Monday, October 05, 2009

Do English Teachers Need Japanese?

I've recently been talking to some friends of mine who are interested in teaching English in Japan, but many of them are still unsure if they have what it takes to teach English to Japanese students. They believe that their Japanese skills aren't good enough to explain things clearly. Well, the thing is, you probably won't be needing Japanese in most cases, as most students will understand what you're trying to explain in plain English.

With my students, I've almost never come across a situation where I was unable to communicate things to my students in English. I didn't have to switch to Japanese. Repeating myself or speaking slower did the trick most of the time. Simple.

Knowing Japanese will, however, ease your job significantly, because students tend to add in a few Japanese words here and there (or a bit more...) They also mumble a lot in Japanese, so of course you can pick up a lot of valuable information just from listening to their monologues—アンケートは英語で何って言うんだっけ, et cetera. You'll save time if you understand Japanese.

In fact, understanding Japanese is enough. I never speak Japanese to my students unless it's a grandma whose English skills only consist of John Lennon's and Paul Anka's song titles. I've noticed that immersion has the greatest impact on students. I use single Japanese words, such as 名詞 (noun) and 動詞 (verb), to make grammatical explanations as clear as possible, but I keep the rest in plain English: "'Assume' is a doushi; but 'assumption' is a meishi." You don't really need Japanese if you know how to express things clearly and slowly.


doshimaitri said...

The English language is comprised of mostly Latin and Greek. Many of the rules, as we know them, stem from Latin. We have made changes over the centuries to accommodate our own styles of writing, listening, and speaking.The best way to become proficient in English is through English immersion programs where the student is taught in English. The result, most English Quebecers are perfectly bilingual, and French Quebecers are stuck speaking only one language.

Les Perras said...

A lot of my students don't want me to speak Japanese so they can learn better and faster. The good students (maybe their English is still poor, but they are serious) want to learn English through English. Anything else often devolves into learning about English as opposed to learning English.

Eric said...

Good point, Les Perras.

Hmm... What would happen if we encouraged our quiet students to make as many grammatical mistakes as possible, and punished them for speaking Japanese?

sandclow said...

I always give up to use English and just switch to Japanese.

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