「もどかしい時だって」

14 Sep

By now, I’ve learned to expect that starting something new is going to have its frustrating moments.  It’s common sense that moving to another country and starting a new job is going to have it’s difficult moments, and I think I’ve begun to recognize some of them.  I personally have a bit of trouble biting my tongue and letting things be when I experience something that’s difficult or troubling for me, but I hope that by writing about them here, I can face them as challenges to gradually overcome or else get used to, rather than fretting about them and becoming upset.

One problem is the expected language barrier.  After four years of Japanese study, I’m at a point that I understand a lot of the grammar in everyday speak (poetry is still a huge mystery to me) but not a lot of the vocabulary.  Reading is worse; as I mentioned previously, a main part of Japanese language is kanji, which, if unknown to the reader, gives no hints as to the phonetics of the word, and even if known by the reader in a different word, might not be pronounced the same way in a combination with different kanji.  In junior high school, as in America, teachers are hired based on training to teach a specific subject, eg science or Japanese language.  The same holds true for English, and so just like any American high school French teacher would be expected to know at least the basic grammar and vocabulary required to speak French, Japanese junior high school English teachers speak enough English to explain their lesson plans and expectations to me.  However, in elementary school, the teachers are only trained in elementary education… and this does not include fluency in a foreign language.

Actually, English was only formally introduced into elementary school curricula fairly recently, apparently.  Before a certain point in time, there would have been no need for an elementary school teacher to know any English, which naturally makes communication difficult in English.  Additionally, this is another reason (as I mentioned in my previous post about elementary school) that it falls on me to make most of the lesson plans; the teachers can’t possibly plan how to effectively engage students in a language they mostly don’t understand.  Luckily, I know enough Japanese to ease the way, but there are times that I’m trying to explain a lesson or express myself and I completely find myself at a lack for words.  However, I seem to have managed not to highly offend anyone yet, and I’m sure as I’m here my Japanese will improve.  Hopefully, in the meanwhile, I can keep up my not-offending streak.

My second frustration is one that’s slightly more complicated and occurs mostly in my junior high school.  I want to preface this by saying I’ve never taken a teaching class and don’t know anything about the ideology of teaching in a junior high school classroom.  My teaching experience comes from teach dance to children ranging from three years old to twelve years old, and while this has taught me some very effective communication and classroom management skills, I don’t formally know anything about how to teach in a school classroom or why things are taught the way they are.

However, at my middle school, it occasionally (or more than occasionally) happens that the students are taught improper English or English that sounds strange.  In the first year classes, this usually crops up when the students haven’t learned something yet but the teacher wants to convey information anyway– an easy example is that students don’t learn plural form until halfway through their first year but are often asked to convey their likes or hobbies or family members or pets or any number of things before they learn this.  As a result “My friend is Mari, Yuki, and Aiko” or “My pet is three cat” is regarded as correct and sometimes even printed in materials made by the teacher.  I am then asked to read these materials aloud, and it’s very difficult for me to read them incorrectly for any number of reasons.  However, I’ve been explicitly told that until they learn plural, these mistakes are acceptable, so I’m left to deal.

I can honestly say I’m aware of my lack of teaching training and classroom experience.  I know that there may well be good reason for teaching to progress this way and that these teachers have been teaching English, in many cases, longer than I’ve been even learning Japanese.  It’s pointless, anyway, to compare college level language courses with material presented to twelve year olds, so I know that I really have no foundation to think that I’m right and their wrong.  Yet, it’s still incredibly difficult for me to read incorrect English out loud to my classes again and again and again.

But, I’ve only been at work for a month.  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring!

Incidentally, the title translate approximately to “at times when you feel frustrated” and is a line of lyrics from a Hey! Say! JUMP song called “Magic Power.”  This song is really upbeat and one of my favourite songs of all time… it never fails to make me smile at times when I feel frustrated!

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2 Responses to “「もどかしい時だって」”

  1. El September 14, 2012 at 2:47 am #

    That is quite strange. I understand the idea of keeping things simple but then won’t it mean that incorrect English will ‘sound’ right to them?

    I have a related problem here where my head of group tries to correct the English of my students. His English is very understandable, but it often doesn’t sound very natural. e.g.

    Him: Let’s enjoy Japanese sushi.

    Him: They are very nice students.

    In these examples, it is grammatically fine but ‘enjoy’ and ‘nice’ just aren’t normally used in that context.

    As a result, his corrections (especially with regards to manners, e.g. a polite reply to something positive I say) are just not right. Meanwhile my students –whose English actually might not be quite as good– often get the phrasing correct, I imagine because they’re picking it up from TV (or me!). I am trying to prevent their destruction XD

    • jetsetjoshu September 14, 2012 at 2:51 am #

      Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t want to do anything out of line, but when they ask me to repeatedly read aloud incorrect English, in particular, it’s really hard for me. Sounds like your situation would be equally frustrating… but it’s good that your students have you as a good example of correct English! 😀

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