Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Education of a Teacher - Part 2

I arrived in Osaka in the early spring of 1987 to find that Japan was booming. Companies like Sony, Toyota, Yamaha and Nikon were recognized as global leaders in their fields. Japanese businessmen were making investments and buying properties around the world: Pebble Beach Golf Course in Monterey; Rockefeller Center in Manhattan; Columbia Pictures. At one time nearly, every major hotel in Hawaii was Japanese-owned. The Japanese economy was the envy of the world and almost every bookstore carried a variety of books celebrating the Japanese business model. The Japanese people were also looking outward. Everyone wanted to travel abroad and taking English lessons became a popular thing to do. For an English teacher – even a middle-aged one like me – conditions couldn’t have been better. Language schools were opening all over the city and many people were looking for private teachers. Studying English was cool.
In Japan, every student must take six years of English in junior high school and high school and many students study considerably longer. But I soon noticed a strange thing. For all their exposure to English teaching, most students spoke the language at a surprisingly low level and were hesitant to communicate in English outside the classroom. Furthermore, few seemed to show any improvement in their English ability beyond what they had acquired in their earlier years. It was all very curious. By the end of 1988 I had established myself. I was teaching 2nd year students at Seishin high school, a prestigious girl’s school in Obayashi. I was also a full time teacher at English Network conversation school in Umeda, teaching one-to-one and also going out to company classes. In what little spare time I had, I taught privately. Yet everywhere I noticed this same phenomena, that most students didn’t seem to make any meaningful progress and eventually gave up altogether. It was a while before the reality of the situation began to become apparent. I’ll tell you what I eventually realized in Part 3.

Booming :ブーム global:世界的 fields:分野 nearly:ほとんど
looking outward:外に目を向ける travel abroad :海外に旅行にいく considerably:かなり surprisingly:驚くくらい
Hesitant:気兼ねする Furthermore:さらに establish:確立する
Prestigious:一流の spare time:空いてる時間 phenomena:現象
Meaningful progress:役立つ進展 apparent:明確