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私たちの英語の先生:Mathew WHITE

Associate professor Mathew WHITE

外国語学部 英語教育学科
准教授 ホワイト マッシュー

School of Foreign Studies
Department of English Language Teaching
Associate professor Mathew WHITE

I’m currently researching the use of imaginary dialogs in order to encourage creativity and the development of communication skills in language learning, so I’ve decided to write my introduction for the university web page as an imaginary dialog. I’m imagining myself being interviewed by someone for the web page, so here it goes!

I = Interviewer
M = Mathew White

Elementary School

I: Thank you for sparing time for the interview today.
M: It’s my pleasure.
I: So, please tell us a little about yourself. Who is Mathew White? Where are you from?
M: Well, I consider myself a citizen of the world, but according to my passport, I am an American, and I grew up in southern California.
I: Ah… so, you’re a global citizen. I get it. But you grew up in Southern California, that’s on the west coast of the United States, right?
M: Yes. To be more precise, I’m from Orange County. Most people understand better if I say that it is located south of Hollywood and Los Angeles. My house was actually about fifteen to twenty minutes away from Disneyland and about the same distance in the opposite direction from Huntington Beach.
I: Wow! It sounds like a great place to live!
M: It is! In addition to its amazing geographical location with lots of sunshine, Orange County is a very ethnically diverse area, so ever since elementary school, I’ve always had friends and classmates from a very diverse range of backgrounds. In fact, one of my closest friends in elementary school had grandparents who were both from Japan. We studied karate together.
I: Karate? So, is that when you started learning Japanese?
M: Well, I learned the numbers from one to ten in Japanese and word for “bow” and “teacher”, but not much more Japanese than that. Growing up in California, I studied Spanish as a second language, and it was quite useful, as many of my friends’ parents were from Mexico, and I could speak Spanish with them. As for Japanese, I didn’t really learn it until much later in my life. However, I did have a great karate instructor. He taught us both the physical aspects as well as the philosophy behind it. I still remember reading Karate-Do: My Way of Life by Gichin Funakoshi. I probably read that when I was about twelve years old.
I: Hmm. It must be a good book. I’ll have to read it. So, can you explain a little bit about your education?


M: Sure. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from California State University, Chico. I studied Asian religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and I studied Asian history and geography. For languages, I studied both Japanese and Chinese. Fortunately, I was awarded a scholarship and spent my final semester of university studying in China.
I: Wasn’t Chinese difficult for you?
M: Yes, but I prepared for my trip by completing a summer of intensive Chinese language studies at the Monterey Institute.
I: So, how did you end up in Japan?
M: Well, before completing my bachelor’s degree, I had lived in Japan on a cultural visa, studying judo.
I: Judo! I guess you really do love martial arts!
M: Yes, but I also taught English at a language school, and I found that I really liked helping people improve their language skills, especially since I was learning Japanese at the YWCA and improving my language skills at the same time. Therefore, after earning by bachelor’s degree I went on to earn an M.A. in TEFL and TESOL from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. I also completed a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) in Barcelona.
I: Well, I guess that explains about your education. What types of courses do you teach?

Courses I teach

M: Well, one of the great things about teaching at university is that you can often teach courses that you yourself are passionate about. I am a voracious reader, which means that I read a lot, and I teach courses on extensive reading.

Extensive Reading in Class

I: And what is extensive reading?
M: Extensive reading is reading books of your choice in your target language that are easy enough for you to read without having to stop and look up words. If you don’t know a word, you just guess what the word means from the context or skip it. If the word is important, it will probably come up again and you’ll have another chance to understand it.
I: I see what you mean. What other courses do you teach?
M: Well, I teach courses on discussion and debate, and we choose topics that are controversial, so that students have to become informed about the issues and their various perspectives, and then students use critical thinking to analyze the information and come to their own conclusions about the topics. I also have seminar courses that are focused on student-centered learning and the person-centered approach, which is about empathy, learning to be a good listener, and learning how to understand yourself and others better. In addition to this, I have taught courses on environmental issues, Greek mythology and human rights.
I: Human rights? That’s closely related to the idea of global citizenship, something this university is eager to nurture among its students.
M: Yes, and one of the important aspects of this is not only learning about issues, but taking action for those that you feel strongly about.
I: So, have you taken any action?
M: Yes, I support Amnesty International, Oxfam, Kiva and many other organizations. I’ve also participated in several volunteer trips overseas.

Volunteer Activities

I: Volunteer trips? What have you done?
M: Well, back when I was teaching at Nanzan University, I participated in a Habitat for Humanity house building project along with students and other teachers in Papua New Guinea and volunteer building projects in the Philippines as well. Since becoming a full-time teacher at NUFS, I’ve participated in a Habitat for Humanity house building project in Cambodia. Also, I went to India and participated in a volunteer program to support Tibetan refugees. In Mexico, I’ve given workshops on extensive reading. In both India and Mexico, thanks to the help of the Japan Association of Language Teacher and the Extensive Reading Special Interest Group, I was able to donate books so that schools could improve their libraries.


I: So, what are your current research interests? Do you have any research interests in the use of technology?
M: Yes, I’ve researched the use of iPads and e-reading in my reading classes. While my findings on e-reading suggested that e-reading was a good way to introduce books to students, I’ve found that the majority of students still prefer the paper books for extensive reading. I’m still conducting research on how i-pads can be used most effectively in the classroom. For instance, I often have students make video recordings of their discussions using the iPads and then watch their own recordings later. Students also conduct research on the Internet or use the iPads for independent vocabulary review.
I: Yes, I’ve heard that your students use Quizlet for making vocabulary cards and reviewing them. What other research interests do you have?
M: I’ve always been interested in the effects of reading on learner motivation and language acquisition. My son was born here in Japan, and his mother is Japanese, so I am keenly aware of the power reading can have on language development.

Me reading to Justin

I: Does your son speak English?
M: Well, his first language is Japanese. He speaks Japanese with his mother, went to a public Japanese elementary school, and now goes to a private Japanese junior high school. However, thanks to a tradition of reading in English together, he has a very high level of proficiency in English, and was able to pass the Eiken Level 1 test and score over 800 on the TOEIC already.
I: That’s very impressive! So you are a strong believer in the benefits of reading in a foreign language, right?
M: Exactly. Unfortunately, the benefits of reading in a foreign language are not always easy to prove. However, I have seen firsthand how reading provides massive amounts of exposure to language as well as developing creativity and empathy.
I: Speaking of creativity, you imagined this whole interview and I, the interviewer don’t even exist! What are your research interests in relation to creativity?

Think outside the box.

M: Well, I think that encouraging students to be creative makes learning more fun and that when learning is fun it motivates students to learn more. I like teaching students about Halloween and the creativity we can foster when we make our own costumes that are connected in some way to events in the news each year. Our university festival often happens around October 31st, so I sometimes where costumes that I make myself to the university festival.
One of the expressions that we embrace is “Think outside the box.” I also think that we actually learn more when challenged with desirable difficulties. Limitations force us to be creative.

Think Outside the Box

I: Can you give an example of how limitations force us to be creative?
M: Sure. One example is when we are required to write a story in exactly 50 words. This is a format used in an event called the Extremely Short Story Contest. When you are required to write a story in a specific number of words, it forces you to be creative in your choice of language, so that you can finish in that exact amount.
I: Sounds interesting! Any other examples of how you’re researching creativity?
M: Well, I’ve been looking into the value of having students write their book reports and their research reports as imaginary conversations. This allows them to practice their communicative skills and develop their use of conversation strategies as they create the imaginary conversations.
I: Is there anything else that you’re currently tinkering with or doing research on?
M: Well, I’ve been researching flipped learning, too.
I: Flipped learning? What’s that?
M: Basically, flipped learning is when students complete most of the reading or research and learning of class content outside of class, so that more time in class can be used for discussion, exploration and deeper understanding of the class content. In makes students more accountable for learning the content of courses independently, prior to class, so that more time in class can be allocated for students sharing their connection with the materials.

NUFS is fun!

I and Student

I: Sounds wonderful! I think that’s all the time we have for this imaginary conversation. Are there any final comments that you’d like to make?
M: Yes. I hope that students will embrace creativity and active learning. I also hope that they will create their own opportunities for using and observing language in use. I’ve been acting as a chaperone for students in the Department of English Language Teaching when they participate in the summer program in Boston. Even when they go abroad, it’s really important that they initiate conversations in English and demonstrate their willingness to communicate. If they come to Nagoya University of Foreign Studies, they can look up at my office window and see messages written in my window. At the time of this dialog, the message in my window says, “Be a global citizen”. In addition to learning about world issues, we are taking action about what we learn so that our own voices are heard. We are writing letters on behalf of people whose human rights are being abused. Many of the students are joining in speech contests to explain about what they think is important. I also encourage my students to work as volunteers when there are conferences and events held in the area. Together we are also discovering new things. For example, one day I discovered that if you read, “NUFSISFUN” from left to right or from right to left, it says the same thing! In English we call that a “palindrome”. So, no matter how you look at it, NUFS is fun! I hope that everyone has fun learning and making use of what they learn!

NUFS IS FUN Be a Global Citizen