What’s wrong with English education in Japan? Pull up a chair
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While English classes are mandatory in Japanese schools, the percentage of students who emerge with actual English abilities are surprisingly low. Students in China, Korea and Japan are in an arms race to see who can produce students with the best English, and Japan seems to be trailing far behind in third place.
With the Olympic Games coming up in , the Japanese government has proposed changes to increase the level of English ability in their students. Changes like starting introductory English classes in 3rd grade elementary school and making the subject compulsory from the 5th grade.
Are these changes really going to help? Every foreigner who spends any amount of time in Japan will understand the fundamental need to change the way students study English. But a recent thread on the Japan subreddit, which seems to have been started by an English educator, tried to assemble as many opinions as possible about the matter in one place.
Many of the complaints fell into three main categories:. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese school system, most high schools and universities have a test that prospective students must take and pass. Especially in the case of high schools, there is a mandated set of content that appears.
So, if Japanese students have to learn specific material for the tests, why should they learn anything else? There is no point in actually learning the language if all that is required is being able to pick the correct answer on a multiple choice test. Many foreign language teachers criticized the textbooks used in the classrooms, complaining about all manner of things including content and grammatical errors. The JTEs have to teach these archaic forms through topics such as recycling plastic, people and animals dying in WWII and boring Japanese history, causing students to be apathetic.
Topics like these are required in government approved textbooks. Where is the English? Perhaps one of the biggest complaints was the amount, or lack of English used in the classrooms. The JTEs often teach all the grammar in Japanese, and check that the students can follow the textbook by translating the English into Japanese. Of all the hours of English education, how many of those hours were spent actually listening to and speaking English?
Repeating English is not the same as speaking it. Japanese people agree that the current teaching style often limits students to what little English they hear from the teachers and what words are put in front of them. Successful teaching should include as many senses as possible to surround students in English.
One Japanese netizen suggests that TV dramas should be utilized to hear real English, while seeing the facial expressions and mouth movements all together in one package.
But, what about all the different things that you can experience when you understand English? When the exposure of English is limited to the classroom and the unfortunate textbooks, a majority of the students will disengage from it and end up not learning anything. When students are forced to study and learn about certain grammar points and vocabulary, with no knowledge about how you can apply it to all the amazing things in English, of course, the students are going to do poorly.
Expose them to the idea that, yes, this is a subject you have to study, but look at what you can do with it outside the classroom. To be fair, that one came up after a Japanese kid was shot because he didn't understand the expression, "Freeze. A lot of Japanese English teachers now try to tackle with the problem and received qualified education to speak English during the class, which is sometime called "classroom English".
Japanese English education certainly has been not effective to real English conversation, but it started to change into better ones. Japanese people are very smart, so they will become good globalized people soon by utilizing their good knowledge. O really? Or better to say, the excitement of learning all posible way of cursing , swearing and itd? TV shows, movies, books, games, and it's not even limited to entertainment, scientific journals, international business and the majority of the Internet is conducted in English.
What kind of nonsence is this? All those TV shows and movies exist in Japan, but translated in Japan language, and for games, majority of western games are not so popular in Japan, specially FPS games , but those that are , are translated in Japan language, so, no need for English ,, and for international business , again , its only small portion of Japan people who will, in their life time, to be in position to get into contact with those international firms.
And for Internet , well, I really dont see nothing worthy on it for someone to learn English , I see only trash sites and thats it , , because internet is actually big place for trolls and haters, so, its not so happy place to be.
I am sorry, but I am someone who actually dont like this western pressure on Japan to accept English language as must have. The author is spot on. So if, in a free composition test, in response to a cue like, 'Let me give you a hand' the student writes, 'Thank you', he gets full marks; if he writes 'Thank you verry mach' he loses two marks for his mistakes.
In other words grammar is taught as individual segments with little to no relation to each other, rather than as an integrated whole that has meaning. There is also a tendency to 'fluff over' the 'hard' grammar in the early stages. For example, students are given made-up passages to read and study that use e. Of course when the present perfect is later introduced, the students have no clear idea when or how to use it or what it means, because up to now they thought they were doing quite OK with the simple past.
One of the biggest problems is the fact that so many English teachers cannot hold a simple conversation in English with a native speaker. Let's get this point right first; Japanese people are no smarter than people from any other country.
The arrogance that Japanese people are of a higher intelligence than other Asian nations will be nothing but a hindrance in trying to progress in learning a foreign language. In my opinion, the lack of individualism and competition within the classroom puts Japanese students at a distinct disadvantage. I recall my spirit-crushing days spent in a Japanese junior high school classroom, desparate stuff.
Students stat too late. Yes, elementary schools were all supposed to be teaching English by but there is a shortage of elementary school teachers who can do it. Also it has been official government policy that students only listen to English and speaking but not read it.
I think there has been or will be a policy change. Teaching to the exam is a big problem. The problem is that students cram for the exam and then forget what they "learned" once it is over. This also creates students with still minds. Intellectual curiosity will only get in way of cramming. Then there are the legions of Japanese English teachers who do not know English and teach only in Japanese.
A lot of this number become "anti-English teachers," as someone wrote a while back. Then there is Eikawa, English Conversation.
It is a great relief from learning English for the examination. But English conversation classes tend to be facile. It is all frustrating. Try teaching literature in English in English to English majors. They are lost. It is easier to do this for Japanese majors, who are at least interesting in literature. The Poor English all around leads to teaching to the examination in university, like it or not. But there has been no change. My daughters Japanese 'English' teacher teaches their class how to pronounce the English words by using the Katakana phonetics.
It drives me nuts. Why not just start with compulsory Kindergarden English lessons and teach the kids English phoncis. That way they will get use to the proper pronounciation from an early age which is sadly lacking in this country. The idiotic teacher I refer to above also scolded my daughter when she taught the girl next to her how to say 'thank you' instead of 'sank you' How many people speak English in this World?
American think Japanese people should learn English just to facilitate them. Why not American learn Japanese in their school? Ipone, don't you realise that herein lies the problem? The insularity of such a comment is typical of the disconnectedness between classroom English and proper English! Because it's a language only spoken in one country, by the people in that country, so it makes more sense for them to study other languages that are more widely used. The number 1 problem I see in English "education" in Japan is just that - Japanese arrogance.
When a teacher asks their ALT for further information about something they're teaching sometimes they do, often times you're a statue , they really don't care about what you have to tell them. I had a JTE who kept mistranslating everything I said. One student asked me in a jr. Then, another student asked me, in English, "Are you married? Do you have a family? I stopped immediately after that and asked him if he's having problems understanding my English.
He shook his head and said, "not at all. One kid asked me a question that warranted a yes-no answer, I believe it was simple as, "Do you speak Japanese? I know that we aren't supposed to use Japanese in class but that was the last straw in a long line of purposeful mistranslations. It's about stubbornness and pride - the Japanese have an overabundance of both. This article was spot on and many of your comments are as well - but this article is talking to us, those of us who are in the trenches and see this every single day.
I have a student at my juku eikaiwa who was making forward progress in my English class only to have that progress snarled to a crawl after continuing with his English education in Jr High School.
The system is more than broken and as long as stubbornly prideful Japanese continue to insist on moving forward with this same system, when put in a room with a Chinese and Korean person, the Japanese will look like someone who suffered brain damage when someone asks them, "How are you?
The main problem is that they actually dont have to do anything in school to pass. No consequences equals "I dont give a rats ass.
Thank you verry mach is incorrect so ya they lose the marks. They should be spelling the words correctly. Spelling is important.
It depends on what your overall goal is.
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