Tokyo Damage Report

‘Gaman’ sucks

EVENT: major mood swing

I just went off on my teacher on Monday. the teacher is talking for 30 minutes. Going from B to Z and back again, in great detail, but I understand exactly none of it, because as far as i can see, she never bothered to explain fuckin’ A. It’s like, damn! This whole hour is wasted. And then I’ll have to waste a whole NOTHER hour OUTSIDE of class teaching MYSELF the shit, all because no one took THIRTY SECONDS to explain in ENGLISH what the fuck is going on. Argh!

At first we seemed to be discussing forgetting something, what to say when you forget. Next, they’re talking about fish-eating countries vs. meat eating countries, next the teacher is directing maria-san to ask me if I sing well.

I try asking in English, “someone please explain, what is the common thread here?” but my teacher interrupts and tells me not to use English. I just pack my bag and bail.

I know it disrupts the class when I storm out in the middle. But I’m just too pissed to care, I guess.

Like the saying goes, “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

My teacher, she gets on me for asking too many questions. “this isn’t a private lesson!”

I fire back with, ‘well maybe if the class wasn’t so overcrowded, EVERY student would have time to ask questions.’

Later she gets on me for complaining about the textbook. “Suteben san, gaman shite kudasai!”

. . . which brings me to a whole new subject, which is much more important than my petty struggles in class, yet TOTALLY THE SAME THING. read on to understand why.

gaman is one of those words so close to the core of Japanese culture that it’s impossible to translate. Basically it is a virtue. It means, ‘show your spirit by enduring without complaint,’ or ‘do a huge favor for someone, and never tell them how difficult it was for you.’ in other words, ‘show you’ve got balls by letting yourself get fucked.’ Kind of contradictory, don’t you think? I tried and failed to find a better American translation. The closest we come to gaman is, ‘shit happens.’

Anyway she’s telling me to just sit quietly when I don’t understand a thing, as if the Gaman Fairy will come the following night and, as a reward for my good behavior, sprinkle some magic dust on me while I sleep, which will magically put the knowledge in my head.

I tell her, “you know how EVERY SINGLE JAPANESE KID takes no less than 6 years of English in school? And exactly NONE of them can speak English once they get out? you know the reason for that? GAMAN.”

They’re not complaining about the poor textbooks. They’re not trying to make learning more fun or efficient. They’re not engaged in the learning process, they just see it as something to be quietly endured.

Put another way, Gaman is the reason Japanese pedagogy sucks.

This is not some preconcieved stereotype. My belief comes not from ignorance but from experience. I’ve travelled to norway and sweden, two other countries where they ALSO happen to teach English for 6 years in school. Those fools speak English BETTER than americans. So I’m not saying "Me american, me good, you foreign, you bad." I’m saying japanese pedagogy is inferior to SWEDES.

so therfore you can’t say "different cultures have different beliefs but they are all good in their own way, and we can’t judge them." well bullshit. both sweden and japan have the same goal, and japan is objectively trailing behind.

it’s a case of striaght-up systemic lameness, which is deeply entrenched in a culture.

but don’t be calling me a racist. all cultures just have lame parts, my own culture included, I’ll admit that right now!

If you say "americans are addicted to guns," I’m not going to fuckin’ say, "hey man, that’s just a stereotype, it’s not true, and if that doesn’t work, um, . . .stop disrespecting my cultural heritage of guns. and also, killing thousands of your own citizens with gun violence is just part of the rich mosaic of human cultures, not better or worse."

I’m just going to say, ‘yeah, that’s true, and your point is…?’

so to reiterate:

Gaman is the reason Japanese pedagogy sucks.

The basic rules of Japanese-style pedagogy are:

1 ? teach the hardest, most obscure stuff. leave out the stuff one uses in everyday speech

2 ? make the students read pages of dialogue with totally unknown grammar, and THEN explain afterwards. Actually introducing the rules, BEFORE you use them is for wimps. GAMAN!!

3 ? emphasize rote memorization, and never mind context.

If you just use these rules, you are not only qualified to teach the Japanese language, you are also qualified to teach ANY OTHER SUBJECT in the Japanese style. For instance, The Mormon is studying English right now. she showed me her homework in English class. The example sentences were, seriously, like this:

“QUESTION ONE; the geometric vectors determine the degree to which force will be applied to, or increased from, an inclined plane or other simple machines, such as wedges or screws.

There is one grammatical error in this sentence. Please correct.”

Every question was like this. Ten times as hard as regular English ,and even if you busted ass and DID learn it, you STILL couldn’t talk to anyone in America besides an engineer.

“excuse me, which way to the toilet?”

“no idea, but I can tell you which force vectors increase the potential energy of an inclined plane!”


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  1. doompuma June 30th, 2011 5:57 pm


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