Using English to access opportunities to meet people from around the world.
By Andrew Leichsenring
It seems to be easy enough in this day and age for people from one country to meet people from another country, or other countries, by way of travel, study, and business. Yet, I feel that it is a privilege to be able to meet and to communicate with people from different countries, cultures, and linguistic backgrounds. Particularly, when communication is carried out in English because I am an English speaker, first and foremost.
Recently, I attended an international conference. On the first day of the conference I found myself talking to a lot of people from various countries around the world. It was a fun and rewarding experience to meet so many passionate researchers and educators. I finished the day happily and returned to my hotel. While I was relaxing at the hotel, I found my thoughts drifting back to that day’s proceedings and I thought about how much I had enjoyed the day. There was a pre-conference morning tea and an ice-breaking session. There were various presentations and discussions throughout the day. Of course, there was a lunch put on by the conference organisers where the attendees sat and ate lunch together at long tables. Then, I realised something that I had not consciously thought about during the day while I was at the conference. That is, I might have been the only person there who originated from a native English speaking country. People there seemed to be comfortable and willing enough to speak English. They were able to share their research with other attendees and have general conversations, too.
So, as I sat in the hotel lounge, I started to think about my students back at Tamagawa University. I wondered about the opportunities that they might be presented with if they would communicate in English in their future lives. I hope that my students would think of themselves of not only as learners of English for academic purposes, but also as users of English. In this way, they might be afforded interesting opportunities to meet people from other countries and share some wonderful experiences along life’s journey. I would like my students to know that I learn and use Japanese in my daily life. By doing so, I have been able to access opportunities in life that have been made available to me because of my willingness to communicate with people, both in Japan and beyond.