Friday, September 30, 2011

My Japanese Jillian Michaels

It is finally getting colder here! I only sweat a little on the way to school but then I have to bundle up in a sweater when I am sitting at my desk at school. To some, this may seem like mundane news, but to those of us who have to deal with the extreme Japanese summer heat and humidity, it is a godsend. A fair part of my day is spent fielding "it`s hot, isn`t it?" or "it`s cold, isn`t it?" type comments.

I have been working with a student on her pronunciation of a text and then we recorded her reading the text when we felt like she was prepared. It is extremely difficult for the students here to understand the difference between "R" and "L." To them, those letters sound exactly the same. You could say "rock" and "lock" and they think you are saying "lock" every time. It`s because in Japanese, and also in many other languages, like Portuguese, there isn`t that hard "R" sound. Whenever I try to get the kids to make the R sound, I think they feel intimidated by how stupid they feel and kind of give up. It`s especially unfortunate when they think they are saying "I like to eat rice" and it sounds like "I like to eat lice." But this is definitely one of the things they struggle the most with.

The student I worked with never complained about having to give up part of her lunches to sit with me or about having to read the same text probably 200 times. What a trooper. And for only being 16 years old, I am very impressed with her level of English. Although I find that most of the students have a fair understanding of the English language, there are some real impressive ones mixed in every couple of years. She actually wants to study English in the future so I told her that I can sit and practice with her if she wants and she said yes and nodded. I hope she actually comes because I think that the best way for students to learn English won`t be with their books and studying grammar, but holding conversation with a native speaker.

I can`t believe October starts tomorrow! My second year in Ojika is already flying past. I still love this island. There is just something so peaceful about this place. I am still leading two adult English classes on Thursday nights. I am tired at the end of the day but I always enjoy working with the adults. They bring a whole different perspective to the table. We talk about the strangest things sometimes and it really spices up my teaching. We had an interesting conversation about plastic surgery last night. I asked an older lady if she would ever get plastic surgery and she automatically put her hands to her face and stretched her skin up and back and gave me the "ok" sign. I probably laugh more with these fun people than I do all week.

I was walking home from school on Monday when I saw the same woman getting on her moped to drive away on the main street. When she saw me, she got off her moped and went up to me and said "Erin, slim!" And pushed her cheeks in with her hands. I burst out laughing. I don't think she is even trying to be funny but she is. She cheers on my weight loss and has said the same thing several times to me now. I like to think of her as my own, personal, Japanese Jillian Michaels.

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