Wed Sep 20 20:57:08 2000
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
My boss suggested having the second year students write to you. I demurred, saying I'd have to check with you (there are about 140 kids in four classes in the second year). Of course, she'd already assigned them to write drafts of the letters as homework, and today's activity in class was for them to read them to me and for she and I to help them smooth out the English. It was in motion before I even heard about it, so I hope this is OK with you. I also suggested she just let the students copy their drafts as the final letters--communication being more important than exact form, and the students being excited for their first contact with anyone outside Japan, but my real reason was that some of their English was just hilariously nonsensical. I couldn't discretely copy any of it down, of course, and I think what you'll get after Yamada-sensei's help will still be entertaining but maybe much less so. I'm going to think of a reason to go through their notebooks so I can copy out a couple of the best originals. My favorite question, though, is "I want professional baseball player when I grow up. What do you want to be in the future?" These kids do know that you're 71 years old. Some of them do have pretty good English, and only one of the original drafts would have been difficult to understand--I had no idea what she meant, but what she wrote was a scream: in part, "Manyo Junior High School is very clean. I rike Peter-sensei very much. When he our class I am very exciting. Peter-sensei English very much." Several kids saw fit to inform you that I am VERY tall (one other, now my least favorite student, said that I am "very tall and big") and at least two expressed as their ambition for the future to also be tall.
Yes, I'm sure it sounds callous to make fun of these sweet kids' very earnest efforts--but they wear me out for eight hours a day so I think I deserve a bit of amusement (I do enjoy working with them though). Another favorite from a few days ago was a student who thought the past tense of "speak" was "spank": "speak, spank, spunk."
The point of this is that, unless you have a strong objection, you're going to receive a box of really weird letters from Japanese 13-14 year olds. They are a lot more innocent than Americans of the same age, and of course how much English they know limits the kinds of things they can talk about.