Years ago, before English was legalized in Japan, ESL students would often congregate in attics and practice reciting the alphabet to candlelight. The country has progressed a lot since those days, with English being learned by everyone in public schools, and being practically applied by 0.03% of the population.
Giving students more chances to use English outside of the classroom allows them opportunities to apply their knowledge, thus solidify it in their minds. Whenever you encounter a Japanese person on the street between the ages of 12 and 60, it can be safely assumed that they have taken an English class, and so will benefit from you speaking to them.
As you pass people, a simple “hello” or “how are you?” is sufficient. When sitting next to them on the train, you have more time to engage them, and can ask more complex questions such as “what is your favorite food?” or “where do you work?”
Everyone will be surprised to the point where they need to mask their delight with fear. Don’t worry if they don’t respond; you are the expert on the language and it is up to you to keep the conversation going at all costs.
The average English conversation with strangers lasts 15 seconds, and your goal should be 15 seconds of uninterrupted speaking. Although they may not engage you as much as they should, do your best to follow them while speaking, until the 15 seconds has passed. Teacher’s duties are never limited to the classroom, therefore you should always strive to be the best teacher, no matter where you may be.
In Japanese, a rough concept of “ogre”, “demon”, “devil”, and “Satan” are all combined into a single word; oni(鬼).
An oni is a large, horned orge that lives in the underworld and eats pickled beets. It often carries a club, or a stone axe. The first oni to be photographed was by the then-emporer Meiji’s court photographer in the year 1871, although this was later determined to be the court entertainer who had dressed himself in a goat hide.
Due to the confusing amalgam of concepts surrounding oni, many students have a difficult time distinguishing between devils, demons, and orges. To combat this confusion, bring a dictionary into the classroom and have the student copy down the meanings of all of the words. Next, have the student define an oni in Japanese, then translate the definition. With all of the definitions now in English, have the student highlight all of the common words which are shared amongst the definitions, and then finally cut the words out and glue them onto a seperate piece of paper. This new paper now contains the correct definition of “oni”.
This activity can also be performed for other mythical creatures such as tengu, kappa, sentagai, kusobaba, and kusojiijii.
Some students familiar with English gain their abilities through the workplace, bringing a wide range of vocabulary to the classroom. These words can be specialized to the point of being unusable, and corrections should be made to allow the student to accurately communicate with people outside of their industry.
About 12 years ago, we had a doctor who specialized in endoscopic medicine, and performed biopsies on cancerous tissue on a weekly basis. He was dismayed that when talking to native English speakers, he was unable to be understood. This was corrected by moving away from the Latin and Greek that his words were based off of, and converting them into English.
For the sake of clarity, endoscopic became “inside looking”, and biopsy became “living medical examination or inspection”. Many more people began to understand what he was talking about, and therefore held a higher opinion of him.
Due to Katakana pronunciation, when Japanese ESL students are learning English, they often revert to saying “cook”(コック) as “cock”. The atmosphere of the classroom can quickly go sour when explaining the differences between the two words.
It goes without saying that this kind of mistake is very serious, and must be avoided. Additionally, explaining the error in detail is also something that should be avoided. However, students rarely see the problem with this mispronunciation, as they learn that “cock” means “rooster”, which is a common misconception. A safer, more gentle way to alert the student of their error must be employed.
To break the student of this dangerous habit, you first must ascertain whether they are familiar with the difference between the two. To do so, purchase a chef’s hat, and create a miniature chef’s hat. The miniature hat can be made of construction paper, but it is a good idea to sew one so that you will be able to use it in future classes. Place the chef’s hat on your head, and the miniature on your finger. For younger students, you can draw a smiley face on your finger. Have the student address you as “Mr. Cook”, and whenever the pronunciation is correct, respond to the student with “Yes, my name is Mr. Cook”. Any incorrect pronunciation will be greeted by your finger with the small chef’s hat, who you should slowly raise from below the edge of the table. In whatever voice you feel suitable, have your finger, which represents “Mr. Cock” greet the student.
For a roleplay activity, have the student want to get in contact with Mr. Cook. If Mr. Cook is unavailable, then the student will ask for Mr. Cock. You will play the role of a secretary whose hearing isn’t very good. During the roleplay, intentionally mix up the names and have the student very clearly enunciate whether they would like “cook” of “cock”. Upon successful completion of the activity, the student will no longer say anything embarrassing.
In this age of technology, we encounter a lot of students who would rather focus on their gadgets than classwork. So how do we keep the student’s attention in the classroom when faced with iPods, smart phones, and Nintendos?
There is no silver bullet, but several options available to the teacher.
- Continue teaching as though nothing is out of the ordinary.
This tactic is perhaps the most effective when it comes to moving through the material, but when you require interaction from the student, they are often lost. Therefore, when the student becomes interested in their gadgets, move to a book and read aloud to them.
- Remove the offending device.
When the student is too engrossed in an “emergency” phone call, it is effective to let them know that you are in a classroom environment and distractions and counterproductive by gently but firmly taking hold of their phone and hanging up/turning it off. The phone or gadget may then be placed in your shirt or pants pocket.
If the student can politely explain why they need their phone by speaking for more than a minute, they may have it back. If not, they may have it back after the class.
- Fight fire with fire.
If the student is more interested than a single gadget than an entire language, demonstrate how incorrect they are by pulling out a gadget of your own. If the student wants to check an E-mail, use that time to turn on your Nintendo or Tetris and play until the student is finished.
No matter the age, many students are prone to undesirable behavior when parting with their devices. Do not let any degree of complaints or physical actions grant them the gadget, otherwise their negative behavior will manifest in future classes. It is very important that they effectively use English to convince you to give them the device back.