The 3rd grade teacher at my school informed me a few weeks ago that there would be an English speech contest coming up in the Saitama area and that some students were interested in it. There were four students that wanted to enter but we could only send 2, so we had to narrow down the field.
The students recited a short paragraph that they had already memorized for class. We picked the best 2 students and set up days when I could work with them. I was excited because I could finally work one-on-one with a student and really see how well their English ability was.
The first student I worked with was a girl that wrote about her experience living in California for a month. It was a great experience that I think opened her eyes up to the world outside of Japan. The second student was a boy that was affected by a story he saw about abandoned pets. He wants to come up with a way to reduce the number of pets that are out on the streets. (If he only knew the situation in the US!)
For both students, our method was the same:
1) go over their translated speech to check for awkward English
2) read it out loud to see if it sounded right
3) record the speech in smaller parts for them to practice with at home
I knew that there would be bad English, but WOW, I wasn’t ready! Normally, you have to reverse parts of the sentence when going from Japanese to English. With these students, I realized that they were using very complicated sentences in Japanese (as anyone would when speaking about something that you care about). However, that meant that it was very difficult to untangle some of the sentences and change it to English. It made it even more clear that what they are doing in class is not as effective as it could be. When the students spend 25 minutes translating paragraphs of English into Japanese, they really need to know HOW to break down the sentences into smaller parts and then translate from there. It’s something that I want to keep in mind as I continue to teach English here.
Because of my upcoming 3 month sabatical, I may not be able to find out how they do until October but I’ll be rooting for them every step of the way 🙂