Friday, July 17, 2009

Writing English in Japanese

Yesterday I was allowed a rare exception from my duties at my scheduled school to make a guest appearance at Aka for a visitation of some Pacific Islanders (one from Kosrae, which is in Micronesia, which is where I served in the Peace Corps).

Our junior high kids all gave short two/three-slide presentations on Aka's points of interest. It's rare for our kids to have a real-life chance to use English, so this was a big deal. Though I am often proud of what my kids know when we're in the classroom, making a speech is a much larger test of their reading and pronunciation. They failed pretty badly. Only because I had read their speeches beforehand did I understand what they were saying.

One of the reasons for failure was that many of the students wrote their speeches in Japanese. They initially wrote them in English, but, fearful of reading slowly, they cheated and wrote the corresponding Japanese characters. Unfortunately for them, the Japanese alphabet doesn't correspond with the roman alphabet (though it works in reverse). So trying to listen through their bad and wrong pronunciation was too much; thankfully there were pictures.

[I crossed out the katakana with my weak orange pen to show my disapproval]

Here is how the original English excerpt sounded when this student read his passage:

Daa are faibu beachizu arando Aka airando.
I wouldo raiku to toku abouto Nishibama.

Did you get that?

No comments: