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Sunday, December 24, 2006

TEFL Articles

Advice on Teaching English to Japanese

by Chris Weber

Pictured: The Yano sisters and their mother on graduation day in Oklahoma. The Yano`s studied with us from age 14 until they entered university in the US.

1. Slow down your speech (you already know this! but I'll just mention it to remind you)

2. Give students more time to formulate a response. This includes all levels of students. Don't worry about there being an un-naturally long silence between you asking a question and getting a response. Just because they don't respond right away doesn't mean they haven't understaood the question, it's often because they are mentally rehearsing their answer in their head to self-correct any grammar mistakes (according to their current conception of English grammar). You'll get better at reading (from body language etc) when it's a case of not understanding and when it's the situation I've just mentioned, but in the meantime it's better to leave that extra space for the student to answer.

3. "...Make use of wrong answers to elicit the correct answer when the kids are sitting sliently not guessing at the answer to your question. Rather than giving them the right answer it's much better to make them say it. For example, if you ask "What is it?" (holding up a "dog" card) and for some reason nobody has answered you should ask them "Is it a hippopotamus?" or alien or something else (sometimes something funny or crazy is best) and usually that gets them joining in right away and you don't have to prompt them after that. On the other hand if you tell them "It's a dog" then they are less likely to join in with as much enthusiasm on the following questions.

4. When you assign homework for the youngsters make sure they know what to do. This might involve explaining the first question on the page, but before you explain it you should try and get them to tell you what it is. Then for the next question you try and get them to tell you only giving them the minimum amount of help and gradually they should be able to explain it to you without any more cues. Cos you're not gonna be there when they do the homework, if they haven't been able to demonstrate that they can do the qeustion verbally, then there is a high chance that they won't do it at home. Following on from this, sometimes when kids haven't done homework it's for this very reason, so if they tell me they didn't do their homework, I ask in a friendly way to see their homebook. I make sure they realise (by my smiling and tone) that I'm not angry at them, but I just wanna see their book. I don't use any Japanese at all, but they understand. Then, I get them to tell me the answers to the questions that they should have done for homework. Then you'll know if they need more explanation from you or whatever."

About the Author:
Chris Weber, former English Teacher for Kevin`s English SchoolsHe is also a professional jazz musician.
Pictured: Former KES students the Yanos, graduated from university in

Top secret: Teaching English in Some of Japan`s Top Companies

by Kevin Burns

Lucky for me, my Japanese is not very good. Because of this, I can teach in some of the most sensitive areas of Japan. I teach English in some of the top companies of the world. At one of them, part of the interview was conducted in Japanese. They wanted to see how good my command of the language was. It wasn`t to deal with problems that might come up, we have a bilingual office staff at our school for that. No, I suspect it was to insure the safety of company secrets. How much could he comprehend if he overheard something? That was their concern.

If you teach English at a Japanese company. You enter a secretive world. As you walk towards your company, you may notice what looks like a moat all around it. You can be forgiven for thinking you are entering a fort or some other military complex. In a way you are. You cannot enter freely. The enclosure is fenced in, sometimes with barbed wire at the top of the fence or at least with a wall and perhaps more. There may be video cameras. There is a guard house, and the security guards will decide if you can enter. You must report to them.

Being the company English teacher the guards get to know you and will admit you with a wave of their hand after a while, but still they keep track of your comings and goings. You are scrutinised by any new guards. Company secrets are worth money, and closely guarded.

When teaching at your Japanese company you may be politely asked to change classrooms some days. Sometimes it is simply for a lack of space, but sometimes it is to insure that company meetings stay secrets. Excuses are made: "This room is more comfortable," your student will politely say.

Plans are being formed for Japan`s newest assault on the world. No more does Nippon attack her neighbours, instead she ships her factories abroad and produces her products more cheaply in China, Malaysia, and Thailand. For new ideas, she sets up factories and research centres in the United States and other nations. These plans are well guarded though, and as an English teacher you are not privy to them. You can`t be fully trusted no matter how long you have taught there. I understand this. To some extent I work in a war zone. Business is war, and Japanese companies are battling it out for survival.

Shintaro slumps into his chair. He worked another twelve hour shift last night. Business trips to China and other locales require him to study English once a week with me. He is a good student. In spite of exhaustion, he comes to class with a smile. He was transferred to Odawara a couple of years ago. Due to this, he had to leave his pregnant wife back in Osaka, and wasn`t around when his mother passed away. Ironically, his son was born the same day. I admire Shintaro. He is a pleasant man. He obviously loves his wife and baby and is a nice guy to be around. He is loyal to his company and never complains. Many Japanese are like that. Gaman is a Japanese word that is entrenched here. It really means grin and bear it or do your best. It is said before a sports event and it is entrenched in business.

In a land with virtually no natural resources, the people are all it has. Her people become the most important asset of the country. Other nations pay lip service to this in presidential speeches, but all Japanese know this to be true. If her people fail, Japan fails. There is no oil money to fall back on.

It is common practice for Japanese companies to loan employees money to buy a house - a very expensive commodity here. The company often seizes this chance to promptly transfer the employee to a new city - perhaps in the countryside or up north. Being obligated to pay the loan, the employee can`t say no in most cases. She or he is usually trapped. The brand new house is usually rented, most often to another employee of the company. The employee then rents an apartment in the new town she/he has been transferred to. Five years later he may return to finally live for the first time in his house.

Often the wives and children do not accompany their husbands to the new locale. A friend`s husband is alone in China and has been for three years. This isn`t strange at all to Japanese. It is all too common. One can imagine what this can lead to. Fifty percent of Japanese women have affairs. For men the percentage is higher. The sex industry brings in billions of yen and even offers host clubs for women.

The ageing head of one company I work for feels English is unnecessary. I cannot understand why. Fortunately some of the general managers feel otherwise and hired me to crack the whip and get their employees in shape for negotiations abroad in arguably the most difficult language in the world. It is a Fuji-like uphill climb. The classes are largely occupied by unmotivated, unconfident English students. When I say unconfident, I mean they don`t believe they will ever be good at speaking English. With this belief, they can`t. I try to motivate by being friendly, witty and caring. I try to get to know them and take an interest in their lives. A few become pretty good students and attend class regularly. It is slow, but they do improve year by year.

I tell myself I am making Japan a little bit more international. I am educating the people about other nations. I am making this country a better place, and I keep the company secrets to myself. Not that I know any. My Japanese is still not very good.

About the Author:
Kevin Burns is the owner of Kevin`s English Schools. He teaches at KES and at a
university in Kanagawa. He also loves to write!

Pictured: The interior of our Tsukahara (Minami Ashigara City) School.
This was our first school, we now have four.

On Teaching & Studying English

by Eric Keuling

My purpose with this short article is to offer you advice on improving your English skills. Most importantly, please try to have fun along the way.I think in one respect, learning a second language can sometimes be like exercising at the gym. We all know it is good for us in the long run, but boy can it be both boring and tiresome!!! Studying Englishcan really be mentally and physically challenging. Whenever possible, we have to make learning English fun. Therefore, I think teachers need to strive to make their classes both productive and fun and enjoyable.

Now I would like to say a few words in regards to studying English. Without question, becoming a great speaker of English requires the interested learner to possess many positive traits. It requiresambition, motivation, commitment, time, energy, patience, and mostimportantly it requires the right game plan. You need a solid,well-conceived, organized plan in order to succeed. You must deservesuccess. As Winston Churchill told the British people during hisrallying cry back in World War II: "Hoping and praying for victory isfine, but deserving it is what really matters." Simply put, if youdo not contain the proper game plan, chances are you will not reachyour goals.

I would like to hear both your goals and "plan of attack" for learningEnglish. Feel free to send me a post. I will try to help you as muchas I can. Good luck! You can post about how you learn or teachEnglish here:

Eric Keuling is a former teacher of Kevin`s English Schools
Pictured: Our Shibusawa (Hadano) School

On Students Use of their First Language in the Second Language Classroom

by Stephen McAtamney

A short time ago a discussion point was submitted regarding students use of their first language in thesecond language classroom.I recently read a comment in relation to this point,connected with 'task-based learning', which is often how teachers present classroom activities to their students. The comment reads as follows:

"One of the problems connected with task-based learning is that students very often resort to use of their first language. How should you react to this? It depends of course on what they use the L1(FIRSTLANGUAGE)for.They may use it to exchange informationquickly on the lexis required for the task, with onestudent saying to the other "please, how do I say 'X'in English?'.They may use it to help organise and stage the task, saying things like 'You go first'.I don't think you should worry too much about this.By all means encourage them to use English, but do notinsist on this if you risk demotivating them altogether. When you first introduce tasks into the classroom you may find that the use of L1 predominates, but students will soon learn that it isvery difficult to carry out a task in L1 and then report that task in English. They will probably comeround to using English because, if you take the taskcycle as a whole, this is the most efficient way to doit".(Burmingham University: 2001)

I have at times worried myself at the escalating use of the students' first language in the classroom afterhaving been assigned a task, however, as the articlequote suggests, this is usually used just to get thetask underway. Students are well aware that they haveto eventually produce English to complete the task sowill alter their language accordingly.However if students, in the process of discussing a task, wanderoff the subject and begin general conversation intheir first language then this of course is adifferent matter that needs to be approached with cautionary classroom management skills.

by Stephen McAtamney a former teacher of Kevin`s English Schools. This article was originally posted at Kevins English Schools`sYahoo Group -- our main forum.
Pictured: Kevin and friends at the tennis court

1 comment:

WatDot said...

Proper use of apostrophes would help your writing appear more professional.

About Me

My photo
I am a teacher and writer. I own Kevin`s English Schools in Kanagawa, Japan. I teach at Tokai University. I have taught at: Keio SFC, St. Mary`s College (Nagoya), ECC, The YMCA, Columbia College, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. My Japanese wife is a junior high school English teacher.