Lady Ayame Tutor Interview
- Q. Hi Patricia! Would you kindly give a brief self-introduction to the Cafetalk community?
A. Hello, Cafetalk community! First of all, I’m so excited about being an English tutor on Cafetalk and I’m enjoying meeting so many wonderful people from Japan and other countries. Second, I would like to introduce myself to Cafetalk students that I haven’t met before and describe a little about myself. I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan until I was 18-years-old. My mother is Japanese from Kyoto, Japan, and my father is Caucasian from Holyoke, Massachusetts. As a result, I am biracial and bilingual in both English and Japanese.
I grew up attending an American school at Yokota US Air Force Base in Japan so I received my education entirely in English. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to become one of the most sought-after models in Tokyo, Japan between the ages of 13 to 18-yrs-old. I modeled for various reputable and world-renowned Japanese companies such as Shiseido Cosmetics, Soen Magazine, Washington Shoes, Takashimaya Department Store, Kodak, Nikon, and countless others for over five years.
At 18-yrs-old, it was time for me to move to the US to attend the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA.) I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree as a Theatre Arts major. Soon after graduation, I joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) when I booked my first acting job on an American TV Show called “T.J. Hooker” (パトカーアダム30) with William Shatner. If you’re interested, please take a look at my acting videos on my Youtube channel. In addition, you can take a look at my entire list of TV and film credits on IMDb under the name: “Patricia Ayame Thomson”
Recently, I decided to add to my academic credentials to become a librarian and pursue a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the San Jose State University (SJSU). exponentially. I believe my previous career and recent education supplements my teaching skills necessary to be an English tutor on Cafetalk.
- Q. Tell us a bit about where you’re from. According to your profile you were born and raised in Japan, but later on moved to the US. Can you tell us a bit about your life in both countries?
A. As I mentioned in my introduction, I spent my former years of my life growing up in Tokyo, Japan. Although I attended a US Department of Defense (DOD) school at Yokota Air Force Base in Fussa, I lived in a Japanese community called Suginami-ku. As a result, I grew up speaking Japanese with the neighborhood kids in the community as well as watching Japanese television shows. I took ballet lessons at a ballet dance studio in downtown Tokyo for nine years, so I was familiar with the public train transit system. I fondly remember reading mangas that I purchased at the train station on my way to class. Although English is my mother tongue, Japanese mannerisms, characteristics, and sentiments are deeply inculcated in me.
When the other American kids were taking their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in high school and trying to figure out what college they were going to, I decided to abandon my modeling career in Japan in favor of furthering my education at an American University. When I first moved to the United States, I was surprised to see how big and dynamic everything is in America compared to Japan. The spaciousness of the American landscape alone is almost unimaginable compared to the close proximity of the Japanese society. In hindsight, I believe I made the right decision by moving to the US since I had many opportunities to be in many American movies and television shows as a professional actress.
- Q. And what about the city or town you currently live in? What kind of place is it?
A. I recently met and married a Canadian man and I relocated to Red Deer which is a city in Alberta, Canada. The small city of Red Deer is nothing like the sprawling metropolitan cities like Tokyo or Los Angeles.
Naturally, it’s much colder in the winter in Canada compared to the balmy warm temperature throughout the year in Santa Monica. There are many steak and potatoes-type of American/Canadian food in Red Deer, but only a couple of Japanese restaurants and only one serves sushi. I can’t express into words how much I miss Japanese food. For example, I have my mother mail me “mugicha” from Los Angeles.
The city doesn’t have the diversity and multicultural environment that I’m used to in large progressive cities like Tokyo and Los Angeles. There are restaurants, entertainment, and businesses in Red Deer but on a much smaller scale. Apart from people who enjoy outdoor sports, I’ve noticed that people in Red Deer seem to enjoy activities that they can do inside their homes as a family rather than going out. Perhaps this is due to the weather, especially during the winter months. This city is ideal for me to stay inside my home and teach English on Cafetalk.
- Q. Besides a modeling career in Japan you made a film career in Hollywood. That’s super exciting! Can you tell us a bit about the experiences you made?
A. The most exciting part of both modeling in Japan and being an actress in Hollywood was that I had the opportunity to travel to many places around the world. While I was modeling in Japan, I had many jobs that allowed me to travel to all five of the main Japanese islands, as well as Okinawa and Guam. For example, I had the chance to go to Kyushu to film the commercial for Shiseido Cosmetics when I was sixteen years old. As another instance, I would ride the bullet train to Kyoto or Osaka to shoot photos wearing kimonos in front of historical Japanese landmarks. For over five years, I worked on hundreds of modeling jobs after school and every weekend that allowed me to visit many prefectures in Japan.
In Hollywood, I also had a job on an American TV Daytime Game Show as a Game Show model. In hindsight, the most difficult aspect of the entertainment industry in Hollywood is that it is brutal, ruthless, and heartless. Everybody wants to be an actor or actress in Los Angeles and most will do anything to get there. As a working actor, I faced insurmountable odds to get a single job. People from all over the world wanted to be a big star in Hollywood, so the competition was fierce, cutthroat, and constant. I can’t even remember how much rejection I’ve encountered for every job I booked. If you’re not ready to perform the part at the audition, there are always hundreds of people right behind you that can play the same part.
Since I have worked on over fifty American television shows, it is hard to mention all the celebrities I worked with. However, to name a few they include Ted Knight, Suzanne Somers, Carl Weathers, Jennifer Aniston, William Shatner, Ed Asner, Jack Warden, Harvey Keitel, etc. Most of the big stars I’ve worked with are very nice. I quote a line from The Ted Knight Show that I worked on that says, “The bigger they are the nicer they are.”
- Q. As an actress, do you think you have a benefit when it comes to teaching English, e.g. in terms of clear speaking or pronunciation?
A. Yes, I believe I have an advantage teaching English due to the fact that I received extensive voice training from the UCLA Theatre Arts Department. Not only did we learn how to project our voices so we can be heard in the back row of a theatre, but also to articulate and speak clearly. After all, if no one in the audience can understand what the actor is saying, the performance won’t do anyone any good. As a result, I can teach pronunciation, articulation, and clear-speaking techniques in my lessons. Due to the fact that I have a good ear, I am also able to distinguish the phonetic sounds students are having trouble with.
I believe my experience as an actress is definitely beneficial in my teaching English since I am trained in practicing how to speak clearly and articulate. I believe I can pass on the information that I learned from my experience as an actress and put my training to good use by teaching English pronunciation as a tutor on Cafetalk.
- Q. When you are not teaching on Cafetalk, what are you usually up to? Do you have any special hobbies, interests or occupations?
A. When I’m not teaching on Cafetalk, I like to watch movies and listen to audiobooks. Since I previously worked at the library for eight years, I developed a love for books. I like to listen to audiobooks because it keeps my hands free to do other things including cleaning and other chores. I like the fact that a very articulate and expressive actor is performing the narration and it helps breathes life into the stories.
I also like to make jewelry with beads and work with my hands. Knitting is another one of my hobbies. In addition, I am interested in the American news and have CNN on the TV throughout the day as background noise. My two cats, Coco and Chanel are adorable and very loving. The two cats are fun to play with and they keep me busy. Best of all, I like going out to new restaurants with my husband and all-you-can-eat sushi on the weekends.
- Q. A lot of students are probably curious about the atmosphere in your lessons. What can a student imagine a lesson with you to be like? What’s your “lesson style”?
A. I would describe the atmosphere in my lesson as relaxed, comfortable, and fun. I am a friendly and easygoing English tutor so my students don’t have to feel apprehensive, shy, or reluctant to speak. I am very welcoming, accommodating, and easy to talk to. Most importantly, I don’t want my students to feel as though they can’t make mistakes. Learning another language is nonlinear and can be disorganized, so making mistakes is part of the process.
Students can expect a warm, uplifting, and encouraging atmosphere when you take my lessons. For instance, if I come across some of the English phrases, sentence structures, or vocabulary that is incorrect, I will gently correct the students to help them improve. My primary goal in my lessons is to help students improve their English. As a result, I employ different techniques for each student but always in a positive and comfortable atmosphere conducive to learning.
I believe the enthusiasm and love for teaching cannot be taught. I enjoy working with the students very much and that feeling translates into a relaxed, fun, and comfortable atmosphere for my students. Although my lesson style is very gentle and natural, I also take my work very seriously to help my students speak and master the English language.
- Q. You are not originally a trained teacher, but it seems like you have a lot of history that helps you support students. Do you employ any kind of special method?
A. I believe a combination of my life and work experiences have made me suitable to be a tutor on Cafetalk. Most recently, I believe what I learned in getting my Master’s Degree has prepared to be an English teacher. At the library, I have experience teaching basic computer skills to adults, and performing “Storytime” which employs storytelling techniques to keep the children engaged. As a librarian, I promote literacy and lifelong learning to everyone and that is what I believe as a teacher as well.
In addition, I have experience with vocal techniques in clear-speaking, pronunciation, and articulation that I can share with my students. Also, I feel extremely comfortable in front of the camera and in turn that helps the students feel more comfortable on Skype as well. Inherently, I have a deep interest, self-effacing humor, and positive energy, and I ask many questions so the student can speak freely in the lesson. I believe my upbeat personality, patience, gentle demeanor, and friendly nature helps students feel comfortable. At the same time, I also possess the proper credentials from accredited American Universities. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree in Theatre Arts from UCLA and a Master Degree in Library and Information Science from SJSU. This gives me the expertise to help students with reading and writing academic research papers.
- Q. Your most popular lesson is your Quick Fun American English! Lesson. What can students expect from that lesson?
A. Students can expect to have fun during my lessons. Whether it is English free-talk conversation or one of my custom-created Quizzes, the students can expect to learn a lot having a good time. I broke down the language learning process into sections including: “speaking, listening, comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and American Idioms.” To accommodate each of the above sections, I thought of creating my own Quiz which has a little bit of each component in it. As a result, if the student chooses to take this custom-made Quiz created for a variety of proficiency levels, I am able to teach a little bit of each section (reading, listening, speaking, comprehension, pronunciation, vocabulary and American Idioms) all in one Quiz so it doesn’t get boring.
For example, I might offer a multiple choice exercise using “Famous Quotes” for the first five-minutes, then have a vocabulary section so students can learn new vocabulary words. The next five-minute section might be examples and explanations of a few American Idioms, pronunciation exercise, followed by an exercise to grasp the meaning of a small section of a newspaper article. I might finish the lesson with a few riddles and jokes, so the student can grasp the American sense of humor.
Of course, the student doesn’t have to take the Quiz during my lesson. I enjoy having free-talk conversations just as much. Whatever you choose to do during my lesson, I can ensure an upbeat, positive, and informative experience.
- Q. Finally, would you like to leave a message for your current and future students?
A. I would like to tell my current and future students to keep on going! Gambatte! The more you practice, the better you will get. Don’t be hard on yourself if you have some “off” days because learning is not a linear process. When I am teaching, I can feel the student’s passion and enthusiasm to be able to speak fluent English. If you keep moving forward and trying you will reach your goal one day. Don’t worry about making mistakes or sounding funny, because I am patient, easygoing, and friendly. You are always welcome to my lessons if you want to improve your English. I will be there for you along your sometimes difficult but rewarding journey to master the English language. My sincere and heartfelt best wishes to all of you.