I have recently begun participating in Klexon, an English learning circle with members ranging from college students to working men and women. The meetings take place most Tuesdays for 2 hours. They just held a Hanami Party on March 31st, which I participated in. I have been really enjoying my time at Klexon and definitely did not expect it to be as friendly and relaxed as it is. Through the circle, I not only met interesting Japanese college students from around the area, but English speakers from Australia and Sweden. The format of the meetings are structured and everyone is handed topic suggestions, but we all end up talking about a large variety of things from movies to languages. During the first hour, the English speakers remain in their seats while the Japanese members spend at least 5 minutes just introducing and chatting with us before switching to the next English speaker. Afterwards we all sit in a larger groups and have general discussions together.
The Japanese members’ English speaking skills are quite varied. Some can speak quite well and are therefore a bit more open and talkative, while others may have just begun their studies and are not yet confident. As I speak to them, I definitely see what I looked like both in September and now, which only makes the meetings a lot more relaxed for me as I try my best to speak slowly and keep the subjects light.
What I have noticed in most of my 5 minute conversations is that there is a lot of talk about working. The employed Japanese members tend to say that they are “working men.” In Japanese this would sound just fine, but it’s always a little odd when I ask if they are currently in school, and they reply “no I am a worker,” or a “working man,” in English. Though they say this proudly, in America it would be a bit strange. Generally someone would say “I work at such-and-such a place,” instead of simply, “I am a worker,” because the latter has more negative connotations. I am not sure what the connotation is in Japan, or why it is said this way. Also, for about 3 meetings now there has been a lot of commotion about someone finally quitting their job and moving on to something better. This must be a coincidence that they all happened to quit around the same time, but it is always followed by “I have found another job!”
There is also an interesting response to questions about hobbies. When I am asked what mine are, I usually respond with a slew of random things that I do to pass the time at home from reading to playing video games. Yet almost every time I ask a Japanese member, they simply say travelling. In America travelling isn’t really a hobby as it isn’t something you can just do every day in your spare time. I never ask about this as I don’t think my English would be understood. I’m not quite sure what to make of this.
Yet all in all these meetings are always polite, with a lot of laughing, and a surprised “Ehh??” or “Oohhh!!!” to most of what each member says about themselves in a group. These definitely keep the energy quite high! There is also never one person left out in a group discussion. Everyone is always very aware of who hasn’t gotten a chance to speak, which makes it a very friendly environment. If one person hasn’t spoken in a while, someone in the group will turn to them and begin a new topic of discussion with that person. One of the Japanese members just got a job at Doshisha and we always happen to run into each other, so it’s great to be able to say hello, though a bit strange to suddenly be supposed to speak English!
All in all Klexon has been a great CIP experience! I really wish I could have done it all year! =)
Thanks for sharing your discoveries about word usage.
The “worker” part reminds me of the time when I was learning English in elementary school in China. Because of a lack of vocabulary on the less specified occupations (jobs that do not fit into categories like doctor, cook, bus driver, etc.), I used “worker” to describe my parents’ office job. Now I wonder how I would have sounded to a native English speaker at that time. :p
Oh! Thank you for the comment! I hadn’t even thought of that, but it definitely makes sense. =) After I talk to them more it usually is an office job that they’re describing. In America whenever people introduce their jobs they tend to be super specific from the start saying something like “I’m a secretary at a publishing company called Random House.” I didn’t even notice I was used to hearing it said like that until I started doing Klexon!