Two student stories

1. Pronunciation drill for "places in a city", as included in the textbook:

ME: Library.
STUDENTS: Library.
ME: Art gallery.
STUDENTS: Art gallery.
ME: Botanical garden.
ONE STUDENT, SOUNDING UTTERLY FLABBERGASTED: 豚肉ガード?! ("Butaniku gaado?!" "Pork guard?!")

2. Practicing an "invite someone somewhere" conversation, with specific details supplied by the students:

STUDENT A: Are you free this Saturday?
STUDENT B: Yes, why?
STUDENT A: How about going hiking?
STUDENT B: Sure. What time?
STUDENT A: Is five o'clock OK?
STUDENT B: [suddenly breaking into Japanese] Five o'clock?! In the morning? That's way too early!
STUDENT A: Uh, OK, in the afternoon.
STUDENT B: A hike that starts at five in the afternoon? That's absurd! The sun goes down at 5:30 this time of year!
ME: Hey, that's no way to treat someone who invited you to go hiking.
STUDENT B: "Invited", ha! To some half-assed stumbling in the dark he hadn't spent even a minute thinking through! That's supposed to be a compliment?!

She was kidding, but... I think Student A and I both felt a little afraid.

Popularity factor: 3


So what accent do/should Japanese students of English end up with? I've heard some Japanese sounding vaguely British, but that might be related to the "ah" vowel that's easier for the Japanese to say.

But then when they start using American hip-hop slang with their hybrid accents, it's, I don't know, comical?


As far as I know, most schools and textbooks use "standard American"* vocab (gas station, etc.) and pronunciations, presumably because the US is the one with the money, the power, and the music and films the kids today like. And I have heard of foreign teachers being told "don't talk in such a strong Irish accent" (for example), but never to sound less American. So I guess although it isn't exactly in the education laws, the default expectation most of the time is that they will end up sounding like North Americans.

(That kind-of-British thing is totally true, though, just because if you grew up speaking Japanese it's MUCH easier to say "caa" than "car").

That said, virtually all of the really fluent Japanese people I know have the accent not of their textbook, not of their teacher, but of the English-speaking geographical location where they have spent the most time.

* I don't even know exactly what I mean by this. What kind of accent does Jon Stewart have? That's kind of what I'm trying to pinpoint here.


I just want to say that these are really, really funny. I keep laughing out loud each time I read "butaniku gaado".

-- Tim May

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