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Taking Control of English Classes at Japanese Schools

Promoted English teachers will need to master some tricky Japanese phrases to lead the class.

By 3 min read

As English teachers in Japan get more experienced and confident in their role in the classroom (or if they work in an 英会話えいかいわ conversation school), there may be a point when they move up from being an assistant language teacher (ALT) to taking command and becoming the 担当者たんとうしゃ (person in charge) of the クラス. This can be intimidating because suddenly you are expected to know all of these Japanese words to make sure that the class flows smoothly.

First of all, you will want to perform 点呼てんこ, or roll call, although some schools may also use the term 出席しゅっせきる (attendance). Some may even use the English word ロールコール. In your roll book you will then likely fill in if students are 遅刻ちこく (late), 欠席けっせき (absent) or 出席しゅっせき (present).

After that you will likely want to explain what you are about to teach to your eager learners. As a general rule, classes are divided into 口頭こうとう (oral), 筆記ひっき (written), 文法ぶんぽう (grammar),ドリル (a worksheet for those for drilling grammar points), 語彙ごい (vocabulary), 音読おんどく (reading aloud) and 聴解ちょうかい (comprehension) segments.

… you will likely want to explain what you are about to teach to your eager learners.

Of course, it’s also worth explaining what you want your students to get from these classes, too. For this purpose, teachers will want to remember a really useful kanji: くら. Usually, this kanji is found in compounds that talk about darkness — 暗い, for example, but it is also intriguingly found in words related to memorizing in the classroom. 暗記あんき (memorization), 暗礁あんしょう (recitation) and 暗示あんじ (implication) are all incredibly useful terms for classes that use the 暗 kanji.

From a teaching perspective, 暗示 is one of the most difficult skills to teach your students. This is not only difficult to explain, but also tricky to communicate to lower-level learners as the answers have to be understood from the context of the speech or text. For these types of higher-level skills, it’s worth learning a few complicated Japanese words to help the students understand what they should be doing with the text.

What a text is trying to say is its 主旨しゅし, or gist, and this often related to the 文脈ぶんみゃく (context) that something is written in. Don’t forget to remind your students that: 単語たんご意味いみはそれが使つかわれている文脈でまる (“The meaning of a word depends on the context in which it is used”).

Another interesting kanji to add to your collection is つづり, which is used for the spelling of words (also written as 綴り). For an interesting classroom activity, you may want to ask the students to 綴りのあやまりを指摘してきして (“point out each other’s spelling mistakes”) or to 綴りと句読法くとうほうにもっとけなくてはいけない (“be more careful about spelling and punctuation”).

This is an incredibly useful ending to verbs that means that something must be done: an essential phrase for teachers!

In the above sentence, you may notice the ~なくてはいけない ending to the verb. This is an incredibly useful ending to verbs that means that something must be done: an essential phrase for teachers! Both それは自分じぶんでしなくてはいけない (“do it yourself)” and — of course — every teacher’s favorite warning あなたがたは単独単独たんどくかんがえなくてはいけない (“you must think independently”) are just two of the useful phrases using this form.

If you have to increase the strength of your warning, you can change the verb to きんじる, which describes behavior that is prohibited or verboten at school. As well as strongly enforced school rules, you may be surprised to discover that things such as 自転車じてんしゃ通学つうがくを禁じる (“taking a bike to school is forbidden”) are far more widely enforced directives than many would expect.

After explaining the class components and the rules, you will then have to grade your students based on their ability. In this case, 基準きじゅん is the standard, 平均へいきん is the average and 首席しゅせき is the top of the class. Something to aim for when teaching high school students is 偏差値へんさち — the score needed to enter a particular university.

Our final word for your teaching glossary is むすく. It means the way that everything ties together. This is something to remember — not just for the students, but also for the teachers: 努力どりょくがいい結果けっかに結び付く (“effort is tied together with results”).

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