近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Archive for the tag “Teaching”

“O MAI GAAA”: On Japanese-Altered English, Making Language Boring, and GRE Questions

Imagine you’re me for a moment: living in Japan for a few years, have a considerable amount of Japanese under your belt, and one day you find yourself at any given net cafe taking a four hour practice GRE test when this reading section question appears.

The Question

The Question

For those who, understandably, don’t feel like ruining their eyesight squinting at the small text, the left paragraph goes into detail about how Japanese commercials use foreign languages, from English to French and Italian, to heighten their sense of priority and significance. “The viewer usually does not understand [the foreign words], but the connotations of prestige associated with these languages are enough to warrant their use.”

The question reads as follows-“Which of the following would provide the best justification for the existence of English in Japanese commercials, despite the fact that most Japanese do not understand English?”

And from the variety of answer choices, the answer is #1-“To many Japanese, the mere voicing of an English word evokes a cosmopolitan splendor, thereby conferring sophistication onto whatever is being advertised.”

I would now like you to watch the following video which is a collection of Japanese commercials from early February of this year. Keep a mental track every time an English word/phrase (or what sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of an English word) is used or seen.

I think the important thing to remember here is that these commercials are not being targeted towards a foreign audience. These are made by Japanese people, for Japanese consumers. And yet, there was an exorbitant amount of English words/phrases interspersed within the ads.

Now, I fully understand the stance that most Japanese have learned or taken classes in English in some capacity, whether it is during their higher or lower education. I also have no doubt there are people on those advertising teams who do speak a fair amount of English. But can I just point out the ad featuring ninja-ladies and spouted “BE CONSIDERATE” and “CHANGE YOURSELF” was for boat racing?

And without the context that the Universal Studios Japan ad used “RE-BOOOOOOOOOOOOORN” to refer that the Jurassic Park ride was under construction and recently opened up, what the hell would that even mean to a) Japanese people who don’t know that word and b) people outside Japan who don’t know about the reopening?

Welcome to modern Japanese!

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“PRESCRIPTIVE GRAMMAR: FUELING A CULTURE OF NATIVE SPEAKER ELITISM” by Alex Barrett

I’ve always wanted to share work from other JETs on this site, but have never really nailed down the right way to do so. However, I found a really good post for a first-round of sorts.

Alex is a friend of mine and has a lot more experience in teaching English as a second language than I do. There was a discussion a while ago among some other JETs about the difference between two sentences and which one made more “sense.” It got pretty heated, to say the least, and Alex was (literally) the only one to take a stance against the majority opinion.

It can be really easy as an ALT to think that your natural way of speaking is more “correct,” and I think Alex really nails down why that viewpoint is dangerous. After the initial discussion, I became more hesitant as to what I teach as “correct” because I am anything but an expert, as much as I think so sometimes.

I’ll let Alex take it from here, though. I would highly recommend the read: http://alexjamesbarrett.com/2014/09/29/prescriptive-grammar-fueling-a-culture-of-native-speaker-elitism/

(For the record, in the original discussion I was a staunch supporter of sentence A)

Spring Cleaning

Late post, I know, but I didn’t feel comfortable finishing this until events last night.

Amongst the surprise I get that, yes, Americans also have a traditional spring cleanup ritual, I’ve been in a flurry of cleaning between my two schools. Sure, in my middle school days we just had to clean out our lockers, but here the daily “10 minute cleaning time” is extended to “a couple hours cleaning time.”

But the Japanese office system also likes cleaning up their roster, transferring members to other sectors or locations. In the case with my Board of Education, that could mean getting a new supervisor. The more common change is teachers switching schools within a district. It’s usually guaranteed they’ll still be in the same area, but it is possible for a teacher to be transferred from one side of the island to another, as is the case with one of the teachers I work with.

While none of the Japanese Teachers of English I work with are leaving this year, two teachers that I have gotten closer with are: the two Judo instructors.

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