Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The speech that didn't make sense

On my second day of teaching here, one of the English teachers asked if I would help coach some students who were practicing for an English recitation contest. I happily agreed, and she led me to a classroom where a couple students waited. OK, I thought, this should be easy. With my native knowledge of grammar, word choice, and intonation, I should be a great help to these kids.

We asked the first student to begin. With great enthusiasm and flawless memorization, she recited her speech, but as she went on, I came to the sad realization that I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about. Her pronounciation was pretty good, and I had the script right in front of me. It just didn't make sense! It certainly seemed very emotional, and parts of it were coherent. The grammar and word choice were OK, if somewhat unusual. But what the hell was she talking about? Why would she write this for a competition? What was I supposed to say when she finished?

I decided against asking her what her speech had been about, and instead pointed out some grammar and word choices that I would have phrased differently. As I went over these points, crossing out and adding in words on her script, the English teacher leaned over and whispered to me politely, "Um, Jeff sensei? She is reciting from a text by Hellen Keller. She did not write this, so... we can't change it." Something clicked and I immediately recognized the text. All I could do was laugh at my mistake say "hazukashii!!!"

So anyway, from then on I decided to focus mainly on pronounciation, intonation, and eye-contact. And I'm pleased to say that the student reciting the speech went on to win first prize in her age group. In my defense, it's a pretty bizarre essay when taken out of context.


Mom said...

Dear Jeff,
I am excited that you have started a blog. It seems only yesterday that I even heard of such a thing (thnaks to Amanda). I especially liked the part, "I'll be home..." I am looking forward to seeing and hearing more about Japan in the future.
Love, Mom

Anonymous said...


That was cute. Haha, but no seriously, glad you made it over there safetly! I'm going to miss you a bunch even though we see each other probably twice a year. Stay cool. :)