How Do I Teach Proper Usage of “See”, “Look At”, and “Watch”?

Since the Japanese language has only one word to represent the English words “see”, “look at”, and “watch”, a great deal of confusion arises from their use. At first glance, these words to represent sight are interchangable, but at second glance we can see that they are very uninterchangable.

To watch something means to follow its movement with your eyes. To look at something means to focus on object, often stationary. To see incorporates peripheral vision, and rather than being focused, the eyes take in everything possible.

An easy way to demonstrate the difference between these words involves a pencil, and some scotch tape. Using the scotch tape, attach the pencil to your forehead so that it points straight out. This will represent the focus of your attention.

If possible, freeze a fly or bee for use inside of the class. Make sure you have a window to it to escape from. (If you don’t have a window, it may be best to simply wait for a clock’s minute hand to tick over to demonstrate the next part.) With the pencil taped to your head, follow the movement of something in the room to demonstrate “watching”. Help the student affix a pencil of pen of their own and join you.

To teach “looking at”, stare intently at an object in the room that is stationary. “To watch” and “To look at” may be contrasted by use of a TV, as any direction that isn’t facing the screen is “looking at” the TV, and not “watching” it.

Finally, to represent “to see”, look directly at the student’s eyes. List items that you can see in your periphery, all while keeping your vision locked onto the student. Have the student do the same.

This teaching activity lends easily to “listen to” and “hear”. The pencil may be taped to that it protrudes from the ear to demonstrate the direction of focus for “listening to”.