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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back by Popular Demand

So, I guess it's time for another shit-my-students-write entry. Before I continue, I will concede that learning a foreign language is difficult. It is sometimes more difficult for some people than others, and going from Japanese to English is a doozy and a half. The languages are like the antithesis of each other; if grammar works one way in Japanese, you're almost always guaranteed that it works the opposite way in English. A quick and dirty example would be verbs. Usually (not always) verbs are towards the beginning of the sentence in English. Same in Japanese? NYOOOPE. Verbs are usually (not always) towards the end. So, it's hard and sometimes trying to learn something so opposite is really uncomfortable. For everyone.

My kids once in awhile try hard and are often lazy confused. They frequently sometimes come up with the wrong answer even though I have given them all the answers prior to making them write sentences , and that's OK. I do not think less of them for their strange answers, and it is often really infuriating endearing. But for real, I am thrilled that they are making the effort (because they didn't before), I just wish they would pay a little more attention in class. Alrighty, without further ado I will provide here the directions I gave them and then their answers. Half of these questions were of a creative nature so I will specify those. The other half have a correct answer, so I will first provide the correct answer in bold and then the student answer.

Creative questions!

Write a sentence using the word "prettiest"
"The Pooh is prettiest of all Disney" (Yeah, suck it, Princesses. This is too cute.)

Next, I provided half of a sentence and the students had to complete it with their own thoughts.

I feel happy when __________________________.
"I feel happy when I go to bed." (Me too, yo.)

I feel surprised when ______________________.
"I feel surprised when my friends surprise me." ( too...?)
"I feel surprised when I looked new." (Like, suddenly in the middle of class? Or when you wake up in the morning? I feel like we need a time frame here.)
"I feel surprised when bubble of Cola coma out of Cola bottle." (Yup, that's pretty surprising. Memo to self: teach the verb 'overflow.')

I feel embarrassed when _____________________.
"I feel embarrassed when I put salt instead of suger." (Ooo clever! Almost.)
"I feel embarrassed when I time an occaision study." (I don't know. I don't. Even. Know. I saw this as it was being written and tried to ask the student what he wanted to say in Japanese, but he nearly peed himself because I started talking to him directly. And he just clammed up and didn't say anything. Then I asked the Japanese teacher what she thought it meant and she just stared at it for a good few minutes before saying 'I don't know.' So, I tried to understand. I TRIED, JAPAN.)

I feel angry when ____________________.
"I feel angry when I have a quarreling." (It sounds like Chaucer to me. 'Whan that April I have a quarreling...' It could work, no?)

I feel satisfied when __________________.
"I feel satisfied when I eat cake." (Whoever wrote this is my people.)
"I feel satisfied when I feel interesting." (I think we should discourage feeling dependent feelings.)
"I feel satisfied when I eat black-sander." (I so didn't know what this was at first and it sounded vaguely naughty, so I made a great effort to learn what this person meant. It involved asking several teachers who sat nearby, and thankfully one of them remembered the name of an uber-yummy candy bar called 'Black Thunder'. Otherwise I may have thought this kid was a total perv.)

I feel confused when ___________________.
"I feel confused when I answer the English question." (Don't worry. So does Sarah Palin.)

Okay this next part is the one with correct answers. The students spend weeks, WEEKS, studying three paragraphs in English, and then we have them do a dictation exercise. Basically we take words from the paragraphs and omit them, and then I read the paragraphs, and then students write down in the blanks the words they heard. The super brilliant trick here is that we always omit their vocabulary words. Not random words they've never heard, but the specific words we tell them to study and memorize. Here's what happened:

Correct answer: The blocks fit together perfectly.
Student answer: The blocks fit together perfecut. (I am making this a new adjective. Like, 'Daaaamn. That guy is perfecut!')

Correct answer: There are palaces, temples, and houses...
Student answer: There are prese, temples, and houses... (Yeah, not even really close. At all.)
Student answer: There are parestes, temples, and houses... (Ole! Parestes! Me gusta mucho!)

Correct answer: Machu Picchu had slept for hundreds of years.
Student answer: Machu Picchu had spirce for hundreds of years. (Seriously?? HOW did you even- Never mind. Not going to engage.)

Correct answer: ...buildings made of stone blocks.
Student answer: ...buildings made of stone bloxs. (Close! You didn't totally fail phonics. Yaaaaay.)
Student answer: ...buildings made of stone brocks. (Isn't that a guy on Pokemon or something?)
Student answer: ...buildings made of stone brooks. (Awww. Different kind of image there. Nice try.)
Student answer: ...buildings made of storn brock. (Sounds like the name of fantasy setting or lesser known Harry Potter character...)
Student answer: ...buildings made of stoon drok. (Noooo. No. No. No. You fail.)
Student answer: ...buildings made it stoon blook. (Are you effing kidding?? Do I look like Pat Sajak?? This is not Wheel of Fortune! You do not get to just guess letters in the hopes you hit on the correct combination! Thank God you don't have to PAY for all those fracking vowels.)

Right. So. To sum up, grading is something of an adventure. As I was composing this little entry, I checked facebook and another ALT that I know in a different prefecture posted a picture of a student's journal page. They had written "I like your T-shit." New thesis statement: Spelling is important. Let us never forget its significance in our lives. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

There can't possibly be any more snow left in the UNIVERSE


Yes that would be a snowbank more than half the size of a BUS. I now have vivid daydreams where I run around outside with a flamethrower, maniacally laughing while melting all the snow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Games of Wrath

You know how on sitcoms and TV shows (and even occaisionally real life) people will get insulted in such a grievous way that they immediately start into a self-righteous rant. Then their sarcastic friend/enemy/frenemy/local hobo will fire off a quip at them along the lines of "Well, why don't you just run home and blog all about it?"

Yes, well. Ahem. Welcome to this entry.

I. Am. Furious. I have been embarrassed, no, shamed in front of my students and co-workers. By my co-workers actually! I am so mad I can't even see straight! There is no containing my wrath this time: I will summon a winter to last 1,000 years!!! Oh WAIT, it's already HERE because it's freaking snowing AGAIN. Feel the wrathful wrath of my wrath, Japan!! My fury will not be sated this time, it is the END for you. You have put me through quite a lot in my time here, and I have tried to handle everything you've thrown at me with grace and decorum, but THIS WILL NOT STAND. It is the culture shock that has broke the camel's back, and I will let it be known Throughout the Universe; I will shout your dirty, little secret from the peaks of mountains:

The Japanese cheat at Uno!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay. Let me amend that accusation. Maybe it isn't all Japanese people. Perhaps it is only the group of Japanese people that I was playing with just a few minutes ago. They cheated fast and hard. They (my co-workers) invite me and a student into their game of Uno. Fine, cool. Thanks for the invite. Don't mind if I do. It all looks so unassuming; it all looks the same as any other game of Uno. The cards are still printed in English even forcryinoutloud. They begin to deal the cards and play as though they all know and understand the rules, but beneath this pleasant exterior lurks TREACHERY. UNO TREACHERY.

One student puts down a red "Draw Two" card. Does the next player (a teacher) draw two? Noooooo. She puts down a blue "Draw Two" on top of it. Then the teacher next to her puts a green "Draw Two" on top of that. And then suddenly it's my turn with no one before me having drawn two! And I don't have a "Draw Two" card in my hand, and everyone is looking at me all expectantly, and I just sit there looking really confused and shaking my head ever so slightly and one of the teachers says "No? Draw six, then." Beg pardon? Six? SIX? Because y'all don't know the rules or how a "Draw Two" works I have to pick up the slack and draw SIX?? Shenanigans! I call shenanigans on this!!

Oh no wait, there's MORE. Then at one point the color was Yellow and a student puts down a yellow six, and then puts down two green sixes on top of that. In the same turn. And everyone just continues playing as though this blatant act of cheating has not occurred. And! And and and everyone else used this same method of getting rid of cards SEVERAL times throughout the game! I have no idea what wackadoo set of rules we're playing with here but I am pretty sure that each player discards ONE card. Only one. Not more. It's almost as if the entire game is built around the concept of ONE CARD. Graaaaaa!

Combine the shady discard procedure with everyone rolling their Draw Twos onto me, and everyone is going out left and right and I am stuck with a fist full of "Reverses" and rage. Lots of rage.

So, thankfully, the period ended before I could make a total fool of myself. But I pretty much flew back to my desk at the staffroom to look up the REAL rules - and to send my flying monkeys after my new Uno enemies.

You know how when someone totally inverts your perception of reality, and that incident immediately triggers a Great Intellectual Crusade for Information that proves your own original beliefs to be true and the other person as a backstabbing rule-breaker? Yep, that was me and Uno.

I whipped out the deck of Uno cards in my desk that was left by my predecessors. The rules were in English. There were even some suggestions for variations on the original rules. And ya know, none of the rules were anything like that crazytown game of Uno I just played! After that, I summoned the internet to find more details. I learned that Uno was invented by a guy in Cincinnati a.k.a AMERICA a.k.a. BOOYAH I KNOW THE RULES BETTER THAN YOU.

Then I felt vindicated so my research crusade ended, and I was the winner. Now I feel a certain sense of obligation, and I am hoping to pass it on to you. We need to accept that there are people who cheat at Uno, and we need to take them into our warm embrace. And then we need to teach them the proper rules of Uno. Then I need to beat the pants off of them like what should have totally happened originally because this was TREACHERY!! It can happen to you, too. Don't think it can't.

I will be spreading the word to my friends over some delicious Indian curry tonight. That's all from me for now - until next time!     

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side. Especially When It's Summer on the Other Side.

Let's compare.

This was my reality 48 hours ago:

And this is my reality as of 4pm today:

I remember the good ole days when it was summer. Because that was, like, two days ago. The equator is such a lovely, mysterious place. It's like the Earth's belt. It holds the Earth's pants up firmly around the waist. Now, if we could just start wearing our pants a little higher up, Earth - perhaps maybe cinching that tropical summery equator belt around Japan-level. Well, that would be just nifty.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hong Kong Phooey or '2011' Rhymes with 'Heaven'

Fellow Earthlings,

You totally need to fly with Singapore Air at least once. Definitely going to recommend that one. Before take-off the stewardesses come around with warm towelettes to wipe your hands, and immediately following take-off they come by with your choice of orange juice, beer, or wine and a bag of crunchy snacks. Then they pass out the menus where you choose which meal you want, and you can drink Singapore Slings(cocktails) the whole way to your destination. No extra charge, this service is included with the flight. The TV allows you to choose which programs you want to watch, and there's a feature where you can build your own music playlist. Artist choices span all genres including Western artists, Japanese pop, Korean pop, Indian pop, and Chinese pop. After your meal they give you Haagen-Dazs. And this is all Economy class treatment. F to the yeah.

Sooo pretty much every day I've been in Singapore, I've gone shopping and gotten a Starbucks/Coffee Bean. Pretty standard for me, boring for you if you know me, we can skip it. It's okay. Unless you feel a particular need to know that I went to three different Top Shop stores in one day OH YES I DID. That place is dangerous, and you should not take your money into that establishment if you have any quaint notions about "saving" it.

Additionally, I have never wanted a piece of gum more in my life than when I'm walking around in Singapore. The irony of this statement is that chewing gum is outlawed in Singapore. Not allowed! So, bringing chewing gum into this country is considered smuggling. Sigh, we always want what we can't have. 

Anyway, I'm off track. My New Year's was epically unexpected. I really had nothing to do with how things panned out per se; only that it was my idea to go to Hong Kong in the first place. Other than that it was out of my hands (and really not as exciting as this little preface would lead you to believe).

My travel buddy, Elle, had a friend living in Hong Kong who we met up with for dinner. She took us to a private kitchen restaurant that specialized in cooking with Sichuan peppers. From what I gather a "private kitchen" is a restaurant with only a few tables/limited seating that you must make a reservation to enter - walk-ins not permitted. There was also a sign as we entered that said "Members Only" but none of us was a Member...well, that we knew of. Whatever. The food itself was quite tasty but they did in fact use a large amount of Sichuan peppers. The only way I can think of to describe the spiciness of the pepper is, like, if the little pepper seeds decided to do a tiny, spicy ballet dance on your tongue. THAT would be what it's like. We literally had heaps of peppers left over from the meal, and I started trying to devise a way to use the remaining bits as an alternative source of energy because otherwise it was just a waste.

Okay so that was dinner and fun. After that we went to meet some of Hong Kong Friend's other friends to go ring in the new year. So we met up with them and went off to a gigantic club with a rockin' DJ and tons of other glamorous people. We toasted with champagne at midnight and danced the night away.

Is what Elle and I had been imagining. Oh, aren't we cute.

Here's what really happened. We took a metro to the end of the line, then got on a double-decker trolley and took that almost to the end of the line, met up with Hong Friend's other friends and then walked for another ten minutes to (drum roll) ... the harbor. One guy was carrying a hot water container, which we thought was strange, so Elle asked him if he was actually carting around a hot water container. He informed us it was full of mulled wine. Hello, new friend!

So we followed them down the road to an area with a wall running along the left side, and then followed them through a break in the wall onto a huge ship dock. We're talking with guard dogs in certain areas, large metal shipping containers, and old wooden palettes piled in places. Elle and I looked around and then proceeded to do the only logical thing: a photo shoot. Duh. Yeah, hopefully I'll be getting copies of those photos soon.

Then we got some mulled wine and tuned into a radio broadcast via tiny, portable stereo provided by Random-We-Just-Met-20-Minutes-Ago #3. That was how we listened to the countdown. I say "listened" in a really loose sense, because the countdown was in Chinese. They could have been listing chemical compounds for all I knew, but all the Chinese-speakers seemed to think the radio was saying numbers so I played along.

-Warning this next part contains a vulgar joke (sorry Mom! Please be assured that I, shockingly, was not the one to make the joke)-

We hit zero and saw, from a distance, one building explode with fireworks. They shot fireworks from the roof, and one of the Hong Kong Friends remarked (with affection) that "awww our building is ejaculating". Now, I didn't notice this until she said it (I don't know HOW I missed it), but here's a picture of the building with fireworks for you. Take a look. It's the big one in the middle (that's what she said).

Elle and I stuck around for a tiny bit after the display, but then had to make our way back to our hotel all the way across town because we were flying back to Singapore the next day. When we arrived at our gate in the airport the following day, we were just in time to catch the live broadcast from Times Square in New York with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin. Yaaaay. We watched the ball drop and then boarded our flight.

And that's the story of New Year's in Hong Kong. Totally unexpected, but I'm okay with that.

Now to enjoy a couple more days of sun and warmth before heading back to the Japanland (which just got half a meter of snow). Sending you warm thoughts from the equator!   

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Unfortunate Adventures in Spelling or Homophones: the Silent Final Exam Killer

Recently there has been no posting by yours truly, and I'm sorry. I may have been dabbling in being emo on and off (gonna blame the weather and holiday season away from home), and when that happens I try really hard not to word vomit it all over my blog. Alternately, during those times when I am not sulking about the drizzling rain and lack of halls-decking, my life is tragically uninteresting. Currently I also have a bunch of free time at work so I figured I was way overdue for writing something.

Right now the high school is having final exams, and I still can't for the life of me figure out why they do the testing now. There's still three weeks of class left, but you know, sure, let's have the final. So usually I have to give a listening test to the students. Pretty straightforward set-up: I read a paragraph and students have to fill in the blanks with the words I used. My sophomores have been working on the three auxiliary verbs "must," "will," and "can." So I made a few sentences that use one of the auxiliary verbs plus another verb, and the students had to write the two verbs in a blank.

Below are some unfortunate wrong responses and homophone issues that I totally did not forsee. First I'll give the sentence with the correct answer in bold and under that I'll provide the students' answers.

(The topic was, loosely, 'school rules.')
"Students can drive their own car to school."
"Students can july their own car to school." (I love summer.)
"Students con drive their own car to school." (Is it still a con if it's their own car to begin with? Or is it the opposite of pro driving?)

"They must eat lunch outside the classroom."
"They muse eat lunch outside the classroom." (Noooo, wait! I need that muse for inspiration later!!)
"They must lathi lunch outside the classroom." (Okay, really. What even happened here?)

(The topic was 'taking a trip.')
"I can see Buckingham Palace."
"I can she Buckingham Palace." (This is why we shouldn't use katakana to teach pronunciation.)

"We will enjoy our trip."
"We will enjoin our trip." (
"We wee enjoy our trip." (Not even correct in Ireland.)

(The topic was pretending our school was a wizard school.)
"Teachers will wear robes."
"Teachers will where robes." (Oooo, so close.)
"Teachers will were robes." (Pronounce it like the "were" in "werewolf" and you can see where the slip-up occurred.)
"Teachers will way robes." (I'm seeing a trend in which students don't know how to spell a word and just add a "y" to the end in the hopes that it's correct.)

"Everyone can use magic."
"Everyone can you magic." (The number of students that made this mistake makes me feel bad for putting it on their test.)
"Everyone can you's magic." (Almost clever.)

"Students can fly on brooms."
"Students can fry on brooms." (That is pretty magical in my opinion.)
"Students can fay on brooms." (Oiiiii.)
"Students can flay on brooms." (Just one little letter changes Harry Potter into Hannibal Lecter.)

Clearly I need to work harder here. I might suggest instituting spelling tests. I might just leave it alone, because this makes the whole grading process much more enjoyable for me. Poor students, they don't even know what they're doing to those brooms.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Continuing to Boost the Japanese Economy

Okay, I'm experiencing some mild guilt. I'll totally send some more money back home next time. It's just that, like, when else in my life will I be able to say that I can go to Tokyo for $300 and an hour and a half flight?

Never, right? Good, glad you're with me on this. November is Tokyo weekend. It will have been a year since my last stay in Tokyo. Passing through the airports doesn't count.


Also, I climbed a hella high mountain. My legs fell off for days. Here's a couple of pictures:

I communed with nature. Check that off the list.