I have been thinking about the way we recap stories to one another as ALTs here in Japan. A lot of the these stories, now that I have been thinking about it, are not as well played out as we tell them to be. My new found humor with this comes from the stories where an ALT will talk about when they spoke with teachers who are not English teachers and are Japanese only speakers.
Now when a story about one of these interactions is told, it is almost always embellished. Any struggle that may have occurred is covered up. The story teller often gives them a native slang use of tone and verbiage. Not even close to what was really happening.
Talking about the rain
“The other day I couldn’t help but laugh at two of my teachers. They had been looking out the window talking to one another about the rain. ‘It has been raining cats and dogs all day today.’ ‘Yeah it has been a total pain! The weather has been crazy this season.'”
First know that two teachers would never speak quite like this in Japanese, thought they do often speak informally to one another. It would not be quite like this. You would never hear a young teacher talking like this to an older teacher. Two teachers about the same age, maybe. Though I don’t for see the words total pain, or crazy being used when they are speaking to one another, a storyteller would have them say just that.
Speaking with a none JTE teacher
Besides telling stories of what happened between two teachers the best ones are between an ALT, who has limited or low end Japanese skills, and a Japanese only speaking teacher. These are the best. Many of the ALT community, myself included, will do our best to have conversations with teachers who don’t teach English. Even if we have piss poor language skills.
It is when these conversations happen that the story teller will embellish the most. For example if I would tell you about a conversation I had with the principal at my school. I would make the story seem flawless. That there was no struggle with communication and make it appear that the conversation lasted why longer than it actually did.
“So I talked to the principal the other day. He is a really cool and nice guy. We chatted away about how he loves Yanai High School and used to be a student there himself. He also told me that his kids all went to the school too. Oh! He also told me that he was a teacher there too. And he coached the baseball team while he was a teaching.”
While retelling of the things we spoke about I make it all seem flawless. In reality he must have felt like he was talking to a 5 year old child as we spoke. Principal would ask something like “How do you like Yanai High School?” Then there is my answer of “me like.” or “Do you like sports? What sports did you play in high school?” Then me all “professional sports like no. Students watch like. No sports play.”
Okay so my speaking might not be that bad, but who am I to really judge how well I do. Either way see the point? Regardless of how great the persons speaking is or really how great any kind of language skills are, we all must do our best.
To my fellow ALTs and also those who are incoming:
There are some who are struggling to connect with teachers at various schools. This can be for various reasons, but a good start is to try to reach out first. Many teachers often are quite due to being shy and need a little push from someone to help get a conversation started.
Too worried that you will totally fall flat on your face? I often try to start up a conversation when a English speaking teacher is around. A situation will feel more comfortable when both parties have a back up on hand. Otherwise the teachers often go into panic mode, ‘OH NO! ENGLISH!!!!’ Just try to remain calm and don’t panic. If you set the mood of the conversation you likely won’t get the OMG ENGLISH face.
Lastly, a round of applause please!
All the people whom I have spoken with using my lacking language skills really have the patents of a saint! They smile as they do their best to interpret what I am trying to say. Ask questions to further understand what I am saying. Ether way we are all trying to communicate and that is all that matters. Thank you to all those who are willing to try, even if we are both shitting bricks while we do it.