2007年02月08日

上達の秘訣

私は、尋ねられない限り自分が日本人だとは言いません。
面白いことに、尋ねない方も結構多く、一回聞いて「へえー」と言っても数週間後には忘れてしまっている方もいます。

でも "Are you Japanese?" や "Where are you from?" と聞いてくる積極的な生徒さんだと、(信じてくれない人は別として)その後に必ずと言って良いほど、"Why do you speak English so well?" という質問が続きます。

今まではその質問に対し、「幼少の頃より海外に住んでいたから」と答えていたのですが、今日またこの質問を聞いいたときに、それが必ずしも正しい答えでは無いことに気付きました。
私と同じくらいの年齢で海外に行っても、結局高いレベルの英語力を得ることが出来なかったり、忘れてしまったりしてわざわざ習いに来る生徒さんもいるくらいですから。

そこで、初級者の方だったので、かなり噛み砕いた表現を用いなければならなかったのですが、以下のような話をしたのです。

"I was five years old when I first went to the U.S., and on my first day of school, I couldn't communicate with the teacher or with the other students. Everyone was kind, and spoke very slowly when they were speaking to me, but I didn't like the special treatment. So, when I got home I told my mother: 'If I can't speak English, everyone thinks that I'm stupid. I don't want that. So I'm going to learn to speak English just as well as everybody else can.' And I did. I caught up with my classmates in six months.

"So don't tell me that you can't speak well. You should look in the mirror every morning and tell yourself that you are going to master English."

そう、思えばこの「特別扱い」に対する悔しさが私の競争心に火を点け、誰にも負けない英語力を身につけよう、という原動力になったのです。あのとき、「日本人だからアメリカ人の子のように英語を話せなくても当然だ」などと考えてしまったら、今の私はなかったでしょう。
もちろんそれに加えて、良い先生に恵まれる、という幸運もあったのですが。

今週のTIME誌に、人間の脳についての特集記事(リンクはここをクリック)があったのですが、それには大人になってからも能は変化し、進化し続けることができる、という話が掲載されていました。
何かを練習すれば練習するほど、その作業を担う脳細胞が増え(周辺の細胞をハイジャックする、というような趣旨の表現がなされています)、イメージトレーニングだけでも似たような変化が生じることを実証したハーバード大の実験結果や、瞑想などを通じて意志の力だけで脳細胞の機能を作り変え、能の疾患を治療できた、というUCLAの実験の結果も紹介されています。

だから、大人になってからでも、「英語で考え、話すための細胞」というものを、作り出すこともできるのですよね。
問題は、最初から「できない」と思い込んでしまっている人が多いことにあると思います。

ところで、これに関連して、冒頭で紹介した生徒さんには以下のような話もしました。(この話をした後だったから、いつもとは違う回答が思いついたのかもしれません)

"Elephants at a circus are tied to poles by very thin ropes. Elephants, of course, are very strong. They can break the ropes easily, and run away. But they don't. Do you know why?

"When they are very young, they are attached to the poles by very sstrong chains. They struggle to break the chains, but they can't, and they give up. They believe that it is impossible to escape. So even after they become big, and the strong chains are replaced by thin ropes, they don't try to escape. They can escape, but they never do, because they believe that it's impossible.

"So if you think you can't do something, you never will, because you won't even try. But if you believe that it is possible, you can."

(これは、"Improbable" という最近読んだ小説に載っていた話です。真実の程は分かりませんが、説得力がありますよね。結構気に入って、色んな生徒さんに話しています。
この本自体、東洋哲学的な要素も入った、かなりスリリングで面白い話で、『数学的にありえない』という邦題で日本語訳も出ていますので、おすすめです)

ちなみにここで紹介した生徒さん、企業派遣レッスンなので、これから毎週木曜日に教えることになるのですが、本当に鏡を見て、自己暗示をかけてくれるのか、楽しみです。
posted by EnglishMaster at 23:58| Comment(1) | TrackBack(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Letters from Iwo Jima

今日見てきた『硫黄島からの手紙』の鑑賞文。
ついつい長くなってしまいました。

I'd actually been wanting to see this movie for some time for a
number of reasons.

First of all, I'm passionately interested in WWII history in general, especially since I read Toyoko Yamazaki's epic "Two Homelands" last year. Any film that is set in this era will rouse my curiosity, although said curiosity quickly abates if the film is a historically inaccurate one-sided one, such as "Pearl Harbor" and the numerous recent Japanese films that serve only to whitewash and glorify the war.

Second, I was intrigued by the interview Ken Watanabe gave in TIME magazine, where he talked about the character he portrayed, Lt. General Kuribayashi. I'd read about Kuribayashi in Yamazaki's book and had been very impressed; Watanabe's interview served only to heighten my esteem for this historical figure.

And last but not least, how could I miss all the rave reviews in numerous publications? Not to mention the Oscar nomination.

I knew I had to see this movie on the big screen.

Although catching the one o'clock show today meant putting lunch off until four, it was well worth it (I was having trouble digesting my McBreakfast anyway) as it fully lived up to my expectations.

Clint Eastwood did a remarkable job contrasting the bleakness of Iwo Jima and the poverty of the Japanese homeland against the affluence of California. The sheer wealth of the U.S. is dizzying, even, and one cannot help but be in total agreement with Kuribayashi when he states that it is total madness for Japan to wage a war with this superpower.

A lot of attention has been paid to detail (Were those real Hermes riding boots that Baron Nishi was wearing?), and the movie is probably a great primer for western audiences, like the fact that while the Americans were armed with machine guns, the Japanese only had single-shot rifles; how many Japanese seriously believed that sheer willpower would overcome differences in logisitics; how resources were so scarce that even cooking equipment was requisitioned so that it could be melted down for iron. And as Kuribayashi notes, the Americans were producing 5 million cars a year at that time!
(By the way, those rifles were called 38s because they were 1905 models; 1905 being the 38th year of Emperor Showa's reign. In the movie, none of the soldiers hit the targets during target practice, but who can blame them when they only have 40-year-old guns?)

There are no good guys or bad guys in the movie. Some men are stubborn, some men are narrow-minded, some are just plain ignorant, but they are all trying to do their jobs. Like any great war movie, it tells us that men are not evil, only war; that war is dehumanizing but some men somehow manage to hold onto their humanity.
In this sense, my favorite character was actually Ito (played by Ryo Kase, who stars in another hot movie: "I Just Didn't Do It").

Watching a movie like this forces me to ask myself: How would I react in such a situation? Would I be able to hang on to my ideals and my humanity, or would I be swept along in the madness like the rest of the crowd? I am not confident that it would be the former. And as evidenced by the recent natto craze, the Japanese people as a whole are easily led by the nose.

Another point that struck a chord with me was how antagonistic the other officers are toward Kuribayashi, who has seen more of the world than they have. Although xenophobia is (for the most part) no longer much of an issue, I believe that this suspicion of people who have lived, studied, or worked overseas, is still prevalent in the minds of many Japanese. Even in my father's company, there was a clear dividing line between those who had stayed in Japan for their entire careers and those who had been posted overseas. There may be curiosity, interest, and even respect, but "returnees" are still considered "different" in a culture that prides itself on its homogenity.

Which, I suppose, is why the scriptwriter decided that Kuribayashi and Baron Nishi, another English-speaking, well-traveled Japanese officer on Iwo Jima, should be friends. This, I personally found to be a little jarring. Would a general who insisted that he have the same meal as the lowliest private really befriend a colonel who cantered around on his horse for fun while his men were hard at work?
(A quick check on Wikipedia confirmed that the two had definitely not been buddies.)

One final detail that upset me slightly was the sloppiness of the Japanese subtitles. Most of the movie was in Japanese, so there were subtitles for only the brief snippets of conversation that were in English, but many of the ones I couldn't help glimpsing were wide of the mark.
Because I tried hard not to look at them too much, I don't remember any of the mistakes clearly bar one:
In one scene, one of two American soldiers who are guarding two Japanese POWs says (of the POWs) "They're sitting ducks." However, the subtitles twist this into "They're gonna shoot us," (since the POWs are unarmed, one can only suppose that "they" refers to the rest of the Imperial Army) which turns the situation on its head.
The other errors may not have been quite as bad, but couldn't they have paid this great movie a little more respect?
posted by EnglishMaster at 00:38| Comment(0) | TrackBack(0) | English | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

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