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Tribe without papers or pencils mysteriously weak at portraiture! Tribe’s not playing music traced to absence of musical instruments! Carless culture lacks driving skills!   The above are mock examples of invented Neo-Whorfian ‘headlines’ taken from John McWhorter’s “The Language Hoax – Why the world looks the same in any language” (Oxford Univ. Press, 2014). This is […]

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  Ok, before anyone gets their hackles up over the title of this piece, a few points. One, I do not believe in any of those magical one-hand-clapping Orientalist discourse keys crafted for unlocking the ‘mysterious, exotic’ Asian mind. Two, as someone who has taken over one hundred trips within the continent and has lived in […]

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Contrary to the wide-eyed, exotic version of Japan as a country in which silence and its nuances are believed to serve an active communicative function, the Land of the Rising Sun often displays a real penchant for overstatement. As in waaaaay too much. Take the narrative of the average city bus driver: “I will now advance. Please […]

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  “Ummm… why are your final grades 15, 26, 14, 32, 9, 41, and… 1?”   The course total is out of 100. 60 represents a minimal passing grade. Anybody who scores under 30 has to not only repeat the same course next year but will also be held back a full year in order to […]

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You know the scenario. There comes a creaking from the basement below, a menacing scratching sound, then a heart-stopping thump. Nervously, she peers down the dark stairs into the abyss. “Hello?” she calls. “Anyone there?” And you, the movie-viewer, know there is.     But why, “Hello?” Is she actually greeting the intruder?     […]

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“Make eye contact with the audience. Use strong gestures to reinforce your points. Give a clear self-introduction to start.”    Hmmm, really?   I wonder if we are teaching presentation techniques that are unsuited to our students’ needs and purposes. I also wonder if we are often teaching presentation techniques that are outdated or irrelevant. […]

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There I was sitting in my office, admiring my own busyness, when I first noticed it. Dribbling in ominous trickles, oozing like molasses through the cracks in the wall, slimy vines  were creeping through the ventilator, gelatinous tentacles forcing open the windows and slowly encircling my desk. Pulling away in a mad frenzy from the sucking, gurgling goo I […]

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  Having seen hundreds of trainee teachers ‘in performance’ I can say with some authority that the biggest difference between the obvious novice and the skilled pedagogue is the latter’s ability to manage space, time, and people. The former often have little or no sense of audience, they lack sensitivity as to how the message is being […]

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Why do we make children tell data about themselves in front of uninterested strangers and regard it as a language learning staple?   So, how do you introduce yourself in English, anyway? Not so easy to answer, is it?      “Good morning. My name is Roland Dropkick, I’m Junior Vice-President of regional bottling and […]

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‘Some of this misrepresentation seems to me to be willful, or, willfully ignorant’ Because Japan lies on the globe’s geographical, cultural, and linguistic periphery (assuming one is using a Eurocentric model) it lends itself particularly well to being misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misrepresented. But some of this misrepresentation seems to me to be willful, or, willfully ignorant. Perhaps […]

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