One of the best ways to improve vocabulary recognition and gain reading fluency is to take a topic you already know well — like last night’s snowfall — and compare how different news sites cover it.

The Japan Times: “Tokyo hit by heaviest snow since 2014”

Japan Today: “Heaviest snow in 4 years hits Tokyo”

The Japan News: “Kanto blanketed by heavy snowfall”




Games and sports

What’s a game? What’s a sport?

How would you explain the differences?

“What makes a sport a sport?”

This short piece from 1843 gives us a little background about the word “sport” as opposed to “game”. It explains that bridge (a card game) has been declared a sport, not just a game, by the European Council of Justice.

It made me think of a scene in a movie called “What Women Want” (Japanese title: ハート・オブ・ウーマン). The main characters work for an advertising agency and they’re making a commercial for Nike. Here’s the clip:

Here’s another clip that shows a bit more background. The premise of this rather silly movie is that the man (played by Mel Gibson) can read women’s minds. IMDb calls it a “romantic fantasy comedy” and it plays with the idea of stereotypical “macho” men and the women who have to deal with blatant gender inequality at work.

Try this for a-ka-sa-ta-na

This is a graph of the frequency of English letters of the alphabet, based on where they’re most likely to appear in words — at the beginning, middle or end. For example:

The letter “a” most frequently appears towards the beginning of a word, and rarely at the end.

Here are the rest. Can you think of examples for each letter? For “b” — “baseball” and “thumb”. Keep going! This is a good way to activate your latent vocabulary. And for students who like this kind of data analysis, try it with Japanese kana.

They do the hard work for you

Is e-mail becoming obsolete? Some believe that, but there are e-mail newsletters that continue to do the hard work of curation for us. Here are a few I have been enjoying recently:

Everything Changes from the Awl— the theme changes, the frequency changes. You never know what to expect. This week there is a list of “tiny kindnesses” that people noticed. Here are a couple:



Make Your Point — to improve your vocabulary. I posted about this in January.

The Daily Pnut — a daily update of important news, curated for you, from sites like BBC, NYT, the Atlantic,

Elevator Grooves — the name here is still “Sweet Chili” but it’s now called “Elevator Grooves” and is from the Daily Pnut people, a weekly collection of songs you may not have heard. A couple of weeks ago I found some great Cuban music I didn’t know about thanks to them, and was reminded about how perfect for this time of year the Buena Vista Social Club is. The same day I was playing their music again, after forgetting about them for years, this documentary happened to be on TV. Kismet.