Progress or Regress?

It was Saturday today. I woke up at 4:00, as was the case with me, believe it or not. I had to admit that I didn’t even wash my face, brush my teeth, or drink a glass of water. I know all of them must be done the first thing in the morning, but I felt so pressed for time that I just couldn’t afford to spend one minute on any of those routines. Instead, I sat in front of the computer, which was on all night, and started to work on the rest of the essays. I had been writing 45 400-word Japanese essays for my upcoming book.

Another thing that had pressed me was the promise I made with my son. He was going to the swimming lesson for the weekend, and I would be swimming in the lane next to his. Since my son is four years old and he’s been progressing at a normal rate, his parents can only observe from far away; unless they buy and hold a membership and swim in the pool themselves. We used to swim together when he was still 1 year old, but that already seems eons ago.

You can put two and two together and correctly assume that I would have had to get the job done by 10:00, when he would leave home for the lesson. I got it done a little past ten, and tried to catch up. The lockers were mostly empty. I knew it. It was Saturday morning. Most businessmen drank a bit too much on Friday night and they could use some more sleep (unless their sleep is not interrupted by their kids). Another reason is that all those serious swimmers know that at this time of the weekend, there will be many kids taking swimming lessons in the same pool. It will be much better if they come to swim later for the day and use more space. At least they will be able to concentrate more without high-pitched, strident voices of 4-year-old monsters and their coaches.

My son was swimming so happily he didn’t even look around to see if there was a man with a big belly. But that was all right with me. So long as I witnessed him in the swimming pool, I felt like I had carried out my duty, just like the way I felt when I filed my tax return the previous week.

Later, we got together with the other members of the family and had lunch on the rooftop park of a nearby department store. We had enough sunshine to take off the coat, we met some new people with whom my kids started to play, and most importantly, we had a lot of fun.

Now I am back in my office (home). I sometimes wonder if this is what I should be doing, considering what other people are doing. Many of my fellow teachers work hard to get their books published, teach more slots, and study over the weekend. With two little kids, I can do half of them at best. I do not want to consider myself a proverbial husband who leaves everything except his work to his wife. I may almost sit on one stool, when I think of the other stool to sit on and then I may fall between them. I sometimes wonder.

You know, when you are young, people always encourage you to be ambitious toward the future, but as you grow, you need to compromise and  forget about your ambition and to regress a bit. That is how older people become more conservative. I can feel that way, too. The thing is that I am still struggling for my ambition, while keeping a good work-life balance. Probably I am not that old yet, which is good news to me. I will keep struggling, for sure, if that’s a sign of youth.


Preparation may outweigh vocabulary.

What I wanted to say was that the TOEFL is a test. When it comes to a test, there should always be a certain amount of preparation, especially when you know what questions will be asked. If you know that you will be asked to describe the most impressive book you have ever read, and yet you intentionally try not to prepare for it because you believe this is a language test that does not judge what you say, but how you say it, then, you should be prepared for the consequences. Be better prepared!

That’s what I said in the Daily TOEFL 17 video. If you are interested, visit

And this week, I taught another speaking class, where we practiced this very hard question.

What are some of the qualities of a good neighbor?

The hardest part, for most test-takers, would be their lack of adjectives that express people’s nature. They come up with “kindness” and turn quiet for the rest of the allocated time. Why? Because they don’t have many “kind” neighbors?

They may even make a complaint or criticize themselves for not having large enough vocabulary. However, vocabulary may not solve this type of problems. After all, their main complaints would be, “I can’t do this even in my native language!” Then, it would be almost impossible to solve this problem by enriching their vocabulary; even if they have the equivalent amount of vocabulary to their mother tongue, the result would not be different.

That is where preparation for the test matters.

We have only several similar speaking prompts. So make your own response to each one of them as you prepare for the test itself.

What are some of the qualities of a good…neighbor / son or daughter/ teacher / student /parent / marriage partner?

Now, you know the question.

It’s up to you if you can make it to the next TOEFL test. If you are ill-prepared, you will end up repeating the complaint: I can’t do this even in Japanese.



My TOEFL Speaking / Writing Workshop will be held on March 22.

Hope to see you there!

Also offered by my English school are…

TOEFL 80 on-ground course

Monthly online course