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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


41.6% of high School Students Enjoy Studying English: Too Kind

Japan Today reports with its usual tone of anti-Japanese mirth, that "58.4% of high school seniors say they don't like studying English." This implies that 41.6% of Japanese high school students like studying English! Japanese language education is doing something right.

But then, personally I think that that percentage is far too high for success. English lessons are, especially if communicative, seen to be a time for having fun. Students come to my classes expecting something like tea-time-with-Timothy, and are painfully surprised. If the Japanese want to learn to communicate in English, before they graduate from university, lessons need to be a lot more harsh than tea-time, and mine are which is why they are so unpopular ;-; If I could persuade 41.6% of students to like my lessons I would be very happy.

Foreign languages are pools of non-meaning into which learners must jump, even though humans fear the absence of meaning almost as as much as death (Heine & Proulx, 2006). People, even the Japanese to an extent, narrate themselves into existence, so the absence of a response - which happens often when one is attempting to speak a foreign language - is a sort of death, or hell (Bakhtin, 1986).

The Japanese are a very polite bunch of people, who do not wish to cause others distress, so Japanese teachers teach vocabulary and grammar forever rather than demand that their students jump into a Bakhtinian hell. But jump they must. Japanese kindness (yasashisa) is thus perhaps the biggest block to English improvement. Teachers and students need to realise that in order to gain communicative competence they will have to learn to put each other on the block.

I teach my English classes upon the model of martial arts classes where the idea is to attack ones opponent. While the Japanese are very kind to each other in most social situations, they are aware that the objective is to knock their opponents brains out (figuratively) in kendo (Japanese swordsmanship) and Karate classes, and change their behaviour accordingly. Ordinarily gentle high-school girls transform into killer swords women in the kendo dojo. Since my classes also contain a lot of role playing, I am thinking of calling this martial role-playing English teaching technique Ninja English (忍者英語).

私の英語の授業を履修してください。多少つらいですが、英語が話せるようになりますよ。 Image: School boy 2 by Romeas ロメアス Thomas トマ, on Flick Bakhtin, M. (1986). The Problem of the Text in Linguistics, Philology, and the Human Sciences: An Experiment in Philosophical Analysis. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, 103-31. Heine, S. J., Proulx, T., & Vohs, K. D. (2006). The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 88-110. http://flic.kr/p/rFGA1n

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.