Learning English in Japan differs from learning Spanish, French, or German in America. Many Americans take foreign language classes at school, learning vocabulary and grammar, practicing all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. American language education faces problems. Many Americans speak English, and only English. Many Americans do not have sufficient time in the foreign language classroom to learn a new language. Japanese spend more than enough time in the classroom to learn a foreign language. Japanese face a different problem: Foreign language education lacks balance.
In Japan, students learn grammar and vocabulary much as Americans generations ago learned Latin. While this situation is slowly changing in Japan, students who want to learn to communicate in English generally have to go outside the normal school system to study languages in private language schools. Many Americans and other native English speakers teach in such schools. The students come to use English, to practice what they know. Many teachers in these schools have materials provided for them, but many teachers also need to create their own materials. In this article, we would like to present a topic that we have found of interest to students in Japan: alternative American lifestyles.
Read alternative American lifestyles and you may immediately think of the ways that people can live based on religion, sexual identity, or other factors. We are only talking about people who live on boats or in RVs. Many Americans live on boats or in RVs across America and around the world. In Japan, people do not appear to live on boats or in RVs. Most Japanese are very interested in different lifestyles. Below is the information that we have used in our classes:
Although most people in the United States live in houses and apartments, a significant number of people live on boats. In some ways, life is different from living on land. Land dwellers do not need to think about checking that the boat is securely tied to the dock or having the barnacles scraped every six months.
We call people who live on boats liveaboards. Liveaboards do what most other people do, going to work, attending school, and listening to music. Their lifestyle is unique in that water surrounds their homes. Liveaboards can enjoy living on water near an urban environment, seeing birds on the dock, and watching them fly overhead. Sitting on the deck and watching the moon at night is a lovely boat experience. Listening to the water lap gently against the side of the boat can make each day feel just like a holiday.
When a storm comes though, the same water may seem like a roaring ocean about to attack.
Being a liveaboard can present other problems. Boats can have leaks, grow mold, or become damp. Forget about crispy pretzels. On a boat, you’re more likely to have slightly dampish pretzels if you don’t eat them right from the store. The dampness from the water permeates the boat, making staying warm in the winter a challenge.
Liveaboards also have the great advantage of flexibility. If you want to go someplace, you just take your boat. Going inland can be difficult though.
Drive around Japan and you will probably see small RVs, which are recreational vehicles. They are little cabins on wheels for camping with space for sleeping, showering, and cooking. RVs in America are usually much bigger; some have toads. A toad is slang for a car that you tow behind your RV. Drive somewhere in a 40-foot RV, which is a fairly standard size, and you will probably not want to drive the RV if you have to go grocery shopping or run errands. The toad is the answer and many people with RVs have toads. We think the word “toad” comes from “towed.” RVs come in many sizes, some under 20 feet and some about 40 feet.
Not that long ago, most RV owners were senior citizens. Now, in the 21st century, however, Americans from babies to senior citizens live and travel in RVs. Some RVS are simply for vacations, but many people actually live in their RVS, traveling around the United States and Canada. If you live in an RV, America is your home. There is always something new to see or do.
If you ever travel to Japan and teach English there, you may want to think about teaching alternative lifestyles like these.