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The Uni-Files

A candid look at EFL life and lessons from a university teacher's perspective.

June 15, 2010

Introducing Jiro (cheers) and Taro (hiss)

Oldtimers here may remember an early David Letterman segment called ‘Fred and Frank’ in which contrasting examples were given of the angelic Fred and diabolical Frank in various situations. Having been teaching EFL in Japan since the bubble days I think I can do the same regarding my students, so instead of Fred and Frank, let me introduce Jiro and Taro:

When Jiro greets you in the hall he says ‘Hi’ and nods his head with a smile. When Taro meets you in the hall he ignores you until he has just passed you and then says in his best goofball voice, “Harro!” and then chuckles about it to his buddies.

When Jiro sneezes in class he discreetly covers his face, turns away, and tries to minimize the force. When Taro sneezes in class, not only does it come out like a threat, but he also looks around the classroom upon completion to make sure that everyone else enjoyed it as much as he did. Droplets litter his desk and the hair of the girl who sits in front of him.

When Jiro presents his homework assignment it comes in a clear file with A4 sheets pinned together, his work typed and double-spaced. Taro’s assignment is written on the back side of a page torn out of a manga and appears to have been written in crayon. He signs it ‘Talo’. There are droplets on it.

Jiro lists his hobbies as “badminton, drama, foreign travel, and learning Korean”. Taro lists his as “sleping” (sic).

When you enter the classroom and ask students to take out the print from last week’s class Jiro already has it placed on his desk. Taro holds up what appears to be a scrap paper from last year’s German class and asks, “Kore?” (This?)

When you call on Jiro to answer a question and he doesn’t know, he quickly and clearly responds, “Sorry. I'm not sure”. When you ask Taro the same question he looks at you as if you’ve just arrived from the Planet Fungus, then looks at another student and says, “Ehh?”.

When you assign partners Jiro immediately goes to the partner, greets her, and rearranges his desk accordingly. When you assign Taro a partner, he doesn’t remember who you partnered him with and stays put in his seat until that unfortunate soul finally comes over to him. Then he says, “Ehh?”

When you announce that a test will be held in two weeks based upon textbook pages 15-30, Jiro makes a note and marks the relevant sections. Taro looks over at another student’s textbook and says, “Kyoukasho arun kai?” (Do we have a textbook?)

When Jiro comes in late he discreetly and quietly takes a seat at the back and then apologizes profusely because ‘I had a car accident’. You then see the fresh stitching in his shoulder. When Taro comes in late it is always during the listening exercise, where he bangs his stuff down ostentatiously on his desk, and loudly proclaims “tsukareta” (I’m bushed) to no one in particular before yawning. He then turns to another student (who is intent on listening to the recording) and asks what’s going on.

Later, you find out that Taro caused Jiro’s accident because Taro was ‘sleping’ at the wheel.

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When you hand back a test/quiz on which Jiro hasn't done very well he goes back to his desk and tries to figure out where he may have gone wrong.

When you hand back a test to Taro he goes back to his desk and shows his buddies how poorly he did and they all have a good laugh over it. Then when it comes time to give out final grades for the semester Taro shows up at your office pleading his case for a passing grade. Aint so funny now, is it Taro?

Good one Mark! How true! Any others?

Jiro looks at his phone before class and turns it off at the sound of the bell.

Taro leaves his phone on his desk and has to be told by the teacher to turn it off when it starts ringing.

Another one-
When the bell rings to start class Jiro takes it to mean that he should sit down. Taro takes it to mean that he should now go to the toilet.

The "print" from last week's class?

Julian- It's like "keitai" and a few other items. It has become part of the Japan EFL teacher's lingo.

Point taken though- I do use "handout" when referring to same with students in English.

As much as the Taros of the world frustrate the heck out of me I have found some of them to be decent communicators, often times better than the Jiros.

When evaluating students' communication ability I often think to myself "what would happen if I bumped into this person at some kind of social function". I usually come to the conclusion that Taro would probably less fearful of trying to communicate in English than the more reserved Jiro. Taro may not be our best "student", but is it possible he's a better communicator than Jiro? Obviously it depends on the individual and the situation at hand, but I would argue that many Taros actually have a good chance at becoming decent English speakers due to their relaxed outlook on life. Jiro is nice to teach because he is manageable in the classroom, but would you want to sit down and have a beer with him?

Hi Mark.

I've noted two types of Taros. There are the kind who are personable but perhaps not inclined to be 'ideal' students. These guys can bring some needed personality to the class. The other Taros are just oafish.

As the first (hallway 7greeting') example in the post probably shows, the latter is the kind I had in mind.

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