「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


A free tour

By Samantha Loong


"Excuse me, do you speak English? Would you like a free tour?" Upon hearing those words, my first instinct was to respond with a firm "No thank you." I'd been scammed before and didn't want it to happen again.

In any other country, my visiting brother, brother-in-law and I wouldn't have taken up such an offer. But we were in Japan, at the entrance of Himeji Castle. The trustworthy reputation of the Japanese won us over and we agreed to a tour.

Throughout the two-and-a-half-hours with our guide, she happily answered our questions, cracked jokes and laughed at ours. She made us feel like it was her first time showing people around. Compared to some of the paid guides I also saw wandering around the castle, our guide's tour had sparkle and personality. I decided to ask her what made her volunteer her time to some strangers.

"Some volunteers want to practise their second or third language," she explained as we passed another volunteer. He was an older Japanese man, speaking Mandarin to his lucky group of visitors. "But for me, learning and speaking English is like scuba diving. It's like going into a whole other world." She continued to explain how interacting with English speakers from different countries and cultures was like a journey of discovery each time.

Her answer made me think about what motivates, or doesn't motivate, my students. For almost all of them, they've been told by their managers that they need English for their jobs. Having a career-related motivation is useful, but in my experience, for language skills to stick long-term, attaching emotions to your language use — in the case of our guide, wonderment — is much more effective.

Showing curiosity and wonderment towards someone from a different culture, whether that's through travel, work or life, also means so much to that person. Even if you can't speak each other's languages, communication comes in many forms. Our guide spoke English fluently, but during my guests' visit, a sushi chef used his expressions and gestures to make us laugh. And my elderly neighbourhood tofu seller would wave at us every time we walked by his shop.

Whether it's through words, gestures, or just a friendly wave, having and showing curiosity benefits everyone. For our tour guide, her motivation was to enjoy learning about us. For our sushi chef, it was to entertain us and explain his dishes. For the tofu seller, it was just to be friendly. For me however, all these people taking an interest in us showed how welcoming Japan can be. Whatever language level you're at, you're a guide wherever you go. What kind of tour do you want to give?



The Japan Times ST: August 21, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版