the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Random language learning trivia about Japan

Before the Portuguese came (and of course later the USA and William
Perry) the Japanese had never studied foreign languages. So they
actually started learning European languages first: Spanish, French,
English, German. And of course after the war there was a big push for
English learning.

But all these languages are very far from Japanese culturally. So
Japanese people have always considered foreign languages "very
difficult". Only in the 1970's and 1980's did Japan start learning Asian
languages like Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. in the classroom. These
languages are closely related to Japanese, and generally students are
surprised to find that these languages, Korean in particular, are "easy
to understand".

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Famous International Star

Just so you know what the image of Westerners is out side the USA...

Right now, the most famous American on Japanese TV is from an infomercial:

Questions from strangers usually come in this order now:

1) Where are you from?

2) Oh, America. Do you know Billy? (motions with arms) Circles! You can do it! 1! 2! 3!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Teaching Language Through Suggestopedia

Here is an idea of a way to teach foreign languages:

Although it's impossible for me to fully teach this way in a high school
classroom, I am considering incorporating some of the these concepts.
And at the very least, the article is fun to read. I think it's the
first fun educational/research reading I've done in a while.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Want to help the Kashiwazaki victims?

Want to help the Kashiwazaki earthquake victims?

Check out CRASH Japan.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Only two things get stolen in Japan...

There's a saying amongst the foreigners in my town here. It goes like this:

"Only two things get stolen in Japan, bicycles and umbrellas."

So, on Saturday I went to lift like I usually do. I always keep an
umbrella on my bicycle in case it rains. So, I parked my bike in an out
of the way place, locked it, and went into the gym to do my regular lifting.

The room isn't air conditioned, so I opened the windows and noticed it
was starting to rain. "Great!" I thought, "I have an umbrella and
this'll cool the room off. Let it pour." Like I said, I had locked my
bike, so when I came back out you can guess which item was missing...

...that's right, it was the umbrella. I spent a whole 300 yen (about $3)
on that thing at the convenience store a few months ago! It had a white
handle and a clear plastic top. As I looked around on the street for the
culprit - as I suspected - nearly everyone had a white handled umbrella
with a clear plastic top.

A note on legal bicycle riding in Japan:

In Japan it is illegal to ride your bicycle while holding an umbrella.
However, the bicycle is a very cheap and efficient mode of
transportation in Japan. The only bad thing about it is the sweat in the
muggy season, the rain in the rainy season, and the snow in winter.

At the convenience store, the clear umbrella section is nearly 90% of
the selection. Everyone knows that the clear umbrellas are there so you
can ride your bicycle in the rain and still see the traffic in front of
you - that's why nearly everyone who rides a bicycle in the rain has a
clear umbrella! This activity remains illegal however, I have seen
groups of students - all holding umbrellas - ride directly in front of
policemen, and the policemen don't even raise a finger.

Other illegal bicycle activities that everyone does:

1. Having a second rider ride on your rear tire or basket.
2. Riding your bicycle beside another bicycler.
3. Riding your bicycle drunk (people may obey this one depending on
their degree of intoxication)
4. Riding on the right side of the road (all traffic in Japan is on
the left side of the road, like the British).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fun Things

So, it's been a long time since I had time to really post. Here are the fun things I did in the last three months (in reverse chronological order:

This Monday (a national holiday called "umi no hi") I finally climbed the mountain I can see from my front door. I went with my friends M-chan, H-chan and M-kun. All three of them told me they wanted to come. And H-chan and I are pretty fit, but I forgot that the other two are casual smokers. But we all had a good time.

It's a four hour hike from the foot of the mountain to the top, but M-chan drove us about half way up the mountain, so it was a little less than two hours to reach the peak.

As you can see, the peak was pretty rocky. We had bought lunches at the convience store before we came, and we ate them on the peak. The view was amazing, we could see all the neighboring towns, the Sea of Japan, and maybe even South Korea. :)

I went to karaoke with the staff from the local bookstore Friday night. That's starting to be a regular thing. This is K-kun, he always sings the Gundam theme song. I have a limited amount of J-Pop songs I know, but I like to sing them. They're fun, and it's good reading practice. But my friends know all my songs by heart. They even offered to put them into the machine for me tonight.

On Friday, we were talking about other foreigners - they know some of my American friends - and they said, "NB, we like you, but other foreigners they're just so-so. We really don't care about them. We like you." Usually, people just like me because I'm a foreigner, it has nothing to do with who I am personally. So it was refreshing to hear that, but at the same time, I'm still not sure how to take this comment.

Last Monday there was a small summer festival in a neighborhood on my way home. I called up Y-chan, and she and her friend K-kun came with me to the festival. Y-chan is always down for whatever, and I love her for that - that's really rare in Japan. I should have got some better pictures. These are some kids playing with fireworks that they bought at the festival. Y-chan said it looked like a movie.

Two weeks ago on Sunday I went to a nearby Aquarium (that I'd never heard about before) with C-chan and S-chan.

We watched the dolphin show and ate lunch out of a vending machine. That was a very Japanese experience.

Three months ago was the Prefectural Athletics meet. Students from all over the prefecture came for the opening ceremony. Each flag has the name of a high school written on it. The flags were all around the running track. Cheerleaders lead the students in cheers for their own schools, and they also cheered for the other schools in a sort of mutual respect way. I was very impressed with that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No Earthquake Here

If you heard in the news about the Niigata Earthquake, you'll be happy
to know that it's effects were not felt by me up here in the deep north. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Students and Summer Vacation

Today we watched a play at the Civic Center. All the students came to
the Civic Center by themselves. Of course I don't have a car, so I rode
my bike (like most students do). So on the way home I was riding my bike
home with all the other students.

When I stopped at a stoplight, some of my second year elective boys
asked me if I wanted to go to Mister Donut. I said sure. We had a good
time, and spoke a good amount of English. They all play tennis, and they
have tennis practice during my half-day work weeks over summer vacation.
Our conversation ended with "we'll have to do this again sometime".

Also, one of my elective students and his older girlfriend (she's about
19 years old) invited me to sit with them at "the best spot to see the
Neputa Festival". (The Neputa Festival is a famous summer festival
here). His girlfriend is friends with some of my friends, so we see each
other outside of school every once and a while. It's a little odd, but
they're good kids.

Monday, July 02, 2007


1) I'm having troubles sleeping for more than a few hours at a time -
thinking about buying an air conditioner.

2) The junior high English teacher is having a liver operation. He's
been gone from school a lot. I'm kind of worried.