Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I always go home after 8:00 p.m.

Yesterday's class was about the adverbs of frequency. I asked my students to make a sentence with "always." One student said, "I always go home." I secretly said, "Sure, you always go home after a day's work. Where else will you go?"

I suggested him to say, "I always go home at 8:00 o'clock." He did not understand the reason for the correction. He did not look happy.

I explained the wrong nuance of his sentence, which could have been beyond his comprehension.

Then it occurred to me that he was giving me grammatically correct English and I was expecting him to discuss his everyday life.

He accepted the English: I always go home after 8:00 p.m.

A scene of a basic level English class.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


I have a quiet class. If I want to organize a pair work, two of my students may try to find a speaking partner with great reluctance, and the rest of them would stay aloof, quietly reading the textbooks. If I ask questions, they may give very short answers, followed by curt smiles. If they say, "Yes," it is my lucky day because they respond to me.  

What am I doing in the class? I am the teacher of a TOEIC class. For those who do not know what the TOEIC is, it is the Test of English for International Communication, which is a very popular test in Japan. My students are Japanese businesspeople, who want to elevate their TOEIC scores. 

Some people may wonder why a TOEIC class needs communication between the instructor and students. The answer is a definite yes. As an instructor, I want to know the weakness of my students. So, I ask them questions to find their weaknesses. In this way, I can offer them the help they need.

If my students refuse to talk to me, I will not know the exact weaknesses of my students. 

Well, this is my idea of a communicative class. My students apparently have other ideas. They have talked to their corporate management. Looks like I am going to lose this contract to teach them.

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!”