The Shy Lie

Any kind of direct discussion is sure to ruffle some feathers.

Prepare to have your feathers ruffled!

Shyness is an acceptable excuse in Japan!

Before I jump into shyness, I want to separate it from privacy. The Japanese are notoriously private and the most interesting thing about it is there is no traditional Japanese word for privacy. As a result, the English word is used to refer to it and because of this, people sometimes suggest that the concept of privacy did not exist in Japan traditionally. The definition of privacy is a state in which one is not observed or disturbed by other people and free from public attention. Go to any mall, hospital, train station or restaurant in Japan and tell me how private it is. The concept of privacy in Japan is very different. It's 'the right to be left alone' and feels more like security and a right to secrecy . The result: private people.

Now are you a shy person or private person?

A shy person- lacks self-confidence, but could become social if encouraged.

A private person- is deliberately anti-social, having no desire to share his or her life/thoughts/ideas with others.

-Are you both?

-Do you think it holds you back in English class?

Are you conveniently shy?

Everybody is shy and shyness commonly occurs in new situations or with unfamiliar people. A stronger form of shyness is a social disorder. A private person is deliberate with their actions. A conveniently shy person is only shy when it benefits them.

Example of a conveniently shy student:

A 2nd year high school student in class with all of their friends and a teacher they know not participating, because they're shy. Outside of class they're loud, enjoy sports, karaoke, Disney, Starbucks...the opposite of shy. Why? Luckily I have high school students who are honest about their convenient shyness. They admit they're like this, because they can get away with it.

I love Japan and teaching English, but this shy excuse is played out. Every parent and student I have ever met has used shyness as an excuse for not doing what they come to English school to do. The difficulty is, it’s tough to tell the “shy” students apart from the ones who simply don’t do the work and/or don’t care about English. I don't want to call them lazy, because being shy is acceptable in Japan, so they're just doing what they know they can get away with. Regardless, I’ll be honest: it has made trying to find empathy for shy students something I have to constantly work at and find extremely difficult. Why go to class if you’re not going to talk? I dont understand, especially with adult students, why anyone wouldn’t want to have an impact on their learning environment, and take control of their own learning.

How I encourage

I provide a fun space, free of judgment, so when I have shy students, building up their ability to communicate is carefully planned.

Why is shyness an acceptable excuse?

It's acceptable, because shyness is romanticized in Japan. Turn on the TV, open any manga, or watch any anime. Shyness and cuteness overlap and makeup up the "Kawaii Culture." Kawaii is a Japanese word meaning lovely, lovable, cute, or adorable. It can refer to items, humans and nonhumans that are charming, vulnerable, childlike and....SHY! I'm not bashing kawaii, but it is something you decide to do and a lot of students decide to be like this in class.

Comparison danger

Most comparisons are considered to be dangerous. The only comparisons that are considered to be healthy are those that inspire us to make a change in our life for the better. Try to discuss these topics without making comparisons to other countries.