The Miki twins pictured above (with the kind permission of their mum) are a couple of my youngest students, they are two and a bit. “What can you really teach a two year old!?” I hear. It’s proven that two year olds can learn two new words an hour, it’s also the time when their brains are firing off like crazy – now that they’ve made connections for walking and grasping objects. Two year olds are fantastic. These girls, of course with some prompting, can count and say their alphabet, they recognise colours and shapes. Their pronunciation is adorable and imperfect (just like their Japanese), every new word they learn and repeat turns my brain into mush because of how cute they are.
Actually, two year olds aren’t the youngest students I teach. My youngest official student has been about six months old – I’ve got no doubt that his mum enjoyed meeting other parents, she wasn’t from Kyoto so it was a fab opportunity to have fun with other parents and little kids. The benefit to her little boy would have been more about a socialising element and absorption by exposure to English. If one is not exposed to sounds when they are very small then they’ll not be able to reproduce them later on; like L and R – to name just one well known issue. I only taught this sixth month old baby for one lesson, he was the youngest of about 6 students in my baby class that day. Most are 2/3 years old, and I definitely see month to month progress which is not just about learning linguistically but evolving socially. One of our little girls used to be so shy she’d sit in mums lap and avoid eye contact for the whole hour – now she’s always the first to volunteer for games. We teach the baby classes once a month per group, there are two groups.
Teaching tiny tots is not for everyone, lessons must follow a formula of repetition, singing, and dancing. Kids adore familiarity and it gives them the confidence boost they need to try out that new word or even something that seems tiny like catching a ball thrown to them. Sometimes there are lessons where the kids are tired or the weather is off so they run a bit wilder, and sometimes kids get very competitive and there are tears. From my conversations with other teachers from all over the world I know that not everyone enjoys teaching the wee ones but I certainly have fun teaching them, nobody has wiped bogeys on me yet though… It’s absolutely not all about learning English, these kids are learning to socialise and play. They are developing cognitive skills and testing the boundaries of independence. Another important aspect is the ability to communicate with a ‘gaijin’ or foreigner, parents are thrilled to see that their little one isn’t afraid to talk to us – if you’ve grown up surrounded by people with dark hair and eyes then it can be a bit daunting to be faced with someone blonde who’s speaking in a completely new language. I’ve only had one child point at me and yell “GAIJIN!” which isn’t too bad now is it.
So, there, a snippet of my teaching life. I also teach all ages between 2 and 80 and each group are enjoyable or challenging for many reasons, but all are good fun. I’m only glad I didn’t have to teach me when I was 11….
In other news I’ve had a haircut, whoop whoo! I managed to give my hairdresser pictures of what I wanted and tell her in Japanese what I liked about each style – huge confidence boost for me. I also went to the cinema here for the second time, but this time I saw a Japanese film called ‘Kuro shizuji’ which means black butler and featured a handsome Japanese man with lethal butter knives and a soft spot for cats. I went with a fantastic group of Japanese, Scottish, and American ladies. I think I managed to grasp most of the plot even though most of the words went over my head, nobody needs to translate a fighting scene right? Here’s a photo of my new do…
It was great fun to play with brand new band ‘The Meadowlarks’ a couple of weeks ago and we’re looking forward to playing AGAIN at Tadg’s bar this Friday night. Bob Dylan was good start I think and we appear to be enjoying folk and bluegrass. It’s not dead easy to find the time or space to practise because you’re not meant to practise instruments in your apartment due to paper thin walls, but I’m lucky that the browns English classrooms are available to me.
Talking about the Browns…. CONGRATULATIONS MITSUMI AND TOM! Who have just brought home their latest family member, a teeny weeny brand new boy, awww. I’m very much looking forward to meeting him, I believe there’s a couple of potential names flying around still so I shan’t introduce him by name. Mitsumi is absolutely super human and was still texting me details about work while she was in labor, what a woman. Here’s to a new generation of students!
I hope everyone’s ready for the mushy valentines day post I’m preparing for next month ❤ get your 'obligation chocolates' out!
Lots o love,