I have a small English club with senior citizens in my neighborhood and invite a guest who speaks English once a year. We had Ricky, a Briton, and Jean, a Seychellois, so far. This time I asked Ricky to come to the club again because he was going back to his country soon, and was able to have a meeting at the end of last month. (The meeting with Ricky in 2012 is HERE, and the one with Jean in 2013 is HERE.)
Most of the club members met Ricky at the club two years ago, when they were excited so much because it was the first time for them to talk to a non-Japanese in English. They fired many first-meeting-types of questions, such as, “Where are you from?” or “Can you use chopsticks well?” at that time. They asked Ricky the same questions many times because they were too busy thinking what they would ask him to hear others. So, Ricky had to say “Fish,” many times. They asked, “What kind of food do you like best?” again and again… But Ricky answered the questions politely without being cross. Thank you, Ricky! That was why, I told the members not to ask Ricky similar questions before the meeting this time.
“So, you can’t ask Ricky “Where are you from?” or “Where do you live?” or “Do you like sushi?” and so on. Understand?” They screamed.
“Oh, no! What shall I ask him, then?”
“Think by yourself!”
“What shall I do? What shall I do?”
Usually the club has five seniors: Nori, Hossan, Choko, Akiko, and Mayumi. But the room was merrier than usual that day because we had ten people excluding Ricky and me. Mayumi brought her husband, Umeo. Two old members, Toshiko and Haru, came. Toshiko brought her friend, Manami, too. And Saeko came to the club with her new walker. She was a regular member, but had not appeared for a while since she broke a breast bone last December. I was very happy to meet old and new people at one time. They also looked happy and excited.
Their English was much greater than I had expected. They tried hard to talk to Ricky with various questions: Where are you going to live in England? ; How do you like it in Japan? ; What is inconvenient living in Japan? ; What are the good and bad points in the international marriage? etc. Of course, there were some impolite questions, too, like “How old are you?” or “Is your son good-looking?” But these questions brought additional excitement to the meeting.
Then THAT question came: What kind of food do you like? Hey, hey, you asked the same question many times two years ago! I thought. But Ricky kindly replied smiling, “Eels.” Oh, how specific answer he said this time! The members murmured “Oh, eels…eels…eels…” But a few minutes later, someone asked THAT question again, “Excuse me, what kind of food do you like best?” Come on! “Eels,” said Ricky in a calm way. Probably the same questions and answers repeated a few more times….But Ricky replied politely without any disgusting expressions this time, too. Thank you again, Ricky!
Anyway, the senior citizens (the average age is around 75) seemed to be really happy during the meeting. They had stars in their eyes! Some smiled, saying “I felt younger!” some looked confident, saying “It’s nice to keep on studying English!” and some renewed their resolve to study English. And I myself think it is a good thing that I have organized this small English club when I see their smiles. After the meeting, Nori, a male participant, came to me and said, “You could invite a female guest next time, could you?” winking. Yeah, I knew you would say so…