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. 

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.