Tuesday, August 03, 2004


I Love Teaching English!

Started back at school again yesterday, for another 18 day cycle. I enjoyed it immensely. I have to say it is SO much easier to teach English to Spanish speakers than to Japanese speakers. This is blindingly obvious, of course, but each day I realise afresh how much progress the Spanish speakers can make in a relatively short time. The thing I am finding in my own studies of Spanish is that all the short, basic words (like egg and house and chair) bear no resemblance to their English counterparts whatsoever. The longer, more complex words, however (like enthusiasm and hypochondriac and circumference) are almost exactly the same. This means that after learning the basics, one can, hypothetically, suddenly skyrocket to near fluency. Hmm. Anyway, I have now started teaching an 'Advanced Listening and Conversation' class, and it seems like it will be great fun. The kids have opinions! They don't care that I have blue eyes! We can debate issues! I love it. It goes without saying that I loved teaching the Japanese kids too, but all too often I had conversations like this:

Junior High School Student: "Herrrrrrooooooo Banessa!"
Me: "Hello Takeshi! How are you?"
JHS Student: "How are you?"
Me: "No, how are YOU?" (pointing at student)
JHS Student: "Eh?"
Me: "Are you HAPPY?" (exaggerated gestures)
JHS Student: "Ore?" ("Me?")
Me: "HAPPY?"
JHS Student: "Eigo wakaranai yo." ("I don't understand English")
Me: "HAPPY?" (threateningly voiced)
JHS Student: "No."
Me: "Bugger off then, you little cretin." (under my breath)

Some students were rather reluctant to speak English. There is, in Japan, still some serious prejudice against learning English. It has traditionally been thought that the ability to speak a foreign language somehow makes a person less Japanese. Damn right it does! Learning any foreign language necessitates learning the culture that expresses itself through that language, making any learner less a citizen of their country, and more a citizen of the world. For the Japanese to learn that their way is not the only way can be terrifying, seeing as they are instilled with a very strong sense that there is only one correct way to do pretty much anything (introduce yourself, pour tea, enter a room) their whole life. Happily, I run into no such reluctance here. Peru, being a Spanish speaking country, somehow seems to have a European air. And Peruvians are generally open-minded to different cultures, being a right hodge-podge themselves. I think the only thing that is morally problematic in teaching English here is that sometimes it feels like you are wafting the freedom and money that English speaking countries can offer under their noses. It doesn't feel exactly fair, because even though I am teaching fairly well-off kids, very few of them will ever be able to afford to leave South America - let alone get a much-sought after visa for another country. Makes you think...

But I do still love teaching English!

It concerns me that you're the one teaching these poor innocent children - but it's good to hear you're enjoying it.

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