It seems to me that I have my most insightful thoughts when I’m driving. I guess it’s when I have time to really be away from people and decompress all the wonderment in my mind. The other day as I was driving somewhere, it occurred to me that Japanese directional street signs, as simple as they may seem, can actually be quite confusing. Please see the sign below:
This sign may seem straightforward (har har har), imagine having the sign placed about 2 intersecting streets before you actually have to turn. Now, you tell me which street they really mean when they have an arrow pointing to the left. It made me realize that though this may seem helpful to place the street sign well in advance before the actual turn, it’s actually making things counterproductive and inefficient. Once you turn on the wrong street, sometimes you may not have any way of knowing that you’re on the wrong street until things don’t look right to you after a while. Then you’ve just wasted your time, gas, and energy from a sign that was supposed to help you.
Another example arises also from driving. We’ve all had the experience of “backseat drivers”. You know, where you have a passenger, no matter where they are sitting in your car, that just likes to tell you what to do on the road without you asking for help. I realize that backseat drivers mean well (by the way, I have come to despise that phrase since coming to Japan), but to some people (*ahem*ME*ahem*) it’s actually a HUGE pet peeve. One might argue that if the passenger hadn’t said anything and I was really putting the person in danger without focusing on the road, then it would have been his/her own fault for not warning me. Now, I don’t usually have too much confidence in myself (I think I’ve stated that before in previous blogs), but I have a lot of confidence in my driving, especially when I have passengers. So there is no need for you to tell me to slow down at a curve, to watch out for that old lady about a mile away, to double-check my blind spots as I already have. When you are in my car and I’m driving, you have given your consent to me that I will transport you safely. Stop “trying to help” because it’s not helping me. It actually makes me very angry and it’s even more dangerous when I drive upset.
(courtesy of http://www.memehumor.com/index.php/ffffuuuu/this-months-top-20-rage-comics/)
Lastly, in terms of my teaching English with a Japanese teacher in the class, it’s actually quite unhelpful when the teachers translate everything to the students. Most ALTs, if not all, can relate to this problem. The Japanese teachers hear us teaching the kids English and the teacher than uses his/her best translating ability to tell the kids what to do or what I’m saying. The kids in turn tune me out until I finish talking and then turn their heads to the Japanese teacher and wait for them to translate. Not all my classes are like this (thank goodness!), but it’s a prime example of how “help” is actually NOT helping. The kids need to learn English by swimming in the deep end of the pool by themselves for a while. If they are constantly spoon fed, there is no point in me being in the classroom. They can simply learn from a CD or video.
There are other examples as of late that I could list, but since this is a public blog, I better keep those things to myself. Japanese folks have a way of being overly helpful or overly unhelpful. I just wish there were a happy medium.
Helpin’ myself out,