ボリュームのある記事ですが、長文だからということで諦めないでください！。少し難しい表現や単語が使われていますが、高校1年生くらいのレベルと言われる英検準２級レベルの方はどんどん読み進めてチャレンジしてください。ちなみに、1級レベル（200 *wpm)なら4分半程度、英検準1レベル（150 *wpm）なら7分程度、英検2級レベル（100 *wpm）なら10分程度で読み切れるボリュームになってます。
*word per minute : 1分間に何単語読めるかを表す指標です。
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Todd Armitstead. I grew up in San Diego, California and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. I went to graduate school in Manchester, England to study political science from 2010-2011. I lived in Kumamoto, Japan from 2011-2014 as a junior high school assistant language teacher. After that, I lived in Tainan, Taiwan teaching at a cram school. This year I also spent 3 months teaching in Uong Bi, Vietnam at a cram school. I enjoy teaching in other countries because I can learn so much about people and places different from my own home.
What have you found interesting, surprising, or difficult through teaching at Best Teacher?
The most interesting part of teaching with Best Teacher is meeting people from so many different backgrounds. I am always impressed by people who want to improve their English skills for work, school, or pleasure. I was surprised by the range of ages and locations of students. I’ve had lessons with people living in at least 6 different countries outside of Japan. I’ve also had lessons with people from elementary school age all the way to people in their 70s. The most difficult part is just trying to get on the same page with new students. Sometimes 25 minutes seems like a short time to try and establish a connection with a new student and understand their background, their motivation, and their ability.
Can you talk about cultural differences related experiences you have had with your students?
I find that people are much more comfortable speaking in private over Skype compared to my experience living in Japan and talking with people in a group setting. Having lived in Japan I try as much as possible to allow students to speak as openly as they wish without pushing them to speak about things they may consider too personal.
Can you talk about tips and know-how for learning a foreign language?
Other than English, I can speak Japanese and a little bit of Chinese and Spanish. In America, most students have to take at least 2 years of a foreign language, but usually have at least 2 choices. My junior high school and high school only offered French or Spanish. San Diego is very close to Mexico, so Spanish was the most practical choice. After high school, I’ve taken private and group lessons and traveled to Mexico on many occasions. This has allowed me to build a moderate level of communication ability in Spanish.
While living in Japan I constantly studied Japanese in my free time and also went to a private lesson once a week for 1 hour. Every lesson was Japanese only and this gave me the confidence to speak in public. I had a wonderful teacher in Kumamoto and I try very hard to make students feel as comfortable and confident as she did for me. During the year I lived in Taiwan I attended group classes and private lessons at a university language center 3-5 days a week for 2 hours each day.
I like having a textbook to use as a foundation for grammar, vocabulary, etc., but in order to build my practical skills, I watch a lot of Japanese and Taiwanese dramas that help me practice language that I would hear in everyday situations. I think that you can also learn a lot of cultural things from watching TV shows. I think the repetition of characters and scenes also allows you to build a kind of familiarity that you don’t get from movies.
How was your experience in Japan?
I was fortunate to have lived in Kumamoto for 3 years. During that time I was able to travel to many places within Japan, but of course there are many places I would love to go to that I haven’t visited. Shikoku is one place I have never been to, but want to visit.
What makes you special in teaching English at Best Teacher?
I think I try really hard to make students feel comfortable and allow students to talk about their interests. I try to have students tell me what they want out of each lesson, whether it’s reading their script, talking freely, or reading a newspaper article, or from a textbook. I focus very much on comprehension and practical usage. I believe that nowadays with English being a global language, the most important thing is being able to understand and communicate with a variety of people.
California is a very diverse state with people from all over the world and so I am used to hearing many different languages and many different types of English. I think a language like English also allows you to express things in many different ways so I encourage students to try and communicate their ideas first and I only correct them if the meaning is unclear. I know some students want to learn a standard form and especially for test takers it’s important to focus on grammar, but as much as possible I try to encourage students to use and build their language skills in a way that makes sense to them and their experiences.
Do you have any encouraging message for students?
As I said earlier, I am continually impressed by students’ desire to learn a new language and improve their skills. Learning a new language is not always easy and certainly not quick, but the process can be enjoyable. I just want to say thank you to all the students who are willing to share their thoughts and experiences with me. I continue to enjoy teaching with Best Teacher because I am able to learn so much from students and hear about many interesting ideas and places. Japan is a wonderful and complex country and it would be great if more and more Japanese people are able to share their country’s culture and history with the rest of the world.
中学校でALT（外国語指導助手：Assistant Language Teacher）として活躍した経験もあるトッド講師、英語を教えることに対する熱い思いを感じることができました。また、トッド講師は、自信でも外国語を勉強し、その経験から培ったノウハウをレッスンで教えてくれるのはとても嬉しいことですね。外国語を学コツは十人十色ですが、その逆に万人に共通するコツも必ずあるのではないでしょうか。