Couch = カウチ いわゆるソファーということで、ソファーで寝させてもらう、的な意味ですね☆
Last Sunday I went with 18 other people on our annual school trip to British Hills. Our group left Aizu in four cars and I thought the drive through the Fukushima countryside south of Aizu was very pleasant. It only took just over an hour to reach our destination.
There were three main activities on our schedule that day which were a lecture/introduction to British Hills, a cooking lesson and a tour of the Manor House. The guides and instructors for these activities were all native speakers of English and they spoke only in English so it was good language practise for our students outside the classroom. Apart from these activities we enjoyed a buffet-style lunch upstairs in the British Hills pub while listening to a piper playing the bagpipes and explaining some aspects of Scottish culture.
One of the most interesting moments for me was during the lecture/introduction to British Hills. Towards the end of the presentation, the speaker asked three junior high school second year girls standing near him some very simple questions in English. Questions such as “What’s your name?” “How old are you?”
One of the girls, N san, has been studying at our school, mostly on a one hour a week basis, for about 4 years. I was pleased to note that she quickly gave appropriate answers to his simple questions. On the other hand, the other two girls, R san and R san, could not answer any of the simple questions and did not speak any English. They just giggled nervously and looked away.
Needless to say, R san and R san do not study English at our school. They came along with N san because all three girls are good friends at the same junior high school.
At that moment I felt very proud of our teachers and especially Maeko Kato who has spent the most time teaching N san. It was such a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the English education our students receive. WEC students practise all four skills in meaningful ways on a regular basis and as a result, our better and brighter young students can produce English in both spoken and written forms and have the confidence to do so. Well done N san! Well done WEC teachers!
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.