Prescript: This is a rant. You have been warned.
During the last six weeks – the hiatus between the end of the old and the start of the new academic year – I've been teaching mostly at an eikaiwa. This happens twice a year, during the university's winter and summer holiday, and it kills me. Why? Here's why.
Please note that all these conversations were with upper intermediate to advanced students, i.e. you can't blame their poor English skills.
Topic: Small talk at start of lesson
Female student: I was in New York for three weeks to study English.
Teacher: New York? Great! What was the highlight of your stay?
Student: I went to an outlet mall.
Teacher: You were in New York and your highlight was an outlet mall?
Student: Yes, it was very good.
Student: Yes, it was very good.
Topic: The benefits and disadvantages of globalisation
Student: Globalisation isn't good for Japan.
Teacher: No? Why not?
Student: We can import food, of course, so that's good. We can buy cheaper food.
Teacher: There's more to globalisation than Big Macs. Anyway, cheap food? That depends. You can't buy cheap rice in Japan.
Teacher: Japan's import tariff on rice can be as high as 778%. That doesn't help the consumer.
Student: Oh, but imported rice is not safety. That's the disadvantage of imported food. It's not safety.
Teacher: Foreign food is dangerous?
Teacher: Japanese food is safe?
Teacher: So … what about the Snow Brand butter scandal of 2002, and the Fujiya scandal of 2007, and the rice scandal* of 2008, and the raw liver scandal of 2011, and the hotel menu scandal of 2013? What about Fukushima?
Oh, dear hearts, you should never argue with a bluestocking book nerd info junkie teacher who used to be a journalist in darkest Africa. You can't win. I can shoot a real gun, too.
Topic: The 2020 Olympics
Student: It will be very good for Tōhoku.
Teacher (in her head): Think Zen thoughts, Ru, and don't say anything.
Student: It will be very good for Tokyo, too.
Teacher: Hmm. What about possible disadvantages?
Student: It won't be safety.
Teacher (in her head): Oh goddess here we go again.
Student: We will have many foreigners and that will be dangerous.
Teacher: Yup, right, we're all raging genocidal psychopaths.
Topic: Crisis management. A big, extremely important multinational project has derailed for reasons beyond your control (e.g. political instability, global economy): it's behind schedule, over-budget, no possibility of catching up, demotivated staff worried about job security. What do you do?
Female student: I will take my team drinking.
Student: We will go to an izakaya. I will tell them ganbatte, kudasai. Then their team power (she meant team spirit) will improve.
Teacher: This isn't a Japanese team.
Teacher: It's a multinational company with headquarters in New York. Your team consists of mostly Americans and various other nationalities.
Student: We will drink together. I will tell them they will not lose their jobs.
Teacher: This is the USA. You get fired in the USA for not doing a decent job.
Student: They will work very hard. It will be OK.
Teacher (in her head): Screw this, I'm going to fantasize about British actors and their cheekbones. Amongst others.
Student: I am Japanese, so I like rice.
Teacher: I'm South African, so I like crime.
Student: I am Japanese, so I speak Japanese.
Teacher: I'm from Africa, so I speak a Holistic Manipulative Multi-Modal Musical Mimetic Pre-Language also known as Hmmmmm.
Student: I am Japanese, so I play baseball.
Teacher: I'm Afrikaans, so I grab men by their balls in a loose scrum.
Student: o.0Teacher (in her head): Sod this, let's continue fantasizing.
* Imported, but the people who decided to sell the tainted rice, intended for use as fertilizer, to companies and schools were 100% pure Japanese.