Exacting Expectations

Expectations can be a terrible thing, especially as a foreigner in a strange and distant land. Particularly when that land, though certainly distant, isn’t all that strange. It’s simply different. Excitingly so from time to time. Yet, crushingly mundane at others.

The people I meet out here, those who have stayed for far longer than I’ve been here, seemed to arrive with the bare minimum of hopes and dreams burdening their carry-on luggage. It’s an approach I would advocate to anyone planning a life abroad; expect little, enjoy what you can and don’t be too disappointed when you find out the dirt beneath your feet isn’t all that different from the variety of mud you’re used to.

In our case it just shakes a little more often than we might like.

They are a complex thing though expectations. The power of teacher expectations are a common theme in both sociological and educational circles. How a teacher sees a student can effect how a student sees themselves and in turn what they perceive their abilities and limits to be. We can shackle a kid to failure with a misplaced frown if we aren’t careful.

One of the biggest issues in Japan when it comes to language learning are false expectations, false assumptions and seemingly a fear of questioning these ideas.

English is too difficult for Japanese to learn.

Japanese is too difficult for foreigners to learn.

Both heavily embedded ideas and both utter nonsense.

Learning a language that shares no historical connection to your language obviously takes a longer time, but the idea that at their core English and Japanese are harder to learn for specific nationalities?

I don’t buy it.

And not because I have reams of documentation to prove it. Though they do exit.

Rather because if you go into a task believing it will ultimately be fruitless you’re asking to fail. We talk about the power of confidence in sport all the time. Where is it in education? In English language education in Japan it’s long gone by junior high school. Worse, we expect it to be.

The Japanese system expects kids to learn roughly five grammar points per fifty minute lesson. It hardly expects them to mutter a word.

On top of that it expects the teacher to somehow perform this intense instruction in the English language itself, in a room of kids that is expecting to be lectured to in Japanese.

You would be correct in assuming that Japanese teachers by and large hardly use English in their classrooms. What you might not realise is that it’s an arrangement everyone in the room is ok with.

Why? Because parents, students and faculty alike expect, and of course work incredibly hard, to pass their university entrance exams.

And what do I expect? I expect that someday, enough people might notice that learning English, or Japanese for that matter, isn’t some strange and distant land always tantalisingly out of reach.

But we’ve talked about false expectations already, haven’t we?

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4 responses to “Exacting Expectations

  1. What a fantastic blog! Hi from Liverpool-uk! I have a year 2 blog, please drop by and say hello! Please visit http://www.smithdownprimaryblogs.net/year22015 thank you xxx

  2. Thanks very much Miss Hath. Hope you and your class had a lovely winter hols!

  3. Hi I’m a freshmen in an american university and I was wondering about working for an international school in the future. In your opinions what do you think would be the best subject to specialize in as a teacher? I’m currently thinking about pursuing EFL (English as a Foreign Language) but I’m seeing that many international schools are taught all in English or only accept English speaking students. What are the job outlooks for that subject area?

    • Hi Mike, thanks for the comment.

      Not working in international schools I couldn’t offer you solid advice on a best subject to choose in terms of employability. However, you would be correct to presume that they aren’t necessarily looking for a specialist in EFL. Generally they want people who are qualified in their own country as a regular teacher with a few years experience under their belts. If you are interested in in pursuing EFL there are plenty of opportunities, they just won’t be in international schools per se.

      In the case of Japan, a Masters in Applied Linguistics, TESOL/TEFL or a related field would fulfil the main criteria for applying for a university post.

      Teaching EFL is very varied in terms of requirements, pay, conditions etc. But there certainly isn’t a shortage of positions.

      Hope that helps a bit. If there’s anything else I can help you with don’t hesitate to ask.

      All the best.

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