Common Mistakes I Hear While Teaching English

I’ve been teaching English in Japan for more than ten years now, and I constantly hear the same mistakes. There are certain words that are always misunderstood or misused. Some of them are so different than what they think it means, that what they say doesn’t make much sense. Let’s take a look at some.

Local

This is what I often hear: “Nagano is very local.”

This is what they mean: “Nagano is very rural.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “Nagano is near here.”

Their mistake is thinking that local means that any town or small city is easy to get around, so it’s local. However, local merely means that it is something that is near your current location. Nagano is not local. It’s a bit too far away to be local.

Skinhead

This is what I often hear: “Patrick Stewart is a skinhead.”

This is what they mean: “Patrick Stewart is bald.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “Patrick Stewart is a Neo-Nazi.”

They think that skinhead is a very innocent term meaning bald. Whenever I explain to them what skinhead really means, they’re quite shocked. I would hope they don’t go up to a white guy and tell him he’s a skinhead. Yikes.

One piece

This is what I often hear: “I wore a cute one piece on my date.”

This is what they mean: “I wore a cute dress on my date.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “I wore a cute swimsuit on my date.”

Normally, we don’t say “one piece” in English, unless we couple it with “swimsuit.”  So, we have a one piece swimsuit. Rarely do we think of a dress, though.

Drama

This is what I often hear: “I love the American drama Full House.”

This is what they mean: “I love the American TV show Full House.”

This is what an English speaker thinks they mean: “I love the very serious American drama Full House.”

In Japan, drama means any kind of TV show that is fictional and has actors. It doesn’t matter what genre it is, it’s still a drama. In English, a drama is serious. They often don’t realise that we never call a sitcom a drama.

The last two are actually used in the Japanese language as loan words. Local and skinhead are just a misunderstanding. Of course, people of pretty much every country gets terms wrong for other languages. One example is that in English, people often proudly call themselves “otaku” as a kind of badge of honour. They think it means they’re just a dedicated fan of something. However, in Japan, it’s a rather insulting thing. People think otaku are outcasts, strange, and unhealthily obsessive. They’re not just fans, they’re considered extremely weird. So, anime and manga fans, don’t come to Japan and proudly tell everyone you’re an otaku. They’ll think you’re very strange.

Do you know of any words that are misunderstood or used incorrectly from one language to another?

Would You Ever Be on a Reality Show?

Reality shows are addictive. We all know they’re not reality, just tasks set up for people to do and situations people have to try to get through. I admit I watched them with curiosity about human nature. More often than not, they showed a side of human nature that we’d normally like to forget about. They become vindictive, backstabbing, and incredibly selfish.

Survivor is probably the most famous. Put a group of people in a remote location, give them tasks to do and watch the relationships form, grow, and break. It’s fascinating at times. I was interested in this show because we did a similar activity in junior high school, but without actually going to a deserted island. And we later read Lord of the Flies, which I found quite interesting. But would I be on Survivor? No way!

Big Brother is Survivor, but like everyone is under house arrest. It’s pure drama. No thanks.

Fear Factor is more like a game show. Three tasks related to common fears are set up and you have to pass one to go to the next. There were disgusting tasks, like sitting in a tub of cockroaches, tasks related to the fear of heights, and one forced the contestants to walk on a catwalk fully nude. I would not do this show.

The Amazing Race is a race with tasks you have to pass before going on to the next one. It’s a race around the world. Now this is something I really enjoyed watching. I love fantasy stories, and these often involve traveling and exploring. That’s what this is like. Would I do it? Maybe, if I had an adventurous partner.

Would you go on a reality show? Which would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.