The other day as I was taking my daughter Sophie to a local supermarket, she smelled “yakitori” being grilled in a small van parked in front of the store. She turned round to me and said, “Daddy, yakitori, please” so I approached the man running the stall and asked for 3-4 different types of “yakitori” including one skewer of grilled liver.
Unfortunately my Japanese pronunciation was not very good when I placed my order because he didn not understand my request for one skewer of grilled liver. After a minute or so he began to realize what I wanted and gave me a little impromptu pronunciation lesson. He said “riber?…riber?… Oh, you mean rebar!
“Yes, yes, “rebar” please!” I said. So why did I make this pronunciation mistake? Because I was thinking in English and trying to say the English word “liver” in a way which sounded Japanese so I said something like “ribar” and not “rebar”. I need more Japanese practice!
How would you pronounce the following pairs of words? (n.b. some are fictitious words!)
1. river / ribber 2. liver / river 3. labour / rebar
A Dutch lesson was one of the most memorable parts of a teacher training course I took many years ago at the British Council, Bogota, Colombia when I was a young, inexperienced teacher.
The course is now known as the Cambridge ESOL CELTA course which leads to a basic but very practical and useful teaching qualification called “The Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults” for those who pass it.
The lesson in Dutch was taught by Catherine, one of the teachers at that time at the British Council in Bogota. She only spoke Dutch throughout the 60-minute lesson. She did not speak a word of English. I thought it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it greatly as did all the other trainee teachers except for one woman and by the end of the lesson, we could say simple greetings and make some simple sentences in Dutch. Catherine used a lot of gestures and picture cue cards to present the target language, and then to get us to repeat and practise the language. I think she did an excellent job teaching us.
Why did we have a lesson to learn Dutch, the language spoken in the Netherlands or Holland, when we were learning how to teach English?
The reason for doing this exercise was to make us realize how it feels to be a student being taught a foreign language only using that foreign language. Teachers of English as a foreign language working in language schools in the UK or other English-speaking countries have mixed nationality classes. In a classroom in England there may well be Russian students, Chinese students, Brazilian students, Spanish students, Turkish students, Thai students, Japanese students, Italian students, Saudi Arabian students etc. Clearly the teacher cannot use the students’ own languages in that class! Therefore these classes have to be taught only in English.
In Japan, however, 99.99% of my students are Japanese. Even so, teaching English in English is excellent preparation for the time when these students want to or need to communicate with non-Japanese speakers in English. Using a little Japanese may help in some cases to clarify meaning quickly but extensive use of Japanese in an English lesson will automatically reduce the students’ exposure to and practice of English. It also makes the students believe that they do not need to listen or read English carefully because a Japanese explanation will follow. I personally think it is also rather lazy and unimaginative for a teacher of English to constantly rely on translation to explain meaning.
Skilled, professional teachers like Catherine can teach a foreign language very well only using that language.
However, there was one student in our group who could not understand or produce the target language that Catherine was teaching. When I saw this student’s problems, it made me think that there are some students who cannot cope with the mental exercise and stimulation of learning in a foreign language.
Sometimes when teaching in Aizu, we come across students who cannot cope with being taught almost exclusively in English. Maybe these students would prefer to learn English with a teacher speaking Japanese to them frequently. I think this is unfortunate because that style of teaching obviously reduces the chances of a student becoming a fluent and confident speaker of English.
After all, surely the purpose of learning English should be to enable students to use the language confidently to communicate.
Hello, readers!! It’s been a while. How have you been?
私の指導するPreSchoolクラスには、４歳から６歳の子供たちがレッスンに参加してくれています。みんなだいたい通って10ヶ月~2年くらいになると思うのですが、最近はもう大文字、小文字の区別もついて、私やポスターのヘルプ無しでアルファベット順に文字のカードを並べたり、３文字の組み合わせ( cat, bag, busなど )の単語をスペルしたりができるようになってきて、毎週子どもたちの成長には本当に驚かされます！！
クラスの中でアクティビティをしたり、ビデオを見たりしている間も『Are you okay?』、『I don’t like frogs!!』など英語がポンポン出てくるようになり、本当に私や他の先生の言っていることをよく聞いて真似して吸収していってくれてるんだなぁーと、感心してしまうことも多々あります☆
Recently I have been making arrangements for our school trip to Hawaii this summer. Junko and I will be taking a group of 7 young students from 11-14 to a summer camp organized by the YMCA of Hawaii. It will be a fantastic experience for our young students to enjoy playing sports and doing other outdoor activities with children from other countries. Several cheerful camp instructors from various countries (typically university students between 18-22) will be supervising, helping, encouraging and supporting the children. Of course the language used for these activities will be English.
On the front page of our website are the words “Prepare yourself for the real world”. This is what we do all the time in our classes at the school, we promote “Active Learning” which means our students have to think and produce English themselves by speaking English or writing it.
When the students arrive in Hawaii on July 29th they will have the chance to actually use English naturally outside the classroom as the way to communicate with the other children and adults at the summer camp. It should be a wonderful boost for their English language skills, a memorable experience different cultures and a great boost to their general confidence and happiness and all the while taking place in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Along with the young students, we are also looking forward to the trip very much and to witnessing the changes that such an experience can make to the students.
WECのHPのトップページにある“Prepare yourself for the real world”.という言葉があります。これは、スクールのクラスの中でいつもやっていることです。私たちは“Active Learning（－英語を話したり書いたりすることで生徒さん自ら英語を考え、創造すること）” を一生懸命しているのです。
Last Saturday I was a supervisor and an invigilator for the Cambridge ESOL KET and PET examinations which we organized for our pre-intermediate and intermediate level students. The exams were held at the Aizuwakamatsu Chamber of Commerce, which is not too far from the Windmill English Centre in Nakajima Machi.
I always feel very pleased and proud to offer our students and other candidates the chance to take examinations in English which are truly of an international standard even though there is a lot of administration work for us to do in order to hold the exams.
When I asked a couple of students after the exams about them, they commented that the listening paper was hard because the speakers they had to listen to on the test CD spoke so “quickly”. However, when I was invigilating during the listening paper, I thought the native English speakers on the CD were talking clearly and naturally. The students’ comments reminded me of the importance of exposing them to the rhythm and intonation of natural, authentic spoken English along with its hesitations, repetitions, weak forms, contractions (i.e. “I’m” not “I am”), ellipses (missing out words when considered unnecessary) etc..
At the school we use some of the best quality teaching materials available which, generally, use language as it is spoken naturally by fluent English speakers. It is clear that, in order to pass Cambridge exams, students must get this type of listening practice in the classroom and/or at home.