Friday, October 28, 2005

New School at Miyazakidai Station

Just saw a new school has opened at the station. There already is a NOVA scam eikaiwa school there, but with luck this school will be successful. There are many small, privately run language schools in Japan, many of which are owned and staffed by professionally trained teachers--real teachers who could teach in places other than Japan. The cirriculum, the teaching, the service as far as individual attention to students goes is usually much, much, better than the NOVA, Berlitz, GABA eikaiwa chain schools are willing to provide.

There has been an increase over the last several months in people looking to study English. So I suspect that the Japanese economy is really beginning to strengthen, at least until the Japanese government kills it by raising interest rates and taxes. I have had to stop accepting new students, and will be able to become mainly self-employed except for occasionally courses for JAL Academy and a few other very select companies. I hope to keep the part-time fake teaching job at Berlitz until the end of the year to get my vacation and holiday pay. However, I am so eager to start, and eager to drop that "job" that I don't know if I can hold out.

There is a market for people who will really work to learn a language--as is necessary--in Japan and who are not simply looking for a chance to observe and be entertained by a baka gaijin clown. At least I have been finding some. Granted, it is a small group. I will see how long it lasts.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Goober the creepy 7-11 clerk

Next to our apartment is a 7-11. Now this 7-11 sucks already because they only have stocked shelves in the early morning and at noon. It's mostly bare the rest of the day except for stuff nobody ever buys.

There is a clerk there---let's call him Goober---who gives me the creeps every time I see him. He constantly---and I do mean constantly---snorts deeply and loudly like he is trying to pull up a huge goober. He does it 3 or 4 times a minute. He can't have a cold unless he has one everyday 365 days per year.

I try to avoid him when he is at the register because I don't want this disgusting creep touching my food even if it is in a package. If I am unlucky enough not to avoid Goober the Creep, I wash the packages and my hands well after getting home. I suppose I should shop elsewhere as he stocks food when he isn't at the register.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Getting an ass-whuppin' in a bike race

When I am riding or training along the Tama river (Tamagawa) I occasionally get into informal races. They rarely last long---2 minutes or less on average. Usually some Japanese guy on halfway decent bike all fitted out in his bike clothes---often old U.S. Postal team colors---is waddling along at 16-17 mph. When I go to overtake him, he decides he wants to race and will get up and go into an all out sprint reaching speeds of 17.3 mph. Beautiful sprints in slow motion without actually appying force to the bike, just body weight. I always hate this because I will have to waste energy to squash the sprint, or he will stay in front for 25-30 more seconds until he figures I ain't gonna just give up and wimp away because he accelerated. Often these guys just want to get in front with no clue of how they will hold it and seem shocked that being in front means ya gotta work like hell to stay there.

Well, today before my cold started hitting bad, I was doing a light zone 3 ride. I was averaging about 18-19 mph into a slight headwind, nothing spectacular. I was passing all the pretty tricked-out guys in their U.S. Postal or whatever clothes (riding at 15 mph) when I noticed a guy on my ass.

I hate that too, because most Japanese guys will ride your wheel to take advantage of the draft, but never take a turn pulling. He passed me a little while later so I figured I'd get on his wheel and ride for a while then stomp his twiggy ass. Well, this guy kept going, he wasn't weakening. I was waiting for the tell-tale Japanese sign of defeat---pretending to be thirsty and grabbing the water bottle while slowing. (This means, "Yea, buddy, I would have kicked your ass, but I gotta take a drink." Right.)

He never went for his bottle. In fact, after we turned a switchback--and he stayed on the correct side of the road---I realized he was not a Japanese, but a westerner. The shaved legs of a cyclist should have given that away sooner. Then, after we went up a small hill (while he remained seated---Japanese often have to stand to go over an anthill), he really started going. I was on him at 23-25 mph for maybe a kilometer or more with my heartrate monitor hitting 178bpm (just below my apx maximum of 181), but I let myself slip off his wheel and he accelerated slightly again. I could not catch him. I was dropped. My ass was kicked.

Actually, I enjoy losing more than winning, because of maybe 100 or more informal races I get in each year, I win 98 without trying. I can even take on and beat pacelines here. That's insane. Nobody in his right mind would take on a paceline of decent cyclists anywhere else as beating them would be impossible, a fool's errand. Actually, most of the pacelines aren't really pacelines. The riders don't seem to understand the purpose of them. One guy gets in front and stays in front---at 17mph. The guys who beat me are always older Japanese guys in their 40s and 50s. Young guys are no threat.

But this guy today really did a number on me. It has been a long time since I was dropped so badly. I have been getting so overconfident here---I remembered how hard it was in the States to race and beat younger or older guys. It's damned tough if you have a group of good cyclists racing. Very, very tough to win.

Well, I was brought back to reality today. I only wish I could have more chances to ride with, and compete against, decent, serious cyclists---Japanese or not. Then I can really measure how I am doing without being misled because I beat a bunch of tatemae pretenders all the time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Another view of Berlitz from Thailand.

Think what I say about Berlitz is tough? Read this from a popular EFL website in Bangkok.


The producer of excellent phrase books and tapes has two schools in Bangkok. Berlitz has developed their own system for language teaching that uses very few of the accepted practices and works on a kind of "drill it into the brain and hope the students remember it" approach. Many "sex tourists" work here and this school will take ANYONE who walks through the door wearing a shirt and tie. They have a mandatory one week unpaid training course to complete before you start working for them - about 50% of people who do the course stay on to work there.

Within their buildings they have microphones in all of the classrooms that allow the branch manager to listen in and hear what the class / teacher are doing / saying. There are regular checks to ensure that you are following the Berlitz way and you will be condemned if you are teaching using anything other than the fixed narrow minded and downright stupid Berlitz approach. Needless to say, this school is for unqualified teachers.

This school is for those with no teaching qualifications and no desire to think about what they have to do. If this is you, it's probably your dream tourists take note!

This sounds so true...just like Japan, although Berlitz has claimed to have moved away from the old Direct and audiolinguistic methods they used until a few years ago. Now they claim to be using the commuincative approach, but nobody there understands it at all. It takes a little more than 1 week of half-assed training to use that complex approach.

Yea, take classes there. A lot of people do and enjoy it. Berlitz makes a lot of bucks for doing it. The Japanese lap it up. It is "fun" and "teachers" correct a lot.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A grumpy old Ojiisama on the Tama

Was down on the Tama River this afternoon taking---or trying to---take some photos. As a was packing to leave, some old man (old is relative in Japan, people start acting elderly at 35-40) came up the path pushing his granny bike. He stopped and started staring at me.

Now this isn't so unusual, some Japanese, mostly the gummers over 50 still stare at foreigners. I know this is rude, and the Japanese are, of course the most polite people in the universe, but staring at foreigner doesn't count.

I often star back when this happens, but this old gummer looked like he might start gibbering to me. So I ignored him.

In a few seconds he started grunting. Again, not unusual as a lot of these old gummers grunt with even the slightest effort such as inhaling.

I took a few minutes getting my stuff packed and as soon as I moved a few inches right, old grampa grabbed his clunker flew up the path like a bat out of hell as fast as he could waddle. He was muttering and cussing to himself, and then it dawned on me. I was standing on the path he wanted to take. He didn't just say "excuse me" (sumimasen, shitsurei shimasu etc) he just stood there grunting like an old sow with a corn cob up her ass. I was supposed to have understood the meaning of his grunt.

Wow. I stood in the way of an old gummer like an idiot and ignored him. I am turning Japanese! Damn. Payback at last!!!

What many students think of Berlitz (or any) English teacher

At my now part-time income supplement job at Berlitz, I was doing an exercise with elementary ability level students. I was helping them make a recruitment ad, so I used Berlitz as an example knowing I would get this kind of answer.

Question: What skills does a Berlitz English teacher need?
1. Can speak English.
2. Is usually polite.
3. Is funny

So basically, they assume Berlitz teachers need no knowledge, education, or skills. I don't disagree much about this for Berlitz or many other eikawa chain schools. However, many Japanese assume this for any non-Japanese English teacher anywhere.

If they want an intelligent, well-educated and trained teacher, they go to Japanese teachers. For native-speakers, they look for entertaining clowns---basically language whores---for "classes" which are primarily "fun." The idea that interesting, effective, and useful classes are possible or desirable is something many never think about.

An example of delusionary--or at best, wishful thinking

I found this posted on the internet a year or so ago by an apparently frustrated and disgusted teacher fed up with the fake teaching going on in schools in Japan. He or she seems to be living in a dream world. Gone nutter, perhaps. This is what happens when you teach here too long. Poor person is about as nutty as me if he/she thinks the Japanese want real language teachers/teaching. They'd have to really study, do homework, and accept responsibility for their own success or failure. Ain't no fucking way.

As does every other place in Japan, schools often hire people just out of college (or even high school if they can get a visa) with no teacher training or experience. They figure that all you need to do to be able to teach a language is speak it. Naturally the result ain't so good. But who cares, they pay big bucks for it and their lack of success reinforces the nihonjinron fallacy that the Japanese are uniquely unique and can't learn English because their brain functions on the opposite side. I am not making that up!

(Some universities are even hiring eikaiwa cahin school "teachers" to teach for credit courses in Japanese universities. People who may be without even a BA or BS degree teaching university courses. Only in Japan.)

Below is the post by this guy. His predictions turned out to be completely wrong so far. There has been no increase in demand for qualified teachers in Japan. Never was. Never will be. Most people prefer clowns. Give 'em what they want. Let 'em keep throwing money away. Who the hell cares?

With the new school/business year starting soon it is necessary to state what is happening in new Japan for your readers.
First, the boards of education, companies, schools have been pressured to produce well educated students, clients, etc. With
that in mind, the disappearance of the entertainment style of being with children will soon disappear. It is so great to see and feel that now. For some time, in some areas of Japan, they were allowed to entertain, sit by their desk and file their nails, be a clown in general...That time has gone from a lot of boards of educations and companies.
There has been a drastic reduction in those types of people near Tokyo and just recently spreading to various areas of Japan this year and in the up and coming year. Instead, their jobs have been reduced, amalgamated with other contracts, or for some of them outright cut.
In replacement of these individuals is the return of the qualified teacher with experience, the background, and the knowledge of how to have children behave academically in the classroom. As a result of this drastic change, the professionals who are here now are swamped by the demand for good, quality education....the prop, theatrical way is out......the foreigner standing in the room is out.......the idea of performace[sic]in teaching is a tremendous part of the market and WE cannot and I MEAN cannot meet this demand!
The idea of textbooks at all levels of education is going to be coming to we the professionals eventually will have all we need here.
Goodbye to the clowns

Posted: March 11, 2004

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A word of advice

Do not come to Japan to "teach" English unless you have some other reason for being here. A year may be o.k. if you are interested in teaching as a career, but don't come and work for one of the big entertainment industry chain eikaiwa (conversation)schools. You will learn nothing except bad habits and have a good chance of being cheated out of money. You will deal with people of the most questionable ethics, and if you stay with it much you stand the chance of accepting and adoptingthe low standards and unethical. Dishonest behavior that is common in many of them.

Even teaching in good companies is not something you want to do long term if you don't have to. You can't really teach when you cannot test, when students won't do any outside class work, and won't write because they very mistakenly believe the only way to improve speaking is to sit around and shoot the shit.

The pay may seem good, but it isn't. It won't increase much over the long term. Companies like Berlitz rarely give annual raises and make a huge effort get you to pay for their responsibilties(e.g. Berlitz will often send "teachers" to different schools and refuse to reimburse them for the transportation costs.)

Again, do not make the mistake of coming here with an idea of a career in TESOL. Even in universities, if you have an MA in TESOL, my understanding is that you will have little actual input as an instructor, but simply expected to teach and shut the fuck up and let the brilliant Japanese staff make the decisions. After all, you are a happy boy airhead baka gaijin who could not possibly understand the Japanese or Japan.