"I treasure this pen case"

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“I treasure this mechanical pencil.”


One of the interesting things about working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan is that you get to see the kind of English taught in Japanese state schools.

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad; but in my opinion it’s always interesting, and you’re always learning something.

I worked as an ALT for a year in Nagoya, before I started teaching and translating Japanese.

On this particular day I was scheduled to be in class with 13 and 14-year-olds who were giving speeches about a special personal item. The Japanese teacher of English wanted the native English speaker (that’s me!) to assess the kids’ speaking.

I quite liked helping out with speaking assessments - most students enjoy it, and their talks were often funny and creative.

This day was a bit different, though. As the students started to give their talks, I realised all the speeches ended in the same, slightly odd, distinctive phrase:

“I treasure this mechanical pencil.”

“I treasure this eraser.”

“I treasure this pen case.”

(ペンケース (pen keesu), incidentally, is a perfectly good Japanese loanword, but it’s not the English word for “pencil case”, or not where I’m from anyway).

I looked at the textbook. The example from their textbooks was a boy talking about an ice hockey jersey his father had given him, and ended with “I treasure this jersey.”


A large number of the students had either:

1) not understood that they were supposed to choose a special and important possession


2) forgotten to do the assignment altogether, and hastily cobbled together a speech based on an stationery item they had nearby.

Incidentally, the Japanese translation in their textbook for “I treasure this jersey” (a fairly uncommon English phrase, I’d say) is このジャージを大切にしています (kono jaaji wo taisetsu ni shite imasu).

〜を大切にします (_____wo taisetsu ni shimasu) is a nice, natural sounding way to say you care about or value something in Japanese:

持ち物を大切にする mochimono o taisetsu ni suru - to look after your belongings

体を大切にして下さい karada o taisetsu ni shite kudasai - please take care of yourself

So, at least I learned some Japanese that day, even if I had to sit through thirty speeches about treasured erasers.

What’s your treasure? I’ll tell you about mine next week!