小学生に初級英語を教えていると、避けて通れないのが、How old are you?(あなた何歳?)の決まり文句。さあこのフレーズを使ってみよう!というレッスンの流れになったとき、子どもたちは大人の私たちにこの質問をするが大好きです。それに対して、私たちはI’m (数字)と答えます。










I’m probably not the only one who finds it difficult to get used to the Japanese year numbering system (Showa, Heisei, etc.) after being gone from Japan for almost a decade. I’m not really complaining, but it’s just not easy to remember both Western and Japanese years.

It’s been a pain to have to convert years sometimes, but regardless, it makes me a bit sentimental to think that an era (or a period) is coming to an end. It’s been a little too short, I think.

We teach young children English, and one of the set phrases we cannot not teach them is “how old are you?” Our kids love to ask us, adults, this question. We answer by saying “I’m (such-and-such age).”

There is a problem with that, however.

The numbers in our ages apparently are astronomical (too big) to these children.

So, they usually want to ask follow-up questions such as “what year were you born in?”

This question is harder to answer than it might appear at first; they are wanting to know what Heisei year we were born in. (That’s very cute, kids.)

To that, I take a seemingly sensible route and answer by putting the year in the Western year format.

“Well, I was born in 19XX.”

Their heads turn. This makes sense to most adults, but to children, it just flies right above their heads.

So then they ask: “but what is that in Heisei year?”

At this point, I know that there is no peg to put in the hole they’ve just made, but I continue:

“So, long long ago, before Heisei started, there was Showa…”

Their heads turn even more.

In case you haven’t thought of this… news flash, everyone: Showa is so ancient that kids these days cannot even begin to fathom what that is!

So, I have a homework for myself that I need to get done before Heisei ends: find the best way to explain what Showa is to the post-Heisei kids.

Wish me luck.