Tokyo Damage Report

insane English textbook

 eigo juuyou koubun 400 (Important english grammar 400)


1) teach idioms popular during the reign of Queen Victoria, and . . .

2) cram each sentence full of idioms until it becomes profoundly weird.

3) involve native English speakers in the production of the book, but never give them enough power to point out when you are doing something totally retarded.

4) never introduce one new concept in an example sentence, when you can introduce 3 or even 4 new things at the same time. This increases efficiency.

5) Ideally, the grammar you focus on should be as difficult as it is useless in everyday life: you should be OBSESSED with sentences that use the past tense, passive voice, and hypothetical grammars simultaneously: "If he had wanted ice cream, he would have to have gone to the store to have bought it."

5a) it’s not enough to teach bizzarre English – the example sentences should also be MORE DIFFICULT than correct English. See, because that makes you even more smart than a Westerner!

6) think like a lawyer: rather than asking yourself, ‘Is this something a native has ever, or would ever, say, in any circumstance?’ you should instead ask yourself, ‘Can anyone prove that this sentence breaks any grammatical rules?’

7)  Teach neither conversational nor business English: Someone who has read your book should sound too stiff to make any foreign friends, while still being too bizarre to get a foreign job.Only the elite of Japan’s publishers and writers are able to walk  this very fine line.

8) Example sentences should be as boring as possible – the only exception to rule #9 is including your pet political biases re: unions and women’s place.

9) make a point to NOT teach the cultural differences in speaking styles (Japanese indirect hinting vs. Western direct declaration). Ideally you should write your ‘example  English sentences’ in Japanese and THEN translate them into English. This will help students feel at home. If you do this step correctly, when someone finishes studying English, their diction should still be so Japanese-y  that it’s incomprehensible to foreigners – EVEN IF THEIR GRAMMAR IS CORRECT.

10) my nuts.


If you study these 10 principles, you should be able to take a sentence like "I’d like to meet your fiance someday" and  effortlessly turn it in to something like:

"I should very much liked to have been able to have the pleasure of having met your wife-to-be, provided that the weather was auspicious in that case!"

If you can’t do that, then I’m afraid you don’t have what it takes yet.

Perhaps studying the following examples will help you get the knack. Ganbatte!

 That’s right, I’m starting with irony.




 Keep in mind that Japanese kids are spending madd money and going to cram school until  7PM to learn THIS SORT OF USEFUL INFORMATION.

 Below, some of the Victorian-era English that Rule #1 dictates:


 The author of this book, on the other hand, had no trouble finding a job!


 above:  As dictated by Rule #9, we must preserve the indirect, Japanese way of phrasing things.

 Below: more English that will come in handy if you are transported back in time and given a top hat.

 Below: more convoluted, indirect, passive-voice ‘Japanese syntax-y’ English:

























OK, enough with the example sentences.

Below, you’ll find some OTHER sentences, where students can test what they have just learned: by using mad-libs.

Is it only Japanese that love to use mad-libs? Or do teachers of all languages like that format? Can someone please tell me?



Congratulations. You’ve taken simple grammar and made it so difficult that even I – a native English speaker – have no idea how to answer these.




Now that you’ve studied, practice what you’ve learned by writing your OWN example sentences in the comments below. A glorious future of 70-hour weeks in the publishing industry awaits those of you who have got the knack! Remember, the important thing is not to educate anyone, it’s to publish as many different books as possible.

Or, to put it better: There is no amount of English books but that which is not enough!


13 Comments so far

  1. jani August 29th, 2009 7:59 pm

    Huh, for the fucks sake. It seems like they made this book by using some free JPN to ENG web translator. Some of my colleagues got English text books, but it seems like they aren’t getting anywhere. Thanks to this posting I think I got an idea why…

    A few weeks ago I heard about a TV program, where they had been filming an English lesson. They were writing English in katakana! NO WONDER LEARNING ENGLISH TURNS OUT TO BE SO IMPOSSIBLE.

  2. Steve August 29th, 2009 9:32 pm

    Great stuff, rule 6 reminded me of some linguistics classes I had. I have a book that attempts to teach Japanese grammar, and it’s filled to the brim with apparently real-life Japanese sentences directly translated:

    “What happens if you tie the two trouser legs together with a cloth belt? Whatever else, it becomes more difficult to walk.”

    “All the way to the other side of that hill are fields of pumpkin for the Japanese market.”

  3. Voidmare August 30th, 2009 7:22 pm

    Rule #5 is DEAD ON.

    I’ve got a guy at my school who writes sentances just like these in a Gundam notebook and makes me check them after class. He also focuses so much on shit grammar that he can barely speak, so I wind up sitting in our lobby for 2 hours after work correcting them (arguing with him about why they don’t work, no matter how grammatically correct they seem)for him.

  4. François August 30th, 2009 11:37 pm

    This looks to me like the latin or ancient greek classes I was having in France in middle-high and high school. (compulsary classes)
    i.e., dead languages. Which you have to learn through the writings of Cicero or Aristotle.
    (which, believe me, is a big pain in the butt)

    About English, my parents, who were in middle-high school around the 1950s’, were learning it with Shakespeare plays as a textbook, apparently. No wonder they don’t speak English, and no wonder the Japanese don’t either when they follow this kind of book. Give it some life, so the love of Whoever!

    As a side note, we did have mad-libs test questions in my language classes, but usually with more context than that! And usually a list of words to put in the paragraph’s blank spaces.

  5. fizgig August 31st, 2009 1:05 pm

    Reminds me of Paul Nowak, the guy who did ramenhead for the yomiuri shimbun.

  6. Orestria August 31st, 2009 3:36 pm

    Those aren’t madlibs, they don’t tell you what part of sentence structure to put in.

    They are ‘gap fills’, and yeah, eveeeeeeeeeeryone uses gapfills in language teaching. me included >> but not crazy ones like that.

  7. admin August 31st, 2009 8:54 pm

    @orestria: gap-fills, eh? good to know. do you think they’re helpful to your students?

  8. Orestria September 1st, 2009 2:23 am

    They can be, when used correctly (ie, with a lot more context than above). but then… I’m not really in a position to do what I think is most helpful for my students. My job is to be vanna white in the classroom, more or less.

  9. YankeeSpike September 24th, 2009 12:29 pm

    no wonder they cant speak english, like who talks like this for real?

  10. Tzench October 11th, 2009 11:39 am

    “He had his wife die”. Creepy…

  11. Red Faction December 31st, 2009 4:33 am

    This all looks to me like dialog from an old English film ( movie )or book , probably set in the 1930’s .

    English was spoken like this in the U.K. at one point , and the example sentences are all , believe it or not – gramatically correct – if a little old fashioned.

    The test part – well i like the author , couldn’t make head nor tail of that either :)

  12. Paul June 16th, 2010 4:03 am

    This wins extra points for using archaic English structures with modern "Americanized" spelling. So technically its still a fail – take that lawyer logic!

    I took a look through a handful of bookstores the other day, and about half the English books were like this, no shit. The other half were newspaper or speech study texts.

  13. Senile delinquent May 5th, 2012 4:02 pm

    Goodness, a perfectly good book got flamed for not being what it apparently wasn't ever supposed to be. A grammar book shouldn't focus on teaching 
    how to have one's buttocks fondled via asking the way to the station – or the other way around; it's there to help the readers explore the inner workings of a system of rules they don't habitually abide by when trying to put their thoughts across. 
    In the prescriptive sense, this one isn't even much wrong to be so close to Japanese: at the least it shows source simplicity of grammar can still render into target cumbersomeness – and how precisely it does. So there's the incentive to think in English directly, along with the help to avoid tacky ungrammatical automatisms while trying.
    Explicitly knowing what to make of pecularities is also important for the listener/reader end, where it's not at your discretion whether they are used or not. It's either you do or don't get what's already there. And I wouldn't put it beyond any learner to want to treat themselves to a manual or a scientific paper, or an older novel or flick.
    Also, the example sentences would be quite useful for or around the Yakuza and their gaijin counterparts. They apparently got extortion, threats, blackmail, silencing, liquidation, treason, squealing, sweeping under the rug, authority, protection, price tampering and whatnot all covered. Ask about why the books are like this.

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