The First English Teacher in Japan

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One World English Course 3 (Heisei 17) pg. 98-102

The First American Teacher
Word count493
BookOne World

What do you think of when you hear the name MacDonald? Many of you probably think of hamburgers. Did you know that was the name of the first English teacher in Japan?

Ranald MacDonald was born in Oregon in 1824. His father was from Scotland and his mother was a Native American. He got a good education and worked for a bank, but that was not his kind of job. He was full of spirit, and he wanted to see the world. He quit his job and became a sailor.
He believed that Native Americans came from Asia long ago. Then, when he heard a story about three Japanese who were saved by Native Americans, he wanted to see Japan. At that time foreigners couldn't get into Japan. For MacDonald Japan was a mysterious country.

He saw two small islands. He landed on one of them, and spent three days there. He carefully planned how he could get into Japan.
On July 1st, MacDonald went off to the bigger island, Rishiri. Before arriving, he turned his boat over, climbed on top and waited. The next morning, a small boat came. Four people on the boat welcomed MacDonald very politely. They were Ainu. They were not afraid of MacDonald, but tried to find out his needs and help him as much as they could. They finally pulled his boat to the land. MacDonald was welcomed by a hundred men, women, and children.

Later MacDonald was moved to Nagasaki. He was lonely there at first. He was alone in a room like a cage. Officers questioned him. They wanted to know how he came to Japan and what was happening outside, and MacDonald did his best to answer their questions.
Interpreters came to see MacDonald almost every day. They became much friendlier and learned English from MacDonald. He had fourteen students all together. They read English, and MacDonald corrected their pronunciation.
Among them was Moriyama Einosuke. He was special. His Dutch was excellent and he learned English very quickly. Moriyama later worked as an interpreter during Commodore Perry's visit to Japan.

MacDonald was good at learning languages, too. On his first day at Rishiri, he found some books in the room and tried to find meanings. He learned the words for "south" by looking at a map.
He made a Japanese-English word list. Among the 500 translations he made, we find interesting words such as "shiroka" for "white" and "futoka" for "large." MacDonald wrote down the speech that he heard, so he picked up the Nagasaki dialect.

After being a prisoner in Japan for 10 months, MacDonald left Japan, and continued by boat around the world. Though he never returned to Japan, he kept wonderful memories of Japan. He wrote, "... throughout my stay in the strange country, I never heard a bad word, or never saw a mean look."
He died in 1894 at his niece's house. His last words were "Sayonara, my dear, Sayonara."

See also