Interview: From bouncer to simultaneous interpreter Part 1

Category : Human Interest

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. self-taught / ˈsɛlfˈtɔt / (adj.) – educated by studying by oneself instead of being taught by a teacher or someone else

    Ian is a self-taught cook. He’s never taken a cooking class, but his dishes are amazing.

  2. intimidating / ɪnˈtɪm ɪˌdeɪ tɪŋ / (adj.) – causing others to feel frightened, nervous, or less confident

    My dad’s almost two meters tall, so a lot of people find his height intimidating.

  3. epiphany / ɪˈpɪf ə ni / (n.) – a moment of sudden understanding or realization about something important

    I had an epiphany while I was on the way home last night, and now, I finally know what I want to do with my life.

  4. pivotal / ˈpɪv ə tl / (adj.) – very important

    Parents have a pivotal role in their children’s development.

  5. bouncer / ˈbaʊn sər / (n.) – someone whose job is to stand at the door of a bar, club, party, etc., stop unwanted people from coming in, and ask people who are behaving badly to leave

    The bouncers refused to let Frank enter the club because they said he was too drunk.


Read the text below.

Kaz Yokoyama is one of the shining lights of Japan’s English education world — a self-taught simultaneous interpreter, author and English teacher who has never studied abroad. As if that wasn’t intimidating enough, Yokoyama is also a martial arts expert.

“I started Shorinji kempo when I was 6, judo in my early teens, and began teaching myself to speak English in my early 20s,” explains Yokoyama, who turns 44 this year. “These have always been my twin interests. I always had a burning desire to become fluent in English.”

Yokoyama says the passion has been with him since childhood.

“When I was 5 or 6 years old, I was watching TV, and saw this small, demure Japanese woman translating for an American guy. I was amazed. It was clearly an epiphany, though it took me until my 20s to act on it. I knew if I didn’t do something about English, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

Another pivotal experience for Yokoyama was working as a bouncer for an Osaka nightclub.

“I was surrounded by people of different nationalities. There was usually some trouble and it was up to me to persuade the customers to keep the peace. It was a wonderful learning experience. The nightclub was the place where English and martial arts came together.” (Kaori Shoji)

To be continued…

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Yokoyama has never studied abroad. In your opinion, how important is it to study abroad when trying to learn a foreign language? Why? Discuss.
  • Yokoyama is a self-taught simultaneous interpreter, author, and English teacher. Do you think it’s possible to teach yourself everything, or are there just some things that you need a teacher to properly learn? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Yokoyama said that watching a Japanese woman translate on TV was an epiphany for him, and he knew that if he didn’t do something about English, he would regret it for the rest of his life. What made you decide to study English? Why? Discuss.
  • Yokoyama said that working as a bouncer was a wonderful learning experience for him because the nightclub was the place where English and martial arts came together. Have you ever had the chance to combine your English ability with another passion of yours? If not, would you like to? Discuss.
Category : Human Interest