Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"Wot dis? Dis pen!" Appalling classroom English set to change?

Before AccessJ's five favourite terrible classroom English moments, we have some news.

It looks as though things may be set to change at some possible distant point in the future. Today both the Daily Yomiuri and The Japan Times have been busy informing me that the government has hypothetical plans to send Japanese English teachers to genuine, bone-fide English speaking countries as part of their teaching qualification.

This could be a smart move as some teachers we've worked with have been embarrassingly bad at the language. Let's just hope they send the textbook writers there too.

However, it does seem to be another rung on the "reforming English teaching" ladder which has seen cutbacks to and potential downsizing of the JET programme. Many tongues have been wagging on that one.

Nevertheless I don't think it's time to panic just yet. The main reason for this theorising of how best to better Japanese English is the advancement of English teaching in elementary schools. English has been semi-taught in elementaries in my town for more than 20 years. I did it last year and had a blast, but the quality of the teachers' English was pretty bad. Albeit it was the first year there had been a more formalised structure to the learning, and the first time the homeroom teachers were actually supposed to be actively involved in the lessons.

But to be honest maybe it's better in some ways to have Japanese teachers with decent accents than it is to have poorly (or not at all) trained gaijin bashing their heads on things everywhere. There is definately room for improvement on both sides of the fence, let's just hope that the demand for us foreigners doesn't fade away before we've all died and gone to hell.

But anyway, let's lighten up this post a bit with some of my favourite classroom English errors/strange English.

  1. Straight from the title - "Wot dis? Dis pen!". Terribly awkward moment in elementary last year. What should I have done? Is it okay to correct him? I guess it is, but I don't want to make any delicate nervous teachers cry on my watch.
  2. "How green roofs are hot?" - Oh boy. This was from a Junior High teacher, and printed on a worksheet as a question. I was asked to read it out and pick a volunteer to answer...
  3. "Come, Father. Come!" - preposterously complicated ejaculation from a distorted retelling of 'The Whale Rider' in third grade JHS textbooks. "Kahu climbed up onto the old whale. 'Come, Father. Come!'" - if anyone can convincingly explain that in a way that 14/15 year old will understand you can give a speech at my wedding.
  4. "What is your treasure?" - Incomprehensibly stupid subsection of the Junior High textbook featuring everyone's heroes Bethwel and Chakila. Bethwel's treasure is the city, doncha know. Chakila prefers "the tree", whilst dashing smooth operator Gerado has a penchant for his school.
  5. "I have six balls!" - the funniest thing about this one is that it was actually me that said it. My face changing from mild enthusiasm to master comedian mid-sentence must have been quite a sight.
Anyway, stories in the comments as always.


    1. "Is this your meat?" belongs somewhere up there. I really should have rehearsed things before giving the green light to that example going on film at a regional demo.

    2. Last month my kids made a motivational poster for the annual sports day. They wrote "Good luck" with lightening bolts starting each word. I don't think "Good suck" was quite what they meant.

    3. Is "Juniour" deliberately misspelled? I sincerely hope so, for Japan's sake.

    4. Thanks for the spellcheck!

    5. "I had terrible diarrhea"

      I usually tell the adult women that they can just say they had "stomach trouble" and leave the rest up to the imagination of the listener.