Cafetalk Featured Tutor Interview

Mayumi J

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Mayumi J Tutor Interview

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Q. Hi Mayumi J! Can you give the Cafetalk community a brief glance at who you are?

A. Hello, I've been teaching English since 2018 on Cafetalk. My name is Mayumi J. I usually teach English to kids as an English tutor. 16 years have passed since I've opened my English school for kids this year.

Q. Can you tell us what made you start teaching on Cafetalk?

A. I got an opportunity to know how to offer online lessons through Cafetalk at an event in 2014. However I didn't start teaching online lessons straight away because I used to teach English only to kids at that time and thought it would be difficult. Also, my teaching style is very involved and detailed, which made me hesitant about starting online lessons at the beginning.

However, the idea of doing online lessons stayed in my mind because it enables both tutors and students to take lessons regardless of the place where they live and the time that it takes to go to school. After a while, when I decided to teach English pronunciation, there was no choice but to start teaching on Cafetalk.

Q. Since you have been teaching English as an English pronuciation instructor! What got you interested in English pronuciation?

A. I'm a typical Japanese who was born and raised in Japan. I studied English for the first time at middle school. Somehow I was somehow able to speak English the way it was pronunced on the CDs we listened to in class. Many friends around me asked me how I could pronounce like the audio example, but I couldn't explain well.

Even after I got into high school and college, I encountered a lot of people whose English pronunciation had a heavy Japanese accent even as they held a speech on an important occasion. I always thought they are missing out because of the pronunciation. After I became an English tutor for kids, I wanted tutors who teach kids to pay more attention to pronunciation. Because kids mimic the pronunciation how they hear it...

Around the time, I was lucky enough to be taught by Mr. Kazuhiro Takemura, who is a leading person of English pronunciation education. I got to know there is an exam to asses English pronunciation. Although I studied myself and took the exam a few times, I couldn't pass the exam. I always got close but couldn't make it. I also didn't find the reason why I couldn't pass the exam, so I made up mind to go to school and study from scratch. I started going to school in the long term.

All in all, I prepared for five to six years, I think. Not only for improving my pronunciation, but I also worked on how to teach students and offer lessons in the way students would easily understand. Then I started teaching on Cafetalk when I felt that I was ready.

Q. You mainly teach English for kids and English pronunciation! How did you become able to speak English?

A. In the first place, I used to love English soon after I studied English for the first time at middle school. I soaked everything up like a sponge, not matter if it was words or sounds, as long as it had to do with English. I still remember, when I was around middle school age, there was a famous singer who came back to Japan from Hawai. (Her name is Yu Hayami) I found her casette tape that contains both Japanese and English songs in the store. (You might know my age, right? lol) I was listening to the audio every night, and eventually I became able to sing without seeing the lyrics. I even got her pronunciation. I can still sing the beginning of the song. It was much later that I became able to speak my opinion in English, which was when I was studying abroad in the UK.

Q. Have you ever stayed outside of Japan before? If you have, can you share your experience with us?

A. I majored in French literature at university, so I studied abroad in French for one year after graduation. I started working for a company once after that. However, I realized I need to improve my English. And I went to the UK to study abroad with my husband. We didn't have children yet at that time, so it was easy for us to make quick decisions like that. While we were in the UK, I got pregnant. I needed to go to a hospital for medical checkups, take surgery, get hospitalized, and take vaccination...So I have experienced a lot of things that I didn't expect before going to the UK.

Q. What are you usually up to when you’re not teaching on Cafetalk? What are your hobbies and interests?

A. I used to like crafting and DIY, so I enjoy working on my herbarium these days. Concentrating on making it allows me refresh my mind. Another good part of this is my friends are also glad to receive my creations as gifts.

Q. You mainly focus on English pronunciation practice on Cafetalk! What would be tips for students to learn natural English pronunciation?

A. The fastest way to improve your pronunciation is to "pronounce exactly as you hear." Just as children do, it would be best not only to focus on the sentence and pronounce "connected sound" "the sound that is fading out." But, some adult students might think it's hard to do so. So I always tell my students, "try to forget the pronunciation of the Japanese loanword that you know!"

Q. You had a first live seminar on June 21st, 2019, and the seminar was a hit! Did you get any reactions from students?

A. I'm so lucky that I got many new students who applied for trial lessons. I appreciate them being my regular students. I might need to open up other hours for the lesson.

Q. A lot of students are probably curious about the atmosphere in your lessons. What can a student imagine a lesson with you to be like? What’s your teaching style?

A. At the beginning of the lesson, we usually review what we did in the last lesson for warming up. We check the shape of the mouth, the place where the tongue is, and how to pronounce. We practice by reading vocabulary or words. After the lesson, I always give students feedback for students to practice on themselves until the next lesson.

Students who practice on their own usually seemed to get improved sooner than students who don't.

Q. What type of students would you recommend your lessons to?

A. I think it would be okay to speak English with a heavy Japanese accent only if you would like to have fun chatting with friends from other countries in English. However, wrong pronunciation can give the word a different meaning or convey inappropriate information to others. Therefore, I would recommend my lessons to students who want to convey correct information in English.

Many students who have taken my lessons before are those who need to speak English at work or who are wedding MC or tutors at university. There are also those who work for international organizations, hire foreigners and English teachers.

Some of you might volunteer at the Tokyo Olympics next year. When you need to speak in a multi-international environment, you need to keep in mind that there might be a possibility that some people are not native speakers and speak proper pronunciation so that they could understand. Now would be a good timing to start preparing for next year now.

Q. Finally, would you like to leave a message for your current and future students?

A. "Pronunciation" is the skill that the Japanese are caring about the most but always put off after the other four skills; reading, listening, writing, and speaking. However, it's important to focus more on pronunciation.

It's crucial to improve pronunciation for its own sake, however even more than that, I think that by becoming able to speak proper English students will be valued more at their job or in their study environment.

For the sake of students, I'm happy to help students learn proper English. Let's make it together!


Mayumi J