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Things you tell your English teacher but not your husband

4 Dec

*Teaching idioms, including “bump into (someone)”.*

Me: “Who in the world would you most like to bump into?”

Student (a middle aged Japanese woman): “My high school lover.”

Me: “Oh.. really. When was the last time you saw him?”

Student: “At my high school reunion.”

Me: “When was that?”

Student: “Ohhh last year. (sigh)”

The first few weeks of training in Japan

27 Nov

I’m nearly finished the training for my new teaching job here in Japan. The training has been long and intense and will be finishing at the end of the month. Generally it has been long days, homework and preparation for demos. I’m working at what is called an eikaiwa, one of the biggest in the country. It’s a conversational English school business with about 50 small schools just in my region of Kansai, which includes Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Nara.

Japanese study English throughout school, but mainly reading and writing, and may not be capable of speaking in English at all. This is similar to how French is taught in predominately English provinces in Canada. Many Japanese want to learn English conversation for school, work, travel or just as a hobby. My company offers English classes for everyone from one and a half year old babies to senior citizens, with the majority of the classes held after school or work or on the weekends.

I will start out mainly subbing for other teachers then it sounds like I will be working mostly drop-in classes and kids classes. The drop-in classes have a maximum of just four students, starting at 16 years old, and are 40 minutes in length. The lower levels work more on memorizing vocabulary and dialogues whereas the upper levels have more free conversations about whatever the topic of the day is. It’s neat because, for example with the upcoming holidays, there are discussions about both Western and Japanese traditions and customs. One trainer was saying that these classes may be the first time they’ve ever spoken to a foreigner and can be very interested in cultural differences. He said one older male student asks him about once a week if he can use chopsticks.

What did you do during the Bon Festival? I went to the cemetery to clean our family gravestone.

We also just started learning about kid’s classes, which have up to eight students and can be 1.5 years (with parent in tow) and up. It’s similar in introducing vocabulary and dialogues but there are more games, crafts, and activities, as well as songs and dancing of course. A lot of it is learning to speak as simply as possible and modeling exactly what you want the students to say and do. The first day of kids classes training, the trainer did a whole lesson in Swahili to show how you need to get the kids to understand things in an entirely different language.

We could also be teaching the adult, high school, business English and media courses, and have been learning about each.

My training group has been great so far as well. We’re around the same ages and mostly Canadian, which is apparently unusual. There’s a couple and two girls from Canada. One girl just taught for two years in Thailand so we’re always comparing how things are similar and different. The fifth is a girl from Australia. The latter two females both live in my building, which is fun. More on training and teaching to come…