English teachers in Japan get up to all sorts of monkey business, booze-guzzling and hanky panky, but perhaps their most heinous offence is awful teaching. Often, teachers know about as much about conversational skills as Harpo Marx, and think that “verb-conjugation” is some kind of sexually transmitted disease. Now I’m sure this blog is littered with dozens of horrific grammatical mistakes, and I don’t claim to be any kind of super-teacher, but some of the “teachers” I’ve known are so inept that they could be sued under the trade descriptions act for calling themselves such.
One young Californian colleague of mine once found herself teaching an old man whose English was very advanced. Among the notes she had written during the class, was the word “Japane.”
“What is this word?” The stony-faced man asked.
“It’s “Japane.” The country we’re in now,” she smiled.
Now, when you consider that this girl had filled out numerous documents and application forms regarding Japan, read guidebooks about Japan, and had written countless group emails, letters and postcards from and about Japan, it’s pretty astounding that she chose to spell it with an extra “E.”
The elderly man was less than impressed, particularly since he, himself, was an esteemed professor of English Literature at a prestigious university in Tokyo. If you’ve read the complete works of Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer in English, then a ditzy Valley girl won’t be able to teach you anything, except how to accessorize.
On another occasion, a young instructor swaggered up to me in the teachers’ room after a class and said, “Hey, man, check out this textbook! There’s a misprint.” He waved a brightly-coloured book which we regularly used for children’s lessons, in front of my face. “The dumb-asses spelled “Wednesday” with a “D,” “Wed. Nes. Day.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Hah hah! Morons!”
“Er…actually, I hate to tell you this, but that’s right,” I explained. “There’s supposed to be a “D” there.”
The rookie teacher scratched his head, confused. “Oh. Really? Oops. I just scolded a kid for spelling it that way.”
Talk about the blind leading the blind!