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Jawful
November 25th, 2011, 14:52
For me, this is a no-brainer, but I've been respecting the wishes of my employer on this issue.

I work at a normal Japanese kindergarten, hired directly and employed full time. In the interview they made their wishes clear, "you should only speak English with the students, in and out of the classroom."

I teach an eikaiwa-like, jumping around and using simple English words while playing games kinda lesson. One 30 min lesson per class per week. I love my job and I was teaching at an international kindergarten for two years before this so while this is simpler content, it's fun for me and for them.

Now I've been in Japan for 5 and a half years so I can speak Japanese fine, but my experience at the international schools made it easy for me not to use it with kids. What I don't understand most at my current job is the fact that I should also not use it with the teachers in front of the kids, and the teachers aren't supposed to use Japanese with me in front of kids. Basically they tell them "he doesn't understand so you have to use English"

Their idea is that if we can't speak Japanese, the kids will try harder to use English. But in reality the chatty ones don't care if you understand or not, they just keep talking. And I can't pretend I don't understand so I end up having half conversations with them.

They do use the English they know, especially what I've taught. Which is great. But I'm not convinced that would change if I spoke japanese around them.

But it drives me crazy to have to ask teachers to duck around a corner so I can talk to them. Or in the middle of a lesson when they don't understand my English, my hands are tied from just explaining it in japanese, even to the teacher.

In general I don't need Japanese to teach the lessons. In fact they work better without it sometimes. But I think it's wrong to be teaching little kids that foreign people cannot speak Japanese. I think it's better for them to know we can in fact. Instead we are portrayed as the "dumb ones" who doesn't understand. That's how it feels when they say bluntly "he doesn't understand" anyway.

And on a more selfish note, outside of class I would love to be able to just talk with them. I like kids and they are pretty funny sometimes. I wanna talk to them and want them to talk to me.

Sorry this is long but I just wanted to share my situation and hear feedback and/or similar situations. Also I'd love to know if their is actually benefit to playing dumb or its just an assumption that they want to believe. Before I continue next year I want to have a serious talk about this and if I have something to back up my view thatd be great.

shbflyjin
November 25th, 2011, 15:02
If they speak to you in Japanese, I think responding in simple English and gestures is fine. If they don't want to use English, at least make them try hard to understand what you are saying. It might take a little longer, but you can probably communicate more than you would think that way. Speaking to them in Japanese doesn't really help them at all and might have negative effects like them only using Japanese. If worst comes to worst, you can always whisper in the Japanese teacher's ear in Japanese and just pretend that it was English and that the Japanese teacher understands English.

One thing I have noticed in Japan is that even if you understand and answer the kid's questions just fine, if you don't use Japanese when answering, they generally think that you can't speak Japanese and will try to use English when possible. Also, there might be a few things you need to express to the Japanese teachers in Japanese, but if you try hard with gestures and simple English, you can probably get them to understand 95% of the time. Also, kids tend to like it when the teacher is also struggling to understand so it might make them a little less shy.

miss_doitsu
November 27th, 2011, 00:42
If they speak to you in Japanese, I think responding in simple English and gestures is fine. If they don't want to use English, at least make them try hard to understand what you are saying. It might take a little longer, but you can probably communicate more than you would think that way. Speaking to them in Japanese doesn't really help them at all and might have negative effects like them only using Japanese. If worst comes to worst, you can always whisper in the Japanese teacher's ear in Japanese and just pretend that it was English and that the Japanese teacher understands English.

One thing I have noticed in Japan is that even if you understand and answer the kid's questions just fine, if you don't use Japanese when answering, they generally think that you can't speak Japanese and will try to use English when possible. Also, there might be a few things you need to express to the Japanese teachers in Japanese, but if you try hard with gestures and simple English, you can probably get them to understand 95% of the time. Also, kids tend to like it when the teacher is also struggling to understand so it might make them a little less shy.

+1

hunterofpeace
November 27th, 2011, 07:50
Speaking to them in Japanese doesn't really help them at all and might have negative effects like them only using Japanese.

Everything else I agree with, just not this. Using ELLs' native language to help them understand English content or instructions usually has positive rather than negative effects. I think part of the reason that the Japanese education system so often fails to teach its students English after 6 years is because they insist on English-only education.

That being said, you won't change their minds by stirring things up, so I think this advice is quite sound. It's sad it has to be that way though...

Kewne
November 27th, 2011, 07:55
I think part of the reason that the Japanese education system so often fails to teach its students English after 6 years is because they insist on English-only education.

Funnily enough, when working in Korea I often heard that the reason the English education system often fails is because they insist on using Korean-only education in English class. :lol:

Jawful
November 27th, 2011, 09:12
I agree that responding in simple English and using gestures is good. And that's what I do. But two points. I'm talking about the 3-5 year old range and I'm talking about outside of class. In class, I wish I could use a word here and there if only to get the teacher to understand more clearly, but I don't need to nor want to teach using Japanese. For me lessons it isn't necessary.

But outside of class, why is it so important to keep up the facade that I cannot speak Japanese? Why is it so important that they don't even hear me speak Japanese, to them or to anyone? Why do they want to teach these small impressionable minds that foreigners do not understand, period? This is what gets me the most.

Yes, I want a relationship with my students. I want to chat with them. The Japanese teachers do it all the time and I wish I could. And the kids talk to me normally anyway but my hands are tied to respond beyond "simple English" or gestures. When they say they don't understand, I could just use a word or two in Japanese and continue on talking rather than them giving up. And I mean outside of class. I'm with these kids all day, and my English lesson is just 30 min of that day. So long as I continue to use English, which is my primary role, what harm is it to also throw some Japanese in so I can properly communicate?

I really do not understand the need to pretend in front of them that I don't understand. I cannot see the benefits.

hunterofpeace
November 27th, 2011, 14:58
Yeah, that bites. I'd do it anyway. It's not on class time. You could always pull the innocent gaijin card and say you let it slip. At least that way, your students would know all foreigners aren't stupid.

word
November 27th, 2011, 17:49
I think part of the reason that the Japanese education system so often fails to teach its students English after 6 years is because they insist on English-only education.
What? You're not an ALT in Japan, are you? If you were, you'd realize that a much bigger part of the reason that the Japanese education system so often fails to teach its students English after six years is because they insist on Japanese-only English education. At least, through junior high, anyway. Then, the kids may or may not be dropped into an English-only HS class in which they have absolutely no idea how to function.

At my prefecture's Suck Dick Conference, the only non-sucky speech was this fantastic one given by the most English-capable Japanese person I've ever heard in my life. He's a prof at some university doing research attempting to find the best way to teach English (and other foreign languages). It was incredibly refreshing to hear that someone in Japan is actually doing real research to find the most effective means of teaching language, and it was exciting to hear his results. According to his early results, you're right that 100% English is not the answer, and that best results are achieved with a mixture of techniques--BUT, it is important to note that (again, according to preliminary results of his studies), though they are imperfect, near-100% English classes are so far the most effective means known of producing graduates with real communicative abilities.

Jawful
November 27th, 2011, 21:18
So my question is still, do you think that speaking to kids in their native language outside of class has a negative effect on their education? Are we really only there to force them to use English? Don't the other parts of being a teacher, an adult with more life experience, and a person from another country have benefit as well? Can't we help teach and guide them in other ways that are more easily done in Japanese? Can't we have more fun ourselves as teachers, and at the same time provide that same fun for the students, by just chatting sometimes? Do we always need to be "on" to be effective?

I think not. I think while being their to help speak English for those that are interested is good, forcing all of them to use English all the time with us, and otherwise pretending that we cannot speak or understand Japanese, does not benefit them in the long run. In fact, most of them just choose not to talk to us at all.

I posted this on another board, but I had a Spanish teacher in high school that ran a Spanish-only classroom. But outside of class it was just fun to talk and chat with her about her travels and things she's done. I think, especially for JHS and HS aged kids, this would be equally as interesting and could even push them to decide to study English harder or go abroad themselves. If not, then they get a bit of culture they wouldn't normally get. What's wrong with that?

word
November 30th, 2011, 09:48
It's fine to form and explore theories about English education, but until you have real empirical evidence that supports your theory, it is inappropriate to assume that your theory is correct merely because you like it. As an assistant language teacher, you have a responsibility to either (1) do as you're told by those who are better trained/supervising you or (2) present meaningful data to those who are better trained/supervising you which indicates why you should be doing otherwise and allow them to make the decision.

Telling your boss "I think you're wrong because I think you're wrong" isn't going to work well, nor should it.

Ainigi
December 3rd, 2011, 10:55
This is just my two cents... Because you are dealing with young children I would say that the biggest advantage to you speaking only English to them is that they now see a need to learn English. If you let on that you can understand and speak Japanese that need to learn English is gone. Kids that age are not thinking about how they will need English in the future but they will consider the need for English if they want to play and talk to their cool English teacher. ;)