the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Monday, November 20, 2006

Root Beer

I knew there were not many Japanese people who like Root Beer, but my
students wanted to try it anyway. So I asked my friends from Sioux Falls
to send me some root beer candies, and I gave them to my students today.

I gave them each a candy today, and most of them hated it. It was so
fun! Out of twenty students, only two liked Root Beer. I taught them the
word "nasty" because that's what most of the faces they made seemed to say.

I also found out WHY Japanese people don't like Root Beer. Apparently
the bandages they wrap old people with (like ACE bandages) are scented
with something similar to root beer in Japan. So root beer tastes the
same as the way old people smell. Yuck.

Haha. I'm so mean, like an Australian serving Vegemite. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My voice and the empty school

I used to joke that the schools here just want me for my voice. But this week is the famous "English Recitation Contest" week, and I'm finding out just how true that is. For the last month students have been memorizing a passage that was given to them.

Unlike some other schools my friends work at, here the first round of narrowing the candidates is done in their homeroom. They listen to and imitate tapes, and have model speakers, the whole works. Many of the students are clearly bored, but they do it anyway.

I've taught a few classes - and visited some homerooms that I don't teach at the request of the homeroom teacher - where all I do is coach pronunciation, and tell students normal speaking advice. Like: look at your audience, speak louder, don't mumble.

Today I recorded a tape for students to imitate. The teacher's office was kind of loud, so I was taken to "the fourth floor". I've never really been up there, and I was surprised to see nearly half the wing empty. No students, no teachers, no personal belongings. The door was locked, and the room had clearly been unused for some time.

Right now Japan is coming back from a recession, and is trying to fight the unbalance of a low birth rate. Nearly 65% of the population is over 60, and in Japan you MUST retire at 60. This is causing a further increase for medical services (as well as general services). And since Japan doesn't really import foreign workers, this is causing an increase in children who enter the work force, and a decrease in children seeking higher education - even high school.

Today being in the empty room, the empty wing, and being able to look across to other empty wings, I realized just how much this change of demographics is turning education on it's head.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Travel Headaches

Well, I`m not going to the ESL conference in S City like I thought I was. In hindsight, I should have started planning for it a long time ago. Public transportation actually gets used in Japan.

The conference is on Sunday. And like a good teacher, I didn`t look at tickets until Saturday afternoon. Turns out a bullet train ticket to S City is nearly 20,000 yen round trip. A ticket to Tokyo is 25,000 yen round trip, and S City isn`t even half way to Tokyo.

However, the bus is 8000 yen round trip, but I can`t go there and back in one day with the conference schedule. So I would have to get a hotel room too - that`d add at least 5000 yen. And the last bus on Sunday leaves exactly when the conference ends. So I would have had to a) get a substitute on Monday, but I`m starting the final test review for freshman on Monday, b) take the bullet train back home one way for 14,000 yen, and get back to H City at 11 pm Sunday night.

Assuming I took the bus round trip and brought my own food, the total would be 14000 yen. Not bad, but I got to bed at eleven on Wednesday night this week, and I was just worthless the rest of the week. So, I guess I`ll find something else later.

I guess if I really like travel as much as I say I do, I need to start planning more. :)

And I missed a cheap Thanksgiving dinner (I know, it`s early, I don`t get it either) because I was looking for tickets. And it`s been raining heavy all day. But I think I might finally catch up on my sleep tonight. But then again this is the first crappy weekend for at least a month.

By the way, they`ve started advertising for Christmas over here too.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

School Conversations

Today O-sensei and I covered a class for another teacher who was sick. It was a second year class. He told me I had probably had them last year. I reminded him that I have only been at Seiai for 3 months. He had forgotten. :) At the end of class he told me I did a good job.

U-sensei also told me today, "Your lessons have improved."

I don't get compliments from him often, so this meant a lot to me ? very Japanese. :)

One of the teachers here told me his Christian name is Michael. His Christian birthday is December 23rd. He was baptized in the Anglican Church, but he hasn't been there in years. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I almost wanted to apologize, but he wasn't one way or the other. He was just telling me the facts.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Random Japan Facts

In Japan, "American coffee" means weak coffee.

"American dogs" means corn dogs.

"American cookies" means sugar cookies.

There are only too countries in the world that call futbol soccer. In America it`s soccer. In Japan it`s "sakka".

Most Japanese people don`t care about their flag. It is unusual to see a Japanese flag flying somewhere other than a governmental building. This is because of lingering guilt about Japanese imperialist in the last century.

When teenagers put up their two finger in photos, it really does mean peace, and they know it. And they actually really care about peace. But it is kind of trendy too.

In Japanese, the word for part-time job is "beito". It comes from German. I don`t know why.

It's way faster to txt message in Japanese than it is in English. And actually it's not txt messaging. They have real internet and email on their cell phones.

There's also a weird looking square barcode you can put on a poster, and if you can scan it with your cell phone's camera and go directly to the web address.

Generally, female students in my classes pick up English much faster. Male students tend to speak louder and have worse pronunciation. Female students speak quietly, sometimes inaudiably, but have excellent pronunciation.

My students who are under 14 years old generally pick up English much faster. And they mimic my pronunciation much better, and retain it longer.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Weeks in Review

Well, three weeks ago I started eating at a place called Lotta. I met some of the nicest people I have ever met in Japan there, and we got to be friends. Most of them work at restaurants downtown, so I`ll see them around.

Two weeks ago it closed for good, and I went to the "Last Night Party". There was a juggling bartender, and impressionist painter, and a jazz band.

Last week, we had a church bazaar (there`s a season for that, like school festivals). We sold cakes and cookies, fruit, etc. I was suprised at how many people came. We just had some stands inside and outside, and some posters. And the community was really supportive. Maybe we should consider this activity in the States.

This week I had the best freshman lesson ever. It was on -ing verbs, it was fun and slightly challenging. And I started to actually work with the freshman teachers! Hopes are good for this week`s lesson, and finals review is looking bright. The term is over in four weeks! Crazy!

This weekend K-chan came to visit me. She helped me buy a futon and sheets. And at the shoppu (Japanese department store with an arcade) We saw M & D, and an old friendly contact, M-san. K-chan and I went to an izakaya, and after that we ran into M-san`s restaurant, so of course we had to go in and have something and talk with him. It was really fun.

K-chan came to church with me - and confirmed that it`s a pretty boring place - but she got to met A and A-chan. A said Hirosaki University was having a festival and we should go. So we did. We bought all kinds of food at stands and saw some great dancers. But we didn`t buy mochi from the person in the monkey costume.

I have a student who will be attending the same college K-chan graduated from in the spring (Japanese school year). And we randomly ran into her at the festival. And A-chan drove us around so we could make it to the station in time to get K-chan home. That was REALLY nice of her.

And Monday`s looking bright. I`m mostly planned already for the week. My regional director from the RCA is visiting me this Wednesday, and I`m strongly considering attending an ESL conference next Sunday.

I hear the elections are going rough in the States. And that`ll be in my prayers. My students are going through the regular puberty enhanced, teasing, stressful teenage life, so remember them. And be sure to write me an email or comment sometime!