Thursday, August 25, 2005

How do you teach people who won't try?

Perhaps it is always a question, but it is especially one in Japan. Adults who basically have to be treated as children. I would say 70% make no effort---or at the very least, no consistent effort to study or practice anything they "learn" in "class." Many seem to want nothing but entertainment (this is especially true at the eikaiwa chain schools it seems). Now most teachers know that their class should be interesting and useful, and hopefully fun. However, few other than 5-15 year olds place "fun" as one of the most important parts of a class. It isn't unusual here though. Forget studying and preparation. Just go to a "class" an hour or two a week and maybe try to say something if it is not too troublesome and never,ever have anything to do with English until the next class and then claim you can't learn English because you have some genetic Japanese inability to speak English. Of course it could be because you are a horrible student if you were anywhere else but Japan.

Last week I was at a Starbucks listening to a "teacher" do a private lesson with 2 Japanese girls. He came in and ran his mouth for 45 minutes. The 2 girlies giggled (in English?) and one actually muttered 2-3 responses in English. They paid him 3000 yen---about $27---and were very satisfied. I guess he was their entertainment and fulfilled the stereotype of Western foreigners as entertaining, but ignorant buffoons. However, they paid him. He did no work and did not teach a damned thing. Who were the ignorant buffoons?

No wonder companies like NOVA, Berlitz, et al get away with what they do. No wonder the Japanese spend millions on English and are barely above North Korea in English ability in Asia.

March 6, 2006 update: I have heard that at some of the private language schools in the U.S., things aren't all that different. I have spoken to a few guys who taught at company-owned private schools---and have heard similar horror stories. When I student taught---or observed--- in the US, it was always at government schools. Of course teachers there can tell you horror stories of some of the students too.

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