Foreigners ask the darnedest questions, and Japanese are forever worrying about being able to answer. Enter “Lillian,” a high-school exchange student from the United States who is full of questions about Japan. Or more precisely, enter 留学生Ｌｉｌｌｉａｎの教えて！日本のコト — Ryūgakusei Lillian no oshiete! Nihon no koto (Foreign Student Lillian’s “Teach Me About Japan!”).
Lillian is my alter ego in The Japan Times ST, the newly revampled weekly newspaper for Japanese studying English. Fear not, I’m still doing my longer, more detailed answers to foreigner’s questions in my So, What the Heck is That? column in the daily paper.
Like that feature, the new ST column answers foreigner’s questions about Japan, but the ST target is Japanese who want to learn how to answer such questions in English. The column includes hints in Japanese that provide background and helpful vocabulary.
Foreigner’s questions about Japan are excellent English-teaching tools because they so often come as a complete surprise to Japanese people. You can’t teach someone until you’ve got their attention, and these questions definitely get student’s attention.
Actually, Prof. John Rucynski of Okayama University and I “wrote the book on this,” with our textbook Surprising Japan, released this month and already in use in Japanese universities around the country. It’s also now available on Amazon Japan: ニッポンの不思議―Surprising Japan!.
Issued every Friday, The Japan Times ST is sold at newsstands and in book stores, or can be ordered by subscription. Please check it out. If you teach English in Japan, consider using it with your students! If you’re learning English, let Lillian help you formulate your own answers. We’ll be in ST every week!