Seedtime Multilingual®


Culture in Cinema Center Stage – Netflix hits the top of the list for scores of great black comedies and dramas. My husband, white male baby boomer, and I joke about the number of times we watched Coachella-#Beyonce #HBCU, all the way through.  Together, we enjoyed other movies: The Book of Eli, Denzel Washington, I Called Him Morgan-Lee Morgan, Chasing Trane-John Coltrane, The Black Godfather-Clarence Avant, Soundtrack of our Lives-Clive Davis, Quincy- Quincy Jones, and What Happened, Miss Simone?  Ok, I will confess, I’ve loved Nina Simone’s music since childhood and wore out the threads on her solo, “To Be Young Gifted and Black.” Even through the sadness of many of these documentaries, we both enjoyed listening to the music and learning the history and culture behind the stories.

Culture on the Surface. What prevents my husband from watching the Netflix movie, Becoming?  You know why it seems to be a struggle for him, and perhaps other white Republicans, to watch a documentary about the first African American / negro / beautiful black, Democratic First Lady?  It suggests the same logic that blacks and whites can pack out sports stadiums (pre-Covid19), share pop culture-related venues, worship together in Christian churches and other religious and civic gatherings; talk sports, chit-chat about family matters and exchange colloquialism in black vernacular (like “what she said,” “what up dawg,” “you straight?” and many more “in da hood” terminology. Even some black people believe Ebonics to be shameful, something to laugh at, secretly snicker about, as though the linguistic form is indicative of ignorance, rather than an actual contribution to black language.  It is more comfortable sharing black culture on the surface level.  America has never invested in educating the masses in black culture.  It is the X factor of our history.  Such that, many black people, generally, sense the void in their own lack of knowledge. Even so, there does exist an American zeal for black culture; but it is not grounded in knowledge. Sometimes this zeal produces a kind of “want- to-be-black” adaptation.  In some countries, there is adoration (as seen inb-girl and b-boy), possibly a result of Hip-Hop and Urban Culture.

It’s been years since the enactment of landmark civil rights and labor laws, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, sexual orientation, national origin; and yet, most Americans (black and white) have less than 普通な教育水準a basic education about black culture.  Many whites define black culture through their experience of action movies, sit-coms, comedy, and sports.  For some, music and entertainment prove to be their most educational resource for “relating to black people.”  Thankfully, there are white friends and family members (some bi-racial or married into white families) that know there are layers of complexity in black culture. Watching youth of all cultures, leading and participating in peaceful protests should give us all hope!  There are others who may have less cultural knowledge but respectful and conciliatory toward African American people.

So, I am curious to know how America intends to mend cultural inequities in police and policing policies, without demanding cultural knowledge and understanding about its most policed people? American Society, in general, reflects a repetitive history of efforts to fix broken race relations with little cultural knowledge about  the “race”.  My husband and I  have “race” discussions where we don’t always agree; but we always learn from each other.  It is important that we all learn from each other.  How else can we understand or share the perspectives of others? I suggest, we can understand people through learning about their culture: i.e., history, customs, language, art, poetry, prose, politics and economics, religion, family structure 家族構成 struggles in daily living, gender roles, foods, artifacts, and relics. Understanding that pierces the veil ignorance will affect changes below the cultural surface. Only change will bring shared perspective and create harmonious communication.

The Culture Decree

Amid the historic protests for civil rights, against racial oppression (joined by other countries all over the world), we should individually pray for our nation, praise for leaders who support positive change.  We must think of actions that we can take that lead to solutions. One solution would be to mandate African American history in Secondary and Post-secondary education. Black history is deeply rooted in American history and should be made a mandatory component of compulsory education.  As a reminder, Black history does not begin with “slavery” nor end with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as this is the extent to limitations of many programs and courses.

Corporate Diversity Programs, Police and Firefighter academy training, and above all America’s religious institutions should include annual culture courses for African American, Hispanic & Latino, Native American, Asian, and Arab cultures. Collective efforts for cultural education would prove the importance of diversity and give America a multiethnic, multicultural competitive advantage. #Ican’tbreathe, #blacklivesmatter, #sweden, #Japan, #Zimbabwe, #London

Love the Language You’re In – China Tour

Have You Ever Wanted to Learn a Foreign Language ?

Not sure where to begin? With a sea of web-based resources, who knows their beginning from their end? My journey to learn Japanese language started many years ago.  Unable to physically immerse in language study for a lengthy period of time after studying at a Japanese University (Kansai Gaidai, Osaka), my return home meant returning to a job and managing family matters. Improving my language skills required taking every opportunity available,  and some twists and turns in seeking resources (on-line courses, books, and study partners).  I always seek to communicate and learn from native and non-native speakers. Although rewarding and a lot of fun, acquiring a foreign language can also be a slow and sometimes tedious journey and well worth the effort!

It occurs to me that one of the most effective ways to learn a language is to learn the people who speak the target language. Mandarin Chinese is difficult to learn, I have managed to improve with time, and having knowledge of Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing) has helped a lot with reading.  My Chinese friends and associates have been a the best source of encouragement, correction, and even challenge. 

Zhou Period Exhibits_2019-10-16 09.16.49

The most inspirational and reassuring experience as a language learner, teacher, or enthusiast is to “get up, get out, get moving” to discover the country and its peopleTravel to the target country may not be an available option, but there are scores of books, electronic media, and resources, as close as your local library, internet websites, chambers of commerce, and even television (for example, National Geographic and Create T.V. travel shows)

As a student and teacher of language, who majored in Interanational Studies in college, I can recall the excitement of learning about Chinese Politics (and history), studying under the guide of Dr. John Copper, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN.

But until the Odyssey Unlimited China, Tibet, and Yangtze River Tour (a wedding anniversary trip with my husband), my book knowledge had not been challenged, nor did I have the full understanding and appreciation for the country and people until I experienced this small group tour (over a 17-day period of flights) taking us to Beijing, Chonqing, Lhasa Tibet, Three Gorges Dam, and a Yangtze River Boat Tour.  Our jouney ended with a final flight to Shanghai for an extended four days. The tour was an opportunity to participate in the history, politics, and culture of China.

As difficult a time as I had breathing in Lhasa, it seemed all worth it when I was welcomed (as a mere bystander and tourist), invited to join the Tibetans in their morning dance in the mountains!  We shared a rare moment where we spoke same language in dance. Somehow, I forgot about the the difficulty in breathing the Himalayan atmosphere. Tibetans are genetically adapted to the high altitude, I am not.  Yet, like magic, as I danced, breathing was not problem at all.


Most importantly, the experience was a chance to speak, read, and write Chinese language and take advantage of every effort to communicate and be understood. Like me, there were a few Chinese, who desired to excercise their knowledge of English, which made for a dual-language exchange and harmonius communication.


Here, I share a few photos (and videos) from our China tour.  However, photos nor video can express the experience of being immersed in the language and culture. My advice to the langauge learner and culture ethusiast, “love the langauge you’re in,” but if you are really into learning a new language; start by getting to know, try to learn, more about the people and their culture.


Tiannamen Square_near Great Hall.jpg


Your Language Curiosity

What is your language curiosity?  In other words, what interests, baffles, or gets under your skin about language learning?  Of course, if you are a heritage speaker, you already have a (non-English) first language (L1) .  I know of parent complaints about their children of Hispanic or Asian heritage, who lacks skill in their heritage language; instead, showing preference toward English, with little or no interest in their ” mother tongue.”  Or, maybe you are struggling with a second language (L2), perhaps struggling with English. In some countries where several languages are spoken, English is used as the primary language of communication, a kind of lingua franca,“a language of commerce and widely used as such.  As our program receives funding support through donations and grants, in addition to Japanese Language, our site will offer a menu of other languages, including English langauge tutoring, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. This site is also translation capable, scroll down to bottom of ‘Home Page’ and choose your language to join us in making language and culture great again!

As a healthy reminder and a means of rejuvenation, think about when you first met (began to listen, learn, speak) “the language you’re in.” Revive that feeling of never wanting to stop practicing, peeling away pages of a language dictionary, and piecing together words, stumbling over grammar, straining through audio and (and most recently, video). Did you make a complete fool of yourself, trying?  Good!  This is how language is learned, with great effort and lots of self-motivation.

My interest in Japanese language began with a chance meeting while working at a multinational chemical company in Memphis, TN.  Prior to meeting Kaoru Matsuyama and Takeshi Suzuki, I had no interest in the language nor Japanese culture.  My curious view of the world was crowded from the perspective of single-parenting, work-a-lifestyle-work-a-holic, with the usual trials and error of the day-to-day. Read More

Except for the foresight and forward-looking culture of Buckman Laboratories International, Inc., created by the company’s President at that time, I would not have had the opportunity to complete my education at Rhodes College and further develop my interest in Japanese language.  To the Buckman corporate family, my Rhodes College professors and conselors, and all of those whose help I relied upon at a very difficult period in my journey, I will forever remain grateful, mindful, and always thankful.  The attached article proclaims details of my journey. 

As I moved on to other employment experiences, however, I recall the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment while working at another company.  I was elected co-chair of a company employee resource group, The Asian Resource Group. Our team was set to task to produce a Prospectus of potential business in ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations) countries. Our team’s focus was the country of Indonesia. Whether due to gender or ethnicity, or some other reason/non-reason, many of my employers perceived no value in my language ability and cultural interests, and there were no work-related opportunities to integrate these competencies into my career path. I decided by faith that my future and dreams do not require the validation of an employer, but the confirmation of the creator. (Proverbs 3:6 KJV)

Making a decision to leave corporate work and focus on my passion for foreign language learning and teaching did not appear from an otherwise clear blue sky. I worked in the corporate sector for many years, never giving up on the desire to improve fluency and understanding of the Japanese language. For years, I searched out and found opportunities to tutor, teacher, speak, and encourage learners and language enthusiasts to love the language they learn and no longer defer their dream of understanding other cultures and acquiring a new language.

My dream of language acquisition and sharing my love of language and culture is no longer a dream deferred.  *Love the Language You’re In*

Read More

Toni's Visit to China - PHOTO of Temple Roof

Toni wants you to notice the Chicken designs atop the roof in her photo. Is this significant in China architectural designs?




The top five apps that you should download before coming to China. You will need to either open your current phone plan to allow for international use or purchase a sim card when you arrive so that you can have internet access outside of Starbucks and the airport. You can usually get a sim card at the airport when you arrive or you can go to any phone store and get one. For someone coming for their first time with no use of the language and no one to help translate for you, I would suggest just getting it at the airport when you arrive.


Our teaching method here at Japanasu is a little different from other Japanese learning websites. We teach Japanese grammar from the very start. We have found that teaching students grammar first gives them a solid foundation from which they can then build upon. It also means that students can confidently string together sentences from day one. As they absorb more vocabulary, they are then able to creatively apply the rules in order to construct a wide variety of new sentences.


Original Art from Moritani-sensei

Our partnership with Seedtime Multilingual started in the fall of 2019. In fact, Toni Stillman, the founder and president of Seedtime Multilingual, Inc., used to be a private student of Aki Moritani, who is the head teacher at Japanasu. Toni approached us in 2019 about the possibility of partnering up and the rest is history! We are very excited about the prospect of teaching Japanese to under-privelidged students and to make a difference to their lives.  Seedtime Multilingual students not only get free courses, but they also are provided with one-to-one skype lessons to ensure they are progressing well. Who knows what opportunities will lie ahead for them in the future! Let’s plant seeds together for a better future!

At Japanasu we are always looking for enthusiastic article writers! Topics can be anything to do with Japanese language or culture. Contributors are rewarded with free access to all our courses and premium content! Check out our articles page here to see some examples, some of which are written by us and some by our contributors. Email if you are interested in becoming a contributor.


Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.


WAIT!!! Before you sign that contract, check out these tips for what to look for in an English Teaching contract in China!!

In this changing world, ESL teaching is not the way it was before, in the past. Schools, especially in bigger cities, are treating education like an industry, a form of business and foreign teachers are what some schools use to keep their mills running. So, in the “education industry” many new teachers, and even seasoned teachers, are uneducated on the legalities of the contracts that they are presented with. It is important to know what to look for, what to ask for, and when to walk away from a trap. Some schools only care about making money and good teachers loose their passion for teaching because they sign up with schools who only want to abuse them and can legally screw them over once those teachers get enough sense to stand up for themselves. Chinese parents will pay a lot of money for education in China and foreign language is one of the bigger selling points for a school because of its popularity.

So, if you find yourself in the position of looking for a job and you find a school that you that gets your interest,  just take a little extra time to look over the contract. Think in detail about what you need to haggle for and what you REALLY need that you may not even realize. Finally, don’t be afraid to walk away! If a school is not wanting to be fair with you in the beginning while negotiating a contract, you probably will dodge a bullet by not signing up with them anyway. The last thing you want to do with your time abroad is to end up in a legal battle with a school that is deceitful and vindictive.

1. End of contract bonus. Make sure your contract has some form of end of contract bonus and it should state how much it is. If the bonus is performance based, have them state some criteria how they will determine grade your performance. The more details the better. Parent satisfaction, class quality, preparation, attendance, professionalism in dress code etc. They should list what they will be looking for to judge your performance, not just vaguely say it is performance based or you could end up in a situation where they don’t want to pay you and make up fake reasons for why you should not receive it, when all is said and done.  I would say that this is standard and most schools offer this. If your school does not offer this, it is a red flag that they are cheap, cutting corners, and trying to skim off the top and get the most out of you that they can.

2. Actual work times. To get your normal hourly wage, divide your monthly salaryafter tax) by the hours you work in a month.) You need to get a clear defined work time spelled out in your contract, otherwise the school can call you in at any time for any reason and call it work related just to use you 24/7 as their work dog. I have worked with schools who would call me and send messages at all times of the day, on the weekends, over the holidays. One of my previous school owners even messaged me at 9:45 on a Saturday night to ask me about one of the weekly reports I had written about my students. When I told him that I need to defend my personal time, he insisted that it was an emergency that I should respond to the parents concern immediately and that this was Chinese culture and that I need to be able to respond whenever the parents wanted. (I have lived in China as a teacher for over 6 years. This is not Chinese culture) I told him that my contract hours were from 8-4:45 M-F and in the contract it says in two places that work should be done during work hours. He could not accept this and terminated my contract for “not having good teamwork”. This is real. This happens. If you see red flags for a school, honestly it is in your best interest to avoid it. Leave, find another one.

a. Overtime compensation. Is overtime mandatory or optional. Is overtime paid at the normal hourly rate or is it paid as time and a half?

b. School events? Halloween parties, holiday events, CHinese New Year? October Holiday? Graduation ceremonies? Are these mandatory? Are these paid? At what rate? Overtime or normal hourly pay? Will travel time to these events be compensated and will traveling expenses be paid or will transportation be provided? After the event is over, will transportation home be provided or compensated for?

3. What are your actual duties? Will you need to create the curriculum from scratch or do they have lesson plans already. If they say they have lesson plans already, ask to see them. See for yourself what they have prepared. The school I was with told me up and down that they had a curriculum. Did they? No. I ended up making all of the lessons myself from scratch. No training or guidance were given.

4. Support From the School. Will you be required to communicate with parents? Will you be required to write progress reports on the students? How often? How will the school handle communication between you and the parents? How will they manage the parents if there are any disagreements? Will they threaten to fire you every time one of the parents has any minor complaint?

5. Contract Termination

A. What are the consequences if the school decides to terminate the contract early? Will they compensate you for the time you worked? Will they give you a package for terminating the contract? Under what circumstances could they terminate your contract? Can they terminate at will? or do they need to provide a clear reason? What reason qualifies as justified? Is there a protocol that they follow before they terminate if they are unsatisfied? Will they have a meeting? Will they give a warning? Or will they just fire you? Is there a handbook that explicitly states what kinds of behaviors and reasons would be cause for a termination? Can they make changes to that handbook whenever they want over the course of the year? Can they terminate you for vague reasons such as “parent dissatisfaction”, “student dissatisfaction” or “lack of teamwork”.(These are real reasons that schools have submitted before as reasons for terminating a contract.)

6. This may be the simplest and most useful advice. Talk to current teachers at the school about their experience.

A. If there are other teachers at the school, talk to them about their experiences. Read blogs that other teachers have written about the school. It is the best way to get an accurate reflection of the school culture, and teacher satisfaction in their roles. Ask them how long they have been working there. Ask how the turnover rate for teachers is at the school. Ask them how happy they are with their work load and how they feel about job security? How they treat their current teachers is exactly how they will treat you.

7. Don’t forget. Ask for the handbook.

Many times there is a clause in the contract stating that the handbook is an inseparable part of the contract but schools don’t usually give it to you unless you ask for it. I have heard teachers say, “If I knew about these rules in the handbook, I would not have signed the contract.”

8. Know the Labor laws!!

Check out Chinese law on Labor contracts or contact a professional if you can. Here is a snippet about probation period time limitations from theLAW OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA ON EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS”

“Article 19

If an employment contract has a term of not less than three months but less than one year, the probation period may not exceed one month; if an employment contract has a term of more than one year and less than three years, the probation period may not exceed two months; and if an employment contract has a term of not less than three years or is open-ended, the probation period may not exceed six months.

An Employer may stipulate only one probation period with any given Employee.

No probation period may be specified in an employment contract with a term to expire upon completion of a certain job or an employment contract with a term of less than three months.

The probation period shall be included in the term of the employment contract. If an employment contract provides for a probation period only, then there is no probation period and the term concerned shall be the term of the employment contract.”

Be sure to negotiate the length of that probation period, Most times the monthly salary is paid at a lower rate during the probation period so the longer the probation, the more money you are losing.


Take your time to think deeply about the terms and conditions in your contract. Think seriously about what you want from the school. It does not matter how nice they may seem in the beginning or how many things your agent or HR may promise you. If there is a dispute, the only thing you have is your contract to fall back onto, and some schools may even try to go against that. No promise or agreement or wechat messages will help you. It costs money to take a school to court, so its not as easy as just saying, “I’ll just sue them if they break the contract.” Often times it costs thousands of RMB to move forward with legal proceedings so if they break the contract, most times you can only walk away and hope to find a better contract. Understand this BEFORE you sign a contract. Are there any conditions that state what the consequences are for the school if they break the contract? Are you comfortable taking the risk of being at the mercy of a power hungry principle who has no consequences for kicking you out on your bum? The only thing that you can do to protect yourself is to make sure the contract is going to cover you in case of any future disputes BEFORE you sign it. Be safe, give yourself time, save yourself future grief. Don’t become another sob story.


Language Partners Wanted

Learning Chinese language as a hobby started a few years ago (much the same with learning Japanese, most recently Vietnamese and Spanish). In the beginning, the only words I could utter correctly were “Ni hao,” 你好.  The reading and writing and understanding the Hanyu 汉语were good due to my background in Japanese. But I continued to struggle with the Chinese tones. Thankfully, a few associates encouraged and inspired me to learn Mandarin Chinese. I was invited to join their lunch table during our workday lunch hour.  Lunch and conversation (they talked, I listened) was often followed by a stroll near our office building.  For this, I am truly grateful.  Special thanks to Lin Wu, Julia Zhu, Zhimin Liu, Ping Li, and Dr. Jeffrey Zhang. I also offer thanks for my dear friends, Fei Li, and San Wu, owners of the premier and authentic Chinese cuisine near Memphis, The Royal Panda Restaurant in Germantown, Tennessee. I further praise the on-line tutelage and instruction that I continue to receive from Liu Lihong. The success was revealed in my ability to communicate accurately (able to use both spoken and written Chinese) during my recent tours in China (Beijing, Xi’an, Lhasa Tibet, Chongqing, Dazu, and Shanghai).

To learn a foreign language, we must be willing to build relationships.  Maybe it is similar to developing a business partner. In other words, there should be a mutual exchange; therefore, partners. It is difficult sometimes working with people, yes?  Forming this partnership can compare to the business theory of Tuckman’s stages of group development “storming, norming, forming” (see Wikipedia). I believe that the very act of building a relationship (an honest one) involves ebb and flow, pull-and-tug, a struggle.  It eventually requires a commitment but also a kind of submission between participants. This dualism leaves me in a vulnerable state.  When I know vocabulary, can read and write, but unable to form an accurate sentence in the target language, without someone else’s help, this is an uncomfortable feeling. I have resolved that it is OKAY! This is the standard stuff of learning a foreign or second language.

I think this discomfort is one reason learners (especially older students) struggle with acquiring a foreign language. But having a friend, not just any friend, someone to partner with in your language journey will motivate you in your learning efforts. This kind of language partner is a helper. The person could be a native or nonnative teacher or simply someone that you meet by incident.  A language partner can improve the learner’s standing. Explain? Think of it this way, like a business partner, language partners must observe and listen. They are learning, too. Eventually, they will find a comfortable place (within themselves) for not only understanding words; but also, becoming more knowledgeable about the learner and more sociable.  In turn, I seek to do the same, finding comfort zones in learning the language and culture I seek to know. Language partner relationships build foundations to harmonious communications.

You are welcome to subscribe, Visit the Language Learners Page and share your work-or-school-related language and culture stories on the Student Blogging Page at:


How we define community is important to our survival. The perspectives that we take on the community of others work for us or against us, against our own community.  One point of foreign language acquisition is to broaden one’s view of community by extending interaction with others.

Checking the definition from, we could subscribe to what is generally agreed upon as a community or at least by definition.  I submit that this is a limited view, but a good place to start. What is your idea of community? Why does community matter? I propose that we agree to start here, with at least a general description:

community[ kuh-myoo-ni-tee ]

noun, plural com·mu·ni·ties.
  1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
  2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
  3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the): the business community; the community of scholars.
  4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
  5. Ecclesiastical. a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
  6. Ecology. an assemblage of interacting populations occupying a given area

Whoa!  It’s way too deep!  How about this: community, commune, commute, come, comic, communist, commutate… I’m not looking these words up in the dictionary, do we see any pattern though, relationship to an exchange or transfer, crossing over and over crossing, maybe?  Ok, so I couldn’t resist going out to do a “cheap” search on Google for the “commutative property of addition”… my husband is a mathematician so he speaks the language of numbers, it’s really the language of everything just about, at least in principle, the principle thought explained is best communicated Read More

What makes the characters so difficult to remember? Why do Japanese have two readings for Kanji? What are keys to memorization? This blog does not attempt to teach linguistics nor the elements for learning the Kanji (this can be done in your own self-study) , but in my experience (with learning Mandarin Chinese and Japanese), I have tracked a few tips: spending time looking at the characters is the first step to becoming comfortable with what we see!  That feeling of discomfort with foreign writings and sounds, letters, script is no doubt the same feelings that we get in the presence of those (characters or persons) most unlike ourselves, linguistically and culturally.

Learning Kanji or any other non-alphabetic, non-Western writing system is like making  new friends.. from a different culture.  We size them up first, their appearance, hair, features phenotypes/genotypes, speech, sound or what they portray in character.  Is this right?  I think that the more we look, listen, and pay attention, the more familiar we become with the unfamiliar.  Thus, the less uncomfortable we feel learning Kanji…. and characters!

Dare to look, breathe, read.

Kanji are Japanese characters (adopted from the Chinese writing, called Hanyu (in the early 7th century,) literally meaning Han Characters Laying to rest formal linguistic words, like orthography, logographic, let’s simply agree that as English-speakers, non-alphabetic characters seem very scary! 

Remembering The Kanji 1 Flash Cards 2 offers Kanji Cards for free download.  These are suitable for Beginners, great review for more advanced learners.  Kanji is the subject here, but also the underlying human feeling of discomfort with the unfamiliar.

Clifford Black,, a former mentor, and I refer to as,  a Super Educator par excellence, introduced me to the concept of “taking a picture” with my eyes at a time when I was struggling with Kanji. This is among the many tips and tricks for learning how to learn that he proposes to learners of various subjects.  It’s been helpful in remembering the Kanji.