Departing language teacher declares – “It’s up to the locals now”

Ralph-Smith says hell miss the joy of seeing the students putting in an effort to improve their English skills.

The end of the Japanese school year usually brings change, and this year is no different.  But few people could have predicted the huge change in the zeitgeist this year, with the recent decision of well-known English teacher Carter Ralph-Smith to finally go back to his hometown in Australia.

As a man who has spent more time in Japan than he cares to remember, the 46 year old Aussie has generally been regarded as a lifer, a person with very little to offer in any area outside of teaching his native language in Japan.  The recent death of a childless family member, however, has meant that Ralph-Smith now has the means to make a triumphant return home.  

Ralph-Smith says hell miss the joy of seeing graduating students being congratulated by their proud parents.

“I’ve done my part to improve the level of conversational English in Japan,” said the Wodonga native.  “It’s up to the Japanese themselves now… and maybe the Filipina who will replace me.  We are seeing a de-Westernization taking place, but the Japanization of Eikaiwa is what is required now.  The locals are in the best position to decide the right path out of this katakana-rooted mess.  I mean, have you ever watched an AKB48 election on tv?  They say every bloody number in that long, annoying, warped way.  Jesus bloody Christ!  If these people aren’t overcomplicating everything by observing every grammar rule, they’re buggering it up with that weird pronunciation.

According to Ralph-Smith, a Japanization of Eikawa would involve not only the strengthening of the teaching force of the Japanese in numbers, equipment, leadership and teaching skills, but also the extension of the conversational program [i.e. DVDs and games to families] throughout Japan.  “Family-focus, the second component, presents the real challenge,” explained the veteran instructor.  “It is benevolent government action in areas where the government should always be benevolently active which is critical.  It shouldn’t just involve piles of cash going to their mates to produce inferior material that doesn’t invigorate anyone.  The government should be doing what is necessary if Japanization is to work.”

Ralph-Smith says that this is the future of English study in Japan; just one local teacher, but with perhaps a little less kanji on the blackboard.

Ralph-Smith went on to suggest that a revolution was required to deal with the status quo.  “English conversational development simply cannot wait a year for old bureaucrats to decide to take some new step and take a more conservative position.  These issues must not be placed, for all practical purposes, in the hands of the current bureaucracy, which does not want to resolve them and is unable to do so, since it is unable to soberly assess the situation.  As things stand at the moment, there is an over-reliance on Americans with yellow-fever and irresponsible Australian backpackers.

Ralph-Smith also took the opportunity to deal with rumours around the reason for his return home.  “What the hell are people talking about an inheritance for?  Yes, there has been a transfer of a certain amount of funds which will come in very handy, but that has had no bearing on this decision.  I just feel, and I think that most instructors feel, that the time has come to get out of Japan.”

Ralph-Smith’s Hub loyalty card is expected to remain in Japan, with a handing-over ceremony due to take place the night before his flight home.

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