Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An ounce of prevention... worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.

So yesterday the sannensei had a test. This morning, my JTE showed me their marked test papers. Usually I skim through the answers to see where they had difficulties, but this morning I was kind of out of it (I'm really not a morning person!) so I barely glanced at the answers and mostly just looked at the scores.

Of course, it's Murphy's Law that the one time I do this, it's going to come back to bite me in the behind!

Anyway, we're going over the answers in class and there's one question where they have to make an appropriate response for a blank in a dialogue that goes something like this:

Mike: I think some of these books look very interesting.
Ken: _________________
Mike: OK. Thanks.

They have to fill in Ken's part using the word "want" in a sentence of 6 or more words. The answer my JTE had written down was "I will give some books to you, if you want." That was fine, but when she was explaining where students lost marks and how students could correct their answers, I realized that she had made a mistake in her marking of the answer.

My JTE was under the impression that the main difference between borrow and lend is that lending is more for matters involving money and/or institutions, while borrowing is more casual. But of course, the difference is much bigger than that. In the case of Person A "giving" something to Person B, the person lending is the owner/giver of the object (Person A), and person borrowing is the person who wants what Person A has (Person B). In Japanese, they also have different verbs to show this distinction--"kariru" for "borrow" and "kasu" for "lend"--and the usage is pretty much the same. That is, you either allow someone to borrow something or offer to lend something to someone. (Conversely, you have to ask permission to borrow something from someone or request that someone lend it to you.)

Anyway, it was fine that she wanted the students to use "borrow" so I didn't really say anything, but then I saw that a student who had written: "I will lend you some books, if you want"--a perfect answer!--didn't get full marks. I tried to explain the whole giver/receiver lender/borrower distinction at that point, but the discussion got stopped at "it's wrong because they haven't learned "lend" yet."

Fine, maybe penalizing a student for knowing more than they've been taught is a cultural difference in the educational system, but the problem is that the students were told it's OK to say "I will borrow you [something]." But of course, under NO circumstances could a person use that constrction in a grammatically correct way. (You could say "I will borrow you"--full stop--but that has a totally different meaning!) The correct way to use borrow in the above example would be: "You can borrow some books, if you want."

Being the "non-confrontational" type that I am, I was thinking about letting it slide, but really there's no way I can and still call myself a teacher. Besides, it was my fault for not checking the marked papers more carefully before class--which, unlike in the middle of class, would have been the appropriate time to have an extended discussion about the difference between "borrow" and "lend"--so it's up to me to broach the topic even if it's awkward for me to bring it up a full day later.


Yet again I've learned the importance of taking a little care beforehand to prevent trouble later on.