Need to share this…
A student of mine is going to Port Angeles, Wa. soon and they wanted me to help answer an email from their soon-to-be host sister. When writing that letter I asked my student if they had any questions. There was one,
“how many people are in your family?”
What?? That was all? They’re flying to America and staying with a host family that they can talk to/email now and all they want to know is basically how many gifts to buy? No, no… No.
For at least 30~40min I decided to plow through that thick Japanese-I’m-being-modest wall until finally the student admitted that they were curious about some photos they saw and what artist her host-sister likes. I helped her form the questions in English, while checking if she understood what she was writing.
I’m sure I could of got my student to ask more in their reply, but frustration and exhaustion were building on me. It isn’t a matter of English ability, every question we thought up in Japanese my student knew (more or less) how to phrase, it was that shocking lack of curiosity of an adventure that’s eminent (next month).
I know Japanese adults are sometimes shy about these things, it’s understandable. Young people, as well, I know struggle with articulating themselves (especially in a foreign language), however I can’t accept that young people, at least middle school age kids when faced with a spectacular opportunity, aren’t curious.
They are and I suppose what gets me is that teachers here foster this attitude that its rude to ask questions. One teacher told me afterwards that it must be annoying in American classrooms when kids are constantly asking questions, but teachers are adults… Can they really not put up with a little annoyance for the benefit of their students becoming inquisitive citizens of the world? I think that’s more than acceptable, but then again I’m a traveler in a sense not striving to be someone or something else that I have no hope of becoming.