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Top>Hakumon CHUO [2012 Early Spring Issue]>[The spring of a lively bunch] Improving English without going overseas On-campus lunches with exchange students

Hakumon CHUOIndex

The spring of a lively bunch

Improving English without going overseas
On-campus lunches with exchange students

Tomonori Ito
Faculty of Economics (graduate of Yamanashi Prefectural Yoshida Senior High School)

Tomonori Ito

"People who have mastered English are cool!", says Ito, who was determined when he started at Chuo to improve his English skills in his four years at university, and acquire that 'coolness'. Furthermore, he realized that goal on the university campus without going overseas.

He entered Chuo University after being recommended by his high school. Party because of this, he says, "In the spring of my first year I didn't have a clear goal, and I had a real complex about having entered university without taking the entrance exam." This worried him and made him decide, "I'm going to come out with something to show from my four years at university."

Deciding that that something was English came from frustration at not being able to speak it in his English lessons. "That came as quite a shock, and with me being a person who hates to lose, I persevered for four years. I'm quite a simple person," says Ito with a laugh.

He has loved baseball from when he was small and on entering university, he immediately signed up to the rubber-ball baseball powerhouse Tamagawa Baseball Team. He continued the once a week practices and weekend games for four years.

"I wanted to become good at English, but I also wanted to try hard at baseball. The baseball meant I couldn't take a language exchange program. Anyway, an overseas program wasn't the only way to do it. I thought there must be many ways I could study in Japan."

So Ito asked some exchange students at Chuo to have lunch together. The conversations were half in English, half in Japanese. It was give and take, and they both improved their language skills. This was an extremely simple way of improving English conversation, but suddenly going up to a stranger and inviting them to lunch requires a bit of courage.

"At first, I was embarrassed to go up and talk to the exchange students," says Ito, "because they are here to study Japanese and it wouldn't be good if they thought I only wanted to talk to them to learn English." Realizing that, he approached them in Japanese to start off with. After a while, he became convinced that the secret to improving English is not to be afraid of embarrassment.

There were 10 students he would often eat lunch with. Of those, he became especially friendly with two from England. They have returned home, but they still keep in contact via email.

After continuing to take the TOEIC exam every six months, his results improved from a score of 330 when he entered university to 830. Sitting the TOEIC exam came from "the need to be able to see some results in order to maintain my motivation." He didn't do anything other than go over past tests before the exam, but his scores nonetheless improved. "You can get this far, without leaving Japan. I'm glad I could prove that," says Ito with pride.

In April he will start working at a major company that sells construction machinery. Ito, who "wants to take on the world", will step out into the world armed with the English skills he gained at university.