions and their answers as he reads 
  • Answers rhetorical questions in his head during lectures to test his retention of the reading 
  • Reviews study guides, finds terms he can’t recall or doesn’t know, and relearns those terms 
  • Copies bolded terms and their definitions into a reading notebook, making sure that he understands them 
  • Takes the practice test that is provided online by his professor; from this he discovers which concepts he doesn’t know and makes a point to learn them 
  • Reorganizes the course information into a study guide of his design •Writes out concepts that are detailed or important, posts them above his bed, and tests himself on them from time to time 
  • Spaces out his review and practice over the duration of the course 

Fellows’s study habits are a good example of doing what works and keeping at it, so that practice is spaced and the learning is solidly embedded come exam time.

Brown, Peter C. Make It Stick (pp. 215-217). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition. 

June 26, 2021 - Salud! Dinero! Amor!

One of the great rewards of teaching is seeing the success of former students. I recently learned that one of my former engineering students has moved from Mazda to head an AI unit at Denso. Way to go, Tatsu! When he was my student, he won a national robotics competition. 🙌🏽

I want to alert you guys to good deal being offered by Microsoft. As most of you know, Microsoft requires a subscription to its Office 365 suite of applications. What you might not know, is that it has a special “family” plan. What I’m pretty sure that you don’t know, is that you don’t need to be a “family” to qualify for the discount. Even a group of friends can qualify. It’s a real deal, both for the applications, but also for the CLOUD STORAGE. (Great for backups!) Look into it.

You also know I am a fan of Apple, and, with some reservations, of Steve Jobs. He had an interesting way of defining “intelligent.” You can guess I like it a lot.

Do you sneeze in Japanese? English? German? Ei chi? Ah-choo? Hakushon? Hatchi? 

When someone sneezes, six different languages:

Good luck with the continued high-stress pandemic semester. Hang in there. I miss you guys.

June 16, 2021 - You’re studying wrong

Lots of links today to help you study effectively for the end of the semester. If the topic interests you, I can recommend the book I’m reading now, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Peter C. Brown, Harvard University Press. I’ve included the US amazon link as it’s a lot less than the same ebook on the Japanese amazon site.

From the old download page 

"Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits"

“You're Probably Studying Wrong” 

Some videos on the same topic:

“Study LESS, Study SMART” 

“How To Study Smarter, Not Harder” 

Don’t give up on studying abroad. Gaikoku ho! 

Interesting prompts for essays and speeches. I often used these New York Times lists for my topic suggestions for students. 

NYT Vocab challenge. An interesting collection of vocabulary words. Test yourself!

Finally, a heartwarming teacher story. Shoes: 

June 3, 2021 - Friends

I was very happy to come across this article. Over the years I used some episodes from Friends in some of my classes. Often, students would ask about how and where more episodes could be found. Some shared stories about how they later enjoyed watching episodes with their parents. It was certainly one of my favorite TV series, and there were times when the “back home” cultural connection made some days here in Japan easier for me. It was nice to get confirmation that the series has real value for English learners. Of course, I give it four stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

How ‘Friends’ Helps People Around the World Learn English

Language teachers say the show is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios that feel familiar even to people who live worlds away from the West Village. 

May 27, 2021 - Time passing / Time management

I don’t know why I stopped to check, but I was shocked when I did and saw that the semester was approaching its halfway point for many of you. I know you may feel differently, but for me, it seems as if the semester - YOUR semester - had just begun, along with the usual Golden Week interruption and the very unusual COVID-19 burps and re-directions. It can’t be easy, and I do feel for all of you. Hang in there, it will pass, it will get better…eventually.

To be honest, I thought that by this time I might very well be in Mexico. The pandemic has certainly derailed those plans, and I won’t be going anywhere until entry to and departure from Japan becomes manageable. Spending weeks in quarantine at either end of the flight just doesn’t make sense. I hope to get vaccinated by the end of July, but, even then, I’m not sure how much easier that will make things.

Meanwhile, I am going through old textbooks and teaching materials, tossing most of it (boxes and boxes!), but at my own pace. I pick up my guitar more frequently, I correspond or talk with old friends more, I’m reading books, listening to music, cooking, taking it easy. I wish you had some of that leisure time and space to relieve some of your pressure.

Time management. This is something we could not cover in classes last year, but  there is a simple tool (The Eisenhower Matrix) that can help you make your lives run much more smoothly. It’s a very simple idea that might help you organize and prioritize all the things that seem like they need to be done NOW. I hope it’s helpful. 

If you have TOO MUCH time, I invite you to my personal website or my teacher podcast.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

May 13, 2021 - Free Ebooks, now easier on the eyes

I likely introduced you to Project Gutenberg ( in our classes. It’s the volunteer site that has been scanning and sharing copyright-free books for over 25 years. I recently learned of another interesting resource. Standard Ebooks ( takes those Project Gutenberg scans, proofreads them for errors, cleans them up, and posts them for download, free. 

Also, a cartoon I thought you might appreciate: 

May 3, 2021 - Happy Golden Week

Hope you’re all having a great Golden Week.

I know you all do lots of reading. Here’s more, but it will help you appreciate all the good the reading is doing you.

Also, if you’re smart enough to be checking this web page, here’s some good news for you: 

Two fast reminders. 

If you are now teaching at a juku or if you are considering a career in teaching, I’m pretty sure you’ll find this interesting: 

I also keep a personal web page, intended for friends in general, and I welcome you to have a look:

Stay healthy, stay safe, and have a great Golden Week break. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you have questions or need help.

April 24, 2021 - Don’t give up

Of course, you’re confused and disheartened. Again, you have been let down by those in power of Japan’s educational system. Don’t give up. You and your teachers will make this work. 

Two bits of humor to help you through: 

Hang in there, folks.

April 10, 2021 - Language oddities and the Rule of Thirds 

OK, folks, break’s over. Well, I hear some schools are having a tough time getting started.  Good luck, stay healthy…miss you guys.

Below are two episodes of Lexicon Valley podcast. I think they will be of great interest to all language majors. The host does talk quickly, so I suggest using a podcast player (Overcast, Downcast, etc.) that allows you to adjust the playback speed so that you can slow things down a little. Still too fast? A transcript is available on each page. It’s OK to skip the music if it’s not to your taste. Worth the time and effort–very interesting.

There is also an article about how pronouns in English are changing (maybe). Finally, a little reinforcement of the Rule of thirds.

April 3, 2021 - A new school year 

This is no April Fool Joke, people.

The number of COVID-19 infections in Kansai is very high and increasing each day. (See? Number is, infections are, but the subject is number.) Universities are pushing hard for face-to-face classes. The semester’s classes probably begin this week for you.  My opinion is that this is a recipe for disaster. As hard as last year was for all of us, I am relieved that I am not part of what is happening this year. Please stay safe and stay healthy.

However, on a lighter note, some fun for the beginning of the school year: 

Stay safe.

March 24, 2021 - Let’s get real

Yesterday I visited one of the universities where I have been teaching to clear out my stuff: books, records, etc. With incredible luck, I was able to meet one of my students from last year (2020-2021 - the Zoom year). I was having a small snack in a green area before going to the office, when I saw a young man with a familiar pair of eyes bounding toward me. When he pulled down his mask, I recognized him immediately, even though we had previously only seen each other on Zoom. We had a great talk. He is the ONLY student from last year that I’ve had the chance to meet in person. I was glad it was Ryo. He was a great student all year and always did his best. He is the ONLY student from last year that I’ve had the chance to meet in person. 今年も、がんばって、亮さん

(Link to English Portal fixed.)

March 19, 2021 - Writing and vocabulary

“One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King, 

March 18, 2021 - Open the windows / When it began

Next month some of you will be attending face-to-face classes. This video can help you stay healthy. Please take its warnings seriously. 

A year ago, on Two Teachers Talking, Charles and I sat down with a group of Osaka University students to discuss our early experiences with university life in the pandemic era. I think it’s worth a listen: Two Teachers Talking, Episode 123.

March 13, 2021 - One year of COVID-19 

Yes, this was a hard year. You’ve heard me say it many times. Here’s what your counterparts in the US are saying about it:

March 8, 2021 - Racism and discrimination

In several classes we discussed racism and discrimination. As I hope I made clear, wherever there are human beings, you will find racism and discrimination. This video of a South Korean woman in Germany illustrates that point: 

March 5, 2021 - Relocating / Getting a job / Working less

These are the most desirable countries and cities for workers looking to relocate in 2021:

If you say any of these 6 things during the job interview, don’t expect to get an offer:

 The idea of a four-day work week has been discussed since before I was a university student. Some European countries are experimenting with it now, and here’s some hope that the practice will  become more widespread. I suppose that will be one positive result of the pandemic. 

February 24, 2021 - Why study abroad?

In some of our classes we discussed the advantages of studying abroad. Since classes ended, I’ve talked with some of you about lessons you, your acquaintances, and your family learned while living overseas.

A great example is Momoko Nojo, who started an online groundswell that brought down Mr. Yoshiro Mori, former Olympic Minister.  No surprise, as Ms. Nojo, a 22 year old student at Keio University did a year of study abroad, in Denmark.

The lessons you learn living and studying abroad return with you to Japan, follow you wherever you go, and enrich very day of your lives.

February 19, 2021 - Hello, World

I’m not in the classroom. Actually, because of the pandemic, I haven’t been in a classroom since February 2020. No matter. As I’ve told my students this past year (2020-2021), you, they, I have overcome the obstacles and had a successful year of learning together.

Now, I have retired.

However, I realize that I will always be a teacher.

So, for now, this will be my medium. My old student download page will remain online, but I will no longer be updating that page. Nevertheless, there is much I encounter, learn, read, and hear that I know will be of benefit to students of English in Japan, and anywhere else. To their teachers, too.

I will share those things here. I hope you find the posts informative and useful.

One last time…huge THANK YOU-S  🙏🏽  to this year’s students and the students of all my years of teaching for adding so much to my life.  You’ll be forever in my memories, forever in my heart. 

My first offerings:

Visit Dan’s House

Students often ask how to improve their English. There are no secrets. Practice and hard work. For inspiration, I suggest this video of a man in Russia determined to learn English. Listen to Dan talk about his house in Russia: Give him some likes 👍🏽 and some encouragement.

Grammarly alternatives

Any of you who had written assignments from me have heard me talk about the utility of a good grammar/spell checker. Grammarly has gotten too expensive for most of us, but here is a list of free or mostly free alternatives. I haven’t tested them all, but I hope you can find one that works well for you.