Advanced English class

Classes are starting up again! I’m especially excited for advanced English class. Apparently, the OCII class that was deprecated (tangent: I use this as a computer science term, meaning the class was marked for removal, not the “self-deprecate” version!) got converted into even more advanced English classes!

This school year, I get to lead one class a week students in Advanced English with a science and math focus, and students Advanced English with a liberal arts focus.

Probably my favorite class is going to be the Advanced English class for liberal arts focus because it most resembles an Adult ESL class. The teacher even gave me an ESL textbook as opposed to an EFL textbook, and I was so excited. The difference between ESL and EFL is that English is taught as a second language, which includes life skills in the adopted country. EFL is teaching English as a foreign language, so the way it’s taught is more in line with people who want to travel, and it’s really up to the student’s personal interest in English and perseverance in order to continue using it successfully. Think of it as learning Spanish or French in high school for a few years, and then never really using it again.

I think Japan should really up its English education and kids should see how important it is in the world stage. It’s been in school curriculum for years, and yet it almost feels like Japanese English speakers lack speaking skills when compared to Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese English speakers. While the usage of English above all other languages might seem to have imperialistic undertones, every country has its own style of using English, so different cultures can even claim it for itself through code-switching. For example, Singaporeans use Singlish, Hawaiian Pacific Islanders use pidgin, and even Jewish people code-switch when it’s convenient.

I taught a lesson today about body language, first by showing them an edited version of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, then reading an article on handshakes, as well as showing them all the different types of handshakes, and then having a discussion on body language. The discussion went well with the stronger English speakers, but some were so shy that they decided to pass on sharing their opinion, and another, who’s participation I greatly appreciated, totally went off topic, and talked about food customs instead.

I think that Japan, being a first-world country, doesn’t have to worry about making English an official language, like Singapore, Hong Kong, or Ghana (Granted, these countries had all been imperialised by Great Britain.) Its economic and social infrastructures seem to be rich enough to be self-sustaining that people can have jobs without having to know English. The kids here have options, where as in developing countries, English might be the best, or only way, for upward mobility.

I certainly feel the privilege of being a native English speaker when I travel in Japan, and when I went to Vietnam. People perceive you must be so successful in business and sociability,  just like in the movies, and try to give you the best of what they got. In turn, I greatly appreciate the ability to speak the language enough to have a conversation, as it makes it easier to be incognito and get the real deal in cultural interaction. I do understand that in every country, you’re going to find people who are tired of your broken language skills, and would rather not bother with a terrible speaker, but they could just be having a terrible day.

I have to admit that I’m terrible with expectations, and I certainly do feel an expectation from others who share their stories with me to tell these stories to the world. I don’t think I was ever much of storyteller, being told before that my voice is monotone, and not very interesting to listen to. These days, I still try to write, but my mind is constantly trying to find the best words to convey what I’m thinking in a sophisticated way that it takes me forever to actually write something that I think is good. In addition, I go off on tangents and my posts end up not being very organized in the end.

I think perhaps maybe I should just accept that it’s my style, it’s my brain, it’s my blog, and so what if whatever I started writing about ends up in a totally different place? I don’t intend to make any money off the blog (although it would be nice), but I do appreciate knowing that it’s being read. So thank you to the two, maybe 3, people who continue to read my ramblings.

To end, I tell my students to be free, to have confidence, to just say something or write something, even it’s just a few words or sentences. For some, there’s so much going in their minds that they want to say, yet they can’t find the words to express it. I have the same problem, except perhaps I have too many words or patterns to choose from. But we both have this cloud of expectation to be perfect looming over our heads that nothing comes out.

Even though most of the students in the class did well, I’m an underdog-rooting person, and I really want to get the weaker students to share their ideas. Hopefully they will get used to sharing comfortably before the end of the year.

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