It’s English, not Engrish

Other than planning lessons and being an overly cheerful and approachable speaker of the English language (which, albeit I do enjoy), another one of my responsibilities involves coaching students for speech contests. Most prefecture-wide speech contests are held in the fall. Therefore, when I first arrived to Japan, I got some practice on how-to-be-a-speech-contest-coach. Unfortunately, it was nothing like my only other coaching experience involving 6- and 7-year-olds, YMCA soccer and the official team name, The Green Beans.

Even so, last fall, I somehow managed to fake competency, but I certainly did not feel 100 percent comfortable with the task. However, now, after my school’s school-wide speech contest, I think I may finally have the hang of it (or at least some sort of grasp).

During the month of February, I coached 14 students—seven first- and seven second-year students. Of course, we practiced pronunciation and memorization, but my absolute favorite aspect of coaching was seeing the students lighten up and have fun. When I think of speeches I love, I usually admire not only the message, but also the persona of the speaker. As a result of the language barrier, discovering the students’ true personalities is difficult in and of itself, but giving them the courage to express their personalities in English is a completely different hurdle.

On contest-day, with several forgotten transitions aside, the students performed remarkably well. They gave their speeches in front of the student body and the staff. As one of the seven judges, I got a front row seat from which I could watch my students rock their English thing. Now, I finally have a slight glimmer of the anxiety that parents probably feel on a regular basis. Although not exactly comparable, I was certainly a proud eigo no sensei that day.

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