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The art of belonging: Japanese culture and small group English discussions

Reputations are made in small groups. This is true from the pre-school playground to the nursing home. One’s ability to engage and interact with one’s peers defines our role and position, the wider perceptions of our value to the group, to the community, even to society at large. For Japanese who are members of professional […]

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Having just completed half a year’s residency as a visiting professor at a Thai university, on top of my nearly 30 years in Japan, I’ve come to some conclusions regarding relative English proficiency skills in both countries.    On the surface, the two countries would seem to be starting on the same line: both languages […]

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The number of language teachers who champion the term ‘equity’ without practicing it in their classrooms is surprising. For example, very few, if any, would willingly choose to give all students exactly the same grades or ensure that each one had developed precisely the same skills to the same level. After all, that’s what equity […]

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  “Deploying the ideologies that these terms embody can backfire in ways that many don’t realize“   It’s hard to attend an ELT workshop, seminar, presentation, or teacher training session these days without someone trying to appeal to the audience by name-checking the three terms associated with current notions of ‘sensitivity’: inclusivity, equity, and diversity. […]

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The Japanese National Center Test for University Admissions system is a highly-controlled, meticulous affair. Administrators are hyper-cognizant about removing any potential claims to unfairness in a noble attempt to maintain the all-important notion of university entrance being based solely on merit. For example, several years back, yours truly was denied a role on the committee […]

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I’ve very rarely taught English to absolute beginners. To be honest, after years of teaching university students and adults in graduate programs, I would probably be far out of my comfort zone facing a student standing at that very first step.   For this, I’ve always been grateful to those L1 (for most readers that […]

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  I was as guilty as anyone, I must admit. There was a time that I thought critical thinking was an essential tool in the English teacher’s arsenal and I indulged. It was arrogant, wrong-headed, and I’m damn sorry. I’ve reformed.   Here’s why. A critical thinker should sense the rich irony, the obvious paradox, […]

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Scene 1: ‘Let me introduce Daniel Filibuster, our chief of international relations.’ ‘Hi. Call me Dan.’ ‘Nice to meet you, Daniel!’   Scene 2: ‘I’d like you to meet Vice-Regent Professor Emeritus Montgomery Hardwhistle.’ ”Nice to meet you Monty!’   It doesn’t take a Professor Emeritus to realize that the respondent in both cases above […]

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“From this activity I learned that I should listen to my patients.” “I realized that I have to study English more and more.” “I came to know the importance of cooperation with others.” “I was surprised to see cultural differences.”   “…if taken at face value, they are all pretty much lies.”   At some […]

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I used to think that showing deference to someone simply because they were older than me was illogical and irrational. Not surprisingly, I thought this when I was young. Now I’m in my late fifties. The people at my university who held the power when I first entered twenty years back have moved on to […]

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