Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stick 'em up punk, it's typhoon lovin' criminal

Or: 'Life got cold'.

Typhoon! People were taking this pretty seriously; I know a couple of ALTs around here got unexpected days off when school was cancelled today. Alas, not I. Nanyo's educators are apparently made of sterner stuff than that. Anyway, it didn't come to much. Although the typhoon did some damage when it made landfall, it quickly ran out of steam as it passed over Honshu and although it came pretty close to me, it was really no more than a heavy and prolonged shower by the time it reached Yamagata.

While I'm on the weather, I'll say this: I'm officially calling that it's cold now. Like a true Brit, at the start of the week I still rocking the 'Cool Biz' summer style (i.e. short sleeves), and people kept asking me if I was cold. Maybe it was just the power of suggestion, but I've caved in and busted out the long sleeves. I fear it won't be long until I have to have supplement that with the proper teacher-style tank-tops though. Yamagata has a 27°C swing between summer and winter average temperatures, compared to just 13°C in Edinburgh, so it really keeps you on your toes.

Initial impressions of school #3 are good. It's quite a bit smaller than the previous two, meaning I'll generally have more free periods. But as I was saying before, I'm becoming very good at filling quiet time. Yesterday my kanji flashcards arrived from, and that's a fun way to while away an hour. There's something deeply satisfying about building up an ever thicker stack of cards you know; it appeals to the autistic, trainspotting part of my brain that is sadly deprived now that I have no pub quiz to go to. So far: 65 down, 1880 to go.

Joining in with sports is something that JETs are encouraged to do, but due to my general lack of sporting aptitude it's something I've shied away from. But one my first day at this school, some kid very nicely asked me if I would like to play table tennis with him and his friends at lunchtime. I accepted his invitation, and I'm hoping it will become a regular fixture. Table tennis is my kind of sport; it's not that much more energetic than pool or darts, and you can play it wearing slippers, which is good because I don't have a pair of trainers that have never been worn outdoors.

The English teacher (there is only one) is super nice and super genki, in a good as opposed to irritating way. Furthermore, her conversational English is excellent, which I've found not to be universally true of English teachers. She does however have the interesting quirk of using the verb 'challenge' when a native speaker would simply say 'try' - she asked me if I had challenged natto, and I said yes, because that is a pretty accurate way to describe my relationship with the foul substance.

I find the idiosyncratic mistakes made by people with a strong command of the language interesting, as they highlight things that are particularly tricky. Someone else I know uses 'watch' where a native speaker would say 'look at' or 'see'; I explained to him that you wouldn't watch a mountain unless you suspected it was about to erupt. The fact that English has these three verbs that mean essentially the same thing but are used in slightly different contexts once again shows what a nightmare it must be to learn. However, I suspect the 'challenge' thing maybe says more about the Japanese bushido way of thinking than about the English language. They love a challenge; why just try something if you can challenge it?

Tomorrow I have an educational challenge to face. I've been given the task of devising a whole lesson, with no brief, for the 'selected class'. It took me a while to understand what this meant. It is neither students chosen for their high nor low levels of ability, as I initially and subsequently thought. Rather, the third-graders are given one period where they can choose what subject to specialise in. Therefore, it is a very small class. In an attempt to be a cool English teacher, I decided to base the class around song lyrics. It's difficult to think of a contemporary song that fulfills all of the following criteria:
  • Slow lyrics (no SOAD's Chop Suey)
  • Clear lyrics (no autotune, so basically no song released after 2007)
  • Simple vocabulary ('a mulato, an albino, a mosquito, my libido' - what?)
  • Lyrics that make some kind of sense (sadly, this rules out virtually all Girls Aloud)
  • No particularly flagrant abuses of grammar or spelling (Timbaland's The way I are and Nelly's Hot in herre can forget it)
  • Nothing at all offensive (so Smack my bitch up is out, but more seriously, I did consider Katy Perry's Hot and cold since it has some nice simple opposites vocab, but the line 'You PMS like a bitch, I should know' is just too risque for school)
So in the end I settled for No Doubt's Don't speak, probably because I downloaded it for Rock Band the day before. I figure I can try and use the Harajuku Girls as my hook to get them interested. Will it bomb? Stay tuned to find out.

No comments:

Post a Comment