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Question Does this passage sound natural?

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
Here's a passage from the text we used.
Does it sound natural?

In many areas of the United States where Japanese people are living, there
are Saturday schools for Japanese students. These schools teach students
subjects that are taught back home in Japan. These classes are especially for
keeping Japanese students living abroad at the same level as their classmates
back in Japan.
 

Michael2

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It's not so much the English that's the problem, it's the content. They don't study different subjects, they just study them in Japanese.. They're not students, they are children, and to keep them "at the same level" doesn't mean much. Keep up their language ability? Not necessarily true as they usually speak Japanese at home. I'm really not sure what that's supposed to mean.
 

mdchachi

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They're not students, they are children,
In the U.S. a student is anybody who goes to school even children.


to keep them "at the same level" doesn't mean much. Keep up their language ability?
This means to keep them at the same level of progress. Even though they study the same things as the local schools they don't study them in the same order or in the same grades. My kids attended such a Saturday school and the math, for example, was roughly a year ahead of what they were learning in the American elementary school. Kids that have to move back to Japan would be at a huge disadvantage if they didn't attend these schools. They would be behind (not at the same level) and probably be missing some vocabulary for Japanese equivalents of things like "numerator," "denominator", etc.
 

Majestic

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I had problems with the last sentence myself. It's not that it is grammatically incorrect. The use of "especially" seems unusual here, though I know (without difficulty) what the phrase is saying. Maybe "in particular" would be an improvement. Something like "In particular, these classes help Japanese students abroad maintain their studies...." etc.).

As it is, it sounds like it may be a direct translation of a phrase which uses 特に, which is often/usually translated as "especially", but somehow it doesn't work here.
 

Lothor

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It's not so much the English that's the problem, it's the content. They don't study different subjects, they just study them in Japanese.. They're not students, they are children, and to keep them "at the same level" doesn't mean much. Keep up their language ability? Not necessarily true as they usually speak Japanese at home. I'm really not sure what that's supposed to mean.
A general point rather than a language point from knowing a few families in Britain with a British dad and a Japanese mum. The kids tend to grow up fluent Japanese speakers, but without input from schools they struggle with writing and the other more formal aspects of the language that the mum may be too busy to sit down and teach.
 

Michael2

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mdchachi, the problem I have is when they say things like "Japanese students living abroad" which they are not, they are just children there because of their dad's job most likely. I would be more sympathetic if these were main schools and not just a few hours on a Saturday. For the same reason I'd laugh if someone said they were a "golfer" when they played once every 6 months.
"level" sounds a bit presumptuous to me and not necessarily true. In Japan they are mainly doing simple arithmetic in Grade 1, in England that would be done a year before. Either way, I think a bit more of explanation is needed otherwise it sounds like there is something of an intrinsically higher level in Japan which is simply not true. If anything what they need is the writing ability, but I don't see why that wouldn't just be mentioned that specifically.
 

bentenmusume

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Michael2 said:
mdchachi, the problem I have is when they say things like "Japanese students living abroad" which they are not, they are just children there because of their dad's job most likely. I would be more sympathetic if these were main schools and not just a few hours on a Saturday. For the same reason I'd laugh if someone said they were a "golfer" when they played once every 6 months.

Michael2, I don't say this to be rude or dismissive (in fact, I agree with some—if not all—of your observations), but do you not think that at times with your critiques that you're holding a textbook for ESL students to a somewhat unreasonably high standard?

I agree that any language textbook should strive for natural language and not teach students phrasings or constructions that are outright wrong or significantly awkward, but with some of these finer details, it's clear that even native speakers can beg to differ on how natural or unnatural they may be. (With your golf example, for example, many dictionaries define the word simply as "one who plays golf", so I imagine many native English speakers would take issue with your assessment, which seems to suggest that the word necessarily implies a certain frequency or level of seriousness with which the sport is pursued.)

My point is that if you looked at second language textbooks of all languages, especially those for early-to-intermediate level learners, I'm sure you would plenty of example sentences/passages that are "close enough" but may not stand up to the most extreme scrutiny of every single word or turn of phrase. While analyzing these passages in such detail can be interesting, I'm not entirely sure that for his purposes, hirashin needs to be devoting serious time and energy to the question of whether "Japanese students" is an indisputably accurate expression for elementary school-age children (which, yes, I believe can be accurately described as "elementary school students") of Japanese nationality temporarily residing in another country due to a parent's (or parents') job situation.

Again, let me just reiterate that I'm not saying this to be dismissive of your posts, but rather just in the interest of saving hirashin stress and concern by keeping the conversation focused on what is essential to him (i.e. clearly incorrect or awkward usage/structure that would be detrimental/confusing if presented to his students as is).

Majestic said:
I had problems with the last sentence myself. It's not that it is grammatically incorrect. The use of "especially" seems unusual here, though I know (without difficulty) what the phrase is saying. Maybe "in particular" would be an improvement. Something like "In particular, these classes help Japanese students abroad maintain their studies...." etc.).

As it is, it sounds like it may be a direct translation of a phrase which uses 特に, which is often/usually translated as "especially", but somehow it doesn't work here.

For what it's worth, I agree 100% with Majestic here, and believe this is the very sort of issue worth raising, as textbooks do have a tendency to do things like this, and I think it's very worth weeding out so students are not encouraged to use awkward direct translations of their native language.
 
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Michael2

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Haha, yes that's an interesting point. The thing is Hirashin seems to want to be as correct as possible so I just say exactly what I honestly think. I used to have the opposite problem and for ESL learners I'd tell them not to worry about mistakes because people would know they are second language speakers and not hold them to such high standards, but now I think we are doing them a major disservice if we don't tell them what's wrong. That's what they are paying for, or are trying to achieve. Of course its relative to the ability of the person though, I wouldn't point these mistakes out if it was a beginner, but Hirashin is a very, very advanced English speaker.
 

mdchachi

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a the problem I have is when they say things like "Japanese students living abroad" which they are not, they are just children there because of their dad's job most likely. I would be more sympathetic if these were main schools and not just a few hours on a Saturday. For the same reason I'd laugh if someone said they were a "golfer" when they played once every 6 months.
I think the other Americans will back me up when I say that in American English any age person who goes to school is a "student." Maybe in the UK you use the word pupil? That word is virtually never used here. We talk about "student-teacher ratios" and, even, "kindergarten students." Therefore it doesn't sound at all strange to refer to school-age children as students.

I also feel you're not necessarily being helpful to Hirashin when you point out things that aren't actually mistakes.

I would be more sympathetic if these were main schools and not just a few hours on a Saturday.
I think you may not understand what they are doing at these schools. Although it's only one day a week, they are teaching the same curriculum being taught in Japan, at the same pace. The reason it works is because they rely on the parents to follow up on the daily homework required during the week. So it's not "just a few hours on a Saturday." And in our case, there was virtually no overlap between what was happening in the local schools because the math was a little bit ahead and, of course, the Japanese language and same social studies topics weren't covered. But it was doable because, at least in our local school district, they rarely assigned homework at the elementary level. We let our kids quit before entering middle school because, after all, we were never intending to return to Japan like most of their classmates. At least they should have a leg up if they ever decide to do anything with the language.
 

Michael2

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Maybe so but I would never say "Japanese pupils living abroad". It adds an unnecessary and untrue formality to it. I'm pointing this out to Hirashin because as I said I would ague this with a native speaker-ish advanced learner and I think he's on almost an even level, especially in terms of teaching the language, and I don't think this formality exists in English as much as it does in Japanese.
 

bentenmusume

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Michael2 said:
Of course its relative to the ability of the person though, I wouldn't point these mistakes out if it was a beginner, but Hirashin is a very, very advanced English speaker.

Michael2 said:
I'm pointing this out to Hirashin because as I said I would ague this with a native speaker-ish advanced learner and I think he's on almost an even level, especially in terms of teaching the language, and I don't think this formality exists in English as much as it does in Japanese.

I agree with your assessment that Hirashin's English level is admirably high. That said, my understanding (from what I recall him expressing in the past) is that when he posts reading passages and test questions here, his primary concern is that of a teacher, i.e. whether or not the language is appropriate to teach the students (high school? junior high? I believe he has switched schools a couple of times) in his classroom. Assuming that he is not holding his students to native-level accuracy/fluency/perfection, I feel like some of the finer nitpicks run the risk of clouding the larger picture and overwhelming him. Not, of course, because Hirashin himself is incapable of following the discussions (which, of course he is) but because it seems like they often descend into subjective back-and-forths on matters regarding which even native speakers can't reach a 100% consensus.

(Again, this is just my impression from what I recall of Hirashin's posts in the past. I may very well be mistaken, in which case I hope he will correct me.)
 
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Lothor

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I agree with your assessment that Hirashin's English level is admirably high. That said, my understanding (from what I recall him expressing in the past) is that when he posts reading passages and test questions here, his primary concern is that of a teacher, i.e. whether or not the language is appropriate to teach the students (high school? junior high? I believe he has switched schools a couple of times) in his classroom. Assuming that he is not holding his students to native-level accuracy/fluency/perfection, I feel like some of the finer nitpicks run the risk of clouding the larger picture and overwhelming him. Not, of course, because he's incapable of following the discussions (which, of course he is) but because it seems like they often descend into subjective back-and-forths on matters regarding which even native speakers can't reach a 100% consensus.

(Again, this is just my impression from what I recall of Hirashin's posts in the past. I may very well be mistaken, in which case I hope he will correct me.)
I wanted to write a similar thing. It's worth remembering that the students will be being asked simple comprehension questions that basically require them to select a few words from the text. If the text does not contain anything actually wrong, too unnatural, or any ambiguity that could trip up a student, then the English is fit for purpose. I agree with Michael that it's valuable for someone of Hirashin's level to be instructed of the finer points, but I think we should be making a clear distinction between what is good enough as an exam question for high school students and what a good native English speaker would write.
 

hirashin

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Thank you very much for all your help and understanding my situation. I really appreciate them.

As you might know, I am teaching English at high school now though I wish I were not.
Though I am glad that some of you have a high opinion of my English, I'm not so good at English.
I always struggle when I use English. When I read English websites, there are a lot of words and
phrases I'm not familiar with. Actually, I often feel that I'm not qualified to teach English to others.
(Can I use the verb "feel" this way? I even don't know much about simple words.)

I guess living in an English-speaking area for a year or so would improve my English, but unfortunately,
I don't have enough time and money to do so.

Many Japanese teachers of English here teach English even though they are not really good at the
language. That's why I can become an English teacher here.

There are two reasons I post questions about English here. One is that I want to teach correct and
natural English to my students. The other is purely from my interest in English. So pointing out small
things are also welcome. (Do I make sense?)


I want to ask about the usage of "especially".
These classes are especially for
keeping Japanese students living abroad at the same level as their classmates
back in Japan.

I guess you can use "mainly" instead of "especially". What do you think?

Do you think "especially" in the following sentences sounds right?
(a) I like summer months, especially August.
(b) The landscape from this window is beautiful, especially when it is snowing.
(c) This problem is especially important.
(d) His work is not especially good. I chose it just because I like it.

This may be the longest English message I've written in a few years. (Which sounds correct, "in a few
years" or "for a few years" here?)

Hirashin
 

mdchachi

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Can I use the verb "feel" this way? I even don't know much about simple words
Yes
Do I make sense?
Yes, perfectly.
Do you think "especially" in the following sentences sounds right?
They all sound good.
I guess you can use "mainly" instead of "especially". What do you think?
Yes, sometimes, but your example sentences are better with "especially" than "mainly."
Which sounds correct, "in a few
years" or "for a few years" here?
"in a few years"
 

Michael2

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Yes, your examples are great. They use "especially" correctly as they have the meaning of an outstanding quality of (x). Indeed, "mainly" would be wrong as it refers to the quantity of (x), for example "the biggest reason/the main reason" which is why "especially" sounds wrong in your very first post. What you described was not a special reason, just the biggest/main one.
 

Lothor

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Thank you very much for all your help and understanding my situation. I really appreciate them.

As you might know, I am teaching English at high school now though I wish I were not.
Though I am glad that some of you have a high opinion of my English, I'm not so good at English.
I always struggle when I use English. When I read English websites, there are a lot of words and
phrases I'm not familiar with. Actually, I often feel that I'm not qualified to teach English to others.
(Can I use the verb "feel" this way? I even don't know much about simple words.)

I guess living in an English-speaking area for a year or so would improve my English, but unfortunately,
I don't have enough time and money to do so.

Many Japanese teachers of English here teach English even though they are not really good at the
language. That's why I can become an English teacher here.

There are two reasons I post questions about English here. One is that I want to teach correct and
natural English to my students. The other is purely from my interest in English. So pointing out small
things are also welcome. (Do I make sense?)
There's a term called imposter syndrome that has become very popular in the last few years - people who are capable of doing their job feeling they are not capable of doing it, which you might like to read about. It's common in my profession too - people doing jobs where they work alone without much feedback (as you are in a classroom) who care about the quality of their work often get it.

Remember that you don't have to be perfect, you have to be good enough. And you are!
 
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thomas

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There's a term called imposter syndrome that has become very popular in the last few years - people who are capable of doing their job feeling they are not capable of doing it, which you might like to read about. It's common in my profession too.

In my profession, the opposite effect (Dunning-Kruger) seems to be common, too. 😄
 

hirashin

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Thank you for the new information, Lothor and thomas. I didn't know the terms "imposter syndrome" or "Dunning-Kruger".

I checked them in Wikipedia.

I don't think I'm suffering from "imposer syndrome" because I don't feel guilty of being an English teacher.
I just don't like it when I teach a subject I'm not confident about. I'd rather teach math instead! But I don't
have a teacher's certificate for math. I wanted to be a mathematician when I was a schoolkid. I admired
Galois, who invented "group theory" and died young.

I would be glad if you'd correct my English if needed.
 

Lothor

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Thank you for the new information, Lothor and thomas. I didn't know the terms "imposter syndrome" or "Dunning-Kruger".

I checked them in Wikipedia.

I don't think I'm suffering from "imposer syndrome" because I don't feel guilty of being an English teacher.
I just don't like it when I teach a subject I'm not confident about. I'd rather teach math instead! But I don't
have a teacher's certificate for math. I wanted to be a mathematician when I was a schoolkid. I admired
Galois, who invented "group theory" and died young.

I would be glad if you'd correct my English if needed.
I was a maths teacher in a former life, and I could never quite get my head around Galois's proof of the insolubility of quintic equations. That was about my limit for abstract algebra.
 

hirashin

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Oh, you were a maths teacher. Did you teach at high school when you were in the UK?

I don't think you have to understand Galois's theory to be a high school maths teacher. I didn't understand it either.

I was interested in Godel's incompleteness theorems as well when I was a kid. The world of maths is so deep.
(Do I make sense? )
 
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