Ready for English?

English is going to be a new compulsory class for 5th and 6th grade. There are a few worries and one is teachers. Some teachers aren’t ready for this curriculum because they aren’t English specialists, and also they didn’t take the training course. The other one is how they teach. Starting English early and doing appropriate activity at the age could prevent kids from  being English-allergic. However just studying perfect grammar could cause English-phobia, so instead they need a positive attitude such as passion to learn new things. Teachers should help stimulate student’s interest. Therefore, we should focus on the way of thinking and approach to communication. This first step will create the base of elementary English education system in Japan.


11 Responses to Ready for English?

  1. DW says:

    An important topic, since if Japan is not to be left behind by its Asian neighbors in the global economy, it’s essential that it get to grips with English. But how can it do this?

    As you suggest, the focus of English teaching/learning in Japan is on grammar, reading and writing. Speaking is often neglected and quite a few Japanese English teachers are themselves not good at speaking. (We have some great ones at Doshisha, though!)

    From what I’ve been told, Japanese education also tends to follow a teacher-centered learning model, and this makes sense when you see that there is great respect for authority in Japan.

    Many Japanese students seem to prefer explicit instruction above interaction and classroom discussions. There also seems to be a national obsession with passing tests, even if they don’t help with oral expression!

    There are other bad habits which prevent effective language learning, such as dependency on dictionaries and out of date grammar-translation methods. Some teachers of English simply give students sentences to translate from English into Japanese. The result is some extremely strange English!

    Other teachers will disagree, but my own feeling is that this is mainly a cultural issue. Group identity is very strong in Japan, and it’s very hard to modify national character.

    Doshisha and other institutions run overseas study programs, and it’s no accident that the best Japanese foreign-language speakers tend to be those who have lived or studied abroad. They are usually open-minded and curious about other cultures and ways of thinking. On the whole, Japanese tend to avoid risk, but by contrast the best language learners are not afraid to make mistakes.

  2. bth8020 says:

    I really agree with this part “Teachers should help stimulate student’s interest.”. It is important for not only English, but also the others. If they can grow student’s interest, they start studying what they are interested in.

    I also think katakana makes English harder to study. Japanese listening skill is awful because of katakana. Teachers have to stop speaking and writing katakana during English class to develop the student’s listening skill.

  3. DW says:

    Yes, teachers should help stimulate student’s interests. There are different ways to do this.

    Do you think it’s better for the teacher to:

    1. Tell the students what topics they are going to study…


    2. Ask the students what they want/need to study?

    The second is at the heart of being “student-centered.”

    I also have mixed feelings about Katakana. On the one hand it keeps language interesting by introducing new words. On the other hand it tends to reinforce unnatural pronunciation by encouraging students to say things like “スポーツ”, ”アルバイト” and”アボウト”.

  4. maaakiii says:

    In my opinion,it’s important for a good teacher who can enjoy students with English to teach them.

    Japanese students have a good chance to study English because they have been studying English since junior high school,recently elementary school.But many Japanese stutents don’t speak English.I think the reason is that they don’t enjoy English so much.
    Therefore a teacher should make students enjoy English.

  5. Takashi Wakasugi says:

    I know that English is very important and children should study earlier. However I don’t agree with the teaching English in elementary school because there are some problems.
    First, there is a little room enough to adopt English class. Because of a five-day week work, the number of classes decreased. In addition, new subject called “Sougou Gakushu”, “総合学習” started. Now in many subjects, the contents that teachers teach are cut down. I afraid that to adopt English class has a bad influence on other subjects.
    Secondly, there is a big difference between children who have studied English and who have never studied. Nowadays the concept that English is important becomes popular. So some parents make their children go to English school before they enter the elementary school. On the other hand, children who never studied English need to learn from alphabet. It is difficult to deal with the difference.
    In my opinion, teachers should teach not English but other country’s culture. To see other countries is also important. I believe that it would connect to study language. If children are interested in other country’s culture, they would want to learn not only the world but also Japan. It is a kind of the stimulating student’s interest. To achieve this, to fix the curriculum is necessary for both of teachers and students.

    • masatochan says:

      “There is a little room enough to adopt English class.”
      “I afraid that to adopt English class has a bad influence on other subjects.”

      In that way, isn’t it vice versa? Why are the other subjects prior to English?

      • Takashi Wakasugi says:

        Now many people worry about the decline of the academic ability on Japanese children. This is because the number of classes decreased and the contents that teacher can teach were cut down.
        I think that English is as important as the other subjects and Japanese people should speak English, but the system of teaching English is not established as well as the system of the others. Teachers don’t have the skills and we don’t know how much English we should acquire. If people really think English is important, they should study “to use”. How many students in this university can speak English? Or how many students are practicing to speak? Now many university students take TOEIC-test for getting job hunting, but I think TOEIC is not enough. TOEIC is only test. English is language. Even in this class, there are only nine students although I think this class is very useful to improve English. Many people are satisfied by getting high score on English test that are only the listening, grammar and reading sections.
        If the system were established well, we should adopt. But the present condition would have the opposite effect to what was intended, which means the decline of the academic ability. So I don’t agree the idea now. The government or school should make the curriculum to acquire English steadily. To achieve this, they should train the teacher and set the goal. Next, they have to adopt it considering the balance with the other subjects. This would be hard work and take long time. To study English is not easy if people want to use it to connect or compete with other country’s people.

  6. masatochan says:

    I want to make sure the premise. Do we need English or not?

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