Whole Lot of Blah Blah Blah

This week all the Niigata ALTs gathered in Niigata City to attend the mandatory "Mid-Year Seminar". Two days straight of blah blah blah. Many of us were accompanied by our JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) so that both teachers and pseudo-teachers alike could partake in the cornucopia of useless information.

My comrade in arms and I presented a workshop on "Music in the Classroom". When I brought this up with my Stateside friend, she scoffed. "Like, OMG Kirsten, what are your classes like? I mean, is it just a round of duck-duck-goose?" Her implication was that the ALT-led Oral Conversation classes in most Japanese schools are candy fluff. This is not totally inaccurate. These kids see foreigners only on TV. Before they are old enough for ALT classes, most of them have never even met anyone outside their own ken, let alone spoken with a gaijin. You're a Japanese high school kid. You study longer hours than your parents' workday. You have club activities and community service. You want to grow up to be doctor/lawyer/farmer/office drone. English is the last thing on your mind.

Except everytime you turn on the radio.


There's curiosity. There's envy, maybe. There's a whole lot of mispronunciation. We are ALTs. We are here to set the record straight because most Japanese teachers of English are tragically INEPT at the task.

Music breaks the ice. Even the most sullen, anti-English badass will perk once you start playing anything by WHAM!

Yes, WHAM!

The workshop was extremely successful. Music in the classroom will work for all curriculums in all grades. Low-level. Mid-level. High-level academic. Vocational school. Elementary school. Music will always get a response. Make them fill in the blanks while listening to Natasha Bedingfield (my kids ADORED her). If you wanna make 'em hurt, play some radio edited Green Day. Introduce them to some new music and the more ambitious ones may actually learn how to pronounce the word "lend".

We designed an activity like the "fill in the blank" except we used a Japanese pop song to stump the ALTs. The song was called SEISHUN AMIGO. (seishun=youth) by a band composed of two members of already existing boy pop bands. SHUJI & AKIRA. It was horrendous. It was poppy. It was effective. The 20-something ALTs were in rapt attention.

We did well.

We also advocated that ALTs attempt to learn at least one J-POP song, even if only to get closer to their coworkers. After the QUEEN and BEATLES rounds, your Japanese coworkers will probably not know how to sing anything you choose in English. So why not bat on their team for a second? They'll appreciate it.

By the by, there's been a trend of random Spanish in J-pop lately. I actually heard DRAGON ASH singing in Spanese on their latest album "Rio de Emocion". My Spanish skillz don't extend beyond a high school education but even I could tell the pronunciation was atrocious.*

Yet, despite the mangling, this sign is encouraging. Who says English is the end all and be all of foreign language? Some of my students don't give a damn about English but they approach me with questions about Spanish or French. The world is huuuuge, kids! Get out there and don't be afraid of looking like an asshole. Cuz you will. ^^

In other music news, TOKYO JIHEN will be playing Niigata City in April on a Friday night.

Shiina Ringo live. I can now die.

And in OTHER Kirsten-thrilling news, Cocco is back!!!! She's coming out with a new single!!! Is it my birthday or something??? I don't care if it's shitty. I don't care if Cocco just sneezes into the mic for 4 minutes. I will attack.

Also, I never liked the Japanese rap group "m-flo" until I heard the song "HEY!" It reminds me of Cibo Matto with a bit less bite and tad more hmmm....actual Japanese. Come on. Come on. Come on. Kumon. eventually morphs into a heartbeat.

*On the subject of atrocious pronunciation, has anyone ever heard New Order's Japanese version of KRAFTY? My word.


HEY/m-flo, Palmas Rock/Dragon Ash, Seishun Amigo/ Shuji to Akira

And if you really wanna hear Dragon Ash murder Spanish....Los Lobos/Dragon Ash

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