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#TeacherAnecdote

Story time:
Last week, I gave my students a quiz about Capital letters and small letters. And, I was a bit disappointed because until the end of the year, they still have some trouble with small letters. 

I know, it’s my job to let them remember it. But as far as I can think about it, I seriously did my best. So, every other week I give them worksheets to write on. At the top, the phonics we have been through, middle part they have to write all the letters in small caps (but there are hints). And last are quiz for capital letters. 

I thought about it. How come it’s difficult for them to recall?

Answer is: I really don’t know. Haha

However, I guess it’s always go down to being exposed to the language. 

If you go around Japan, you’ll see English letters very rarely and I’m sure it will have a Japanese version at the bottom of it. 

You see, Japan have 3 sets of letters: Hiragana (for Japanese words), Katakana (Japanese letter used when the word is foreign. Ex. English) and Kanji (The Japan Chinese characters; each character has a meaning and a sound and a name; They have almost 3,000 kanjis). 

Let’s focus on Katakana.

They use these type of letter for foreign words. For example “Cleaning” is クリニック read as: Kuriningu. And that’s how they spell most of words that are English. One reason also why they say the english words in a very Japanese way. I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s easy, actually. They use Katakana and they can say english words without a sweat. But a problem is there, too. The familiarity with english letters are gone. The exposure is not there and sure enough, why will you try to read the english word if there is a katakana at the bottom?

Another is, Japanese people are a bit “spoiled” on everything about language. They translate all movies to Japanese, all on TV has translations too. People doesn’t get a challenge of it. Why will you watch an english version of a movie in Theater? One, it’s always the last full show and second, there’s the easier way out: dubbed. 

English is always just boxed in the English room. Not even in their own classrooms. We are boxed there, for 45 minutes in one week. They learn english then leave it all in the room as well. Not all the time though. Slowly, they do learn it but not as fast, as fluent and as enjoyable as they wanted. 

Elementary english here is conversational. Letters are mostly for higher level but elementary english is so much fun. However, Junior High School and High school are deadly. Grammar and spelling and all technical. Students learn and study to pass and not to communicate. And just like our short french class in college, we studied but never been fluent. Because studying and learning are two different things. 

So every time the principal or a teacher ask me, “How did you learn english? How come Japanese people can’t speak even if they have it since first grade?”

I alway say it like I said above: it’s always the exposure. The use of the language. It’s not just a subject. It’s a way of communication. 

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