After a lot of tallying, I finally have the results from the Japanese students' surveys about their ideas and impressions of America and American students. One outstanding surprise that I experienced while working on these was that students were happy to help me when I came across answers I couldn't read! A fairly big group of 2nd-year (meaning 8th-grade) boys has chosen the English room as their hip hangout after lunch, during their recess/break time. While I'd love to think that's because they want to practice English and learn more of it, I think it's really just my iPad they're after! (They enjoy competitive Angry Birds.) So while they'd be playing, I would be tallying up surveys. When I came across answers written in Japanese, I would ask them and they'd chime right in! Sometimes they even volunteered to help before I even asked. So that was a nice side-effect of this whole thing.
OK, let's hear what they had to say! I will give you the top 3 answers to each question, and anything else especially interesting that came up as well. :)
1. When I think of America, I think of...
A. Sports (especially baseball)
C. Big. Yep, just BIG. I think that pretty much speaks for itself.
Other interesting answers: Super balls (?), Glee, the Statue of Liberty
2. When I imagine students in America, I think they are...
Shout out to all the tall, big, and cute peeps in the U. S. of A.!!! Other fun answers: White, powerful, kind. (While I can see why they might say white, I have to say I'm glad that we leave an impression of being powerful and kind! Hopefully powerfully kind.)
3. I think American people do ____ for fun.
A. Sports (overwhelming majority)
B. Games and party (tied)
C. Eat (I'm afraid I may contribute to this impression as I eat my way across Okinawa and mainland Japan once we go up there.)
4. When I think of American food or drinks, I think of...
C. Hot dogs
Aren't you thrilled that Japanese people are familiar with our haute cuisine?? Other interesting perspectives: Sweets, taco rice (Google this and make it TONIGHT), and just plain "big food." Are you seeing a pattern here w/ the big and the eating??
5. What sports do you think are popular in America?
A. Baseball (again getting the overwhelming majority)
6. TRUE OR FALSE: Most American students wear jeans to school.
192 said true; 37 said false.
7. TRUE OR FALSE: Most American people eat at McDonald's at least once a week.
129 said true; 62 said false.
I don't have exact scientific findings on whether this is true or false, but I'm sad that most Japanese kids think we eat there so much.
8. TRUE OR FALSE: All American people like baseball.
95 said true; 92 said false! Close one.
9. Do you think Japanese students get MORE or LESS homework than American students?
106 said that American students get MORE homework, while 72 said American kids get LESS homework. (You are probably wondering which is true. I didn't know myself, so I tried to find some studies or academic information online. I did find one report, which of course may not be 100% conclusive, but it said that in worldwide studies, American students actually get MORE homework than most students in other countries, including Japan. Speaking from my brief experience here, I would think that if Japanese kids do get less homework, it's because of the crazy amount of time they spend in club activities. Even when they're on summer break, the kids in sports were here before I arrived in the morning around 8 a.m., and they were still there when I would leave at 4:30. And even now during the school year, they are here well after school gets out, walking home sometimes around 7 or 8 p.m.)
10. TRUE OR FALSE: Most American students speak another language fluently by the time they finish high school.
97 said true, and 87 said false. I think that most of us already know whether this one is true or false, at least for students whose parents speak English in the home. For the many, many multilingual American students, they already speak other languages before they even get to HS in many cases. So I think this is another one that would be hard to pin down and get hard scientific data to prove it true or false. I'm just glad that at least some of the kids here think we Americans value learning languages!
I really enjoyed these little surveys and would love to ask them some more questions at the end of the year to see if their knowledge has grown or their impressions have changed based on what we learn together over the year. To wrap things up, just in case you wondered which singers and bands are hot over here in Japan, I also asked them for their favorites so I could use artists they like in class. The ones that rose to the top are: Taylor Swift, Chris Brown, Maroon 5, and One Direction. The more you know...