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‘English is expected in
today’s business scene’
On April 2, NHK’s “Close-Up Gendai” covered the fact that Japanese businesspeople at all levels need to communicate in English in their
everyday lives, now more than ever. Now, to learn just about anything, sometimes it helps to have a great model to follow.
Well, one of the best English communicators these days, oddly enough, is someone I learn from myself: US President Barack Obama.
TOKYO (Reuters) - President-elect Barack
Obama's speeches are proving a best-seller in
Japan -- as an aid to learning English.
An English-language textbook, quot;The
Speeches of Barack Obama,quot; has sold
more than 400,000 copies in two
months, a big hit in a country where
few hit novels sell more than a million
copies a year.
Japanese have a fervor for learning English and
many bookstores have a corner dedicated to
dozens of journals in the language, many of them
now featuring the new U.S. leader's face.
quot;Speeches by presidents and presidential
candidates are excellent as listening tools to
learn English, because their contents are good
and their words are easy to catch,quot; said Yuzo
Yamamoto of Asahi Press, which produced the
best-selling text book.
When I worked for the Obama campaign last year, and when he won
the presidency, my Japanese friends told me that, even when they
don’t understand exactly what he’s saying, the way he speaks gives
them a sense of optimism. A sense, dare I say it, of hope. Many
friends have told me that they wish they could be as persuasive and
1. The Weekly Address: Subtitled Onsite Free
2. Functional English Workshop: Webcast Paid
So, with these folks in mind, in April, our little company created Eigobama.com, where Japanese intermediate learners can learn functional
English keywords and phrases from his speeches…and much more…
Inform Show generosity
Caution Tell a story
Befriend Be humorous
Ask Be optimistic
Be accessible Be conﬁdent
Show pride Project authority
Explain beneﬁts Project warmth
Agree Project modernity
The Weekly Address, subtitled
President Obama is very skilled at crafting his speeches to accomplish speciﬁc tasks – that is the language he uses performs a speciﬁc function. With
this in mind, we deﬁne Functional English as language for a purpose: to persuade, to inform, to excite, and so on. On the site, we’ve subtitled the
Weekly address in Japanese and English. The President improvises while he’s speaking, and our titles reﬂect that.
Now, what you see here is not an even taller Barack Obama.:-)
The English text on the bottom comes from the captioned version on the White House YouTube Channel. At the next level, you'll see the Eigobama
English titles, which are optimized for English learners: they match the timing of what the President is saying. Then, on top, you see the Eigobama
Japanese subtitles. We try to match his actual speech where possible, rather than recreating the traditional Japanese sentence structure. And, we
enhance the audio, to make the listening experience even better.
We do all of this to help Intermediate learners experience the language in a more effective, realistic way. All of this material is available for free on
And we’re working on developing a new feature: Webcast Workshops. We’ll explore 2-3 Functional English keywords or phrases from a recent
speech. Then we’ll have some gentle free form Q&A around the theme, giving you the chance to talk about current events in real time.
Eventually, we’ll take the concept offline as well with the Eigobama Town Hall, which we plan to launch in September.
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If you’re interested in checking us out, the site is Eigobama.com, our Twittername is eigobama as well. Thank you for your time.