English + My Mom = Trouble!

Aya Sasaki
Teraoka Middle School

I was only 3 years old when I first encountered English! I remember, my mom took me to a neighbor's English class and I enjoyed playing many games. However, that was only the start! "Good morning!" she said each day.Soon my morning cartoons were replaced by English programs. Often mom tricked me by promising delicious cakes if I completed a chapter in my textbook. In the evening, she read me childrens' stories and then, smiling, would hand me a video of the English version. "It's even more exciting in English!" she said. And before going to bed, I had to say "Good night, mom!"Actually, while sleeping one night, I said the words"big ...apple"."My daughter is a genius,"my mom thought, happily!

Soon though, I'd had enough."I want to play outside with my friends and watch Japanese TV! Why do I have to study English when you can't even speak it?!!"I shouted."But Aya,"she said,"I studied English for a long time."Then, she told me her story.

At university, my mom thought speaking English with the foreign students looked very cool. So, she bought many textbooks and tried all the latest methods for learning English."Sometimes,"she said jokingly,"I dreamed about marrying a foreigner and having a beautiful blonde-haired baby!"For her graduation trip, my mom went to Hawaii. The trip was a disaster!Everything she said was misunderstood. For example, she asked for a'Cola'and gave the assistant a dollar. Instead of cola, he gave her back 4... quarters! She experienced a lot of setbacks, eventually my mom married my father – a very normal Japanese man."And so,"she said,"I wanted to pass my dream on to you."

I listened to my mom, but thought"That's her idea – not mine!" So, I stopped studying so hard. I still went to English class sometimes though, because my mom had paid for me to go on a homestay programme in America. On the day of departure, my mom said, "Aya, try to use lots of English there and try to find an American boyfriend!"My first week in the U.S. was very tough. They spoke English much faster than my teachers in Japan. One morning though, I sleepily joined my host family for breakfast."Please pass me the cereal,"I said. Suddenly, I woke up! I did it! I spoke in English without thinking about it. After that, gradually I gained confidence.

Finally,I understood my mother. She believed learning a foreign language would help me become more broad-minded and knowledgeable.But I also realized that it's important for learners to find their own reasons for studying.If we know why we want to study,I think learning will be much easier and therefore fun. Now I'm enjoying English much more, because in the future I want to help children who are suffering throughout the world. I found my reason. So, I say this to my mom."Thank you very much for giving me a head start, but now I have self-motivation.I hope I can make your dream of having an English-speaking child come true – even if I don't have blonde hair!"

(3-22 Speech in 55th Contest, 2003)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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