Better To Have Loved And Lost In Translation

| Learning | November 13, 2015

(I work as an ESL teacher and I am doing a class where students have to write and give a speech in front of the entire class. I am checking their speeches for grammar mistakes and spelling before they present.)

Me: “Oh, [Student], did you write a speech?”

Student: “No, sorry.”

Me: “Why not? You never do it. You need to do that. It’s important to prepare.”

Student: “I prepared. My speech is in my head. I’m ready.”

Me: “Okay. Before you present to the class, can you say your speech to me?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure that you prepared?”

Student: “Yes. I prepared. It’s a good speech.”

Me: “Okay. I’m looking forward to it.”

(The theme is “imagine yourself in the future.”)

Me: “Okay, who wants to read their speech first.”

(That student’s hand shoots up in the air.)

Me: “Okay [Student]. You can go first.”

Student: “Hi, everyone. My name is [Student]. I want to talk about myself in the future. In the future, I imagine myself marrying a beautiful woman.”

(So far so good. I’m impressed he memorized so much.)

Student: “She is a very, very beautiful foreign woman. She’s from America, and her English is really good. And she has brown hair and brown eyes. She teaches me English a lot and will be my wife. I’ll be so happy.”

(And then he looks right at me and the entire class erupts into laughter.)

Me: “Okay, [Student]. That was a nice speech. Thank you very much. Please have a seat. Okay, who’s next?”

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Japan, Land Of The Cat-Bath

| Learning | April 3, 2015

(I teach English conversation in Japan. The class has a man in his 40s and a high-school boy. Both are very shy people with a beginner level English skill. Student #1 is the business man in his 40s and Student #2 is the high school boy.)

Me: “What are you going to do after the lesson today?”

Student #1: “We are going to take a bath.”

(I thought it was weird that Student #1 was speaking on behalf of the high school boy, too.)

Me: “A bath? Both of you?”

Student #2: “Yes.”

(A few people still use public bath houses, but usually not high-schoolers and definitely not together with a 40-year-old man. So I ask some follow up questions to clear up this misunderstanding.)

Me: “You mean, together? You’re going to take a bath together?”

Student #1: “Yes, we always take a bath together after this lesson.”

Student #2: “Yeah, that’s right.”

(Now I’m very confused. These two people who have no relationship (that I know of) always have a plan to go to a bathhouse together. I probe for more information.)

Me: “So are you friends outside of this lesson? Do you hang out?”

Student #1: “No.”

Student #2: “No.”

Me: “So, why do you take a bath together? Is there a special reason?”

Student #2: “Not really.”

Student #1: “We get in at the same time. We sit down. And then I get off first.”

(Now I’m feeling really weird. I’m imaging the two of them together in a really strange situation.)

Teacher: “Do you talk?”

Student #2: “No talking. Just get in. Sit down. Get off.”

Me: “Do you wash your hair or anything?”

(Now they are confused.)

Student #1: “Huh? No.”

Me: “So, when do you clean yourself? In the morning?”

Student #1: “No, I wash my hair in the bus after I get home.”

(That’s when I realize they were mispronouncing ‘bath’ and ‘bus.’)

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Don’t Wankourage Bad Behavior

| Learning | May 2, 2013

(I teach at an English conversation school in Japan. Some of my students are quite young (ages three to five). It’s parents day, so many of the parents are there to observe the lesson.)

Student: *yelling in Japanese* “Sensei! Do Americans really have giant w******?”

(I start cracking up because of the blunt curiosity of his question. I look over to his mother, who looks absolutely mortified.)

Me: *still laughing* “How about we start with our ABCs?”

(After the class, the student’s mother’s comment sheet simply said “I am so so sorry!”)

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