How Do I Teach Polite Requests?

Occasionally you will encounter a student so rude that they could be mistaken for a Frenchman. France is famous all over world for it’s inventive cuisine and unsurpassed rudeness, but some of that rudeness derives from misappropriate English language use. Japanese are genetically not rude people, and therefore it is important to give the students the appropriate language to express themselves in the politest ways possible. This is often done with the use of polite requests, since if a request isn’t polite, it’s an order.

Have the student transcribe the following 4 questions in random order;

  • Give me your wallet.
  • Please give me your wallet.
  • Could I have your wallet?
  • May I have your wallet?

Have the student number the sentences from most polite to least polite.
If you notice any problems in the order, create an apprehensive look and back away from the sentences as though they are a very ugly baby. The student will notice your apprehension, and their shame will help them to remember the mistake.
Once the sentences have been verified to be in the correct order, read them out loud and have the student mimic while passing a wallet back and forth. If both the student and the teacher are uncomfortable with using real wallets, they may be substituted with a piece of paper that has the word “wallet” written on it.
Once the student has had enough practice saying the sentences, have them transcribe the following 4 nationalities in random order;

  • French
  • American
  • English
  • Japanese

Have the student number the nationalties from most polite to least polite.
Once again, if there are problems with the order, show your apprehension. The student’s shame from earlier in the class will be compounded, further helping them to remember the correct answers.
Match the nationalties with appropriate politeness, and practice saying the sentences.
Practice this exercise until all of the sentences have been said twice.

How can I have my student share their coffee?

We’ve all had classes where our eyelids can barely stay open, and we spend most of the class trying to keep our head upright. When a student brings a can or cup of coffee into the classroom with no intention of sharing it, they are inadvertently insulting the teacher and they are responsible for creating a lower quality lesson.

Coffee started as a drink in the Middle East, to keep desert dwellers awake throughout the nights during Ramadan, allowing them to fully enjoy their times of feasting before the day-long fasting. Coffee has spread all throughout the world and is renowned for its ability to keep people awake. Of all of the world’s coffee, Japanese coffee is among the most delicious.

How can we have the student share their coffee? Like everything else, it must be integrated into the lesson.

There are two effective methods that work for this;
1) Telephone roleplays
Communication becomes much more difficult when you are unable to see body language or facial expressions, such as when conversing via telephone. Tell the student that in order to prepare for these situations, you will do some roleplays where you are not allowed to see each others faces.
Have the student turn their chair around so that they are no longer facing you. As the student talks, you will be able to take a sip of coffee.
There is an inherent problem with this in that it is a sneaky way to get coffee. If the student catches you, they will very likely be unhappy. However, this method has a greater success rate.

2) “Would like” practice
Students expect a certain degree of fun and excitement in the classroom, and practicing “would like” is the best way to do so.

“Would like” is very useful language in that it lends itself to a variety of situations. To drink some of the student’s coffee, start by asking three “would like” questions in either the verb or noun pattern, incorporating objects in the classroom (ie, Would you like to use my pen? Would you like to open a window?”)

After asking 3 questions, have the student ask 3. They will not think to ask about the coffee, so if you see the student struggle to compose a question, point to their coffee to encourage that question. When they ask a variant of “Would you like to drink my coffee?”, answer with an enthusiastic and grammatically relevant “Yes, I would” and take a quick sip. Most students find this very amusing, and you can have them repeat the question to have a second or third drink.

What Do Japanese Enjoy From Foreigners?

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.

How Do I Stop Students From Saying “Cock” All of the Time?

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.

How Do I Convey English?

When teaching English to Japanese students, it is important to remember that one of the key points to learning is volume.

Use your loudest voice possible, as it aids in the learning process. If the student asks you to be quieter, it is an indication that they are hesitant about learning English. If possible, speak even louder. If you cannot, move closer to their ears.

It is your duty as a teacher to aid the learning process in every way that you can.