Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:57
Subject: Thank you!!
This Reina's mom, Yukiko. We are in Fona School English classes.
I'm so very happy today, that I wanted to write to thank you.
Reina (in eighth grade) passed the Grade Pre-2 of the EIKEN Test in Practical English Proficiency! It's thanks to taking 2 of your English classes each week!
In the sentence block lessons, Lai taught us...
- Use the simple tense for facts, and the progressive tense for things happening right now.
- Put an "s" on the verb when the [who] block is "he", "she", or "it". She taught us how to adjust the pronunciation, too.
- How to use prepositions.
- Plural forms of nouns do not always end in "s".
There were many details like this that she taught us about sentence structure, pronunciation, and so on. She taught us very clearly and understandably.
In the advanced class lessons, Yukat taught us...
- The basics of answering questions.
He said that if someone asks "Do you...", then we should answer "Yes, I do.", or "No, I don't."
If they next ask "Why?", then we should answer "Because... ".
We practiced those patterns over and over. Every time, we had so many different kinds of lessons.
- Sometimes we would read an Aesop's fable aloud, and discuss it, learning a proverb in the process.
- Sometimes he would ask each of us our opinion about a current news story.
- Sometimes it was like a game; he would ask our preferences about something, and have us explain our reasoning.
With this approach, he kept all of us students excited and looking forward to each lesson, wondering what we would do next. At the same time, he was also teaching us how to carry a conversation.
The interview portion (second part) of the Grade Pre-2 EIKEN Test in Practical English Proficiency included...
- Reading text aloud.
- Explaining what someone is doing in a picture.
- Expressing a personal opinion about a current event.
I had heard from my friend that it was difficult for a junior high student to pass the interview portion of the test on the first try, because of those points.
Although, on Saturday the day before the interview test (and with perfect timing), Yukat had each student take turns sitting in front of the group, and for 10 minutes all the other students could ask anything they wanted to ask, to give that person answering practice.
In that lesson, Reina practiced speaking out loudly with confidence. With that experience the night before, she was able to face the interview the next day without feeling nervous. She listened carefully to the interviewer's questions and answered them with a calm loud voice. She says it was thanks to the lesson the night before.
I can hardly believe that my daughter, Reina, who was always so shy in the lessons that she could barely answer questions, was actually able to pass the interview on the first try!
Truly, it is thanks to the wonderful lessons we have enjoyed so much.
Thank you very much.
How do you say this?
There are a lot of things I want to be able to say in English!
At Fona School, I've learned the reasons behind things, so now I can take each word and phrase that I've learned and apply them in different situations.
Now, having the feeling of "How do you say this?" is so fun I can hardly stand it!
Connecting with people through communication is fun!
In our English class, we're not allowed to put "-san" (さん) on the teacher's name. For the other students as well, we have to use their first names, or nicknames. My legal name is Nobuaki, so everyone calls me Nobu. At first, I had a really hard time getting used to calling people, "Jim", "Yoshiko", "Sachiko". However, after 6 months, and then a year, it became the most natural thing. Now, I feel an inexpressible equality and closeness with everyone.
The other day, I had a high school reunion. Right at the very beginning, I told everyone about my experience in English class, and I made a declaration.
"I have always called all of you "-kun" (くん) or "-san" (さん), but I've decided to stop that as of now. Now, I'm going to call everyone by their first name, without title. I hope that's okay."
While moving around from seat to seat, I said things like, "Yoshio! It's a been a while!", and "Yuhko! You look pretty! I like your smile!"
The freedom of talking so casually moved me. For the first time ever, I had been able to call the prettiest girl in school by her first name without title (ha, ha!).
I really feel that in learning English I'm actually learning how to interact with people without pretense.
I began taking lessons at Fona School because I felt a need for English both at work and in my personal life. That was almost 2 years ago now. I take lessons once a week with my family. The lessons are great. The atmosphere at Fona is very homey, and the lessons are geared to our pace and skills.
Recently, my family and I went to Disneyland. As we stood in line for 1 of the attractions, a Chinese man in front of us suddenly asked us a question in English. It took me by surprise at first, but I was able to answer his question and help him in English.
I can tell you from this experience that even taking lessons only once a week really helped me improve my English skills.
I came to Fona School to maintain my English skills after I came back from studying English overseas.
My thinking was maintenance, but now for the first time I'm learning the reasons behind each preposition, the reasons behind each word. It's no longer just maintenance; I'm improving my skills and understanding!
In fact, I recently took a trip overseas again, and was able to have a great time talking with the local people. I even made some new friends, and we are staying in touch with each other.
Being able to communicate with different people is great!
After coming back to Japan in March 2014, I didn't have any opportunities at all to speak English. However, in October 2014 I had the chance to help a foreign woman who was looking for her lost daughter, and we found her daughter together!
The half-crazed mother said, "I asked all the people around, but no one could speak English!"
The English I used was extremely simple:
- "Are you looking for your child?"
- "When did she lose her way?"
- "Tell me her character."
- "How old is she?"
- "What color does her hair?"
- "Calm down, please."
- "I'll search near here with you."
- "So if we can't find her, I'll call a police. OK?"
All the sentences except the last one were simple sentence block combinations. (smile)
Images of the [what], [how], [where] blocks all came naturally to mind as boxes or blocks of information!
My sentences were not very good, but I was able to talk with her without hesitation. I didn't worry about my English skill being too low, or what to do if she didn't understand.
Having the desire and taking action to help someone in trouble is really important. In addition, it's also very important to take the attitude, "Of course, my English isn't perfect. I'm not a native speaker."
Listening to and understanding English is hard!
Translating from Japanese to English is hard!
How many times I've failed in the past...
But wait! With this revolutionary new approach called Sentence Blocks... finally understanding how English goes together... maybe I can do it!
As I've continued taking lessons, with those thoughts going through my mind, learning English has begun to be fun. That's because I can finally understand it now.
Now, I understand how it goes together and why. Now, I'm not just memorizing anymore. Now, I really understand how it works, so I can actually make sentences myself. This is fantastic!
Those are the thoughts going through my mind now.
If only the schools would teach this way in the first place...
Then, there wouldn't be any need to take English lessons afterward to correct all the mistakes you learn in school...
I first discovered Fona in the fall of last year.
I really could not speak English at all. Even when traveling overseas with my husband, my inability to communicate with people turned what should have been a fun vacation into a source of stress.
That's when I decided to learn English, and began calling different schools and taking trial lessons. Thus, I found Fona School.
What attracted me initially was that all the teachers were foreign and that I could schedule lessons at my own convenience.
The big name schools were all about improving skills, taking tests, and so on. It seemed like every lesson would be another test of some kind or other, and I would always be rushing to make the grade. I knew that was not for me, so I decided to come to Fona, where I could take lessons at my own pace, and enjoy learning. That approach is perfect for me.
Each teacher has a different personality, and always teaches lessons to meet my skills and needs. I enjoy every lesson.
I've only had 5 lessons so far at Fona. I still have an extreme lack of confidence and feel very nervous about English. However, I'm also now beginning to think that English is fun.
Fona has helped me start to think about why I always hated English, and why I always thought it was so difficult.
Different from the English I learned in school and the English you find in reference books, I'm now able to experience a little bit of how it would feel actually to use English in conversations in daily settings. This is totally new to me.
I'm not just learning the language now. I'm also learning the perspectives and thinking, which makes using English much more fun. Now, I'm beginning to understand why the other students say they want more opportunities to use English.
In fact, I can even see that I'll also feel that way someday, but for now I look forward to every turn of the page in the textbook.
I like traveling overseas with my husband, but through the years I began to feel frustrated and stressed about not being able to speak English. That's why I began to take lessons at Fona School.
At first, I was shocked by how little I could speak and how few words I knew. However, at Fona I was able to take private lessons, one-on-one with the teacher.
Of course, that's true at almost any English conversation school. At Fona though, each student gets personalized instruction. The teachers select materials and programs specifically for each student.
If you don't understand something, they teach it to you in thorough detail so you are able to get it. Even the most basic beginner can learn comfortably here.
My third-grade daughter is taking private lessons in the Maintenance Program.
I was worried at first whether she would really be okay in a private lesson. I thought she might get bored before the hour was up and want to quit early, or something. I felt comfortable though, because I was told that she could change to a group lesson any time if that would be better. In the end, my worries were unnecessary.
They do quizzes, games and craft projects. They also draw pictures, and so on. There is always something to attract and keep a child's attention. My daughter is focused on listening to what the teacher says because she wants to understand him and have fun together. She isn't aware that she's learning in the process. She just wants to express her thoughts and ideas, and communicate well with the teacher.
Even when my daughter struggles or goes silent, the teacher very skillfully, and most importantly very patiently works with her to help her understand and speak. I think that having fun lessons is the most important thing for young kids like my daughter who have no need of studying for tests yet. Fun lessons make them want to continue.
Fona School offers two courses: their Improvement Program, and their Maintenance Program. I take private lessons in the Improvement Program.
This program is for people who want to learn English right from the basics. It starts with the basics of pronunciation, and goes step by step from there. Sometimes, we go outside and practice using simple English in real life. This kind of lesson is very original, and one of the things I like about Fona.
There is no pressure to take tests or acquire certificates. I can enjoy myself, and study at the pace I choose.
It had been 3 years since I'd started studying English, but I still couldn't speak. It was at that time, as I was wondering why that was, that I heard about Fona School.
I've been taking lessons here for 4 months now, but I had quite a surprise and several questions at the beginning. My teacher always had a computer sitting by him on the table, and kept doing things with it throughout the lesson. In addition, he didn't use any textbook. Even beyond that, he kept talking about how to cut sentences into parts, and explained the parts of speech in great detail. It was the first time I'd ever been in that kind of lesson. Not understanding the intent or reasons for Jim's lesson approach, I expressed my own requests for the lesson style and content. He always listened to my requests and implemented them faithfully. However, his basic teaching style still did not change. One day, he told me very directly that I should stop simply memorizing as a substitute for learning. That left me pretty depressed and discouraged. Not understanding why he would say such a thing, I asked him about it.
The following is what Jim sent back in answer to my question:
"It's not good if you stop at the stage of memorization, and don't go on to make it truly your own knowledge. The reason I said, 'Stop memorizing!' so strongly, was to say, 'Don't just memorize and be satisfied with that!' It's true that memorization is a necessary step at some stages of learning. However, after memorizing you have to take the next steps of understanding it and making it your own. Then, when your skill level is high enough, there will come a day when you don't need to memorize. You'll just understand and take possession of it instantaneously."
That was exactly right, because what I'd been doing was memorizing. I understood then that just memorizing was not enough. Unfortunately, I still didn't know yet how to gain real understanding or make it my own.
In spite of that, this was the trigger that effected a change in my heart and mind.
I still questioned the intent and reasons for the lesson approach and style, but I decided to trust Jim and follow his lead since he was looking so closely and accurately at me and my situation and needs.
Most of the homework is writing. At one point, Jim said a word that I had used in my composition, but I didn't know it. He asked me why I didn't recognize a word that I had used myself in my own writing. Thinking about it now, I feel embarrassed. However, at that time I really thought that writing the text was the objective, so nothing else mattered as long as I was able to complete the assignment. The result of that thinking was that I did indeed complete the assignment, but without learning anything from the exercise. Jim told me again what I had not yet understood: "To make it your own, you need to feel it in your heart while you are studying." Those words were very important to me. That time, I was able truly to understand them. That also answered my question about the lessons. You cannot build a sentence without understanding how it's put together and the parts of speech. Therefore, you naturally cannot speak, either. Furthermore, writing is a good way to confirm how much you've understood and learned. If you don't understand, you get more of the same kind of homework. The program is designed to ensure learning and progress. In his computer, Jim was recording real-time the words I didn't know and the principles I didn't understand. He showed it to me. The computer is his secretary!
Throughout the lesson, he finds every detail that I don't understand or learn fully, and focuses on those things. That becomes my textbook, customized just for me.
He explains the grammatical points in English first, then in Japanese. I couldn't understand the English explanations at first. To be honest, I hated listening to them. However, after learning his philosophy, I stopped hating the English explanations. They are still difficult, but I stopped hating them. Now, I face them with the attitude that I need to understand such important details. That's because I'm now able to feel and understand that it will lead to being able to speak in a more timely manner. I want to retain this important lesson, and apply it in my future studies.
My new lessons for truly learning have only just begun.
Thanks to Jim, I've been made aware now of something very important.
I'm very thankful!