Living Overseas and Coming Back

Download audio file (overseas.mp3)

Mark talks to Seiko about her time in San Francisco, Beijing and Amsterdam and they wander on to the topic of languages and being bilingual or multilingual.

Mark: Seiko, you’ve just come back to Japan. When did you come back?
Seiko: Well, I came back about two years ago…uhm…you know…not really exactly yesterday but I lived overseas for half of my life…so it was a long absence from my country.
Mark: Which places did you live in?
Seiko: I lived in San Francisco the longest.
Mark: Mm-hmm. So when did you first go to San Francisco?
Seiko: I went to San Francisco in 1982.
Mark: Right. So, were you studying then?
Seiko: Yes, I was finishing up my graduate school.
Mark: And what was your impression of the city?
Seiko: It’s…you know…it’s a beautiful city and…it’s on the edge of the ocean so, it has the ocean and the hills around it…and it is a pretty nice city. As for the American cities, I think it’s one of the nicest American cities.
Mark: A lot of…these times with the war in and America being so conservative at the moment…a lot of Americans joke that San Francisco is not really a part of the United States because it is famous for being a liberal city. Did you find, when you were living there, that the people were really free-thinking and liberal?
Seiko: I did think so for the longest time…for example…you forget that…you know…you live in such a liberal city…even the rest of the Californians…not the rest of the country…are not that liberal…as we are in San Francisco…for example, San Francisco has a very big gay community and in fact if you work in some companies…fifty per cent of your male friends will be…gay…from the gay community…so it is really a natural thing for us to…have all the racial and the sexual orientations…and I really felt very comfortable…being a non-native there, but one of the reasons I came back here�…I started to feel not too comfortable after the 9/11 terrorism attack there in New York. People’s mind is changing…
Mark: Mmm
Seiko:..even in a liberal city like San Francisco…they were starting to show some of the…you know, alarming signals of…kind of the…USA first before the rest of the world kind of thing.
Mark: kind of…I guess America feels that it is under attack so everybody is a little bit paranoid.
Seiko: Mmm.
Mark: When you were in San Francisco did you have a lot of Japanese friends?
Seiko: At first I didn’t I really didn’t seek Japanese friends when I first arrived there…but then started to know more and more Japanese people who lived there. So I guess by the time I left two years ago eighty per cent of my friends were Japanese…
Mark: …other nationalities. Did you have Mexican friends?
Seiko: San Franciscos biggest population is its Asian population so I had a lot of Chinese friends and Vietnamese friends…and Thai friends not too many Mexican friends…maybe if you go a little further south in California, you may see more Mexicans.
Mark: You speak Chinese too, don’t you?
Seiko: I do speak at the conversational level. I lived in China for a while so I picked up enough to get by.
Mark: What part of China did you live in?
Seiko: I lived in Beijing but I traveled quite a lot to some places where normal tourists would not go.
Mark: Where?
Seiko: For example like Tibet and Inner Mongolia…and…
Mark: Wow!
Seiko: ..and some of the…near the Silk Road…
Mark: And…any other countries?
Seiko: I think I traveled more countries than I could really remember…
Mark: But actually living for a longer period of time. Did you live in Europe?
Seiko: Yes, I did. I lived in Amsterdam for about two years.
Mark: Wow, I love Amsterdam.
Seiko: So do I.
Mark: Two years?
Seiko: Mmm-hm.
Mark: What do you think about Amsterdam?
Seiko: I really felt at home. It’s so wonderfully liberal and also…people are conservative…at the same time they are liberal-thinking…and you know it’s…very acceptable people…I really…it is a small country…but Japan and the Netherlands have a long history of…aaam…you know…they…
Mark: …a long relationship
Seiko: I felt very very good about that.
Mark: Did you learn some Dutch when you were there?
Seiko: I tried, I asked the Dutch people to teach me and they said…they all speak English…you know…and they said…it is not a good language to learn because nobody knows it…and so I…really…I still remember a few words though.
Mark: I don’t agree with that. I think all languages are great. It is a good thing to learn a language because it is not just a system of communication. It is also another way of thinking.
Seiko: Mm-hm. I think so too, because when I am thinking…talking in Japanese…I am kind of a different personality from when I am speaking.. let’s say Chinese and what little of other languages I speak…so I wanted to learn…but Dutch pronunciation is so difficult.
Mark: It is difficult…but that is really the interesting thing…if you are bilingual or multilingual and you have another friend who is multi-lingual…so for example…you can have a conversation in English or German or Japanese or French or whatever language…as you change languages, the topic changes your character, your personality…everything changes; the way you think changes when you speak another language.
Seiko: Mmm..hmm. That’s true.


Link to a “time phrase” activity with this conversation

Link to a Verbal Phrase Activity

Links to More Lessons on More Pages

The Work Page

Routine and Habit – The Routine Page

Verbs in Context in Many Tenses with Audio

Philosophy of Grammar and the Idea of Verbs as Actions

Verbs and Tenses – The Tense Page

Present Participle or Gerund or “ing” Form

Verbal Phrases 1 (with Audio)

Verbal Phrases 2 (with Audio)

Verbal Phrases 3 (with Audio)

Verbal phrases 4 (with Audio)
Verbal Phrases 5 (with Audio)

Verbal Phrases 6 (with Audio)

14 Responses to “Living Overseas and Coming Back”

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  1. Ellen Htin Kyaw says:

    I am very thank you. I got english lesson from my mail. This is the best way the person who cannot attend the class.

  2. Ismael from guadalajara mex says:

    I`m from Guadalajara and I`m new in your web site I`ve tried to learn english for a long time without good results, but now with your web site im improving my english i can feel it, with real english conversation.
    Thank you very much! Mark
    plase show us more.

  3. Sieu nhan gao says:

    Thank you very much!

  4. Felicia says:

    I’m glad find this site in google search..It’s really help me to do my homework. Also can learn by audio not only in grammar..Thank u very much…We always need English to do assigment in college..

  5. apc33 says:

    Hey Brendon…

    Thanks so much for taking the time to give us feedback. We appreciate that.

    I see our primary purpose here as to provide language learning materials to anyone who would find them useful. We have no political purpose. One of our categories is “real conversations” which intends to present the language as it is actually spoken, rather than as it often is in recordings: contrived dialogs.

    As you know, content and meaning cannot be separated from the language, so any natural conversation is going to contain evidence of prejudices and ignorance, whether subtle or gross. We cannot totally remove those either, as some are contained within the language itself! So to “stick to the language learning” just isn’t feasible when it comes to offering “real” conversations to learners.

    I would hope, however, that as the body of conversations here grows, all different perspectives are presented, so that there is no dominance of any particular viewpoint. In this sense, your comments are helpful in reminding us of that. Perhaps the type of people that Mark has encountered recently have been of a particular “genre of folk,” for lack of a better description.

    However, I am truly confounded when you write that what is said about America (meaning the U.S.) is “presented in a way that shuns openness and invites ignorance.” I don’t see that as a major – or even minor – theme anywhere throughout the content posted in the site, so I am having difficulty understanding that particular comment. Mark and I fully support and embody openness in our work and in our lives. Through this site we are tying to bring people and ideas together by sharing voices – which contain a wealth of meaning and a treasure of culture.

    Nevertheless, I think it is dialogue like the one we are engaging in now that is a fruit of the raw, organic process: the way we speak. I think that one of the things that makes some of the conversations we post unique, is that they stimulate people to examine a particular reality in ways that they never have before. And anytime you do that, you are not inviting ignorance, but rather stimulating the growth of awareness and understanding.

    Again, thank you for your comments.


  6. Brendon Stewart says:


    I appreciate your reply. And again, I greatly appreciate English Conversations, it is an excellent resource for English language learners.

    I am an American volunteer in a country that receives all of its information and images of the outside world from the central government. I actually love to talk about religion and politics, and wish the country in which I teach felt the same.

    While I am not a fan of the current American government , I do not believe it is constructive to engage in stereotyping (negative or positive). People fortunate enough to be raised in societies with liberal education systems will immediately recognize your comments as one-sided and biased, but for those raised in societies where critical thinking is discouraged, like the one in which I live, some of your dialogues may serve to reinforce close-mindedness.

    If I were learning Russian, I would not expect every language dialogue to be contain statements about the Stalinist purges, KGB repression, or xenophobic Russian nationalism. If I were learning Japanese, I would not expect information about the Imperial Army’s massacres in China and the Japanese public’s inability to honestly confront such atrocities in their national memory. These are messages governments (including my own) spread to their people to inspire fear-based nationalism.

    As more open-minded individuals, I believe we should do a better job of promoting understanding through education. Nothing that you say about America is untrue, but it is presented in a way that does not help people objectively understand the country. Instead, it is presented in a way that shuns openess and invites ignorance.

    Just my personal thoughts. No offense taken and I will continue to use the site.


  7. Mark White says:

    Dear Brendan

    Thanks for your comment. Why can’t I take a swipe at the United States? Why can’t I criticize or praise anything according to how I honestly feel about it even when I am in the classroom?

    Who lacks access to independent media? Considering the relationship between media and big business, what is independent media?

    I personally am a big fan of American literature and the American ideals of democracy and political freedom, freedom from fear, the Bill of Rights etc etc. I have had wonderful experiences traveling in the States and would love to go back and meet more of the wonderful friendly and diverse people.

    I am however critical of the current American government and its foreign policy. That would naturally come out in a conversation if it was real, right? Won’t that improve the quality of the language learning? Maybe not for everybody?

    Maybe you and I have a really different take on teaching and education or maybe not? Do you think it is wrong to talk about politics and religion, for example? I love openness but I hate to cause pain or suffering in any way.

    No offence intended.
    Cheers Mark

    ps If you think there are one-sided comments or controversial viewpoints in the material, why not mention this to your students and see if you can turn it into a class discussion.

    pps Just as the waters of the Mississipi that flow from the border of Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico do not separate but unite and nurture the east and west coasts of the United States of America, so too may we be united and nurtured by the spirit of friendship and knowledge.

  8. Brendon Stewart says:

    this site is a great resource, it’d be even better if you did take every opportunity to take a swipe at the united states. considering that the majority of ESL speakers lack access to independent media, it doesnt help that you paint a completey one sided picture of the united states. stick to the langauge learning.

  9. Uncle Irv says:

    Hey Mauricio,
    I am glad we could help you.
    Are you in Spain?
    cheers Mark

  10. mauricio says:

    Thanks for this site, my mother language is Spanish and as you know, English is very important for us.

  11. apc33 says:

    You’re welcome!

  12. smooth says:

    Thank U very, very much.

    U have helped me with my homework =D