When politeness becomes annoyance

So there I am baking in my car in the intense July sun about to leave my parking space in the half-empty Aeon lot. However, I don’t do anything more than nudge the very tip of my nose out because someone is about to drive past me. They have the right of way – but … Read more

What your grammar teacher never told you… but should have

Many people who claim to ‘know a lot’ about grammar actually misunderstand how grammar works. And it is the resulting misapplication in teaching that is partially responsible for creating students who may hold considerable passive (albeit often very confused) grammatical ‘knowledge’ but have difficulty actually communicating.   Analyzes paralyzes   Have you ever heard the … Read more

Wise teaching for testwiseness

Japan is a country in which people hold meetings about holding meetings, rehearse for rehearsals, and conduct tests to help prepare test-takers for other tests — such is the degree of fastidiousness and meticulous preparation that makes so much of this country both hyper-efficient and exasperating. Indeed, if you have children who’ve gone through the … Read more

What’s in a Name? A lot… apparently!

Those of you who’ve been living in Japan for a while know how convoluted all this can get   The textbooks would have it that Mr. Brown asks “What’s your name?” and Ms. Smith duly answers with, “Karen Smith” (before calling for the manager, naturally). Simple as that. But real life is a little more … Read more

Sentences and Speech: Don’t equate the two!

  “An unhealthy dose of social awkwardness”   I’ve written previously about how the propensity to teach and practice fully grammatical sentences can lead to increased difficulties in producing speech for non-native English speakers, as well imbuing that speech with an unhealthy dose of social awkwardness. Moreover, when we reward fully grammatical speech forms with … Read more

Japan’s ‘Report’ Fetish

What they do care about is that I submit a REPORT about it   For the most part, everyone in Japan is an office worker. Office work is real work. Teachers are office workers. Police officers are office workers. Shopkeepers are office workers. You are only really working when you are sitting at your desktop … Read more

Unpopular EFL teaching principles that work

It’s been almost 35 years since I started teaching English, back when the internet meant some kind of reinforcement fabric, when cell phones were those contraptions that wardens called on to give death row convicts last-minute reprieves, and Krashen was what teenagers did with their Chevy Novas on summer nights after quaffing too much Baby … Read more

As a male, being Canadian, discussing ‘We Japanese’

I know that many language teachers in Japan blanch at hearing the infamous ‘We Japanese…’ response (and yes, that includes many Japanese teachers). You know what I mean. That loaded preface which marks many international conversations in Japan: Foreign human: So, what’s a good place to grab a lunch around here? Japanese human: Well, we … Read more

Mutated Musings on the Corona Discourse

I’m betting that most of you are heartily sick  (pun partially intended) of coronavirus talk. It has become the C-word of note for many. And yet, it retains something of that car crash ‘I-want-to-look-away-but-can’t’ dopamine effect — we keep plunging in, as if driven by an unseen aerosolized force, into the murky depths of Corona … Read more

Teacher Identity or Teacher Indulgence?

I could forgive you this indulgence if you were new to teaching, or new to a teaching milieu. Before, say, age 30, it’s quite natural to be asking yourself, ‘Do I really want this to be my vocation? If so, then what type of English teacher should I be? What exactly should my role and … Read more

Content over Grammar (Part two)

This is the second post explaining why teaching content should be valued more than teaching grammar (the first post can be found here).   In this post, I’d like to point out how an explicit focus upon teaching grammar can retard learner communication skill development as well as how unreliable, elusive, and, in some cases, … Read more

Content Over Grammar: Why and How (Part 1)

One of my roles is as a teacher trainer in a EFL Master’s Degree Program at a national university in Kyushu (not my home uni). Most of the students/trainees in my classes have been in-service teachers currently employed at junior high and high schools. About 80% are Japanese. The course I teach is ‘Classroom Practice … Read more

Keeping America out of the Japanese English Classroom

No, this post has nothing to do with the current socio-political situation in the U.S. Yes, it does contain ideas about how to improve your students’ English speaking skills. Read on.   “For the Japanese … associations with the English language invariably involve the U.S.”   Having spent most of last year in Thailand (on a … Read more

The Wizards of MEXT

‘MEXT’, or ‘Monkasho’, is the standard abbreviation for the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, Technology, and International Hot Air Ballooning. More importantly, MEXT is the scapegoat for everything that happens in any given education institution in Japan. Teachers at your school will now have to undergo eye-scans to gain entry? Sorry, MEXT says … Read more
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