Time For Turning Over A New Leaf


This diary still needs some finishing touches, so the new and better version may always be available in the future. Please check it out again later.



Somehow, I decided to change my life - again! I know it happens all the time - every time I realize this, I'm feeling something is not right. It happened again. I hope you don't say "Not again!"


Now, maybe it's true that I'm beginning to realize that something might be wrong. I'm not really sure about it. But I at least began to feel that way and was eager to follow my hunch.


In order to elaborate on this, I'd better let you to get back to where I was about a month ago.



A Certain Practice Method Which Is Quite Famous Which Got Me Hooked

In the middle of February, I began something new - following a certain method of practice English - a method one of my mentors recommends which is to read aloud the same material many times until you learn by heart EFFORTLESSLY.


(Strictly speaking, I should've said "one of my mentors recommended" because he's been dead for quite some time now, which is very sad.)


The number of times you have to read the mentor recommend is amazingly huge - for him, 500 times at least, 1000 TIMES at most.


"Reading aloud the same sentences (or stories) 500 times or 1000 times !? 


Are you nuts?"


I thought. 


It just made me flabbergasted when I first heard about this. However, it was just enough to make me curious to do it myself.


Then I started it myself to know what it's like to do it, and it's been a little more than a month since I started it now.


For the reading material, I decided to use the one that I was using until then. It is a textbook for STEP interview test and it comes with as many as 14 sample speeches, some related questions and answers and so forth.

Until then, I was just trying to read some of the sample speeches only several times at most, and that's it. No wonder reading each of them aloud 500 times at least seemed to be beyond my belief before even trying myself.


Actually, by then, I'd tried a similar practice a few times. At one time, I was with some teacher's method for a couple of months and he recommended reading the same material at least 30 times each. So, I strictly followed it.


At other times, while I was teaching myself, I tried to do the same, but in practice, it turned out that my way of doing it wasn't as hard as that. That's just because I didn't understand how to do the "right" way, and teaching myself always makes me become more or less lazy, inattentive and lackadaisical - often leads me to become a bit sly looking for "a loophole", or some other easier ways.


This is unquestionably a bad habit of mine. To put it another way, I was making light of it, which no wonder turned out not to be as effective as expected.


However, surprisingly and interestingly, the more I did it the "right" way, the more differently I began to feel about it. I didn't finish 500 times, yet then. I was around 400 or so at most. But it was enough to that reading the same material many times gave me an entirely different impression. I think it just shows there's always a lot of things that you never get to know until you do it yourself.


It made me realized that the very famous method my mentor advocated really would work.


And it also made me sure that just sticking to this practice would lead me to an unknown world -


To a much higher level!


At this stage of my life, I really needed to do this (repeatedly reading aloud sentences as difficult as this to get the feel of them in order to get used to the vocabularies and master how to use them myself) to get ready for the STEP interview test.


By doing it, I thought my future would be a success. My future seemed to be much brighter.


I thought life would be easier...


At least, that's what I thought.


Then This Sudden Change Of My Mood Happened (OMG!)

Then this happened - oh, well, well...here comes me changing my mind.


(Please don't say "Not again!" here, either.)


This makes me wonder how whimsical life would be, how capricious and fragile people's determination might be. (And I strongly hope that I'm not the only one..)


It's still too early to decide if the method I was following for the past month is not effective for me or not. In fact, the method IS effective. It DOES work. Especially for those who are on beginner's level, incorporating it into their practice as a main, primary one is extremely important in order to create a solid foundation of English skills. 


Yes, it's true. I swear.


In fact, the method is quite famous and it's like it's been around for ages. Although I don't know what percentage of people have actually even try because how to do it just seems too simple to be true and (no offense, but ) also boring. People always tend to believe that there's something more "magical" that helps them master English as easy as automatic, right? While some people don't even go out of their way to give it a try themselves, I know the method has been appreciated and taken fully advantage of by a lot of people who now work as professional interpreters, English teachers so on. 


However, as a matter of fact, having been well aware that the method is authentic and could be one of the royal roads to master English, when it comes to considering my level and the situation I'm in, I'm not really sure how much time I should spend doing it at this stage in my life, and how I should proceed with my learning contents in terms of priority .


I've already put in huge hours of doing it in total. It seems that all I did during this time is this practice. I've covered as many as 10 sample speeches (each of which takes approximately one and a half minute to read aloud at the fastest rate) which comes nearly to 5000 times in sum total (のべ). By counting them now, I'm even surprised to know how many the numbers have added up to. This just shows how much time I've put into doing this. 


I was just looking forward to knowing how much my English could have improved by the time I finished the whole book. I was really thrilled by the thought of it. What my speaking skills would be like by then? I wondered. 


Still, I don't think I've done enough to instill them in the real sense of the word. So, in this case, I should continue more, of course. No, it's not that I will give it up completely or anything. I'd love to continue.


At the same time, given the busyness of everyday life, I realized that letting my schedule be overwhelmed only by this method, no matter how valid and versatile it may be, is not a very good idea. I think so because there are other things that have to be done in order to be a good English speaker and doing only that method will not automatically take me there. I seemed to be well aware of this, but I tend to be indulge myself in doing something easier and simpler. In this case, that method is the very one. It is actually easier and simpler for all you have to do is to keep reading aloud. Of course, it requires some very important factors such as patience, tolerance, endurance and persistence, and it's rather so than some other aptitude like intellect, brilliance and savvy. However, it's still easier to do because it only requires you to repeat, and doesn't force you to be creative to make your own sentences. This, in fact, is something that makes me a bit worrisome as well since no matter how many hours I put in, doing only that one method should not cover everything. So, while I was excited about getting into this practice, there was another me who was dispassionately thinking about what else I would need at the back of my mind. 



The Problem Rather Lies In The Situation I'm In Now

I'm ashamed to admit that I don't have many occasions in which I use English as a means of communication. If I'm allowed to express it without hesitation, I have no friend to talk to in English - at least at the moment. Please don't get me wrong. It's not that I've never had anyone to talk to in English or I've never been in a situation where I have to talk with other people in English.


It's been a little more than a year since I talked to some native English speakers at party in Tokyo to which I was invited by a famous food coordinator. It was December in 2014. In order to get ready for it, I took online English conversation lessons for a couple of weeks before that. I still don't know how much those lessons did turn out to be effective. In the same month, I had an opportunity to help an Australian man who was working as a Santa Clause at an event two days back to back in which I ended up getting his flu a day later, which ruined my entire following week. 


That reminds me..


Even later than that, I had a chance to meet two American men while taking a break at a rest stop on a highway express bus ride home from Tokyo. I happened to miss my original bus, which made me look like a total idiot, but strangely speaking, I was feeling quite excited as I might get an opportunity to experience my very-first-time-in-40 year-or-something Shinkansen ride by missing my bus (although it meant I should pay the full amount for it). Too my delight (or disappointment ironically), the bus company offered me a half-priced bus ticket since they found out that I was one of their frequent customers. I was at the crossroads. I wonder which I should choose - the half priced bus ticket or the exciting, unexpected long-waited Shinkansen ride? As a matter of fact, the discount offer looked too irresistible for me to stop dismissing the idea of the Shinkansen ride. That's how I ended up getting on the bus. Then when I saw the two American men at the rest stop on the way home, I spoke to them and it turned out that we were on the same bus. That reminded me of seeing two foreign-looking men at the counter of the waiting room of the bus company back in Tokyo. Now that I think of it, they might also have missed their bus (the same bus as mine) and had to talk to them. Or they actually did and they talked to me about it later (at the rest place), but I'm not sure. Anyway, we exchanged our info and become Facebook friends with each other hoping that either of them would become my boyfriend. Too bad that they were too drunk to talk to me sober and stop making some dirty jokes, which made me feel ridiculed. They even tried to suggest I go out with one of their friends WHO IS JAPANESE! This made me utterly dumbfounded. 


Those are the only real occasions that required me to speak to people in English in recent years.


Too few, huh?


As for speaking to myself, I do it on a daily basis, but the way it happens is kind of sloppy and rather sporadic. I once started uploading my videos in which I just keep rambling on about anything that came into my mind. They only had my voice in them, but my image. I didn't want to waste any of my precious time for my makeup, and the only way I could seclude myself with no makeup from being seen was to make my videos ones with sound only. So, I did and called the series "my 365 day challenge" or something like that. Yes, I decided to continue it for the next year. Too bad I ended up giving up in 3 weeks or so. I originally started it to prepare for my upcoming interview test. However, since I decided not to take the test any longer, there was no need for me to continue the "video" serious, either. After I quit it, I didn't have anything to force myself to practice speaking any longer, so I naturally began to feel that my speaking skills were deteriorating. My 4-month intense studying period last year (mainly for my reading comprehension and vocabulary building to pass the STEP test which I passed!) even exacerbate the situation. 


Now, I don't really know how much I'm able to speak - how I can respond when being spoken. 



Those Were The Good Old Days..

Before, I was way more enthusiastic and even thrilled about talking to people in English, especially when I just started learning English again (at the age of 28). In those days, I never seemed to miss any opportunity to speak to non-Japanese people whenever I came across them on the streets. I did it rather haphazardly, reminding of which embarrasses me in great way now. I took part in some events or gatherings in which both Japanese and non-Japanese people got together. I even made friends with some people with whom I enjoyed watching movies and sightseeing. I was courageous enough to call their house (there was no such thing as a cellphone back then!) to ask them out in English myself.


Those were the good old days...


Me, an earnest, exuberant and ardent English learner... 


Funny thing is, the more I "studied" English, the more considerate and prudent I have become, and the less innocent and ingenuous it made me become.


Now I'm even feeling hesitant or nervous about speaking to people in English whenever possible.


This is the last thing not only I, but also all the people who are learning English would want, isn't it?


If I'm feeling this way in a situation like this, I wonder what the meaning of "practicing" English as a means of "communication" should be in the first place?


This totally sucks, huh?


I kind of fear that continuing that method thinking as if this is the only "savior" would make me even more reluctant to be active in the future.


Besides, I don't consider myself as someone who is very good at people. Having gone through some disappointing experiences and a bit unfortunate and complex emotional and psychological issues in such international events, I began to feel even scared of both people and interpersonal relationships. 


In the past, my impractical English was largely attributable to my confusion, though. 


So, that's why, instead of devoting myself completely to such a method to be "perfect" (for my upcoming interview test mainly) even before making "friends" again, I thought it is high time I changed my approach so that I can break a vicious cycle. And that's "online English conversation lessons" that I decided to start in order to improve my communication skills.


As you probably know even better than I do, there are tons of such lesson opportunities available out there nowadays. They are very handy and reasonable as well.


Why not use them for starters? That's basically what I came up with. 


By taking such lessons, I hope that I at least get to be able to have opportunities to have conversations with people for the time being. When I got used to it more, then it should be time for me to go out there to expose myself to "real" opportunities once again.  

Why Online English Conversation Lessons?

As I mentioned earlier, if I only spend most of my time practicing that method until I pass the interview test, I would have to give up some things such as reading, writing my journal like this, practicing conversations and so on . I was just wondering if this is the right order. Would it be OK for it to happen the other way around - which comes improving speaking skills first, and then working on the interview test. Wouldn't it be possible? While focusing on speaking practice by taking online English conversation lessons, my speaking level should become up to par. Then with the speaking skills, it should be even easier for me to try the interview test. In this way, though it might take a little longer to pass the test, I wouldn't have to give up something that I love doing which also would help me pass the test in any way. I thought this is the best order and this is in fact what made me decided to start online English conversation lessons now.


Being totally honest with you, I don't know what holding the STEP 1st grade test by passing the second-round STEP interview test means to me in the true sense. It is a very prestigious grade, so it would sound really convincing if I had one. Studying and practicing expressing my thoughts and opinions for the interview would help me improve my English and also grow as both an English learner and a person. I know I could learn more than I would imagine just by going through it. However, getting out of my "comfort zone" to be more creative is something I'll need the most now, I guess. 


Another fact I should add is that I never failed to doubt that it's totally OK for me to start such (conversation) lessons AFTER I've through reading aloud all example speeches at least 500 times. Before that, I thought my speaking should NEVER be ready for it. I did a little math and figured out that I'd take at least 2 more weeks to get everything done perfectly, which means the end of March. I strongly believe that unless I've finished all of them (from that book, the photo of which is shown above), I wouldn't be eligible for taking such online conversation lessons.


Without doubt, technically speaking, anyone can start anytime, anywhere. But this is basically how I was thinking until recently.


But now, at my level, I strongly believe that the sooner, the better because there will be tons of things that I could learn from making mistakes and being fixed in real situations.


In addition to that, to master natural English, it's indispensable to learn the natural ways of saying things directly from much better English speakers. It cannot be done without communicating with other people in person. It's important for me to be heard and fixed, also to hear what the other person says and so on. It can never be done without a partner. At my level, it'd be the most appropriate and helpful timing for me to make the most of such situations, and be able to learn a lot, like kids do when they are growing up. I strongly feel the similar things could be happening to me, too. In other words, that's what I'd really need at the moment to improve my speaking skills and this could be the last chance (considering how much effort and time I've already spent on that method, and how much I also seemed to have been becoming blind to it). This is the main reason that made me want to begin taking online English conversation lessons even at the sake of my future devotion to that method.


Just Mumble Jumble...My Favorite Pastime

Just the thought of myself being absorbed only in that method scared me. I wondered what the meaning of enjoying the process of improving your foreign language is when you have to "give up" something you really love to do while preparing for your upcoming test to "prove" that your language is viable and reasonable enough? While writing this, this makes me realize how much I love writing even though it might be just a mumble-jumble of something. Writing something also helps me become more insightful when reading something written in English. It helps keep my antenna fully spread out so that I can learn how competently and adroitly writers use their words in their books. It's a time-consuming process for me, and time flies once I'm into it. However, it's safe to say that writing (and reading) is absolutely my most favorite pastime which gives me the enjoyment and the reason to live. Exploring the world of literature is a lot of fun, and I'd never want to stop it. If I know that writing (and reading) is so important for me, then why should I be happy to stop doing it for the sake of something else? 


The answer is very simple - a definite no.


The Book Blowing A Whistle For Me

There's this one book that made me realize the situation I was in at the moment. That book was written by a female author who works as a professional interpreter. She published several books introducing her readers things something like how to study English effectively, what she actually did to have become who she really is, and so on. I got interested in one of her books and she compared two types of English learners in it.


Type A: Those whose English level is not "super", but have a lot of friends and enjoy communicating in English with them.


Type B: Those whose English might be much better than that of the first group, but spend most of time "memorizing" expressions indoors by themselves, and never even try to make friends, and use their English in real situations (which might just be because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves by making mistakes..).


When reading this, I felt that it's evident that I belong to the latter category (actually just admitting so took courage!), and the worse it would be even getting, the longer I keep "studying" English alone as I am. I understood that the book blew a whistle for me not to get stuck in a dead-end situation. I might not have been hooked. I have been obsessed with it a bit too much (although it is true that the method is effective). I really thank the book for making me notice that. 


Oops! The Early Bird Caught A Cold Instead of ...??

And here I am at At 4:30 am, writing this in my room now.


Oh, I don't know how much I love the color of the sky at dawn. 

Today, at 3 am, in fact, I wake up naturally, without any effort.


This is totally unexpected.


I was a bit confused, but at the same time, this also made me happy because I'd always been curious to know what it would be like to wake up as early as that. I thought I could try, but it never happened because after all it was impossible for me to imagine myself waking up that early.


I should say that I HAPPENED to wake up this early today. 


It was a busy day yesterday, visiting my mother's grave in Gifu (a large prefecture with a lot of nature next to Aichi where I live) with my father. Feeling somewhat refreshed and excited thinking about my upcoming new challenges on my mind, I went to bed much earlier than usual last night.


Then, guess what I've got here - swollen tonsils..(just one of them, my left one, technically speaking, though..)



Am I catching a cold? 


No way!


Today of all days?? Even when finally being REALLY excited about turning over a new leaf??


Oh, no!


I'd always been very careful about not catching a cold. Having a cold had been the last thing I wanted and I'd always been successful.


I hate having a cold. I hate being sick. That's simply because it ruins my life. It's as easy as pie.



Since I'd been there so many times, I always thought I would never ever want a cold to ruin my life again.


Then look what I've got now.


Did I start off on the wrong foot?


Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed?


No, I don't think so. I wouldn't think so. 



100% honestly speaking, though, I'm not really sure about it.


I was actually lingering for an hour or so in the bed. In another words, I was just procrastinating.


At 4:30 am, here I am, finally, in my room wring this.


And look how I'm feeling now - very sleepy and hungry - simply lethargic lol


Besides, it's raining... Rain is the very thing that makes me feel gloomy. It never fails to do so.


And here with me are my two cats - my hungry cats. They are just looking nonchalant. They are totally ignorant. All they're having on their minds are their breakfast. They are just blind to everything, but food - and my mood - since when their breakfast is served absolutely up to my mood. They look as if they are pretending to look aloof so that their true intention cannot be seen through.


Anyways, what can I do now? Is this really going to be the very first day of my new life?


On a rainy day like this? Today of all days??


Oh, well, well...I really hope so.