Sunday, 30 May 2010

OC Frustration

I mentioned before that I teach Oral Communication (OC) at Tokusho using the textbook. Now, I don't believe any high school textbook I have thus far encountered has been stellar (case in point - hamburgers and Mimes in Lingua-Land) but the textbook Tokusho uses for OC (appropriately titled "Voice") frustrates me in so many ways that I decided to write a bit about it.

There are a few things wrong with the content of the textbook itself. It uses weird or outdated expressions, some of which I had never heard before. Instead of "sci-fi", it refers to "SF movies" (that's pronounced ess-eff movies). In the "word mine" at the back of the book it uses the word "druggist" before putting "pharmacist" after it in brackets, as if pharmacist is the word used less frequently. I'd never heard the word "druggist" before, but it sounds like it should mean something between a person who advocates drug use and a drug addict . Instead of using the word "fisherman" it has simply, "fisher". My dictionary describes this use as "archaic", and indeed the only place I've heard this word used before is in the "fishers of men" bit in the Bible.

However, my main gripe with textbook is not the thing itself, but the audio that comes with it on a set of CDs. There are four voice actors - two male and two female, and they are all American. Fair enough so far - American English is the standard form taught here. Now, to make the textbook relevant and interesting for high school students (as if they ever put that much effort into that) the actors are most often playing high school students themselves, though with some exceptions. The girl who does Maki (one of the most frequently recurring characters, and is Japanese) sounds like a muppet. Kind of like a female Kermit - she has the same weird way of separating each word in the sentence. The girl who does Kate (exchange student from San Francisco) has the most irritating, simpering spoilt-sounding voice imaginable. The guy who does Takuya (at first) actually has quite a pleasant voice. The most annoying voice is that of the guy who originally appears as John Wang, the Chinese-Australian English-language teacher. Aside from the voice itself (which sounds like a reserved TV continuity announcer) the characters he's used for come off as horribly inappopriate. As John Wang, (Australian, but with an American accent for some reason) he can't even pronounce "Brisbane" - the town his parents supposedly live in - correctly (he pronounces it "Bris-bain"). But then for some reason in lesson 7, for no apparent reason this guy starts doing the voice of Takuya, when Takuya goes to America for a homestay. The old voice of Takuya becomes Takuya's host-brother. Now, Takuya is supposed to be a high school student, and the John Wang guy sounds about 40. Perfect for John Wang, slightly creepy for Takuya. And he doesn't sound remotely like a Japanese boy learning English, which the other guy pulls off quite well. I can only assume John Wang knocked the real Takuya out after class one day and stole his identity so he could go on holiday to America. I say this, because towards the end of the textbook the voices switch back again to their original actors.

Hopefully the real Takuya will get his revenge in the sequel.

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