Thursday, February 08, 2007

Random conversations with my Japanese student

One of my four current jobs (relax, don't hyperventilate, that's not as bad as it sounds) is tutoring a super amazing Japanese man who is working as an intern here as a pilot project for his Tokyo ocean governance firm. (In case you're wondering, my other three jobs are working as a tutor for a student in the Foundation Year Program at King's College, as a note taker for a learning-disabled student, and as a teaching assistant.) He mostly needs to work on conversation skills (Japanese students are notoriously fine at grammar but terrible at forming coherent sentences), so we focus on having fluent conversations. I keep meaning to make a record of all of the miscellaneous things that we talk about in the course of a session, but I've forgotten up until now. Time for a bullet list! Today's randomness included:

  • the weather
  • global warming
  • formal Japanese letter writing
  • Japanese verb conjugation (based on the rank of the person being spoken to) vs. English verb conjugation (generally based on the number of people involved)
  • American & Canadian governmental environmental policies
  • tax funded health care vs. private health care
  • benefits and pensions
  • pretentious Japanese businessmen
  • social hierarchies in Japan, England, Canada, and America
  • the royal family
  • biofuel
  • Alberta oil sands and NWT caribou populations
  • Japanese & Canadian systems of education, teacher training, and teacher employment
  • disciplining students (apparently this is becoming a problem in Japan, which is surprising to me, as that's not something that I at all experienced when I was there)
  • parental corporal punishment
And this was all in the course of an hour and a half! It always amazes me that with all of the differences between Japan and Canada, some things are exactly the same. The Japanese are just as worried (if not more) about the effect that an ageing population is having on their social institutions and workforces, they have the same concerns about their children acting out, playing too many video games and getting into trouble, and they're also really wary of George W. Bush! I guess that's what's meant by globalization- universal interconnectedness leads to universal concerns. It just takes talking to Eiji for me to realize just how far that's true.