376 Life History

Miki talks a little about her background.

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Todd: Miki, where did you go to university?

Miki: I went to university in California, at a school called the University of California at Berkeley.

Todd: And where is that in California?

Miki: It's in the Bay Area, which is in the northern half of California, right across the bay from San Francisco.

Todd: OK, and what did you study?

Miki: I studied many things, but I majored in Japanese

Todd: Oh, really!

Miki: I did.

Todd: Oh, wow. Now you are of Japanese ancestry.

Miki: My mother is. My father is from Kansas.

Todd: Oh, really.

Miki: His family is from the South, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas. My mother is from Japan. She grew up in Nagasaki and moved to Yokohama when she was young so most of my family is there, Yokohama and the South.

Todd: Oh, wow! What a combo.

Miki: Yeah, I guess so.

Todd: Now were you already fluent in Japanese before you started university?

Miki: I was but it wasn't a standard Japanese. It was very familial. It was Japanese that was spoken within the family, between parent and child, and so it was very casual, and conversational.

Todd: OK. Is it difficult for you to comprehend people sometimes in Japan or is it just like home?

Miki: Oh, it's absolutely difficult because there, well first of all, they're dialects and then of course there are different levels of politeness and conversationalist, I guess, and especially once I get into a classroom with other professors, and other students, colleagues my age, it's quite difficult to follow the language, but if it's street talk it's much easier.

Todd: Oh, really! OK, so at university, did you study just to learn Japanese as a language or did you study literature?

Miki: I'll be honest. I studied to get an easy degree, and frankly it was quite easy, but then I had a very good professor in classical Japanese and that's when my interest in literature and history actually was born and I ended up becoming a researcher in medieval history, medieval literature.

Todd: Wow, that must be really difficult though cause that's old, old style of language, it's an
old text. (Yes) Like Shakespeare is difficult for me.

Miki: That's actual, well, that's actually an interesting comparison cause Shakespeare is actually just a little bit easier for us modern Americans to comprehend than classical Japanese is for a modern Japanese person to comprehend because the language, actually, Shakespearean English is actually much closer to modern English than classical Japanese is to modern Japanese, but
it's not spoken, so if one has a dictionary, then one can do research.

Todd: Alright! Well, thanks a lot Miki.

Miki: You're welcome.

Learn Vocabulary from the lesson


I studied many things, but I majored in Japanese.

When you 'major' in a particular subject it means that you focus most of your studies on that subject and the degree that you receive shows that you are qualified in that area.

Notice the following:

  1. He is an English major at college.
  2. When I go to university I want to major in linguistics.


You are of Japanese ancestry.

An 'ancestor' is a distant relative who lived generations ago.

Notice the following:

  1. I would like to trace my family tree and look up my ancestors.
  2. I have always wanted to know if I had any famous ancestors.


Oh, wow! What a combo.

'Combo' is word that is short for combination, which means two or more things are put together.

Notice the following:

  1. I am going to go for the combo of chicken and vegetables tonight for my dinner.
  2. They make a great combo don't they?


I was but it wasn't a standard Japanese. It was very familial.

'Familial' means when it relates to the family. In this case, she is saying that the Japanese that was spoken was very informal, like what you would speak with your family.

Notice the following:

  1. The whole day was very familial.
  2. All of your ancestors will share familial connections.


There are different levels of politeness.

When you are 'polite' it means that you behave in a cordial or respectful way towards other people.

Notice the following:

  1. Your children are very well behaved and polite.
  2. Please remember for be polite when you go to your aunt's house.


Answer the following questions about the interview.

Keep Listening

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Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
major • ancestors • combo
familial • polite
  1. His music is kind of a of jazz and reggae.
  2. Her parents taught her to be very to adults.
  3. Our come from Western Europe.
  4. My was really interesting, but it didn't help me that much in getting a job.
  5. It is a very atmosphere in our office.