Mr. Danoff's Teaching Laboratory Lab Report №: Three Topic: SIOP Paper Progress Date: 16 April 2011Below is a slightly revised draft of a paper I wrote for a class at Indiana last summer, analyzing these 4 videos.
- Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics StartSounds Lesson01 Part1of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UXszzZqy0c
- Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics_StartSounds_Lesson01_Part2of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXthnSojncg
- Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics_FinishSounds_Lesson02_Part1of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXthnSojncg
- Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics_FinishSounds_Lesson02_Part2of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcFF57sRcYg
Analyzing a Japanese TEFL Web Celebrity’s
Charles Jeffrey Danoff
This paper will analyze two classes on phonics done by a famous web personality within the Japanese TEFL community to learn what he does well and how he can improve, so that I and other teachers can learn from him.
Researcher’s Linguistic Identity
I have two year’s experience Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Asian countries. First in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), helping a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) with lesson-planning, activities, pronunciation and more. The ALT program is typical in Japanese public schools and is the situation of the teacher I will be researching for this paper. My second year I taught oral and aural English in China.
I have recently come to researching and writing seriously within the TEFL community. It came, because I have started taking classes on the subject as student at Indiana University. I have published one paper related to TEFL in Japan on a critical incident (Flanagan, 1954) I had with a JTE and different ways we could have worked together to solve the problem as part of a wikibook for one of my classes (Danoff, 2010a).
Classroom, School and Community Context
The two lessons I will analyze took place in a Junior High School in the greater Fujiyoshida city area of Yamanashi, Japan (P. Bickford, personal communication, September 1, 2010). The school has 242 students and they can be defined as “the average Japanese JHS class. Meaning, they have no previous knowledge of English.” according to the instructor, noting “However, the students are better behaved than most schools” (personal communication, September 1, 2010).
The two lessons were videotaped and published online to YouTube by the ALT. There are roughly thirty students in the classroom, and it has both an ALT and JTE. His name is Pat Bickford, and he is famous with the Japanese ALT community for creating the website Englipedia1, which has hundreds of resources for ALTs to use in their classrooms.
The instructor describes his teaching style as,
one where I have the students teach me the point of the lesson. For example, if I was teaching a phonics lesson on the “Magic E”, I would start the lesson by showing the students a ‘Magic E’ word and then ask them why they think the phonics lesson’s name is called ‘Magic E’. (personal communication, September 1, 2010)
The two lessons are on phonics start and finish sounds , 2009b, 2009c, & 2009d). I will make references to the point in the video time, with Start Sounds Part 1 (Bickford, 2009a) being SS1, Part 2 SS2 (2009b), Finish Sounds Part 1 FS1 (2009c) and Part 2 FS2 (2009d), as well as web documents (2009e & 2009f) he published explaining what is going on in the videos.
I will analyze Pat and the students in the context of Sinclair and Coulthard’s (1975) Initiation-Response-Feedback pattern, where they “propose that it is the quintessential teaching exchange: (teacher’s) initiation, (student’s) response and (teacher’s) feedback” (as cited in Hillman, 1997, Recitation section, para. 4). This exchange method is essentially what the instructor has stated as his style2:
I frequently go back and review what I’m teaching, for example:
Teach Point A.
Teach Point B.
Review Point A&B.
Teach Point C.
Review Point A,B,C.
Etc. (personal communication, September 1, 2010)
The students have a high affective filter (Krashen, 2004) as they afraid to make mistakes in front of their teachers and peers. That said, once one student demonstrates they can complete the task, many other students are willing to try.
Start Sounds Lesson
The first lesson on the start sound letters of “B, C, D, J, K, P, T, V, Z” breaks down into a series of micro IRF cycles surrounding the phonetic pronunciation of each letter within a macro IRF pattern on the pronunciation of all the letters and distinguishing which are voiceless. The first micro initiation comes as the teacher introduces the concept of phonetics “To start off the lesson, I write a simple English word on the chalkboard and have the students read it. Then, I launch into a “looks like/sounds like” dialog” (Bickford, 2009e).
He uses the word “bad” as the example and then to further explain the concept, he writes a Japanese character on the board which looks different than it sounds, the same as “b” looks different than it sounds (SS1, 1:00). The students give their response by non-verbally acknowledging their understanding and he feeds-back that they are correct by moving on to the next topic. I think this is an example of a high quality interaction, because the phonetic pronunciation of a word is a difficult topic to explain, and he does a wonderful job ensuring they understand with his Japanese language example.
The next micro IRF cycle begins as he initiates a focus on the pronunciation of individual letters. The students have quietly been listening attentively, but when he asks for a volunteer, he gets no one, so he calls on one whose name initially he mispronounces. The mispronunciation is funny for his students (SS1 2:14). Bickford (2009e) brings up the volunteer to:
demonstrate this part of the lesson because it keeps the class engaged and because they always get a kick out of this section of the lesson for some reason. I have the volunteer student hold both their hands in a vertical position at shoulder-length distance apart. … The area in between the student’s hands represent a horizontal timeline from start to finish of saying an alphabet letter. By using my hand and sliding it along the imaginary timeline, I show the letter B being spoken at regular speed. I do this a couple times and finally isolate the B-sound in the timeline and show the students exactly where the sound of B is located. I repeat the exact same process for the letter C.
As he goes through this initiation and modeling the students respond positively, by repeating what he is saying and he checks to make sure they are understanding by asking them in Japanese and they say they do (SS1 3:33). Again he gives his feedback by moving on to the next micro cycle about voiceless sounds and then repeating similar cycles for other letters. After getting through all of them, he begins the macro cycle response portion by asking for an individual volunteer to come up and choose one of the voiceless letters (SS2 0:15). All three students who come to the front respond to everything they have learned by making the correct choices, which he confirms by encouraging them.
To finish the other part of the macro cycle about the pronunciation with a flourish, Bickford races “through each of the sounds quickly and then slow the process down and race through the sounds together with the students. However, as fate turned out, my show-off time was a complete flop with constant mistakes.” (2009e) He did not get any feedback from them at the end at all. It was beyond them to use the skills they learned during his lesson that quickly. He does not push nor criticize them, but confirms they were wrong, and lets them leave for the day (SS2 2:29).
Finish Sounds Lesson
The finish sounds lesson is a little different from the start sounds lesson, as the video published online is of the second time he covers finish sounds. Bickford is not introducing new material, he is reviewing two old lessons and drawing connections between them. He begins with micro IRF cycles similar to the first lesson with him initiating the pronunciation, the class responding through imitation and him feeding back positively by moving on.
He then asks for volunteers in two ways that make the class a little more fun (FS1 1:24), by asking for a “Challangah!” which sounds like something that might come from a Japanese video game. He gets a few hands raised and asks the student to choose one of the voiceless letters, which he does correctly and Bickford gives him positive feedback with “Thank you.” in a sincere tone. As he looks for the next student he tosses out the chalk to them (FS1, 1:52) which is again, an excellent way again to make the lesson a little more fun.
The key part of the lesson for this analysis comes with a volunteer who makes a mistake (FS1, 6:55). Bickford feeds-back indirectly the boy is wrong, which leads to the student’s peers laughing at him. When he makes the same mistake again, he puts his head on his hands at the front of the room in embarrassment as they are all giggling.
Bickford tries (FS1 7:28) sincerely to help the student by directly placing the student’s hand on his own neck and pronouncing the letter, but this is still too much for the student who refuses to answer. Not wanting to leave him up there too long, Bickford has him sit back down without answering.
Later on in the lesson, (FS1 1:10) Bickford asks his most difficult question yet by having volunteers to match voiced or voiceless letters between start and finish sounds. The final volunteer is the boy who earlier was unable to answer the question, Bickford calls on him and allows him to redeem himself in front of his peers (FS1 2:30).
Suggestions for Improving Classroom Interaction
Overall I think Bickford does an incredible job, but I have two suggestions. First would be to use slightly less Japanese. I realize the students do have the high filter as I mentioned earlier, but things like asking “Do you understand?” or giving positive verbal feedback in Japanese may make the students feel comfortable, but they are not at all necessary. I believe the students can handle being pushed out of their comfort zone within this context far more, than he allows them to in these videos. Even if initially they resisted over time they would become more comfortable and it would help their English and their filter.
The second suggestion comes my own experience (Danoff 2010b) and Arnold and Fonseca (2007, p. 114) who suggest that learning student’s names can make them more empathetic to the teacher. In the first video the first time he asks for a volunteer he makes a mistake in the student’s name and then throughout the rest of both videos he does not once try again to say a student’s name when he finds a volunteer. Student’s names are the key to trust, they will make the lessons easier for both parties and make it less likely he will see zero hands raised when he asks for volunteers.
Arnold, J. & Fonseca, C. (2007). Affect in teacher talk. Language acquisition and development: Studies of learners of first and other languages. (pp. 107 – 121) New York: Continuum
Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics StartSounds Lesson01 Part1of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UXszzZqy0c
Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics_StartSounds_Lesson01_Part2of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXthnSojncg
Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics_FinishSounds_Lesson02_Part1of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXthnSojncg
Bickford, P. (2009). (Producer). Phonics_FinishSounds_Lesson02_Part2of2. YouTube – Englipedia’s Channel. Retireved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcFF57sRcYg
Bickford, P. (2009, April 17). BubbleBoy phonics (2009): Start sounds (lesson 01). Retrieved from http://jhsenglipediaproject.com/JHS_NonTextbook_Phonics_
Bickford, P. (2009, May 9). BubbleBoy phonics (2009): Finish sounds (lesson 02). Retrieved from http://jhsenglipediaproject.com/JHS_NonTextbook_Phonics_
Danoff, C.J.. (2010). Let’s not get started with the he said she said: Effective ALT and JTE collaboration. In Teaching english in global contexts: A wikibook published by the students of L530 class (section 6). Retrieved from http://l530.wikispaces.com/6.+
Danoff, C. J. (2010). Finding new writers and nurturing old ones: A teacher-researching quest. Unpublished typescript.
Flanagan, 1954 http://www.apa.org/pubs/databases/psycinfo/cit-article.pdf
Krashen, D. (2004). Applying the comprehension hypothesis: Some suggestions. International Journal of Language Teaching, 1, 21-29.
Hillman, D. C. A. (1997). Improved coding and data management for discourse analysis: A case study in face-to-face and computer-mediated classroom interaction. Doctoral dissertation, University of Cambridge, Cambridge. http://www.quahog.org/thesis/role.html
Sinclair & Couthard.
This is the outline for the paper I’m currently working on. Words in italics are from the paper above. As a SIOP reminder, this outline is for my current class. It will be interpreting the same videos with a SIOP lens, based mostly off this PDF (from Macomb Intermediate School District).Please share your thoughts on either work in the comments, via e-mail, identi.ca, twitter, facebook or LinkedIn.
Ideas for Organization of Paper:
BUllet point the SIOP stuff and explain how Pat fits in?
Do the SIOP stuff in paragraph form?
Narrate the lesson and comment on all the SIOP elements as they arise. Have it printed out next 2 me.
“The two lessons I will analyze …”
Lesson Preparation pp. 2
Demonstrations: Model step-by-step completion of tasks, or model language to use with presentations. This scaffolds and enhances learning
Building Background pp. 3
* Contextualizing Key Vocabulary (improve?)
3. Comprehensible Input pp. 4
* Appropriate Speech: Use speech that is appropriate to students’ proficiency level slow down and enunciate where applicable
** pawan p. 1451 Vygotsky (1978) defines ‘‘scaffolding’’ as the social interaction between experts and novices during which the former engage in supportive behaviors and create supportive environments for novices to acquire skills and knowledge at a higher competency level. Nevertheless, the concept of ‘‘scaffolding’’ has evolved from learning support and assistance at the interpersonal level to one that includes the use of a multitude of tools, guides and resources (Brush & Saye, 2001).
Discussing and doing make abstract concepts concrete
I have the volunteer student hold both their hands in a vertical position at shoulder-length distance apart
* Clarify Key Concepts in L1
he writes a Japanese character on the board
6. Practice and Application
Students have a greater chance of mastering content concepts and skills when :
? given multiple opportunities to practice
repeating what he is saying
? practice is in relevant, meaningful ways
? practice includes “hands-on “ experiences
I have the volunteer student hold both their hands in a vertical position at shoulder-length distance apart.
7. Lesson Delivery
Content objectives must be clearly supported by lesson delivery:
? Should be stated orally
? Should be written on board for all to see— preferably in a designated space every time
To start off the lesson, I write a simple English word on the chalkboard
8. Review and Assessment
Review key concepts during and at the end of a lesson:
This exchange method is essentially what the instructor has stated as his style
Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
Family Room, Mom & Pop’s House, Winnetka, IL, USA
Managed not to sleep during the day today, which was a nice change. Alarm on my iBook didn’t go off, becasuse the power chord is about 60% broken. It requires a lot of jimmying to get it just right. Got myself started, took care of some odds and ends then headed downtown to get my criminal background check apostilled. Upon arrival the nice lady behind the deskinformed me I had to get it notarized first. She pointed me to a nearby currency exchange, where the operation was painlessly handled for a buck. Got out about 3:15 pm and I thought the place closed at 3:30, so I turned on the jets and sprinted through downtown Chicago like a manga action hero … save that I was exhaused like a self delusional slacker who hasn’t exercised in months, breathing like a 7 year smoker and sweating like a cherry in summer, all of which I happen to be so it makes sense.
On the L ride there and back I did some work on my lesson plan resource and uploaded some, including FWE 8A Lesson 10. Also read an informative article about crisis management, which ended with the (I believe) accurate statement regarding how recent corporate crises were handled:
But maybe they did understand, and what they grasped keenly was that all of their options were poor. There was nothing they could do short of returning to their fundamental reasons for existence: making petroleum products, making cars, making money.
Got back to the and watched Japan beat Mexico over dinner, then the Sox almost blow a massive lead in the 9th, saved by a slick double play from Bobby-my-Mom-doens’t-like-your-goatee-Jenks. GMC Player of the Game was Gordon Beckham who had a huge homer, making up for two bone head baserunning plays he made earlier in the game that befitte a little leaguer more than a pro.
In The Way of Zen by Alan Watts, Watts describes that it is impossible to explain in English, all that is Zen. In fact, the Zen masters explain that Zen is beyond words. He describes how most Japanese Zen masters do not even try to “explain” Zen. He admits that although his Western background and his attempt to explain Zen in words by definition fails to capture the true core essence of Zen. However, he argues that because he lives between both worlds, he is able to describe Zen in words much more clearly than the masters might imagine.
That’s what I think about the good books about Japan written by non-Japanese. Japanese often don’t explain context or pretend that everyone knows what is going on. I think this leads to a lot of misunderstanding and the development of unspoken rules and culture shared only be small groups of people hidden in most part from the public. Publishers in Japan are also very sensitive about publishing books about taboo subjects in Japanese.
Chokei said, “Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words.” Hofuku said, “Even though your say so, your comment is not perfect.” Chokei asked, “What is your understanding of the Tathagat’s words?” Hofuku said, “We have had enough discussion, so let’s have a cup of tea!” Hofuku did not give his friend an answer, because it is impossible to give a verbal interpretation of our way. Nevertheless, as a part of their practice these two good friends discussed the Bodhisattva’s way, even though they did not expect to find a new interpretation. (Suzuki, 1982 p.54 – 55)
Ito, J. (2010, February 24). Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein [Review of the book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein]. Joi Ito’s Web. Retrieved from http://joi.ito.com/weblog/2010/02/24/tokyo-vice-an-a.html
Suzuki, S. (1982) Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Tokyo: John Weatherhill, Inc.
せんしゅ つよび ぼくわ 上海 に いて だから ぼくのあてらししごとあるミーティング。
I did the right things my first morning waking up in China:
# showered & brushed
Then came the decision of what to wear. Last year at JET orientation there was no question – suit and tie, dressed to the 9′s. Here, however I thought it’d be a slightly different story. I asked my roommate, Tim, if the attire was casual. I was thinking business casual, nice slacks, tucked-in collared shirt and dress shoes.
He said he’d be wearing “this” as he pointed to a t-shirt tucked into blue jeans with sneakers and not to worry it was very “casual” here. Decided then it’d be best to leave my suit in the closet. Put on nice khakis, a white oxford, dress shoes and waffled on the tie.
my shanghai roommate tim. taken on 27 aug 2009.
Chose to leave it. So, following my proper [ideal though not always realized] morning routine and being well dressed I was properly prepared to start my day.
Just as I was about to go off to a hotel breakfast my roommate said I “had to experience” as he passed on it in favor of McDonalds I realized …
I did not have my wallet.
Did my roomate take it? Did housekeeping steal it? Was I really so fucking pathetically nieve that I left it out in the street my first night out in China? Did I even bring it with me from the USA?
Managed to keep cool and search through my luggage and whatnot for around twenty minutes or so without packing, despite the fact I knew I was not smart enough to properly hide my wallet. In the meantime my roommate came home, said he had not seen it, and I believed him.
Soon enough it turned up in the most logical place – under my 50 pound suitcase.
Likely better off for having skipped breakfast, I headed to the first day of our teacher conference. There were two age groups of the teachers. A bunch of confused mid-twenty year olds searching the world to find their “passion” and then a group of people 40 plus who were on their third or fourth careers, many of whom had grown up kids already.
Attire was casual as my roommate advised. Lots of untucked t-shirts, shorts, sandles and what have you. I was impressed to see one gentlemen wearing a tie, but he lost some points when I later heard him say
“tomorrow is shorts for sure”
or something to that effect.
Conference itself was good. Covered teaching things like writing, reading and speaking where lots of helpful advice was shared by our boss and the other teachers, then went in to life topics like banking. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the one advantadge my city has is that whenever someone loses their bankcard they have to come ALL THE WAY to Anqing to get a new one.
I was already figuring out angles with people to capitalize on this opportunity.
The text above was written on the morning of August 27th, 2009 about August 26th, 2009.
So I’ve been writing daily journal entries since I’ve been here, but because I didn’t have the blog ready when I arrived, and because I think it’s a good way to share my journal, i’m publishing things about a week later.
After the entry I’m going to add some comments, share some links and do other things, more along the lines of a typical blog. Let me know what you think about this in the comments.
- Today my former JET colleague and friend James passed on this link about McDonald’s new marketing campaign in Japan: Mr. James. It is unquestionably wrong, despite this valid comment by a reader who disagreed with the phrasing of the argument by Debito.
- Yesterday I found this excellent analysis of Japan’s recent governmental power change by Karel van Wolferen worth reading if you’re interested in Japan. It’s all worth a read, but if you’re busy I quoted the first and last points below. (Via Joi Ito.)
The significance of yesterday’s Japanese election results goes beyond a relatively new and untried political party ending half a century of rule by a competing party; if the new leaders turn out to be true leaders and are allowed to carry out their declared intentions, this will fundamentally change the Japanese power system. … The Japanese who have been frustrated with unfulfilled expectations prompted by 16 years of promised fundamental change can only hope that their new government is given much time (and peace from scandal mongers) to work out an effective and productive collaboration between elected and career officials – simply the single greatest political problem of modern Japan.
july 6th, 2009 Hokkaido dinner. what do you mean “Hokkaido” dinner?
Last night following a Taiko practice and a mostly Hokkadio dinner, I hopped on the “danger bike” for a ride to pick up some bananas. At 10:50 in the evening, choices in Hamaton are limited to one of the two SeicoMart’s. The one open till midnight is closer to me so that’s where I headed.
When I walked in I noticed what appeared to be a new younger looking female employee behind the counter. “New” [as in I have not seen them before] and “younger” are a pair of words I have not used too many times this year in Hamaton to describe females. Naturally, I headed over to say hello.
To my surprise I discovered it was Cherry!
Her name is cherry in Japanese, and when she came to my eikaiwa class with her mother about a month or so ago, she introduced herself as Cherry – quite funny, especially considering her English level is equivalent to a good junior high school 3rd year’s level.
I was excited and we got to chatting, though I quickly remembered a story from another friend [Myumi] who recently started working at the other SeicoMart in town. Around midnight the Sunday we drove back from Hakodate Alex strolled in on his way home. He wanted to chat – as he always does – but Myumi revelaed subsequently to Chris and I that while she likes Alex, that night she was quite busy and couldn’t really talk.
Observing Cherry was busy scanning some things herself, I didn’t want to press the issue, especially because she was a new employee. An older employee was around and observed the two of us chatting. I felt kind of bad, as the older lady is my favorite SeicoMart employee to banter with. Usually our conversations center around what I’m buying and whether or not she is “genki?” but we both smile and do a good job of making personal what could be a mindnumbing, human-less repetetive transaction.
Yet, no offense to her, if Cherry had been working there this whole year odds are I never would’ve talked much at all to the older woman.
In any event, I thought could observe the older woman was a little put off by Cherry and I chatting, especially [probably] because some of it was in English so she couldn’t understand.
Hoping to make amends with my older friend, I tried chatting with both as Cherry checked me out.
The older lady asked as she inevitably does when I buy bananas,
“Asa gohan?” [breakfast?]
I said yes, then we got into if I only eat that for breakfast?
“to oatomeal” [and oatmeal]
The older woman had never heard of oatmeal – many Japanese have not – but Cherry knew about it – bad move putting them at odds again – yet the older cat kept coming, asking if I ever ate rice in the morning?
“toki doki” [sometimes]
I tried to explain that I only eat it if I made it the night before, because rice
“demo, rice wa long time … long jikan, 40 pun” [demo - but, and I'm pretty sure I mixed Japanese and English to say long time. pun is minutes]
“oatomeal … san pun”
I’m not quite sure why but this got both of them laughing, so I left the store feeling good that I’d put things right.
今朝僕は幼稚園の運動会にいて。こどもたちかわいい！ すぎいはへいろごはんたべていしょうゆっことあきらとほなみ。 おいしよ！ どうもありがと！
Yesterday after I finished my blog post I had intentions of cleaning my home and beginning to prepare for my departure. The former I haven’t done properly this entire experience and the latter I should have at least begun a few weeks ago.
Before I got going; however, I received a phone call from Alex checking to see if I still intended on coming to that night’s BBQ in Sarufutsu. I was, but and assumed it would be starting around 19:00 or so, giving me a few hours to clean. Turned out it was starting at 16:00. Given we finished our conversation at roughly 15:00 I barely had time to get ready and pick up my car which I’d left next to Yakko the previous night. Japan has a zero tolerance driving policy [an excellent idea in my opinion].
I have become somewhat notorious for leaving my modes of transportation around Hamatonbetsu. I regularly leave my car near bars on nights out, and two Tuesdays ago I rode my bike to yakitori junko to enjoy drinks with a friend. Afterwards she offered to drive me home, and I accepted. I didn’t make it back to junko for about a week and when I did Master did not greet me with his usual “genki?” [how are you?] but informed me my bike was still on the premises in a tone that was far from pleased.
So Saturday after hanging up with Alex I walked to get my car, I actually passed Master on the way. Given I’d finally removed my bike from his property we were back to our usual simple, pleasant conversation. Got my car, took a quick shower at home, picked up Chris, filled up with gas and started the drive North.
Around 16:30 Alex met us in a friend’s car and we drove to the BBQ. It was hosted by the same couple who hosts Alex’s weekly eikaiwa class: Mr. and Mrs. Watanabe. Mrs. W speaks excellent English as did two of the other women who were present. Mr. W is uninterested in English, but is a great guy. We had a good rapport going back and forth. He’d make fun of me in Japanese I didn’t understand such as answering my question about the trash system by telling me to take all the BBQ’s trash home with me, and in return I addressed him the entire evening as “Shacho-San” which roughly translates to Mr. Boss Man.
The rest of the conversation was about half and half English and Japanese. Discussion centered around the term “Gaijin Smash” which Alex, Chris and I had only recently learned and which Alex had taught the Japanese ladies that week at eikaiwa. Basically it means a foreigner aware of Japanese customs willfully breaking them, and then playing dumb. Urban Dictionary defines it as:
To art of getting away with [being impolite] in Japan and being an ignorant obnoxious foreigner by simply pulling a gaijin smash on their Japanese asses when the shit hits the fan“I was supposed to give up my priority seat on the train to that old bag but I totally gaijin smashed her ass and acted like I didn’t know what the fuck she was bitching at me about”
“I was too cheap and lazy to buy a subway ticket so with JR pass in hand I gaijin smashed my way through the gate before the electric doors could close and then when the guy came running after me and told me I had to buy a ticket I acted like I thought the JR pass covered everything”Ed’s Note – Words in brackets are mine.
The ladies informed us the Japanese regularly “smash” eachother.
Another good English topic was the use of “fuck” as an adjective as in “this food is really fucking good.” Given Alex leads a fairly racy eikaiwa class the ladies were already familiar with most of “fuck’s” other meanings. Good students that they are they quickly grasped the concept and then put it into practice.
At one point when I was offered my 10th course of food, I turned it down saying “chou onaka-ipaii desu” [I'm very full] one of the students translated it into English as
That’s a phrase I’ve never heard before, but which works and I love. I look forward to using that in the states.
We also got some good laughs out of my Japanese-English turning “tabetai” [I want to eat. If you add tai to verbs it means “want” as in nomutai - I want to drink. Thank you Makino for teaching me that] into “I want to taberu.” Readers you may not find that very funny, but yesterday 6 beers deep it was a hoot.
The food was delectable with the highlights being sweet potatoes wrapped in wet newspaper and aluminum foil cooked under the grill directly on the coals, grilled onigiri slathered in soba sauce and fresh mushrooms also wrapped in foil with garlic and butter.
Lowlight of the party was Chris, Alex and I singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and making countless mistakes. Thankfully Chris brought fireworks to distract folks.
After stuffing ourselves many, many times over we headed inside for a few more drinks. Alex, Chris and I departed the scene around 9, not because it was boring or dying, but because we had one more stop that evening – our friend James’s place. Given time is running short here we figured it would be out last chance to get to his town Toyotomi.
We arrived around 10:30 with 2 tall-boy 6 packs in hand. Usually we would head out but for certain reasons that would mean leaving someone behind, so we spent the evening’s duration at James’s home playing video games. Mr. Bozeman is uber-otaku [otaku is Japanese for geek] with a DS, PSP, Wii, PS3 and X-Box 360 at his disposal. Spent the next few hours knocking back beers, playing as a monkey driving on a motorcycle, fighting a buddhist monk, trapped inside a psychedlic geometry box and stealing cars. Following a discussion where Alex and I could not agree to disagree over what video games to play next we ended the night watching F F.
Woke up a few hours later to drive back to Hamaton to attend the kindergarten’s undounkai [sports festival]. It was fun as all of them have been, giving me a chance to see my students in action, meet their parents and chat with teachers and town officials.
These children are quite small, so I surprised to observe they had memorized not one or two dances like the junior high school students, but at least 5. One was a modern interpretive piece where the students linked arms together to make things like a bridge, ebi-fry [tonkatsu style fried shrimp ... I don't know why in Japanese they call it ebi-fry], and “special ebi fry” which had two students instead of 3. From what my friends and I could deduce, the difference between regular and special appeared to be the size of the shrimp. The other was “Yosakoi 2009” which I was delighted to observe as I missed my chance to watch the Yosakoi dances last month in Sapporo.
I started watching from my usual spot in the VIP tent but was later offered to sit with Japanese Taiko friends: Yuko, Akira and Myumi. After the event, that same people invited me to their house for lunch. It was a wonderful time where I got to make puzzles with their kindergarten aged daughter, watch her video that teaches her important things like how to brush your teeth, hold chopsticks and wipe your bottom after using the toilet, as well as an American YouTube video the wife had found via a Japanese blog, and look at the couple’s wedding pictures. It was fascinating to see that over the course of their wedding night they changed outfits at least 4 times, going from Kimono’s to Western wedding wear, to slightly more relaxed Western formal wear.
From left to right – Myumi, Akira, Honamia and Yukko. Thanks for the delicious lunch Yukko.
Yuko has her own blog, which you should visit …
After I was drive home I looked forward to finally having some time to work on that whole cleaning/packing thing. Stopped by the grocery store on the way home where I had a delightful run-in with Marie Theresa a Philipino married to a local Japanese man who speaks incredible English. When we first saw eachother she had a bewildered look on her face and asked
“Why are you here?”
She was surprised to hear I cooked once in a while, though I think less surprised to see that instead of food I bough coffee and a chocolate treat.
Got in my car to drive home with every intention of being responsible, when I stumbled upon this scene …
They called to me from my car. I almost kept driving, but thought better of it. Walked over to say hello. Was offered a beer, initially tuned it down, but then thought better of it. To be fair after all chilling with good people, sipping beers and grilling on one of the first beautiful sunny days in Hamaton this year is basically exactly what I wanted to be doing.
Managed to use a break in conversation after my second one to excuse myself and give myself just enough time to pen this entry before I go to my last basketball practice tongiht. As for cleaning and what not …
One thing that came to me during lunch was that I kind of wish I’d spent more time being otaku this year and exploring Japanese anime, manga, models and video games. Those all things I came being really interested in and still am. I wouldn’t go back and change things about this year, but I also wouldn’t of minded a few Fridays instead of going out to swill beers and sing bad songs I’d sat at home and played some video games I can’t get anywhere else in the world or made a Gundam model.
Yesterday by the time I got to work I was feeling alright. From roughly 13:00 to 15:30 I was working on a translation of the World Gold Panning Association [WGA] 2008 Annual General Meeting minutes [AGM].
I should probably give a little more context.
Usotan one of six “parts” or “neighborhoods” of the town of Hamatonbetsu was formerly the “Yukon” of Japan according to some local accounts. Many people moved up here in search of riches and Ki-San once showed me the remnants of an old house. He said some people got very rich, but most made little to no money at all.
Although the rush came and went, treasure is still to be found in the Usotan streams. Thus every summer they have Hokkaido wide gold panning championships – which I was honored to attend last August – and a few years back they had the distinction of hosting the 2002 World Gold Panning Championships [Pictures].
Me “competing” at last summer’s Japan Gold Panning championships in Usotan. Photo by Tamoi.
The Championships were organized by the WGA, and it turns out that Hamatonbetsu is the Japanese member country of the WGA. Thus, last year’s AGM minutes were sent to the Hamatonbetsu town office. I am not sure why two weeks ago the 2008 minutes were plopped on my desk and I was told to translate them, but I’m not here to ask questions.
Originally I thought it’d be a good challenge for me to just go through the minutes word by word and translate them myself. Sort of a Japanese challenge I’ve been training for all year. As a backup; however, I e-mailed the WGA, explained my situation and asked for a digital copy. Esther was kind enough to send it to me not once, but twice after I accidentally deleted the original.
Given I know no Japanese grammar and only had one day instead of a week to try and translate the 5 page document it was a good decision. One of the first full sentences is something like “The President asked if anyone had any objections to the meeting being declared legal. There were no objections, and with that the meeting was declared legal.” I’ve barely ever heard “legal” used in that context in my own life, and I had no luck finding that usage in my 2 pound japanese to english dictionary or on google translate.
What I ended up doing was writing what they were trying to express in simple English, plugging it into Google Translate and plugging what Google Translate pumped out back in to see what it looked like.
For example with that first sentence I’d write something like
The President started the meeting.
Plug that into google then plug what came out:
back in to see its Japanese translated into English meaning
If it was close enough I moved on. One point when I had President written, going back from the Japanese came up with “Bush.” I do not think this was a very effective way to do the translation, but given my time constraints and needing to finish the project it worked for me.
Friday night after Judo practice I went to meet up with some friends at Yakko – one of the best dinner/drinks places in town, if a little expensive. I was tired and they could tell, but it was alright. At one point was having a nice conversation with a couple of the daugthers of the owner. They are fellow Judo team members – one is in nursery school, while the other is a junior high schooler – the nursery schooler asked me to pick her up as she often does as high as I can, and then I throw her up and catch her.
On previous visits she’d asked me to come to their home on the 2nd floor and play. Master – her father – had put the X on that, so I was a little doubtful. I thought one throw would be fine. I went in and she was smiling and all was good – then a friend yelled something about Michael Jackson and everyone started laughing. That sort of ruined the moment for me. I don’t think the junior high schooler quite got the joke, but she was asking why they were all talking about MJ. Soon afterwards I said my goodbyes and returned to the group of 12 men, not in a great mood.
A foreign friend said it was a “great joke.” I disagreed, I felt perhaps it would’ve been funny an hour or two later, but not in front of the children. He said it didn’t matter because “they didn’t get it” I disagreed. Odds are the junior high schooler is aware of that part of MJ’s past, and even if not how was I to explain in Japanese with my level why everyone was laughing about MJ.
In any event, it ended what was a far more fun conversation than the one I was having with the drunk old dudes, and put me in a bad mood for a bit.
Closed the night out at Karaoke with one of the most unique playlists I’ve ever had:
- David Bowie – Space Oddity
- Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual
- Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing
- Backstreet Boys – The song that starts with “Am I your fire” – By request.
Eventually left around 2:15. Party was still going and rarely do I leave those things early, but I really was no longer feeling the scene largely because I was tired and had some things I wanted to do today. As I left that night’s star a dude I hadn’t met before who didn’t work with us, was wearing posh-punk clothing, drinking hot tea and screaming his way through songs was entertaining everyone.
Photo of me at the Karaoke スーナク where we were last night. Taken last fall by artist unknown.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention how as I was doing the translation I did some research on Japanese dictionaries and I came across Jim Breen. He’s the creator of the WWWJDIC: Online Japanese Dictionary Service which seems awesome, although I don’t understand it now. What interested me more was his incredible “Japanese Page” section of his personal homepage. It’s not pretty, but it’s effective, contains lots of information in an easy to find manner and has been maintained for years. It’s a great example of what a little time spent on a hobby consistently can lead to … sort of like what I hope to accomplish with this blog and everything I do online. Update finished July 4th, 2009 at 14:24