My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Grammar Rules in Japan

Yeah, it's one of my pet peeves -- a hobby horse that I probably should not be riding.
[peeve => しゃくの種、じれ、腹立ち]
[hobby horse => 木馬、棒馬 ride => 十八番を出す]

But my daughter is burning her candle on both ends, and in the middle, working on her homework. This is not healthy. I can't be specific here. If I say what it's doing to her, she'll be even more upset with me, so I'll just note that these are not theoretical health issues.
[burn one's candle on both ends => 深夜も早朝も努めて無理する]
[theoretical issues => 理論上つまり実世から離れた問題]

In all of this, she says she has too much homework to read any of the English books I suggest to her, like The Wizard of Oz. You know, these are the very books that would teach her, naturally, the patterns she is so trying so hard to memorize as rules.
[naturally => 自然に]
[memorize as rules => 法則として覚える]

And to what purpose?

One example of what she wakes up at three in the morning to study:
Either my parents or my grandmother (_______________________) my class.
And the answers she's supposed to choose from include
  1. visit
  2. has visited
  3. is visiting
  4. are visiting
At the risk of running afoul of the intellectual property police, I've copied that exactly. (If I let "Intellectual property" issues limit my ability to be specific here, all I can do is let off steam, and that helps no one.)
[at the risk of => 危険犯して]
[run afoul => 引っかかる、問題に絡む]

Did you get the "right" answer?
  1. Nope. "Visit", in plain form, would be an expression of a rule or custom.
  2. Nope. Of course not. The Japanese does preclude past tense.
  3. Yep. This is the one the book declares correct, by the "nearness" rule.
  4. Nope. See, (3), above.
My responses:
  1. This is not really precluded by the Japanese, although I could suppose they tried really hard. It needs more context to rule this one out.
    (And maybe they should have said, "parents' day class", really.)
  2. No argument, except that the use of Japanese demonstrates my point about context. 
  3. Nearness. Sigh. See below.
  4. Ibid. Mind you, many Americans would expect the parents to be the ones coming. In Japan, a grandmother is more likely to come than both parents, and about equally as likely as either parent alone.
[context => 周りの状況(前後の言葉や文章、文脈)]

The nearness rule is not absolute.

Determining the number of compound subjects is only trivial when it is trivial.
[number of compound subjects => 複合主語の数]

That is to say, it is not always trivial. This one is not trivial, and if they are going to include it they should discuss it more fully.

Some experts insist that "either" should be treated as singular when one of the options are singular, which would also produce (3) above.
[treat as => としてあつかう]

But others recommend emphasizing the expected option. (Native Japanese may still expect the grandmother. Hah.)

The teachers whose opinions I respected the most recommended avoiding the number problem:
Either my parents or my grandmother will be visiting the parents' day class.
This has the extra advantage of implying the reason for stating the option, that the decision of which should come has not been made.
[avoid => 避ける、回避する]
[has the advantage of => 得点になる、いいところがある]
[stating the option => 選択肢を明白にする]
[the decision of which should come => どちらが来るかを決めること]
[the decision has not been made => まだ決まっていない]

"Is/are visiting" would be more natural without an option in the subject.
[without an option => 選択肢なし(の場合)]

For all sorts of reasons, "will be visiting" is much better than any of the options given. But it is not discussed, because it would distract from the number issues they insist they must become pedantic about.
[for all sorts of reasons => それぞれの訳を考えて、そもそも]
[become pedantic about => ルールについて細かくなる]

(I'm imputing a motive. That's an error in logic. I know.)
[impute a motive => 人の動機を勝手に決める]

Which brings us to the real problem. Japanese non-native authors are trying too hard to make up examples of obscure grammar principles that should really resolve themselves with experience. No native English speaker except specialists care about this kind of rule.
[should resolve themselves => 自然と解決できる]

Moreover, making the decision of which to use requires consideration of style, and style should not be taught and tested as if it were grammar.
[style のことを言葉上の身振りとしましょう。]

The reason Japanese speakers of English get so hung up on number is because they don't have enough experience reading native English prose -- prose like The Wizard of Oz and other such books that I have bought for my children.

This "textbook" is just chock full of disconnected examples like this of esoteric (and not exactly uncontested) grammar rules that the students are supposed to be memorizing for the tests. All those examples in an assigned textbook constitutes a huge weight in homework.
[constitutes a huge weight => 巨大な重圧をなす]

That weight of homework prevents her from studying real English.

Again I have to ask -- To what purpose?

The college entrance tests are a one-shot trial, and she has no desire to go to a top-name school that takes only the top one percent. Those tests would be meaningless to her if it weren't for peer pressure.
[one-shot => 一度のみの、使い捨て]

She could be reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in English, but, no, she has to memorize the rules in this book instead.

Here is the problem I see with such books: there is no connection between all the examples. It's disconnected prose. There is no way to have context for it, and therefore there is no way for the examples to have any real meaning that the students can remember.

If they were seeing these examples elsewhere, then they could remember the meanings (to a certain extent). But they are too busy to get the context.
[to a certain extent => ある程度]
[too busy to get => 忙しすぎて手に入れられない]

They are too busy to get the very context that they need to remember what they are studying.
[the very context they need to remember => 覚えるに不可欠の文脈]

What would I suggest instead?

Well, I'm not getting very far with it yet, but I'm trying to re-write a Japanese traditional story called "Woman of the Snow" as a longer story with a more satisfying (meaningful) storyline and ending. (That is, satisfying and meaningful to me. Heh.) If I have the time and strength to do it, I'll annotate the way I have annotated this rant.
[not getting very far => まだそれほど進んでいない]
[satisfying and meaningful ending => 満足して納得できるできるオチ]
[the way I have annotated this rant => このわめきのことばに注釈を打ったと同じように(ただし、時間がないのでこの投稿の注釈は結構手を抜いている。ごめんね。)]

The level of annotation and the level of prose could be adjusted for the students -- I could write a version for elementary students, another for junior high school students, and another for adults.
[level => 度合い]

This is the kind of thing the Japanese students need as textbooks.
[the kind of thing => のようなもの]
[as textbooks => 教科書として]

The best way to understand a target language is in context. The way these books of nothing but examples present the examples without context is sufficient reason to discard such books as textbooks.
[understand in context => 周りの状況や言葉があって理解する]
[books of nothing but examples => 例文以外になにもない書物]
[sufficient reason to discard as => として手から外すに十分な訳]

This is not strike one, it's an infield fly in pro ball. By my rules, it's out of there. Send it to the dugout. If it doesn't go willingly, eject it from the game.

I go too far. These books are, I suppose, better than nothing. If only they were optional, that is, they would be better than nothing.
[better than nothing => なにもないよりはまし]
[If the were optional => 随事だったら]

My rules don't rule.

Grammar rules in Japan.

Deep sigh.

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