Unit 1                            池袋(いけぶくろ)のホストファミリーとの会話(かいわ)

           Conversations with the Ikebukuro Host Family


Part A: 家族しょうかい

Before commencing the exercises, have learners find Ikebukuro on a large map of Tokyo. It is a ward to the north of central Tokyo. Ikebukuro station is on the Yamanote line and has connections to many other lines heading north. Near the station Ikebukuro is a large and thriving shopping and entertainment area but  there are also small communities with local shops in the low rise living areas nearby. The Sakai’s home and fish shop is within ten minutes walk of the station.


Part B:  Language Choices


1. あいさつ


Function:  Greetings within the family and neighbourhood


This lesson could start with a discussion about greetings in general. Unless Greetings have been learnt and practised in context, learners may easily find they are using certain greetings in the wrong context.  Greetings between members of the household often differ from those used outside the home. Similarly, greetings between colleagues, and customer and client differ remarkably. The choice is further influenced by the tenor and relationship of the speakers.


Suggestions for facilitating class discussion:


Would you approach these greetings any differently in your own country? In this case, elicit if necessary : What do you say when you leave the house or others leave the house? Is there a set typical phrase like itte kimasu or itte rasshai? Do you geet a neighbour differently to a parent?


The learners are asked to reflect on and discuss the following: What is the function of many formulaic greetings? Suggestions to elicit discussion: Does this apply in your home or community? Identify expressions in your own language which have a similar  function.





Teachers reference for facilitating class discussion

1. You are at home when your host father comes home at 7.00 pm. How do you greet him as he enters the living room?

a)     おかえりなさい





Among those who see each other every day, okaerinasai is the most common way to acknowledge someone has returned home, but in some cases, where the family members are in and out of the house all the time, it is omitted.

b)    こんばんは。




People say konban wa and konnichi wa to others visiting the house but not to those with whom they are living.



c)     きょうはいそがしかったですか。


The student sounds supportive by showing an interest in the father’s workload. In the case of the sakanaya it could mean Did you do well today? However, if something like this is said at all, it would generally be said in addition to okaerinasai.

d)    よくうれましたか。


The motivation is to please the father by showing an interest in his business. As with d), if something like this is said at all, it would be said in addition to okaerinasai.

e)    どうでしたか。


Unless there was a specific event on today the father might be confused by this question. It is as in English if someone said Well how was it? You want to ask How was what?

f)      おつかれさまでした。

Similar to You’ve put in a hard day’s work, otsukaresama is heard when you finish work and leave the workplace, or people say it to each other after some sort of activity together such as work, sport, volunteer work, group trip etc. It is also said to someone who has come home from doing something physically exhausting or emotionally demanding, such as  going to a funeral.

g)    ごくろうさまでした。




Gokuroosama is said in recognition of those doing a service which is part of their duties. For example, Yuji Sakai might say gokuroosama (deshita ) to someone who delivers ice to his fish shop. This is accepted as a formulaic expression for services rendered but is not used when someone has done something for you out of sheer kindness.  This explains why it is not said as a welcome to someone coming home, or towards meue no hito.




2. What do you say to your elder brother as you see him leaving to go to university?


a) さようなら。



Sayonara indicates you are leaving for some time, if not forever and is not said to family members.


b) ()ってらっしゃい。

Itterasshai is the most typical and natural expression in this context, regardless of tenor.(tenor = who is speaking to whom)

c) 行ってらっしゃい。気をつけて  ね。

The addition of Ki o tsukete (take care) is often said to people who are heading off somewhere but when said in a normal tone, it is merely a formulaic greeting showing consideration for the other’s safety.



Not to say anything would leave a vacuum. The brother might just think that you are preoccupied and haven’t noticed him leave or that you are disinterested.


A brother and sister might say ja ne to each other sometimes.

f) またね。

These expressions might be said if you intend meeting later. It is not commonly used among family members but if for example the family members meet somewhere else (not at home) they might say mata ne. ja mata, etc and a child might say bai! bai!

g) h) またあとでね。


i) バイバイ

j) じゃまたね。


3.What do you say as you leave the house to go to university for the day?


a)   さようなら。



Unless you have no intention of returning then you wouldn’t say sayonara.  It is never said in everyday interaction between families.

b)   ちょっと行ってきます。



O when indicating that you are only going out for a short time.

c)    c) 行ってまいります。

Mairimasu is the humble form of kimasu, sounds humble, and is said in a formulaic way when leaving the house with the intent of returning.

d)   大学に行きます。




This would be a response to Doko e ikimasu ka but presumably the family know where the student is going . If necessary to indicate the destination the student could say  Daigaku ni itte kimasu


e)   行ってきます。


This is the most common and popular expression said in a formulaic way when going out.

f)     行ってくる


The student would be on very close terms with the family member to use this plain form version comfortably. Two students sharing a house might say this to each other.

g)   g) またあとで会います。



Since the speakers live together it is already understood that they will see each other again later at home, so this is not said, unless you have planned to meet somewhere else later (e.g. for lunch) in which case you might say jaa, mata ato de ne.


4. You meet up with a neighbour whom you had greeted only 30 minutes earlier. What do you say this time?


a)     こんにちは。




Konnichi wa is said when you meet for the first time that day.


b)     また会いましたね。


Even though the words “We have met again haven’t we” may seem unnecessary since the fact is obvious, the function of the greeting is to acknowledge the presence of that neighbour again and to maintain a good relationship with neighbours. This is for those who feel the need to say something.

c)      a slight nod and smile


In a busy life, not everyone has the time or energy to chat in the street and this gesture would be adequate in most cases. If you always had a chat, then they might think you were just not in the mood or preoccupied today. The words, a, doomo, might accompany the gesture but would be almost inaudible.  The degree to which this is expressed depends in individual style or how unexpected the encounter is. Children would not say doomo in this context.

d)     買いものですか。


Just as people sometimes ask Dochira e? (where are you off to?) as a formulaic greeting, with no intention of prying,  these greetings are generally quite appropriate since the neighbour would know that they were not expected to respond in any detail. Some cue, for example, their clothing or bag, could have motivated this choice.

e)     お出かけ?





9Role Play

To provide students with many opportunities to speak at different registers, give each student a card indicating their role (the host father, the student, the elder sister, brother etc). All students attach the name to their clothing so that the others can see it and move from one role play partner to another practicing switching language and register.





Function: Finding out about procedures.


Information & Suggestions for Teaching and Learning      

As is evident from the following list, there are many ways to find out how to use something, and while any of them would result in you finding out what to do, some expressions are more appealing to the listener at a ningen kankei (interpersonal) level, an important matter for those living with a family or  working or studying together for a long period of time. If the students are going to be attending school or university in Japan the tenor could be adapted to a asking the lecturer/tutor or colleague how to use he computer. If students will be doing part-time work in Japan then the context could be, for example, asking a senior colleague how to use the cash register.


These choices deliberately include the comparison of tara, eba, kureru and kudasai which can be interchangeable but arise out of different motivations.  In this and similar exercises where there a several forms which could be acceptable. The discussion of the subtle differences between the forms and the comparison with English in this context helps the learner to better internalize the meaning of the form (and not  only the form itself) and provides them with a greater repertoire.


Further suggestions for eliciting discussion:

a)   Which choices are directly asking the mother to show you how to use the machine, and which are asking if she would mind showing you?  Elicit: Look for the verbs.  Is this an order or requests?

b)   Which choice is not asking directly but would get the message across? Elicit: Which is not requesting but making a statement and hoping for an offer?



1. The Language Choice


Language Choice




Teachers reference for facilitating class discussion

a)    このせんたっきは, どうやって使(つか)いま すか。

a) and b) are practical questions aimed at finding out information   “How do you use the washing machine?” and until a relationship is developed with the family this style would seem quite appropriate.


b)    せんたっきはどう使(つか)いますか。



c)     せんたっき、(おし)えてくれる




c-f are all asking a favour - to be shown  how to use the machine.

 te kureru is very casual and would be most unlikely when speaking with the host mother especially at this early stage of the relationship

d)    せんたっきの使い(かた)を教えてくれませんか。


To make a request using the negative verb form, oshiete kuremasen ka (will you not show me) is more indirect than c) and as a result quite respectful.

e)    せんたっきの使い方を教えてください   


-te kudasai is an order rather than a request but would only seem demanding if said like an order.

f)      せんたっきの使い方をおしえていただけませんか。



The verb itadaku/morau makes the “receiver” the agent and therefore the expressions implies I would like you to show me. This is as polite as kudasaru which implies would you show me.

g)    せんたっきの使い方をおしえていただけないでしょうか


Both the deshoo ka and the negative question form soften the request. This might seem too formal for a young university or high school student but the politeness would do no harm in the early stages of the relationship. It would certainly leave the impression that the student is mature and very well mannered – if that is his/her intent.   (I don’t suppose you would show me…..)

h)    せんたっきの使い方がわからないんですけど。



h)and j) as unfinished sentences ending in desu ga/keredo….lead to the implied “therefore can you show me please”. In English, the speaker is generally more explicit and would add, for example, could you show me? but sometimes a similar strategy is  used using a pause. I don’t know how to use this washing machine…….! (Implication: can anyone help me?) The finished sentence i) is simply a statement and sounds quite blunt, although most people would offer to help if they overheard it.

i)      せんたっきの使い方がわかりません。


j)      せんたっきの使い方がわからないんですが。





あなたが読むと、私も読みます。 cannot be followed by intentions. It is used for logical, habitual relationships between clauses which is not the case with this sentence making it sound like “when you read it I will naturally/as a logical follow on read it too”

ii) あなたが読んだら、私も読みます。  Depending on context, this could mean either if or when you read it, then I will read it. With tara, the second clause (I will read it) happens after knowing the first clause (you read it).

iii) あなたが読むなら、私も読みます。 ならindicates condition suggesting that on the condition that you read it then I will too.

iv) あなたが読めば、私も読みます。 えば suggests only if . In other words, if you don’t read it, I won’t.

  • Using : Think of other procedures  and how to find out about them.

e.g. どこでしたぎをあらいますか。どこでせんたくをほしますか。


3. おふろ



Function: requesting-offering


Information & Suggestions for Teaching and Learning 

Teachers will find English instructions for taking a Japanese bath in various books in living in Japan, and we are not concerned with the bathing procedure here. The interest is more in the way the student living with a family is able to negotiate changes in schedules, as other family members do. This ability to become assertive comes with time but also with the use of appropriate language strategies.  As simple as it may seem, there are various choices with different nuances. The discussion of these brings to a focus the use of tai and kara and identifying what is a request and what is an offer.


Everyone in the family uses the same hot bath water and some families have an established order for taking a bath. Some families would expect students to say お先に before and after taking a bath. For example: When you are offered a bath, you might say お先に入らせてもらいます or less formally お先に入ります)And when you get out of the bath and want to indicate that it is now free for someone else you can say お先に入らせてもらいました。(or less formallyお先にはいりました).


Focus questions for facilitating discussion:

a) Would you approach this any differently in your own country? How might you say this in English? Is the word “want” a safe or typical option in this context?




Teachers reference for facilitating class discussion

a)    まだレポートがおわってないから、あとで入る。




This direct statement assumes the family already accepts the student being direct and doing as he/she pleases. After two weeks this may be too direct. It could have been softened by, for example,よかったら、お先にどうぞ。For more on お先にrefer to above teacher notes.X

b)    まだレポートがおわってないから、あとで入るつもりです。



Assertive – but could be too blunt. It gives the message “ the family has to fit in with my plan”.







The いいですか softens the direct expression of what the student “wants” to do.

c)     まだレポートがおわってないから、あとで入ってもいいですか。


This is to the point but respectfully checks if it is OK. 






Function: Discouraging the other from continuing (with sensitivity)


Information & Suggestions for Teaching and Learning   


Intonation and para-linguistic features (facial expressions and body language) are particularly important for conveying the right message in this situation. Parents, particularly host-parents who are taking responsibility for someone else’s son or daughter, are often vigilant in giving instructions and ensuring that the student understands. Often the student does not know how to demonstrate that he or she has understood.  While some of these choices may seem unlikely (because they seem particularly rude), students have been known to say them out of frustration or after copying the language of the host brother or sister, who, being uchi, obviously have different privileges. The rating and explanations given here are not suggesting complete surrender but offering learners some strategies to express themselves without offending.


This is an opportunity to explore the use of kureru (and its more formal versions kudasaru) and to reflect on the important role it plays in acknowledging someone else’s effort in Japanese – and to compare whether there is a similar version in their own language. 


a) Which of the choices acknowledge the effort made? What specific grammar forms or expressions do that?  V+てくれる    ありがとうございます

b) Is this a situation that would occur in your own country? Do you often give directions using maps? Are maps necessary? How hard/easy is it to find your way around?


1. The Language Choice




Teachers reference for facilitating class discussion

a)    もうしっている ( しってる)



Shitte iru indicates you know something for a fact. There is no recognition of Mama’s effort and it sounds rude and confrontational.

b)    ありがうとうございます。

A simple expression of gratitude said during a pause in the explanation as though closing the matter might stop Mama from continuing without hurting any feelings. To be more convincing add わかりました。The tone and facial expression must indicate gratitude.


c)     お母さんのせつめい、よくわかりました。


This would perhaps convince Mama that she has explained well enough and need not continue but she may have also hoped for a word of thanks.

d)    ママ、わかってるからもうしぱいしなくてもいい。


There is no expression of thanks and it could sound patronizing telling her that she doesn’t have to worry – as though it is her problem. It is what a real child might say to a mother but not a student. The patronizing nuance could be mitigated by a gentle comforting tone.

e)    しんぱいしてくれて、すみません。だいじょうぶですよ。


You have acknowledging that she has worried on your behalf (kureru), apologized/thanked (sumimasen) and tried to convince her (yo) that you will be all right.

f)      もうおぼえたよ。

The student has decided to take the risk and be direct resulting in something like “Look, I’ve got it” (implication – you needn’t go on). Listen to the Nama no Koe section to see what the host mother suggests would make this more acceptable for her. It may be too early for informal register.


g)    わかった。わかった。だいじょうぶだと思う。

The repetition, if said with a smile and nod, could indicate an intention not to cause her concern. If not said with care it would give the impression that the student is getting impatient. It may be too early for informal register.

h)    isten without saying anything


At this early stage when the student has not yet developed strong ningen kankei it would be seem wise to listen quietly and acknowledge with a slight nod, and some aizuchi (hai, ee) or repetition (massugu desu ne/ migi desu ne) every now and then to show he/she is understanding.


i)      お母さんはしんぱいしすぎだ よ。

For the student to take the liberty to comment so directly on the mother’s character implies a very close relationship. If it is not, she could be offended at not being taken seriously.  It may be too early for informal register.

j)      だいじょうぶ。だいじょうぶ。



The repetition (It’s Ok, it’s OK) can be convincing without being confronting but depends to a large degree on the appropriate intonation and gestures. To create a more respectful version add desu and arigatoo.

k)    わたし/ぼくは19さいですよ


The student needs to be careful since it can sound confrontational. Implicit is a command such as stop treating me like a child and Mama could be insulted.






Function:  Controlling the situation (diverting, avoiding, explaining)


Information & Suggestions for Teaching and Learning  


The key to successful communication in this context is to acknowledging the feeling component (affect) and not the factual component (the actual words). The register is informal, since the writers are assuming that the student has felt comfortable enough to switch to the uchi style of communication after three months. The focus is more on the development of strategies to say how you feel and yet not offend.

Suggestions for eliciting responses:  

a)    Which choice would result in being given a chance to rest?  Which choice explains you are tired?

b)    Which could offend?  How would you feel if you were ignored?



1. The Language Choice




Teachers reference for facilitating class discussion

a)    つかれた。

This certainly explains that you are tired but doesn’t necessarily stop someone from demanding conversation from you. Add an exhausted aa, slump onto to the zabuton and say Tsukareta. Chotto yasumimasu for maximum effect.



b)    ちょっとつかれちゃった。





Chotto softens by understating (when you are obviously exhausted) but  –chatta (shimatta) suggests the situation is irreversible and adds emphasis. The host father might not have got the message! It is not as convincing as c)  

-chatta, the plain form for -te shimaimaishita implies a very close uchi  relationship already.

c)     ごめんね、わたし/ぼく、




The apology, showing recognition of the father’s attempt to communicate, and giving a reason for not being able to could not offend and only the persistent would continue to demand of you.

d)    ......(何も言いません。



Not to respond at all would be perceived as confronting. The father’s intent was sympathy and caring and the student responded as if it were nagging. The student needed to hear to affective component and respond to it. In other words, respond to the message and not the words.


e)    つかれちゃった。お父さんは、どうだった?


This is a possible alternative strategy to divert the attention from oneself. The student may have avoided having to speak as much but may not have avoided having to respond.