Feb 26, 2013


I give a helping hand to a jyuku in the neighborhood sometimes and yesterday I got to meet a teacher from Australia, who temporarily works there for a regular teacher being back to his country for a month. We didn't have much time to talk a lot, but since he's a serious learner of Japanese that I thought I'd have many to learn from him.

I've come to know some native English teachers over the course of ten years, but it's not often the case that I'm sincerely impressed with their lessons or methodologies for learning/teacher English. There're those teachers who've been teaching English in Japan for a long time and they perform the class based on the knowledge they learned from the books written for an English teacher of ESL/EFL. Some are taking their jobs seriously and striving for a good lesson. I appreciate that. But I often feel, unfortunately, that their efforts and passion don't work effectively on Japanese students, who have to learn English as compulsory, and what they teach in the lesson is wasted somehow in vain. And that's all because we Japanese have *jyuken*. Native English teachers won't be able to understand what jyuken actually means for Japanese and how important and crucial jyuken can be for the future of young Japanese.

Then, the teacher I talked with yesterday was different and I got really curious to know more about his learning methods or practices that he does everyday. I happened to have a picture book "There is a bird on your head" by Mo Willems, so like as I always do, I talked about the importance of reading lots of very easy books. I explained that picture books make an excellent material because Ss can understand English sentences without a help of Japanese, thus they can absorb the language directly with the illustrations. The English words and the illustrations are stuck together in their mind and that enables the students to use certain expressions in an appropriate situation without translating Japanese into English painstakingly.  

The thing I was really surprised was that he right away connected my story to his own experience. My discussion was easy for him to understand because he himself is a serious language learner. He said  he finds it rather difficult to understand what young kids say and that must be because the language kids use is different from the one grown-ups do. Yes. The kids language is full of functions word, whereas grown-ups talk with words of particular meaning.

It was my first time that I was able to share my thoughts about function word and content word without any further explanations. It's a shame that it's almost impossible to understand each other when I talk about this topic among Japanese English teachers. Maybe I should learn more about this function and context thing in academic articles... Anyone can come up with easy ones to read for starter?    

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