Monday, 14 November 2011

Japanese Mini Lesson 5: Essential English teacher vocabulary. しんちょう vs "チンちょう". Brought to you by naughty 5年生 boys.

Foreign males teaching English in Japan at elementary and/or junior high school level, will inevitably get poked, prodded and asked a number of undoubtedly rude questions at one point or the other. One of the more clever traps devised by my little rapscallions is the "チンちょう、何センチ?" / "chinchou, nan senchi?" question.

Now, before I explain the下ネタ-ic (rude joke) device here, I will make you appreciate their strategy here. So, the most common question I get (in fact, a question I only just recently stopped getting on a clockwork daily basis) is 身長、何センチ? / shinchou, nan senchi? This means "How tall are you," with the first kanji of shinchou meaning body/self (身) and the second meaning long/length (長), and then following into nan senchi, which will roughly mean "what + centimetre(s)?"

Now it gets classy ladies and gents. With the simple change in pronunciation from 'shinchou' to 'chinchou' you get something completely different. チンチン / chinchin is a common slang term for penis. So when 身長、何センチ? becomes チン長何センチ? well, damn it, you've read this far, you know the result.

So when I first encountered this question, I was almost fooled into replying with the well-rehearsed hyaku kyuu juu (190), though, something was obviously awry. I must commend the head mischief maker as he summoned all he could to keep a perfectly straight face whilst asking me, but to his dismay a ripple of stifled and not-so stifled chortles were erupting around him. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but I knew that there was no way I was going to answer this. Then as the question was offered again by one of his partners in crime, it dawned on me. God damn it. I then told 'em that the jig was up! Haha, we had a laugh and I only got it asked 20 more times afterwards....orz.

So may this lesson come in handy to Japan's current and future English-teaching fellows. Also, let it be an insight into classroom culture in Japan!

This has been Daniel reporting from the frontlines.

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