Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
My favorite category of questions English teachers get asked by their students: these questions throw us off sometimes, but are the ones we remember and tell everyone about. They are usually asked in Japanese by the little and curious students. I like to give some classes question and answer time to get to know me after my self introduction, especially if I won’t see them for regular lessons. This is the best breeding ground for slightly odd questions.
Okay here are the weird questions I’ve been asked by students recently.
Followed by about twenty other similar questions by a variety of students in that class, as if it was a psychological quiz, although I don’t have much of a preference for monsters and answered randomly. Reminded me of the ‘who would win in a fight, A or B?’ question.
The ‘fashion minded first grader’ asked:
Then a couple minutes later,
(Um… rain jacket…?) At which point her homeroom teacher told her that was enough.
(Asked in Japanese) Answered in English in a dramatic voice, “Three Months!!” Everyone made the eeeeeeeeeeh sound, of shock and utter jealousy.
The following question was, what do you do for so long during summer vacation!? This is a really great insight to your culture and students love hearing about this kind of difference in school life.
When you have a fun class willing to ask away, (and have a homeroom teacher / assistant who can help translate so you aren’t just using Japanese during class time), A Q&A session is a really fun activity to get to know your students.
They ask a lot of common, (What fruit do you like?) questions also, but the fun ones come out when they feel comfortable.
Some of the questions will be a little hard to answer, like, “What’s popular in your country?”
When it’s tough to pick just one thing, or you don’t know what kids like, it’s totally fine to say you don’t know or say something all your students know about.
(What’s the most popular video game in the US? I don’t know, so I’ll just say Mario.)
There’s no need to do research on your own culture before your first lesson, but when you have the same self intro for all the classes, sometimes it’s nice. I show pictures of the mountain and waterfall near where I lived before and I should really have notes on how many meters tall they are. Or how many people live in my hometown. Because I can never remember. And someone always asks.
When you’re asked these questions in Japanese, it’s really helpful if you can understand them and know how to answer. Common questions are always fun to make into a joke, when they’re too personal or you’re in the mood. The tone in which they’re answered can also make boring answers funny for your students as well. After all, the Teaching English in Japan job is partially being an entertainer. If your students are always laughing, chances are, you are too. Win-Win.
If you don’t understand a question in Japanese, or just don’t feel like the student should be speaking in Japanese or asking/saying what they said, you can be silly with it, look confused, answer the wrong way on purpose (make a Japanese play on words joke), etc.
I like the Japanese punny sense of humor and seem to make everything about food.
Student A: (pointing at himself) イケメン。(‘ikemen,’ which means ‘handsome man.’)
Me: I like tsukemen. (A delicious kind of ramen, also ending in the ‘men‘ sound, which can mean ‘noodle.’)
Student B: (pointing at himself) Good looking guy.
Me: Very tall guy.
Students outside of class time: (random question in Japanese I couldn’t understand.)
Me: Monja! (Said triumphantly, then walked away. Monja is a Japanese food.)
Student during English class: 気持ち悪いです。(Kimochi warui desu. It’s gross/disgusting.)
Me: I like kimchi too! (kimchi sounds like kimochi.)
The point here is to have fun with all the questions and don’t take it personally when students want to know about you and your country. Chances are, you’re their only contact with the outside world for now, and encouraging that curiosity (confirming that people are pretty much the same all over the world), will be a positive experience for them.
This is one of the bonuses of teaching English in Japan, if you’re deciding if teaching is a good idea for you.