How Do I Explain the Difference Between Green Tea and Japanese Tea?

Oftentimes, vocabulary used for foods can be confusing, using different words to refer to the same thing i.e. soda and pop, EZ-Cheez and Easy-Cheese, Quesadillas and tortilla melts
This is confusing for non-native speakers who assume that everything only has a single word, which is the case for the Japanese word o-cha, which refers to both Japanese tea and green tea. So, how can you teach a student when each word is appropriate?
Drill the student on their nationality by using the grammar pattern of “Which nationality are you?”, to encourage the student to say “I am Japanese”. Expand on the grammar practice by asking “Which nationality is your tea?”, to which they should respond “It is Japanese” or “My tea is Japanese”. With both the student and the tea’s nationality established, the student will understand that they drink Japanese tea.

Japanese green tea drink

Japanese green tea drink

Next, ask the student “What color are you?”. If the student appears confused, use a piece of paper or a whiteboard to write “Y _ L L _ W” and encourage the student to fill in the blanks to choose “yellow” or whatever shade is most appropriate. Next, ask the student “What color is your tea?”, and write down all responses.
The student will quickly understand that green tea and Japanese tea are one in the same, and will have no problem using either term to describe the bitter deliciousness of Japanese お茶 (o-cha).

What Should I Do If a Student Has a Really Nice Pen That I Want?

For a variety of reasons, students often buy expensive pens. Whether these be made of precious metals, have ornate carvings or engravings, or simply have a monogram on them, you will come across students who enjoy spending money on pens. For them to use the pens in the classroom and not ask if you would like to use the pen while teaching is inconsiderate.

First off, under no circumstances should you take the pen under the intention of stealing it, otherwise you can be charged. You will need to take the pen with the intention of borrowing it to avoid any legal issues.

There are several techniques that can be employed to do so; ranging from asking to borrow the pen to distracting the student and moving the pen into a bag or pocket. To ask to borrow the pen, you should have a strong rapport with the student to make the transfer of their pen to your hand as easy as possible. From that point on, depending on your relationship with the student, you can either ask to borrow the pen until the next class or simply put it in your pocket. If the student asks about the pen, you should return the pen and say that you had forgotten to return it.
japanese penIf you do not know the student well enough to ask about borrowing the pen, you will need to use a distraction and take the pen. This is more difficult than it sounds, as many classrooms are small and devoid of distractions. In these cases, it may help to have another teacher enter the classroom and lead the student into the hallways to give them some flashcards, which would allow you enough time to take the pen and replace it with a fake. Other options for distracting the student involve popping balloons under the desk, or turning on a CD player located behind the student.

In the unlikely situation where you are caught, deny that you have the pen, and ask the student questions in English until they become flustered. Remember, in Japan you cannot be charged with a crime if you didn’t intend to perform a crime, so tell everyone that you are holding onto the pen for safety or because you are borrowing it.

How Do I Teach the Difference Between Pants and Panties?

There are thousands of foreign loan words in the Japanese language, most of which derive from English. Even though they all resemble English words, the meanings are often changed upon entering Japanese.

A shining example of this is the English word “pants”, which when said in Japan, is assumed to be “pantsu”, which mean panties. Great care should be taken when teaching this word, especially to children. If children hear the word “pants”, the classroom is likely to erupt into chaos in the same way that Rhesus Monkeys behave when thrown into an empty swimming pool with a tiger.

japanesepantiesWrangling the attention of the students back to the topic of English often requires a combination of candy and noise makers, which are always paid from the teachers own pocket! Therefore, a quick and effective way to teach the difference between these words must be used.

Find a pair of clean panties, and tie a string or some yarn to them. Attach the other end to your wrist (this will stop the children from running off with the underwear). Next, arrange the students in a semi-circle, with you in the center. Start by handing the student to your left the panties on a string. Say “panties” to the student, and have them repeat, paying careful attention to the vowel sound at the end of the word. Have the student hand the panties to the student sitting next to them and repeat. Continue until every student has had a chance to perform.

The next activity must contrast the meanings of pants and panties. Split the room into two groups, based on the clothing the student is wearing. When you call out “pants”, have all of the boys in the room stand up and say “pants”. When you call out “panties”, have all of the girls in the room stand up and say “panties”.

Why Do Students Cringe When Balloons Are Popped In the Classroom?

This “fight or flight” mechanism is built into all humans, but is oddly absent from those in positions of power, making them better leaders and/or teachers. As teachers, popping balloons is as natural as using present perfect tense to describe life experiences, yet many students become uncomfortable after several balloons are popped in the classroom.

To lessen the fear that the students exhibit, forewarn them of the balloon popping so that they may mentally prepare themselves. Students do this in a variety of ways, whether it be plugging their ears, tensing their jaw muscles, focusing intently on the balloon, or asking questions related to your motivations.


A great way to move past the irrational fear of popping balloons would be to allow the student to pop a few themselves, under the supervision of the teacher. With the side of the balloon closest to the student (to avoid blowback), have them lightly insert a sharpened pin into it, bursting it. This may be repeated for every inflated balloon in the classroom.

As always, be respectful of the student’s needs.

How Do I Teach Taboo Numbers?

In most situations, Japan uses all of the numbers available. However, due to different readings being available for the numbers, some have additional meanings which mean “death” or “suffer”.
This is a difficult concept that takes some explanation. The Japanese kanji system originated from China, and Chinese reading of these kanji came with it. Each character has multiple ways to read it, and in the case of “four”, it can be said either as “yon”(よん) or “shi”(シ).
“shi” also means “death” in Japanese, which is why hushing a Japanese person with “shhh” is quite serious, as it implies that you desire the silence that will come from their death.
Hospitals do not have 4th or 9th floors, as they do not want to be associated with death or suffering. Many parking lots also do not have 4th or 9th spots. Also, McDonald’s does not have a 9 piece Chicken McNugget set.

taboojapanesenumberAlthough English does not carry the stigma that Japanese does, the students may show some unease when you have a listening activity and the CD is set to track 4, or the student needs to turn to page 9.

In these situations it is vital that you reassure the student that nothing bad will come of using those numbers in English. Teaching numbers in English should not be associated with negative experiences. Do your best to count without hesitation, and encourage the student to do so as well.