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Improve your Speaking online Episode 15, Introduction:

This week we bring new current topics in Episode 15 so you can improve your online speaking from home.


Topic 1: Anime and manga 🎌 🍜 🎏

«Drawn to Inspire | The Impact of Manga and Anime»

Manga and anime are two of the most recognizable japanese terms in the world. Here it is explained why.


Of all the unique art forms Japan has given to global pop culture, perhaps the most instantly recognizable is manga, and its “moving image” counterpart, anime. Characters like Astro Boy, Speed Racer, and Sailor Moon have become as ubiquitous as Mickey Mouse, adorning backpacks, toys, and lunchboxes worldwide. The pioneering cyberpunk visions of “Akira” and “Ghost in the Shell” shaped global science fiction, and past Academy Awards for anime director Hayao Miyazaki show that “cartoons” can be embraced as “high art”. JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles hosted «This is Manga», the first North American exhibition of the influential manga artist Naoki Urasawa, which drew wide audiences and fans from students to major Hollywood directors. So how did manga evolve into an international phenomenon?

To clarify terms, “manga” is the umbrella term for comics, cartoons, and animation. It’s comprised of two kanji: (漫) “man” for “whimsical or impromptu” and (画) “ga” for “pictures”. But today and especially outside of Japan, “manga” is used specifically for printed comic books, while “anime” refers to animated motion pictures – be those film, TV, or web videos. Often, popular manga are adapted into anime or launched in parallel as a comprehensive franchise, so the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Many scholars trace manga’s roots back through Japanese art history, such as 12th century scroll painting (“emaki”), which told stories in a right-to-left sequential tableau, and 18th century “ukiyo-e” woodblock prints, which were mass-produced for the public and combined illustration and text for dynamic effect. The book “Shiji no Yukikai (Four Seasons)”, published in 1798, was the first to use the term manga, and by the late 1800s, there were several comic magazines in circulation. A major turning point came with the US Army’s occupation of Japan starting in 1945, which introduced American comics and cartoons. Japan’s post-War youth generation absorbed and adapted these influences, among them Osamu Tezuka, now known as the “godfather” of manga, who premiered his character “Astro Boy” in 1951.

Often compared to Walt Disney, Tezuka helped to shape the industry through his prolific output and stylistic innovations that soon became standard, like wide-eyed characters and cinematic visual techniques. Early on, he directly adapted the Disney animated films “Bambi” (1951) and “Pinocchio” (1952) to manga form. Later, in manga and anime, he created everything from light-hearted children’s fare to treatments of more adult, ambitious themes, such as his 14-volume life of the Buddha (“Buddha”, serialized from 1972-1983).

Tezuka’s range reveals the diverse audiences that the manga publishing industry developed to serve. Most manga works are first published in serialized form in anthology magazines that are aimed at specific demographics. “Kodomomuke” refers to manga for young children, but as they age up, the audience splits, with “shonen” manga targeting boys under the age of 15 while “shojo” targets their female counterparts. In the older cohort, “seinen” are aimed at adult male readers and “josei” for adult women. Each of these categories contains a spectrum of storylines and genres, from action-adventure, to romance, to mystery and comedy. And it’s worth noting that though still a male-dominated field, some of the most popular manga of all time were created by female “manga-ka” (manga artists), like Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), and Hiromu Arakawa (Full Metal Alchemist).

Over the decades, the manga industry has been at once commercialized, concerned with reliable profits, and experimental, supporting wildly original visions. Since the late 1950s, the term “gekiga” has been used to describe darker, more complex or literary tales – similar to the Western distinction of “graphic novels” that are more niche than “comics”. Yoshihiro Tatsumi was an early luminary of this sub-genre, penning gritty, impressionistic stories of Tokyo’s underbelly and everyday alienation, and opening a pathway for other auteur visions.

Naoki Urasawa, born in Tokyo in 1960, is one of the most prolific and critically acclaimed manga artists working today. He has been called “the next Tezuka” for his impact on the industry and innovative storytelling over nearly 40 years. With one foot in the dark naturalism of “gekiga”, but another in sci-fi and fantasy, his sprawling works like “Monster” and “20th Century Boys” have been best-sellers at home and abroad. His series “Pluto”, a moody murder-mystery inspired by Tezuka’s “Astro Boy” (one of Urasawa’s earliest influences as an artist), was not only adapted for anime, but also as a theatrical stage production which has toured internationally.

The exhibition at JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles displayed more than 400 of Urasawa’s original drawings and storyboards – a rare view into the artist’s creative process. His diverse fans include the Academy Award-winning film director Guillermo del Toro, who has long described his dream project to adapt “Monster” to the screen, and who enthusiastically posted about the exhibition on social media.

Manga’s global fanbase has expanded since the 1990s, often introduced first by the imported subtitled anime versions of beloved series like Dragon Ball Z, Death Note, Sailor Moon, and of course, Pokemon. Original feature-length anime like the Studio Ghibli films also paved the way to mainstream popularity, and new companies like Tokyo Pop (founded in 1997) and CrunchyRoll (2006) sprung up to translate and distribute works for non-Japanese audiences. Today, the international spread of aspects of manga culture like toys, video games, cosplay, and its echoes across art, music, and fashion, show that manga might just be getting started.

When asked to define the medium that he helped create, Osamu Tezuka said: “Manga is virtual. Manga is sentiment. Manga is resistance. Manga is bizarre. Manga is pathos. Manga is destruction. Manga is arrogance. Manga is love. Manga is kitsch. Manga is sense of wonder. Manga is … there is no conclusion yet.”


We will focus the conversation on the following questions:
  1. What is your opinion about manga?
  2. According to the articles, some manga characters like Astro Boy or Sailor Moon are as widespread as Mickey Mouse. Do you agree?
  3. What would you rather, manga or anime? Why?
  4. What is your favourite manga? Tell us about it.
  5. Would you say watching anime is a good way to learn Japanese?


Here we leave you some vocabulary you can use during the talk:
  • Storyline: A plot.
  • Animator: A person who animates drawings or cartoons.
  • Acting skills: Abilities as an actor.
  • Script: The written words of a series, films, animations, etc.
  • Worldwide: Very popular.
  • Audience: The public.
  • To work sb’s fingers to the bone: To work very much.
  • To be fond of sth: Having a liking for something for a long time.

Topic 2: Toys

«The poor single dad who invented lego«

LEGO is one of the biggest toymakers in the world. This video describes the hardships of the LEGO’s founder.


We will focus the conversation on the following questions:
  1. Have you ever practised carpentry? If yes, did you find it interesting?
  2. What do you know about the Great Depression?
  3. Have you ever made a wooden toy before? If yes, what was it?
  4. Which one is your favourite LEGO?
  5. What would you rate any LEGO set that you have bought in the past?
Here we leave you some vocabulary you can use during the talk: 
  • Apprentice: a person that is hired by a skilled employer at low wage while he is learning a particular skill (trade) from him.
  • Tragedy: an event that causes a huge amount of loss, destruction or suffering.
  • Leftover: the remaining part of something which is left after it has been used.
  • Trinkets: a small item of equipment or a small ornament.
  • Bankruptcy: The state of not being able to clear off debts.
  • Forge: to make something by shaping it with the help of heating/hammering or to create something that is successful/strong.
  • Invade: the state when armed forces enter a country to occupy it or take control of it.
  • Spur: to encourage someone in order to initiate something.

Topic 3: Starbucks

«How a poor kid from Brooklyn made Starbucks«

This video explains how starbucks was discovered by three friends but how a poor kid from Brooklyn turned it into a billion dollar company.


We will focus the conversation on the following questions:

  1. What opinion do you have about Starbucks?
  2. Have you ever thought of running a beverage business?
  3. Do you prefer roasting beans the European way while making coffee? Or do you prefer some other technique?
  4. How often to do you visit a coffee cafe?
  5. Which type of coffee do you love drinking? Cappuccino, latte or espresso?


Here we leave you some vocabulary you can use during the talk:

  • Retailer: a person or business that is used to selling goods or items to the public in small quantities for use. A retailer does not resale.
  • Taken aback: to make someone feel surprised or shocked.
  • Athletic: someone who is physically fit, active and strong.
  • Housewares: small household items that are commonly used such as kitchen utensils, tableware, and decorative objects.
  • Hooked: addicted.
  • Acquisition: the purchasing or gaining of items or assets.
  • Memoir: a collection of personal knowledge about someone which is written in the form of historical account or biography.
  • Ritual: a religious ceremony which contains a series of actions that has to be performed according to a prescribed order.

Topic 4: Cake recipe

«The Most AMAZING Vanilla Cake Recipe«

This video shows a step-by-step easy procedure to make a vanilla cake.


We will focus the conversation on the following questions:

  1. Would you prefer a gluten free cake instead of a sweet vanilla cake?
  2. Which tool do you use to measure the flour while making a cake?
  3. Do you enjoy the thought of being a baker?
  4. Which type of cakes do you prefer on your birthdays?
  5. Have you ever baked a cake before?


Here we leave you some vocabulary you can use during the talk:

  • Parchment: a type of stiff or hard translucent paper that is used in baking.
  • Insurance: an arrangement by which a company or the state undertakes to provide a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a specified premium.
  • Scrape: to drag or pull something off some matter.
  • Yield: an amount produced of an agricultural or industrial product. This technique is mostly used in baking.
  • Granulated: converted in the form of small grains or particles.
  • Homogenous: of the same kind or similar characteristics.
  • Incorporate: include or take in something as a part of the complete process.
  • Alternating: two or more thing that occur or take turns one after the other.

Topic 5: Fashion

 «7 Quick Tips to Always *Look Classy* (Even In A Rush)»

This video provides you with the information about how you can dress really classy even when you are in a hurry.

We will focus the conversation on the following questions:

  1. What type of jeans/pants do you prefer wearing as your go-to bottom?
  2. Do monochrome outfits catch your attention? If not, what type of colour contrast on outfits is attractive for you?
  3. If you are running late for work, would you end up wearing a wrinkled blouse? If not, what would be your alternative way?
  4. What do you think is a better add-on to an outfit? A scarf or a belt?
  5. What do you think is an over-the-top accessory in an outfit?


Here we leave you some vocabulary you can use during the talk:

  • Mindfulness: when you are aware or conscious about something.
  • Monochrome: a combination of black and white, or different tones of a single colour.
  • Elevate: to rise something or to lift something in an upward direction.
  • Wrinkle: a fabric that has little lines or folds, creating a bad outlook. Wrinkles can occur on the face as well.
  • Synthetics: a material belonging to the group of synthetic or chemical. For example, a textile fibre.
  • Chic: something which is elegant, stylish or fashionable.
  • Polyester: It is a synthetic resin in which the polymer units are connected with each other by ester groups. They are primarily used for making synthetic textile fibres.
  • Cashmere: fine, soft wool that originates from the Kashmir goat.


Topic 6: Free topic
Do you find these topics boring or uninteresting? Don’t worry. Dilo gives you the opportunity to choose your own topic for a conversation class.
Think of some vocabulary you would like to learn related to your topic and send us some information about it with the subject «Free topic». We are sure your ideas will be very good 😁

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