“Let’s Speak English” Is the Cute, Everyday Chronicle of an American in Japan
Anyone who’s spent time in a foreign country can tell you that culture shock is a real thing. While perhaps not as romantic and alienating as moody cinema might have you believe, there’s a never-ending adjustment period in which you find yourself faced with situations you never would have considered before your arrival (ask anyone who’s had to use a Japanese squat toilet).
Nowhere is this more obvious than the adorable and irreverent comics of Mary Cagle, who has for the past two years been chronicling her time as an English teacher in a small-town Japanese primary school under the title Let’s Speak English. Cagle, who in addition to teaching also works as an illustrator, writer, and colorist on a multitude of comics, illustrates Let’s Speak English in the traditional Japanese comic format called 4-koma (ie: four black and white panels stacked atop each other) and makes full use of the medium to tell short, witty, and only slightly embarrassing stories of her daily interactions with her students, coworkers, and neighbors.
Cagle’s style is infectiously cute, reminiscent of the everyday humor and whimsy of slice-of-life manga like Yotsuba& but with the added layer of an American’s perspective and sense of humor. Whether she’s correcting her students’ English to better facilitate a dirty joke, struggling to find the word for measuring cup at the supermarket, or marveling in horror at her town’s abominable haystack mascot, Cagle is a wealth of simple but hilarious comedic moments, all lovingly punctuated by a deep respect and admiration for the people and culture around her.
Let’s Speak English is a great little comic to catch up on when you need a laugh, and if you are currently abroad or have been, you’ll find Mary Cagle’s experience all the more comforting.