Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Hello!? America!" Teaching English in Japan

I've been offered a job teaching English at a prestigious university in Tokyo. It might be fun. It could very well be a drag.

I hear that the students I would teach would be very high-level English speakers so I wouldn't have to teach things like:

"How are you?"

"I'm fine. And you?"

"Me too."

I hate teaching stuff like this. But it does need to be taught and rigorously reinforced through in-class practice.

Take, for example, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. Even though he had a much-deserved reputation for being hopelessly incompetent, he was my favorite prime minister. Why? Because when he was prime minister, I could look forward to the daily newspaper every morning to see just how far into the depths of stupidity this guy could go.

This is a true story of Mori's "English In Action." I think it was in 1999 and he went to the United States and met then President Bill Clinton. Mori hadn't been a good boy and didn't study his English lessons hard enough. So when he met Bill, instead of saying:

"How are you?" He got his "w" and "h" mixed up and said:

"Who are you?"

"I'm Hillary's husband," Bill Clinton answered.

"Me too!" Mori replied.

Oh me! That one just gives me a chuckle every time I think about it.

Of course, if I am the English teacher, this type of simple mistake would never happen. I run a tight ship. And it has taken me years to speak English so good like I do.

Lesson One – Greetings:

Here's a practice lesson I thought of for when an American came to visit my students in class. I would say:

"Mr. Tanaka, this is Donny. Donny, this is Mr. Tanaka."

Donny: "How are you?"

Mr. Tanaka: "Hello!?"

You will notice that Mr. Tanaka used the correct emphasis when talking to Donny as his "Hello!?" had both an exclamation mark and a question mark.

This emphasis on understanding seems to me as being quite useful in this ever-changing world of fast-paced English language conversation.

"Donny" meets "Mr. Suzuki"
Lesson Two – Let's speak American:

"Mr. Suzuki, could you explain the difference between 'abuse' and 'torture' for Donny, our American guest?" (I always ask the easy questions to Mr. Suzuki, as his English is the worst in the entire class.)

Mr. Suzuki: "Yes. Abuse is how I treat my ex-wife. Torture is abusing someone in order to receive some information."

All serious university professors write their own textbook.
"Very good, Mr. Suzuki."

After that, we would practice using this vocabulary in an everyday situation.
Donny would say:

"Oh, I wouldn't use the word 'torture' in that case. I would say 'abuse.'"

Entire class (to Donny): "Hello!?...Hello!?....Hello!?"

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