Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ticket to Ride

Sorry, long time no post.

I've been spending a lot of my free time trying to learn Japanese. It's coming along, slowly but surely. Every day when I go to work I tell the Japanese staff something new (I can say some essentials like "I'm going to Kyoto next week", or "I want to go to bed", or "I want to drink beer"), and get them to correct my pronounciation.

Oh, some more about work, since we never fully explained how the business works:
Students pay for "points" up front, and can then use these points to book into lessons on their own time. So students don't have regular schedules, they just come to lessons when they feel like it. The schedule is constructed based on whoever books in to class, people are grouped by their ability. The average lessons costs about 3000 yen, which is about 30 bucks, which is probably too much for a 40 minute lesson. Some people come to class all the time, meaning they actually spend more on English lessons in one year than a year of university costs in Canada. Ouch! That's a LOT of YEN!!! The nice thing, is that you get to meet a wide range of people, and you mostly see a few different people every day.

The dreadfully boring part of the lesson is that all lessons are written out for you in a series of manuals. Particularly in the lower level lessons, the "teacher" might as well be a voice recording. In the higher level lessons there's more room to be creative, and have a discussion on interesting topics... correcting grammar, or helping with vocabulary where necessary. Still some of the lower lessons can be fun too. Yesterday I had a woman explain to me how to make mashed sweet potato cakes. They sound pretty tasty! People are always surprised when I tell them that I cook. But we got to exchange recipes for awhile, so that was fun.

Hardest word/phrase I've had to explain so far: " The moral implications of cybernetic implants". Yeah....this actually appeared in a listening exercise. Fortunately I took a course on Biomedical Ethics, so I'm used to explaining these things.... but even so...haha, that was a challenge.
Other more surprisingly difficult words: "deserve". This shows up in a lesson on congractulating people. By the 3rd time I taught the lesson, I had devised a scheme for explaining it: I drew 3 faces on a piece of paper. 1. he's always late for work. 2. He never works hard. 3. She's always on time, and works hard. She deserves the promotion. This is always received with a chorus of understanding "Ohhhhhhhh....". It's a great satisfaction when you make them realize a difficult concept.

I have been brushing up on my Canadian history too. They are so interested in other cultures, and most people here are Australian, Brittish, or American. So, getting to be the sole Canadian ambassador at my school, I feel I should at least KNOW what I'm talking about when I say that Canada was settled by both Brittish and French colonies.
It's also interesting what people know about Canada:

*Student: "Laurentian is a famous place for viewing the leaves changing colour."
Me: "Umm...really? I had pencil crayons called 'Laurentian,' when I was younger... I guess it's famous for colourful things."

*Student: "Many young girls want to get married in Green Gables."
Me: "...... like.......Ann of Green Gables?"
Student: "Yes, it's very popular with young girls, and some of them want to grow up and be married there."
Me: "I did not know that."

And the thing that's really unfortunate about the school is that we're "not allowed" to meet up with students outside of class. At least, we're not allowed to give out personal information, or invite them to do anything. This is most obviously done because the company is afraid that if students made friends with English speakers, they would stop coming to lessons.
So, we meet many interesting people, but we're really not allowed to get to know them personally, which is a shame since they are so curious about us and where we're from, and we really want to know about them and Japan.
The non-teaching staff at schools consists of Japanese people with fairly good English communication ability. We ARE allowed to hang out with them, however it's supposed to be part of their job to keep an eye on teachers...make sure we're not stealing students from the school. So there's a touch of Orwellian overwatching, and an air of nervous mistrust in the school, until you get to know people better. Fortunately, many of the Japanese staff really don't LIKE working for the company, and thus don't care much about the rules.

Anyway, all in all it's not too hard of a job, and it pays pretty well. Living is comfortable in our apartment, and we can easily travel to many great cities nearby. You see a lot of cool things just walking around here too. Yesterday while walking to work I passed a couple buskers playing possibly the best cover of Ticket to Ride, that I've ever heard. Next week, we're going to Kyoto, and will have many new pictures and stories to share!
Anyway, check back soon, and we'll try to post some more pictures and sights.



anita said...

I'm sorry that you guys are not allowed to fraternize with students outside of your place of employment.

It seems silly to think that it would kill business. Because even if you happen to make friends with a native speaker you aren't going to sit around giving each other free grammar lessons. Nobody actually does that at all!

Maybe it's just against the law in Japan to make friends? Like think of it this way, the more people you talk to the more germs are transferred from one person to the next and so forth. You could have an epidemic on your hands people!

alexandra said...

Well, that would be strange... I mean the kids knowing this stuff you didn't, and you can't be attached to them... I was very attached to my grade 4 teacher Miss. Tannock, who is now Mrs. Provost!!! I'm also very attached to my french teacher, but mostly because she likes talking to me, considering I'm the "Quiet One" LOL! So, whats up with u guys??? I guesse I know the answer to that, after just reading what's goin' on!


P.S. When u guys come back, you'll be like, nocturnal!! LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

hi tara
just a word to say glad you sent me a message. every one is fine
just finished my radiation thank god .saw meaghan on sunday,she is fine ,it is oct 12 and it,s snowing
and cold .hope school is going good. we miss you
love aunt nell &uncle bill.

Ali said...

Hey there!!

Just thought I'd say hello and I've been thinking of you lots.

Crazy cold here, it's ridiculous!! A little bit early, but oh well.

Glad to hear that things are going alright. I love reading about your adventures.

Miss you lots!!

your friends in Japan said...

Hey Alexandra!
Yeah the rule about not being allowed to hang out with the students is pretty dumb and they don't like it either. Alot of them complain about the rule in class! I don't think its fair the the school tries to tell you who you can and can't be friends with!

Aunt Nell:
I'm so happy to hear from you and to hear the your radiation is over! I hope that things continue to go well for you, and that the cold and snow don't last too long! It is still beautiful here. They don't even consider it to be fall yet!

Hey! Its good to hear from you! I miss you so much - people are nice here, but how can they top your coolness? You should be happy to know that your plant counterpart is still alive and doing well, though we did have a bit of a scare when I forgot to water her for a few day!
I hope that the cold isn't there to stay quite yet - hopefully you will have a break!
And one last thing:
When are you coming to VISIT????

I love and miss you all too much! Thanks for the posts! THey make me HAPPY!!!

Derrick M said...

Ahh Ian, "I want to drink beer", that is probably the most important of the phrases to learn...

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to go to Kiyomizudera when you are in Kyoto. Kiyomizudera is such an awesome place. You guys will LOVE it!!! It's one of the best places I have ever been in Japan.
yOshi mOmOnGa

your friends in Japan said...

Anita- Your theory might make sense, except that other schools allow people to hang out. It seems that ours is the strictest. Anyway, I'm sure we'll meet people if we hang around here long enough.

Derrick- that's right, you've gotta start with the basics!

Yoshi- thanks for the tip! We'll definitely try to see it when we're in Kyoto. But if not this time, I'm sure we'll be back to Kyoto later in the year. It seems like such a cool place, and it's so close to Nagoya. Also, you should come by here soon, and we'll take a road trip!