At Yale University English Language Institute, I took Professional Communication for International Students course, which was designed for professional and graduate students. Most of students are around twenty-five years old.
We had three classes every day; Writing, Pronunciation and Speaking and in each class I had three different professor. The professor of the writing class asked us to write an essay or a report almost every day. In the pronunciation class, we learned how we could change our style of speaking, and to speak English similar to a Native American English speaker. The professor in the speaking class showed us how to act in academic situation, conduct the discussion and perform presentation in English.
I am planning to conduct my Ph.D. research abroad either in the United States or in the United Kingdom. This program helped me to improve my speaking skills, which is necessary to complete my research abroad. Besides, it was useful for me to know academic culture in the United States. I learn how to argue and criticize other researchers’ opinion in a polite way, and this is a basic, but essential skill for researchers. Among all of the classes, the writing class was the most enlightening. My research takes historical approach, though history is based on facts, history is not just a mere collection of facts. Historians usually required rhetorical skills more than other fields to describe society vividly. The professor in the writing class taught us creative writing, rather than academic writing. He encouraged us to write topics freely and dynamically, using several different kinds of rhetorical devices. Through his lectures, I became more conscious of my writing style.
In Pronunciation class, the professor assigned us homework to record Native American English speakers and to mimic how they speak English. In his theory, this imitation practice helps us to speak like native speakers. When I faced this homework, I was very surprised because I had never tried such method before. I am not so sure if this method improved my pronunciation drastically, but I really enjoyed it, and learned a technique to speak freely. Because I could not construct English sentences as fast as Japanese, and sometimes I could not find words, even very simple words, I could not conduct conversation in the same way as I do in Japanese. When I talk in English, I was forced to change my style of speaking and behavior. This experience was usually frustrating for me. In Japanese, I am a talkative person and I can speak for an hour without stopping.
In English, I do not have such skills; I am not talkative anymore because I cannot express myself in a short period of time. I listened to my friends’ conversation much longer than I talked. I sometimes felt like I became a different person, and it was not a pleasant moment for me. This experience was, however, what the professor demanded us to do. In my professor’s class I mimic someone and acted like a totally different person. I enjoyed this performance the most in this program. Through this practice, I familiarized speaking and act as if I was a different person.
I have to say for the last two weeks of the speaking class, when I learned how to make presentation; it was not impressive to me, although I learned many important techniques in academic situation from my professor. It was delivered by lecture style, and because I was a Ph.D. student, I knew the basic strategy on how to present presentation. I need to practice on how to manage Question-Answer part in English, but we did not have enough time to do it. We just did the presentation once and I could not do what I had learned in the lecture.
This was my first time to stay abroad and talked in English every day. This experience in the United States was too short for me to improve English enough to speak fluently, but it gave me a confidence to manage conversation in English. Actually, I did not speak English very well, but I made many friends there. I absorbed many things from my friends as well as from classes. Sometimes, very tiny things surprised me; my European friends always shake hands when I met them and I was not so used to do this greeting. At first, I could not shake hands naturally, this kind of cultural habit is not easy to learn in Japan, and so I really appreciate this opportunity to learn English abroad with international students.