Close Encounters

Perhaps if you’ve lived in a foreign country, or are a minority language speaker living in an Anglo one, you’ve had to deal with young people making fun of your language. It happens to us here in Japan all the freaking time, from the annoying kid in my daughter’s class who makes English-y sounds and waves his hands at me, to the gangsta-wannabe high school boys who yell “Sex!” when we walk by. Seriously, both kids were with me. Real tough guys, right.

I’m always at a loss as to how to deal with these encounters. I don’t want to turn the kids off English forever. They might be potential students and ca-ching at some point in the future, after all.

Today on the way home from the kids’ swimming lesson, we passed two innocent looking junior high school boys. Well, innocent as far as junior high school boys go, I guess. They had on ぴかぴか brand new gym uniforms, which was a dead give-away that they were seventh graders, first years here in Japan. Give those uniforms another month or so and they’ll be walking themselves into the laundry, I’m sure.

As we passed by on our bikes, Me First was singing at the top of his lungs, as is his cycling time habit. Me Too was singing as well, but a different song (of course.) I guess it was inevitable that we would face adolescent scorn.

They weren’t tough enough to say anything to my face; they almost never are. And these boys were only first years, so they didn’t know much English yet. As I drove by, one of them yelled, “I’mu hongoree!”

Well, dad-nab-it, I was hungry, too. I stopped my bike, turned around and said, “I’m hungry, too! What’s for dinner?”

To which the boys replied, and I quote:


Me First got a good laugh out of that, and then translated what I’d said to them. At this point Boy A started to feel brave and said, “I’m hungry MAX!”

I love how the first-year kids are so willing to experiment with English.

He’ll probably go to school tomorrow and brag about this encounter. In another two years, if he’s
like most of the other junior high kids I used to teach, they will have tested all of the enthusiasm out of him. What a shame, a waste MAX.

Now I just need to think of a good response to the “Sex!” thing.

It’s getting old.


Reward Charts for Children?!

I don’t usually do reward charts because I don’t think children should be rewarded for stuff they ought to just do anyway, dammit.

I also know from experience (as luck would have it, I taught English to preschoolers in Japan for several years. Did I mention that yet?)that they aren’t an effective tool for every child, and that I, the “adult,” have trouble keeping up with them and eventually come to think of the whole process as a pain in the ass.

Way back when I was still young and 元気, (note: quick Google search translates as “full of vigor.” Take from that what you will.)I had a class of twelve 2-4 year olds that were hard to control. Out of desperation, I started a smiley face chart. Every time they did as they were told, I drew a smiley face by their name. When they misbehaved, I erased one. If the children collected ten smiley faces during the course of the two hour class, I gave them a sticker. Hey- the company was funding this fiasco, after all. I think this was even their stupid suggestion.

Well, as you can imagine the kids who didn’t get stickers had conniption fits. Surprisingly enough no parents complained. That I know of… At any rate, nobody quit.

Over the course of time, the stickers lost their appeal. To the rowdy kids, anyway. The ones who would have behaved themselves regardless were obsessed with them. You’d have thought it was the Hope Diamond I was giving out from the way they carried on!

Fast forward ¥&-$/@ years, and Me First’s teacher suggested a reward chart for homework. So against my better judgement I started one. Then Me Too got jealous, so I started one for her English homework. Brother quickly lost interest (as I thought he would,) but Sister is really into it.

It helped with transitioning her homework time to the morning, I reckon. She’s done a solid month of hard work, and after just one more sticker she can finally get her reward: a kid make-up kit.

Hopefully seeing her get a reward will light a fire under Brother’s butt. But the smart money is probably on Conniption Fit.