Thursday, September 2, 2010

What don't you like about your job?

I know that learning or teaching a foreign language is a situation that naturally results in misunderstandings and awkwardness, but seriously people, today was something else:


Me: Wow, Fusae, that was great. Ask me another question using the grammar structure, "What don't you like about..."

Fusae: Okay. What don't you like about your job?

Me: Um... geez. Okay, ask me about my neighborhood.


Student: My parents had flower arrangement marriage.

Me: Um, sorry?

S: Ahh, my parents had arrangement marriage.

Me: Arrangement?

S: Ahh, I mean arranged marriage. My parents had an arranged marriage.

Me: Ahh, ok... Wow, really? That was pretty common in Japan in the past, right?

S: Yes. I have arranged marriage, too.

Me: Oh........ Wow, really? That's.... so interesting.

S: Yes. What do you think about arranged marriages?

Me: What do I think? Oh, gosh.. I dunno. I mean, it's so different from my culture. It's, well, interesting. So... uh... do you have any siblings?


female student: What is your personality? Are you outgoing?

male student: Well, when I meet new people I am usually shy. But, sometimes when I meet people I am outgoing.

fs: How about you Ken, are you outgoing?

Ken: Yes.

fs: Really, why do you think so?

Ken: I like to go outside. I like to play sports and traveling.

fs: ehh????

male student: ehh????????

Me: Um, do you like to meet people, Ken?

Ken: No.


So, I was tired of explaining to students that it is NOT okay to sit there like a dead fish while someone else is talking. How many times do I have to tell them that eye contact is important, and so is verbal response, whether it be a simple laugh or an "oh really?" This time, I didn't even bother with my speech. I came up with another solution. I liken it to when an audience is watching a live talk show. At certain designated moments, a flashing sign that reads "applause" tells people when to put their hands together.

Tonight, the usual male, intermediate-level students in their 30s sat around the table with their their mouths hanging open and their eyes focused on the carpet as Yoko the 40-something spoke under her breath-- literally, in a whisper, about her family. Her eyes, too, were focused on the carpet.

Me: How about you guys, are you more like your mother, or your father?

Yoko: I'm more like my mother.

Male student 1: dead fish

Yoko: Because my dad doesn't care about other people.

Male student 2: dead fish dead fish

Exasperated, I snatch my piece of scrap paper and scrawl at the bottom in BIG letters:


The students look at me expectantly. Any chance to get me talking is an even better chance to let them be silent. Good thing they're in a conversation class, right?

I point to the word REALLY?

Male student 1: Oh really?

Yoko: Yes. And he's very selfish.

Male student 2: speaking of fish, this one is DEAD

Male student 1: and this fish has up and died all over again

10 minutes later...

Male Student 1: I've run 10 marathons.

Yoko: dead fish

(I point to Wow!)

Yoko: Wow!

Male student 1: Yes.

(I point to Really?)

Yoko: Really? Where?

Male Student 1: In Japan.

Yoko: ...

(I point to Oh yeah?)

Oh yeah? Where in Japan?

Male Student 1: Near Tokyo.


Male student 2: dead fish that was eaten so long ago by other fish that they, too, have also died

(I point to Really?)

Yoko: Really?

Male student 2: maybe he's actually dead?