Monday, September 17, 2018

I don't know if your class was good.

An English conversation course ended recently. In the spirit of celebrating the end of a successful course, I asked my students how they felt. I normally do not do this, but I broke my rule because the course was highly successful. My students were relaxed and talked without being prompted.

They said things like, "I enjoyed the course," and, "The course was fun." I enjoyed listening to them until a young man said, "I don't know if your class was good." Wow! This was a direct criticism. I was surprised because the student who said it had enjoyed the class. He had been attentive to what was discussed in the class and often gave interesting opinions.

Wondering why he was so critical of the course, I asked him for clarification. Here is his logic. To tell if an English conversation course is good or not, one must take a few other courses. It was his first course to take in his life and he could not compare it with other courses. This was why he did not know how good the course was. “I don’t know,” was not a criticism. 

This logic is not the first time for me to hear. One will determine the value of an issue when he or she compares it with other issues. This is called relativism, which is what my student believes in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Darn! He's Japanese!

She smiles and looks like she enjoys studying English when she is in the class. Her English skills are of minimal. Last week, a target sentence was, "What is your first name?" I asked this question to my students. When it was her turn to reply, she panicked. She said the English equivalent of, "What? What? What does 'first name' mean? Masako. Yes! Yes! Masako. My name Masako!" I then told my students to switch the roles. They were supposed to ask me the question. I said my first name was Shinichi, which is my real name. Nicky is a professional name I use when I teach English. All my students were visibly shocked to learn that I was Japanese. They obviously had thought I was American.

Today, I am told that the two students of the class will be absent tomorrow. Is it because I am Japanese?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Japanese Teachers of English Wanted

There has been an offer for me to teach English. The new job will start in 2018. Do you know why I have been selected? I am Japanese. That's right. The job condition specifically demands the instructor to be Japanese. This is a case of discrimination. If someone decides to hire someone else based on the person's nationality, it constitutes a case of racial discrimination. Racial discrimination usually works against me, but not this time. Should I be thankful?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I'm sorry.

A Japanese celebrity Hideyuki Nakayama made a comment that shows how the Japanese psychology works. During a Fuji Television show, Non Stop, he talked about his unexpected encounter with a Japanese comedian Ken Shimura. The program was televised on August 2, 2017.

Hideki Nakayama: I had a TV program to appear at 9:30 in the morning and I was in my waiting room at 9:00 o’clock. I saw Mr. Ken Shimura coming out of his waiting room. I said to him, “Why are you in so early?” I knew he had a program to appear at 10:00 a.m. He said, "I don’t want to be late and say sorry to start my day.” I said, “I’m sorry,” to him.

Interesting. Why do you think Hideki Nakayama said he was sorry?I'

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Confusion at Subway Service Counter

If you lived in Tokyo, Japan, you might know what a PASMO card is, which is an electronic ticket for the subway. With a PASMO card, subway ride will be made easy. People place it over the electronic screen of a ticket gate and the gate doors open. 

A PASMO card is also a debit card. You can deposit money if it is short of fund. A few weeks ago, I tried to add 40,000 yen into my PASMO card, which caused some confusion between a subway station man and me.

It should be easy to add money to a PASMO card. Insert a PASMO card into a PASMO terminal located in a subway station. Follow the depositing instructions on the screen. Insert money into the cash slot. For the reason I did not know, the PASMO terminal I used did not follow this standard procedure and I could not deposit 40,000 yen.

I went to the service counter to explain what happened. I said, "Can I deposit 40,000 yen into my PASMO card?” to the man who sat behind the desk. He did not answer my question but said, "How much do you have in your PASMO card?" I said, "A little over 10,000 yen." He said, “Deposit 5,000 yen and add 10 yen at a time.” 

Being thoroughly confused, I returned to the PASMO terminals corner and operated on another terminal - with the same results. 

I returned to the service counter, thinking the terminals I used might have limited functions for the customers and maybe the man could manipulate the terminals in the office to allow the deposit of 40,000 yen for me.

I explained this idea to him and he said, “Make the deposit of 5,000 yen. Add 10 yen at a time," like he was a broken record. He would be insane to hint the addition of 10 yen at a time until the entire deposit reaches 40,000 yen, 

I said, “I asked you a simple question. Give me a simple answer.” He said, “OK. What is your question?” I said, “Would it be possible to deposit 40,000 yen?” He said, “I told you. The answer is no!” 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My New Class

My new class was Current Issues in the World. This meant the students would read English newspapers. Not only that they would discuss global issues in English. This also meant they were holders of advanced skills of English.

When the class began, my students were not near the level. Some of them did not know that the plural form of ‘she’ was ‘they.’ They knew about verb conjugated but did not know that the past tense of ‘go’ was ‘went.’ They said, “Yes, I am,” to the question of, “Do you like tea?” This short answer, by the way, was the maximum they could say.

I met the head instructor of the English Department to talk about the condition. He said, “Change the contents.” I said it was easy to do but the class was Current Issues in the World. He said, “Never mind. The students’ level is not up to the level, right?” I said OK and changed the nature of the course. I discussed basic grammar like the plural form of “she” was “they.” The past tense of “go” was “went.” If I said, “Do you like tea?” the correct answer was, “Yes, I do,” not, “Yes, I am.” If they did not like tea, the correct answer was, “No I don’t,” not, “No I do.” I did that for three months and my students finished Current Issues in the World.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Young people don't know how to show respect.

President Hirata said, “Young people today don’t know how to show respect,” to me.

Well…I thought so, too, because it was sad to see your students walk toward you and say nothing to you.

A few months later, this was what happened.

When a student came to the instructors’ lounge, he or she would stand erect in front of the closed door and shout, “My name is such and such! I belong to the class such and such! I came to talk to Professor such and such! May I come in?” Whoever sits near the door would say, “Come in!” and the student would say, “Thank you!” open the door, and go into the instructors’ lounge.

Well… this is not what I had in mind.