[A quick coffee and chat with Mayumi Yamase about her experience at the British Council and life as an artist and freelancer.]
Why did you want to study English at the British Council?
I needed to pass the IELTS test in order to apply to universities in the UK and my friend recommended the British Council which offered an IELTS course and focused on British English too.
Which areas of English did you find most challenging?
Definitely speaking and writing. English education in Japan mainly focuses on reading and writing so there are pretty much no opportunities to use or speak English while living there. We get really shy about speaking English badly in front of people so it's quite hard in the beginning to break the ice, even if you are in London or wherever. As for the writing, I found that spelling was quite hard and got confused between the differences of the actual sounds and how they are spelt.
How did the course help you improve these areas?
IELTS wasn't popular at the time, only with people who were interested in moving to the UK, like me. The course helped me to get to know the test and how to approach it so my confidence grew. Connecting with other like-minded students with similar goals was also good.
What was the best thing about studying at the British Council?
The building and classrooms had a nice vibe. It was calm so I was able to concentrate and talk freely. Also, knowing that the British Council was located in lots of other places, like London, reassured me that I had made the right decision.
How was it living in the UK? Would you recommend it?
It was definitely the greatest experience of my life. It changed my perspective completely by experiencing new things and cultures and meeting some amazing people. I still consider myself super lucky to have studied art there and got to know my friends from all over Europe. Other things like museums, galleries, weekend markets and night life also added to the experience. Yes, I highly recommend it.
How often do you use English for your job now?
Pretty much everyday. Emailing, conference calls, meetings...
I really liked the paintings you exhibited in Tokyo last year. Some of them reminded me of cell organisms. Was that an inspiration or have I got the wrong end of the stick?!
Thank you! Yes, cells are one of my inspirations for sure. I am interested in things that are complete opposites such as physical and emotional, figurative and abstract, outside and inside so I try to show things that are somewhere in-between I guess..the things you don't really see in your everyday life but are still familiar somehow..
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I am working on a book cover for a pasta book for the owner of 'Life' and 'Life Son' which are in my neighbourhood. It will be published around the middle of October 2018 when I will also have an exhibition at 'Life Son' featuring some of my paintings..so working on those too. Also, I will do the visual images for this fashion trade show called MAN/WOMAN in Europe and New York around September and October... so excited!
Sounds great! Finally, do you have any advice for people who are studying English?
Don't be shy or afraid to speak English. Everyone struggles a bit at the beginning anyway and making mistakes will help you to improve quicker than not saying anything at all!