Out here in Japan, working as an English teacher is a lot of fun! Also, being a genuine English speaker, rather than someone from one of the colonies does add a certain extra “cool” factor to my reputation and new students do perk up when they find out where I am from. I will not say that I am the best teacher in the world, if anything, being from England raises the students expectations, and makes my life just a little more tough!
It is a challenge. But one I welcome.
However, one thing I am constantly dealing with is the fact that England is subsumed in to the amorphous mass that is “The UK.” England and Britain are almost interchangeable! Whilst for those from the other home nations enjoy their own unique identity. If you tell someone from China you are from England, more often than not, the Union Flag will pop into their head. The image of “Britain” and “England” are equally valid. For them.
However, you say you are from Scotland, then a unique identity is created. It may well be horribly stereotypical (kilts, chasing haggis, orange hair, etc) but the fact is, there IS a uniquely Scottish image.
I enjoy my job. I really do. However, it does get frustrating sometimes. Last week, I was teaching a class on comedy (never an easy task! It does not translate easily into Japanese!) and one of the tasks was to judge jokes from various countries. The picture shows (apparently) examples of jokes from the US, Belgium, Scotland, and the UK…
This was a tough lesson. My students enjoy culture, and I was asked “Is this joke an example of English humour?” Meaning England, not English language. Well, its not a great example, but it is. “Then why is it listed as from the UK?”
Cue mad panic as I try to figure out how I can explain the difference between the home nations based on humour! I think I managed to explain swiftly enough to satisfy the student, and not take too much time out of the class!
I have since registered with my head office to get some clarity on the article. Either have both of them listed as from the UK, or properly list one as Scottish, and the other as English. The Japanese are aware enough that Scotland is part of the UK, and my poor student got confused!
However, I can call on the assistance of the British Council. They supply, for free, promotional material about the UK. Unlike the British Embassy, which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. Some of the items include posters about food which is popular in the UK. Cornish pasties, roast beef, fish and chips, tea and scones, and yes, curry.
But most usefully, a poster which shows the UK broken into its constituent nations. Which has proven so very useful in helping students understand the difference between “Britain” and “England.”
Annoyingly, whilst there are also promotional magazines from tourism Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, (all since, ah, “recycled!”) there was nothing from tourism England! I have voiced my concern to the British Council. They said they will look into it. But I wont hold my breath.
Still. I kind of see myself using the British Council stuff as similar to the way the Scots and Welsh use the UK. Take from it what you need, and discard what you don’t!
So, from here in this little English outpost, I will keep going. We must all play our part in driving a wedge in the consciousness of others to split England and Britain. If we all keep going, one day, one day, we will see success. It may take several decades, but England existed for a long time before the UK was born. A few decades will pass swiftly enough! As long as we all keep pulling together!