Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Nagoya?

It’s time for the JALT 2010 conference, Japan’s biggest ELT jamboree. This year it’s being held in Nagoya, famed for flat kishimen noodles, miso pork cutlets and a giant junior high school girl called Nana-chan. It is also the birthplace of the Potato Pals and was my happy home for 12 years. Its wealth depends on it’s proximity to Toyota but more importantly, the incredible number of ELT giants who have chosen it as their abode. It could really be argued that Nagoya is the world center of ELT excellence. It must be something in the water. Anyway, If you’re at JALT 2010, look out for some of these faces. Their time has come and rightly so, we say.

The Kelly Bros.

Few people know this but the internet was actually made with beard hair, wool and banjo strings by two Nagoyan brothers, Charles and his brother Kelly Kelly. They were out in their field when the brother Kelly said ‘Down tools, Kelly! We’re onto something here’. Having built this powerful tool ‘The Kelly’s’ as they soon became known, populated it with Many Things for students of English. ‘Many Things’ being an understatement of biblical proportions. These are very, very clever people. Be warned.

Paul Lewis

You might think Paul spends his entire life on matters JALT related. In fact JALT 2010 coming to Nagoya could be somehow thanks to his efforts. I have no direct evidence for this just suspicions. Not only does Paul run JALT but he also runs Nagoya’s largest speciality tea importing enterprise, M&P Teas. Paul and I got off to a bad start when he suggested that I ‘get out of the potato game as soon as possible’ but we went on to become friends. He is co-founder of the rapidly growing Perceptia Press about which more later. Paul is also an extremely proficient Hammond organ player.

Brian Cullen

Brian came to Japan as an engineer but soon realized that was a waste of time and moved into a series of lucrative ELT gigs. He became the face of Ireland in Japan thus resulting in the collapse of Japan-Ireland trade and Ireland’s becoming the basket case of Europe. Having said that, the popularity of the Nagoya St. Patrick’s Day parade has steadily grown as have the sales of Guinness in the Aichi region. Brian has authored a number of ELT books some of which were finished pre-launch. The Potato Diaries sends warm congratulations to Brian on his recent nuptials and qualification as an NLP master practitioner. This means he can damage your brain as well as your liver. Avoid eye contact.

Darren Elliott

A relatively new arrival in Nagoya, and clearly far too nice to survive long in Babylon, Elliott has impressed everyone with his blog, livesofteachers which contains detailed instructions on how teachers can get a life. He is liable to try and interview you with a flip camera. Remain at arm's length.

Sarah Mulvey

Sarah is the co-author of the world’s finest textbook not published by OUP. It’s called SCRAPS and made a major breakthrough in the field because it, like, wants students to talk about themselves, like, while getting rid of all the garbage lying around their house. They do this by sticking it into the book, like, and bringing it into class. At the end of the year they have a treasure to last, like, a lifetime (or an easily recycled and compact bunch of waste paper). SCRAPS has been described as, like, a Dogme course. Dog-eared we say.

Lesley Burda Ito

Lesley is the heart and soul of the Nagoya ELT scene. She runs a fabulous school in the posh part of the city where the children of top Nagoyans, (Grampus players, Toyota execs and so on) send their children to develop a Florida accent. Lesley is mad into JALT and ETJ and has developed some sort of a relationship with Longman whereby she presents their books in exchange for free train travel around the country.

Barbara Sakamoto

Co-author of Let’s Go, (the best-selling primary course in the universe), Barbara lived in Nagoya for seven years but was far too productive to remain there and was exiled to some far-flung part of Japan. She is a fabulous blogger and a fanatical tweeter. Barbara apparently has a Second Life as well. As if her first one wasn’t hectic enough, we say!

Chuck Sandy

Chuck is an ELT author who is literally changing the world. I think this is taking place Saturday night in Shooters. The big question is will this change Shooters? Let’s hope not. Any pub that offers English teachers the chance to drink as much as they can for about 10 Euros should be a World Heritage Site. Chuck has a wonderful Facebook page with Curtis (you guessed it) Kelly. This has become the gathering place for ELT people all over the world. Anyone who hasn’t been there is missing out on the chance to finish sentences like ‘Teaching is…’ Clearly a few question marks about Chuck and Curtis if they’re asking at this stage but hey.

Peter Warner

Peter is the lynchpin of linguini phonics in Japan. In fact it is well known that without his efforts, pasta would have died out in this part of the world years ago. Peter also believes there is some sort of connection between sound and language, a view that The Potato Diaries endorses but doesn’t really understand. Certainly not in the way Peter does anyway. Less well known is that Peter is an amazing billiards player. He is also the world’s undisputed master of flashcard manufacture. Check this out for more.

John Ahern

Not what you’d call a shrinking violet, John is the man you want coming to your presentation. Whereas many people shave and cut their hair in order to look better, John did it to sink wells in East Asia. This charitable deed was one of many John has performed in his life. In fact it would be true to say that he lives for others. One negative thing about John’s is his car. Quite frankly it’s a disgrace to this automobile producing region. If you find yourself in John’s car late at night you are definitely going to feel very ill the next morning, either from the hangover (your fault) or the anthrax you picked up off the pile of stuff in the trunk (his). He may have cleaned it up for JALT 2010 but don’t let that deceive you.

Nagoya Players

They put the ‘dram’ in amateur dramatics.

Tom Kenny

Another chap with Irish roots and author of ‘Nice Trying to Talk to You’ recently published by CUP. The Potato Diaries once tried to talk to Tom but it was a bad time so we can’t really tell you much more about this ELT legend. We have heard that the book’s good though. Could it give SCRAPS a run for it’s money? We’ll see.

Mark McBennett

Another Irishman and head honcho at Japanzone, Mark was one of the earliest people to run ELT News. He made the wise decision to move his large family from Tokyo to Nagoya a number of years ago and they have flourished here. It’s a testament to the city that a man who makes all his money off the internet and could have chosen anywhere in the world to live, chose this jewel of the midlands. Mark is a very good person to talk to if you need toed socks, a good Christmas present for the folks back home. He is also one of the good people who repeatedly cycle across Japan proving it’s possible and raising large sums for Hope International. I think they’re the people John Ahern shaved his hair and beard off for.

English Teachers

If you haven’t seen this hit internet show about the trials and tribulations of English Conversation School, BeYes, you’re missing something. It stars a number of Nagoyans including Michael Kruse, the world's funnest man. Michael’s mother was from the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry and presumably consumed considerable quantities of potatoes. Despite this we raise a glass to Michael and his friends and wish English Teachers great success.

Kim Horne

It is a great sources of regret that we never got to see Kim Horne present. She has been described as a teacher trainer extraordinaire and an all-star. The Potato Diaries is not entirely familiar with her work and therefore can’t really be rude about her but she comes with the highest recommendations.

Tim Murphey

One of the plenaries,Tim ‘Spud’ Murphey used to live in Nagoya and could often be seen outside a cafe in Yagoto looking intelligent. He was clearly thinking up new words like 'agencing'. In fact, as soon as he left Nagoya the café closed down as there was nobody to fill the huge gap left by a man who can, apparently, teach a class of several hundred students while skiing and juggling simultaneously. Pick up a copy of his latest book that is hopefully going to change the University Entrance exam system which cripples English teaching in Japan. Good riddance, we say!

The Potato Diaries wishes everyone at JALT 2010 the warmest greetings. We would also like to know of any other connections we may have missed (such as Steven Herder and David Kluge) or any other cities that could come close in claiming to be the world's most ELTy place.

Be safe…Be ‘Yes’ but don’t get in John’s car. It just ain’t worth it. Wishing we could be there. Love to all.


Mark McBennett said...

Thanks for the mention, Patrick. You are truly missed in Nagoya.

Devon said...

What...couldn't find a picture of Nagoya castle?

Patrick Jackson said...

@Mark Kind of you to say so, Mark but I hardly think that's likely! We are very much looking forward to our trip back soon.
@Devon Stop complaining, Devon. You should be happy to be featured. I mean you were just there for a day trip. Tsk.

Brian Cullen said...

We're looking for a comedy act to open for a few of our shows in the Nagoya area - could you introduce us to the agent of the Potato man - I think his name is Padraig?

Anonymous said...

David to Patrick: Thanks Patrick for the mention. You forgot to mention Patrick Jackson! The Head Potato!

Patrick Jackson said...

@Brian Never heard of him
@David A pleasure!