Education ministry proposes radical English education reform

TOKYO —

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has announced plans to reform the English education curriculum at junior high schools across Japan from the 2020 school year. The main change will be that all English-language classes will be conducted entirely in English.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told reporters at a news conference that “the goal is to enable students to learn communication skills vital to everyday life at an earlier age by speaking with native speakers of English, a skill I believe to be in great demand for this current generation,” TBS reported. 

Under the new plan, from April 1, 2020, third-year elementary school students will begin taking English courses as a foreign-language activity. English will become a formal subject from fifth grade (it is currently designated as a foreign-language activity) three times a week.

The ministry plans to hire more foreign teachers and utilize the Test in Practical English Proficiency (Eiken) to certify Japanese teachers of English, TBS reported.

Shimoura said he hopes the current generation of junior high students will develop their English capability to the point that by the time they are seniors, they will be able to make presentations in near native-level English, as well as partake in challenging debates with their fellow students. 

Japan Today

  • 19

    Disillusioned

    There is no point in teaching people English if they refuse to use it. Furthermore, if they intend to have English classes taught entirely in English they will have to fire at least half of the Japanese English teachers cos they can't speak English either. Then, they should cut the salary rapists like Heart Englisg School to give foreign teachers a livable salary.

  • 11

    BertieWooster

    The whole of Japanese education, not just English education, needs scrapping and rethinking from the ground up. The problem is that the Ministory (sic) of Education are not the people to do it. They are too out of touch with the real world.

  • 0

    kurisupisu

    And to think that the career civil servants at Monbuffonsho actually get paid for coming up with these schemes?!?!

    99% of teachers in Japanese JHS detest English as they were taught that 'this is a pen' are the only words of English that should become memorable. How to reeducate these adults that when an actual foreigner is encountered that they should to run up the nearest tree? This is an impossible task!

    To think that years of miseducation in the only foreign language (English) ever taught in public schools here could ever be righted is 'a dream' !

    Hang on! Promote a mandatory viva voce test in the high schools whereby the students are given double marks.

    Problem solved!

    Unfortunately, it will never happen..............

  • 13

    80393

    i think a problem that has gone largely ignored is guaranteed matriculation. these kids can literally sleep in class with no consequences. a far cry from the image of japans studious and respectful students. the thought of having to repeat a grade might be enough to get the kids to focus a bit more.

    japan also needs to get rid of katakana. every elementary school student knows a hundred english words but cant/wont pronounce them correctly. i know in english speaking countries people mispronounce karate, sake and karaoke but in japan its gotten out of control. there are japanese words for "pink" and "shock", so use them and forget this katakana nonsense.

  • 2

    tinawatanabe

    Why wait till 3rd grade? 1st grade, please. It is almost impossible for Japanese to speak English near native level if we started late because English is so difficult for a brain which grew up in Japanese.

  • 12

    Tamarama

    It makes you wonder if they actually pay any attention to the theories and practices of second language learning elsewhere in the world, or do any kind of serious consultation with outside sources, or experts.

    Learning a second language entirely in that language is poor pedagogy and is considered counter productive to language learning.

    Japan needs to forget it's obsession with 'Native Speaker' English for a start - it's perfectly OK for Japan to develop a domestic version of practical English, like, say, Singapore has, which isn't measured against the Englishes of The US, Canada and Britain.

    And then it needs to forget test results, and restructure the way the language learning takes place - move away from this boring, teacher centred, rote learning style of education and get the kids involved and active in their learning. Teach them to collaborate, problem solve, think critically, take risks, and most importantly, use the language in a variety of contexts and activities that makes it interesting and engaging.

  • 0

    tmarie

    So are they going to actually give the teachers any training on how to do this or just throw them off the bridge? Are they going to actually check that English is being used? If not, will the teachers be fired? Are they going to fire the ones that can't speak English? Japan doesn't have very well trained and qualified teachers as it is, this is just going to make it worse. Great idea but so unrealistic it isn't even funny.

  • -1

    Sensato

    A good first step to encouraging more practical English would be to lead by example.

    The Kasumigaseki bureaucrats need to stop with long-winded (and silly) official translations like The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for "Monbukagakusho" (文部科学省). How is anyone supposed to remember that?

  • 5

    Doug Birbeck

    imho, Japan actually has the potential discipline to be the first big population country to have a reasonable level of English proficiency in the general population, but i agree with the comments above that the Ministry of Education is run by a bunch of well paid old fart dreamers. they should take a serious look at Benelux, Scandinavia, India, Singapore etc to see how they actually achieve these results. as for other countries in Europe, for example, Joe Blogs can't speak English usually in, say Germany (unless he or she likes travelling) and equally in the UK, USA, etc foreign language skills are also crap. i volunteered for a year in my son's shogakko to help in English classes and i was shocked as to how much of a waste of time they were, just play time. the teachers always couldn't speak even basic English and i stood there like a lemon all the classes and was asked to repeat a word every now and again. a bit like being an ALT but without the money

  • 0

    Mike45

    I agree this will be a challenge as the creative thought process behind speaking Japanese and English is very different. Other English speaking countries in Asia were occupied by the British and have this as their base.

  • -1

    BertieWooster

    Doug Birbeck,

    Joe Blogs can't speak English usually in, say Germany (unless he or she likes travelling) and equally in the UK, USA, etc foreign language skills are also crap.

    Our experiences differ widely.

    Most Germans speak English, many of them very well and what you say about the UK may have been applicable 100 years ago, but nowadays, it's quite untrue.

    As for the U.S.A. I'm afraid, as a country, it hasn't quite worked out that there are borders and separate countries exist.

  • 4

    jazz350

    I taught English at the 6th grade in the Elementary school as a volunteer for three years in addition to two kindergartens. The kids at the kindergarten were the best as they had no inhibitions with the pronunciation as opposed to the problems faced by children in the elementary school. Right off the bat I refused to use any of the official English textbooks as they were really bad. I just taught them practical stuff that they could use everyday and helped them in building up their confidence.

    The entire system is terrible and the bumbling bureaucrats have no clue. If Japan is to transform itself, then English should be made into a Second Language, and the Government has to create the entire ecosystem-- teacher training schools, libraries, newspapers as well as TV programs , the whole works. English should begin from kindergarten through to the University, there is no other way. But don't hold your breath.

  • 1

    Bryan E Hall

    Certainly, this is an improvement; and assuming native teachers are given the necessary autonomy to actually teach instead of pretending to, while the Japanese teacher who often cannot even speak, organizes "one word a day" classes. As a professional educator, I welcome the additional funding for schools, and the additional market pressure for private instruction, but it could just be a huge waste of money if the teachers unions do not allow incompetent teachers to be removed from the English classroom. I'm sure they can find something they can do well. Frankly, knowing what I do of the public schools, I'd prefer the government to provide goals and standards and let the native private schools take over. If I had half the budget of the Japanese classroom for teaching 20-30 kids at a time; I guarantee my students would be able to speak and write English within a year, as my current students do with only one lesson a week for a year. Alas, will common sense prevail. Of course not; Japanese teachers must be Sempai, and as long as that is true, Japan will remain even with Laos in its English proficiency.

  • 1

    wildwest

    Just in time for the Olympics! I wait it's too late. Hmm it's great to see policy thrower out to justify their existence that may / probably never be implemented set so far away that gives policy makers time to revamp the policy and continue the cycle. History reapeats again. (Not just Japan too)

  • 3

    Bryan E Hall

    Additionally, 2020, who are they kidding? With the current budget redirected to teaching systems that work, we can get results now! Or Japan will already be lightyears behind the global counterparts.

  • 4

    dracpoo2

    Until they actually change the syllabus this is still BS. They also need to re-think how they train their teachers of English..

  • 0

    yourock

    To quote'The main change will be that all English-language classes will be conducted entirely in English.' Simply NOT possible. Teachers don't have the English, students will need grammar explained in Japanese at the very least. This is get watered-down and/or forgotten by 2020, so nothing to be concerned about.

  • -2

    sensei258

    I guess the five-year notice should give those "JETs" who need to time to learn English. I don't know how some I've worked with were assigned to English Teacher positions when they can't understand simple English.

  • -4

    Akkio

    @80393 - Oi oi oi, don't diss Katakana. It's used in literary works as well as a stylistic device and even onomatopoeia need them. And some words are already set in stone so even if you get rid of Katakana, it retains the same Japanese meaning rather than the English meaning. If you're going to be picky about a country's alphabet system, then go target every other country's alphabet system as well.

  • 4

    Ian Robertson

    Couldn't be a worse time to introduce English. Why not start in elementary school, where the challenge will not be as great. Are the folks at the education ministry actually educators; do they understand the specifics of language learning? Will they be embarking soon on teacher training for those who will be expected to implement this plan? As always with this governments plans, so many unanswered but important questions.

  • -2

    igloobuyer

    The Jp government/MEXT have been proposing similar reform since the eighties and very little has ever come of it. Teachers in high schools are supposed to be speaking in English to their students right now; is it happening? No (bar a few select schools/teachers). Why? Because of the gaping rift between government ideas/ideals and on-the-ground, in-school teaching

    You can't teach something you can't do yourself so where is the teaching going to come from (i.e. majority of Japanese teachers can't communicate in English)? There is no way they are going to be able to recruit enough native speakers (who don't actually 'teach' right now anyway). The only solution, the ONLY solution I can see is to hire non-native speakers from the likes of the Philippines and India.

  • -1

    Hugo Kempeneer

    Google translate offers a lot go possibilitys to whoever wants to learn, right there on your sum phone! It takes a will to want to learn, to many think they don't need English!!!! Thatsvthevproblem!

  • 1

    Mike Critchley

    100% agree with Tamarama. There is a mountain of research now showing that English-only pedagogy in EFL settings is not the way to go. But as usual, Monbusho seems to have turned to the few weary Japanese "experts" whose education seems to have stopped in the 1950s. I mean, if their plan to test for language proficiency is to use the Eiken, the most useless exam ever invented, that kind of says it all.

    Monbusho. If you're going to do something, do it right!

  • 1

    gaijinfo

    Political hot air. Making promises that will only happen far into the future.

    Immediate political rewards for pretty much ZERO up front cost.

    same old same old, happens all the time, in every country.

  • 3

    Jimizo

    'Challenging debates with their fellow students' Do/can they do that in Japanese?

  • -1

    koiwaicoffee

    2020???

  • -1

    noriyosan73

    This system has already been tried in many countries including the USA (English to Spanish speaker.) IT DOESN'T WORK. It causes frustration, anger, drop-outs, and possibly, suicides. The biggest problem is the myth that everyone must go to college in order to be successful and, therefore, will be using English in the career. WRONG. An auto repair person doesn't need English. He or she needs proficiency in Japanese. If he or she needs English, use the app on the mobile phone. There are 1000s of Japanese high school graduates who are successful. Look around. If Japan really wants Japanese teachers to be proficient in English, it should contact all the high schools' foreign language departments in California and ask if they would host a teacher for 2 to 4 weeks during the American school year. The Japanese government must pay for the flight and give some spending money to the teachers. The teachers would learn modern teaching methods by using modern materials as well as the American culture. The materials used today in Japan's junior high school are similar to the materials used in California in the 1960's to teach Spanish, French and German.

  • 1

    shallots

    "Education ministry" and "radical" in the same phrase? I don't think so.

  • 0

    KariHaruka

    The first thing that the Education ministry needs to do is look at the Finnish education system,

  • -1

    tmtmsnb

    Teaching a foreigner English is like teaching someone how to use chopsticks--takes time but not impossible. Teaching a Japanese English is like teaching a right-hander to use chopsticks with his left hand--not impossible either, if you start him early enough, say kindergarten, or better nursery (that's when Japanese parents start correcting kids' dominant hand). No need for a Japanese teacher to speak like a native speaker: there are computers with good language software, or movies, cartoons; the teacher's job is simply to guide, to device ways of communication mimicking native speakers in the media. Japanese with good English capability? Wow, that's Oni Ni Kanabou=double advantage=terrific! Alas, past governments and NHK with their ex-corporals did not think so, so the question remains: --will post Abe regime return back to hostility toward English language?

  • 0

    Shameem

    Good news,but I think it would be difficult for Japanese.Still their English knowledge is very low,also they feel uneasy to speak English.So start slowly, no need to start like Native.

  • 1

    sighclops

    As an English teacher myself, this isn't what I was hoping to hear...

    I've taught all levels and after a while, you start to see patterns across the board. (If I have to hear "How are you?" - "Fine" one more time...!) This proposed system will fail for two main reasons:

    1. Starting something this drastic at junior high school is bonkers. It will prove counterproductive and just frustrate students out of learning English all together. The idea is to get MORE students taking on the language!

    2. As drastic as it may be, starting it at a junior high level is far too late. The entire system needs an overhaul. Seriously!

  • 2

    mito

    Look to Europe for models, where language education is working. Theory from the USA is not so reliable.

  • 1

    Chuckles419

    A big waste of time and money.

  • 0

    BuBuBu

    Wow. According to the 2008 Course of Study (English language curriculum) all English classes are already supposed to be taught in English. Without coming up with a plan to actually implement these grand dreams nothing will change.

    A radical idea would be to actually recognize teachers of English who have accreditation in their home country and offer the same type of contracts that Japanese teaching staff receive (not some lame ESL weekend course but teachers who have actually trained at teachers' college). Also, stop hiring people who want to come to Japan for a vacation or working holiday as 'English teachers' and putting them in schools with children. These people should only be used for eikaiwa type schools.

  • 1

    slumdog

    Also, stop hiring people who want to come to Japan for a vacation or working holiday as 'English teachers' and putting them in schools with children. These people should only be used for eikaiwa type schools.

    Actually, with the exception of a few decent schools that actually teach English well, I find more students from the conversation schools that speak and use English well.

  • -1

    BuBuBu

    Actually, with the exception of a few decent schools that actually teach English well, I find more students from the conversation schools that speak and use English well.

    Which goes to proving my point. Untrained 'English teachers' do a better job at helping small groups of students when they are teaching in eikaiwas as a supplement to students' regular English language education. However, when these untrained teachers are relied on as the sole contact with learning English they are not effective. Don't get me wrong, some people are naturally gifted teachers and can do a great job without having to go to teachers' college. However, they are few and very far between.

  • 1

    pointofview

    @ Akkio,

    So it`s alright to use my messed up Japanese pronunciation too? Ya right! Even a tad off with Japanese pronuciation and people are like "Nani?"

    Let`s see how far your katakana sounds get with the tourists. No katakana sounds accepted in my classes. Sorry.

  • 1

    slumdog

    However, when these untrained teachers are relied on as the sole contact with learning English they are not effective.

    Assistant Language Teachers were never meant to be the sole contact with learning English. There is a Japanese teacher of English in the class and it is that teacher's responsibility to create classroom content. Blaming ALT's for the situation is like blaming a pencil for a bad essay.

    >

    Don't get me wrong, some people are naturally gifted teachers and can do a great job without having to go to teachers' college.

    Again, with all due respect, that is not the way the system was designed to work with regard to native speakers in the public school system. It is the Japanese teacher's responsibility to make good use of the native speaker in the classroom.

    Don't get me wrong, some people are naturally gifted teachers and can do a great job without having to go to teachers' college.

    I understand what you are saying, but there are also plenty of teachers who went to teachers college who are horrible at their jobs.

    The problem is not the qualifications of native speakers. It is the qualifications of Japanese teachers. They are not taught how to teach. They generally learn this on the job and in the very short internship they do at a school during their last year of university. The focus needs to be more on communication and less on rote learning and test prep. These are things that have been repeated for years though and I think it will take a long time before there are real changes.

  • -4

    BuBuBu

    Assistant Language Teachers were never meant to be the sole contact with learning English. There is a Japanese teacher of English in the class and it is that teacher's responsibility to create classroom content. Blaming ALT's for the situation is like blaming a pencil for a bad essay.

    This system is broken... and again it proves exactly the point I was trying to make. What is the purpose of having an ALT if they have no responsibilities in the classroom? If you need someone to be a tape recorder I suggest using the much cheaper method of playing a tape.

    If these ALTs were actually trained teachers they could create the content that they teach rather than rely on someone else to create the content for them.

    I speak three languages fluently and I never had a single ALT in any of the classes I took as a child. Instead, I had trained professional teachers who knew what they were doing.

    Sorry if I touched a nerve with you but there is next to nothing that can convince me that the current situation should continue. Untrained 'English teachers' have no place in the school system.

  • 0

    80393

    If these ALTs were actually trained teachers they could create the content that they teach rather than rely on someone else to create the content for them.

    it doesnt matter how well trained or naturally gifted an ALT is when the current system allows for zero autonomy. rather, the ALT is stuck with horrible textbook material and whatever lesson plan the japanese teacher has chosen. so much wasted time on useless phrases rather than practical communication. if anything, the japanese teacher and school board should figure out how to better utilize the ALT and give them more responsibilities. were that to happen i would agree with you that ALTs should be better trained. but with the way things are now, i doubt it would make any difference.

  • 1

    slumdog

    What is the purpose of having an ALT if they have no responsibilities in the classroom?

    I was not suggesting that they should not or do not have any responsibilites. I was stating the fact that they are not supposed to be the sole contact with English in the classroom, which is what you were suggesting they were.

    If you need someone to be a tape recorder I suggest using the much cheaper method of playing a tape.

    There is a difference between a living human and a tape recorder.

    If these ALTs were actually trained teachers they could create the content that they teach rather than rely on someone else to create the content for them.

    The Japanese teacher is responsible for the classroom. I think it would be better if the Japanese teacher got that kind of training rather than a temporary employee.

    Instead, I had trained professional teachers who knew what they were doing.

    Which is my point, Japanese teachers need better training.

    Sorry if I touched a nerve with you but there is next to nothing that can convince me that the current situation should continue.

    Why would you think you have hit a nerve with me? I never said the current system should continue as it is. It is the teacher training in this country that needs the real fixing. You are suggesting replacing public school teachers who are Japanese citizens with foreign teachers. This is illegal and would take much more legislation than mere education reform.

    As I said, I have met former teachers from other countries who have worked as ALT's. Some were good and some were not. The problem is teacher training for the Japanese teachers.

    Untrained 'English teachers' have no place in the school system.

    They are assistants, not teachers. They cannot be teachers in the public school system. They cannot teach classes by themselves. It is illegal. It is the Japanese teachers that are responsible.

  • 0

    BuBuBu

    was not suggesting that they should not or do not have any responsibilites. I was stating the fact that they are not supposed to be the sole contact with English in the classroom, which is what you were suggesting they were.

    How are they not the sole contact with English when the Japanese English teachers only use Japanese in the classroom? Of course they are not supposed to be the sole contact but I'm speaking about the reality on the ground now not what is written in the Course of Study (which I suggest you read and can be found on the MEXT website)

    You are suggesting replacing public school teachers who are Japanese citizens with foreign teachers. This is illegal and would take much more legislation than mere education reform.

    Actually, that's not what I'm saying at all. Qualified Japanese English teachers should be the end goal of any reform and I've never said anything to the contrary. I also realize that that goal is a long long way off. That being said, the current system offers no incentive for qualified foreign teachers to want to come and work in Japan. As it is, unqualified, unprofessional and inexperienced teachers are rewarded the same as certified and experienced teachers. Rectifying this situation would take no legislation at all. It would simply involve a policy shift.

    ALTs are being used as a crutch for a broken system. There is a long list of things that need to happen in order for the language education system here to be fixed. To me, it just seems very near-sighted to not want to get the best and brightest to come to Japan to ply their trade.

  • 0

    slumdog

    Of course they are not supposed to be the sole contact but I'm speaking about the reality on the ground now not what is written in the Course of Study (which I suggest you read and can be found on the MEXT website)

    The reality is that the Japanese teacher is the one that is responsible for the content of the class. Reality on the ground depends on the teacher and the class. I am talking about the legal situation and I made this rather clear several times now.

    (which I suggest you read and can be found on the MEXT website)

    No need. I am well aware of the legal situation.

    Rectifying this situation would take no legislation at all. It would simply involve a policy shift.

    As I have mentioned, Japanese teachers are solely responsible for class content. It is iillegal for non-Japanese to take over a clasroom in a public school. The reason a teachers license is not a requirement for being an ALT in a public school is that ALT are not supposed to be creating curriculum or teaching classes by themselves.

    I have read about many licensed teachers being miserable as ALTs in the Japanese system because they would have preferred to be in charge of the whole class. That is counterproductive to creating skiiled Japanese English teachers.

    To me, it just seems very near-sighted to not want to get the best and brightest to come to Japan to ply their trade.

  • -3

    Akkio

    @Pointofview - So what exactly is the problem with Katakana? Even if someone speaks English using Katakana I'd still be able to understand them. It's not like they aren't making sense. I don't see a need to target the usage of Katakana. If it's a matter of pronunciation, it's the same if you reverse the positions. Foreigners and mainly westerners tend to suck at speaking asian languages. The pronunciation is poor as hell. Being able to be understood is more important than being 100% perfect plus languages are constantly changing. Be it English or Japanese the rules change all the time, new words are introduced etc. Sure if they aren't using English properly then correct it but if students don't have the will to memorize English then it's a waste of time. Studying for tests is one thing. Memorizing is a different matter entirely. Plus if you're a foreigner coming to Japan; Actually any country for that matter, LEARN THE DAMN LANGUAGE INSTEAD OF EXPECTING THE NATIVES TO UNDERSTAND. It can't just be one side doing all the work. Sure, basic communication skills, I don't see why not. Near-fluent english? Pointless if they don't want to memorize. So as for your argument, if the language demands perfect pronunciation to be understood, DO IT. If it doesn't need perfect pronunciation to be understood (English) THEN SUCK IT UP.

  • 0

    BuBuBu

    which I suggest you read and can be found on the MEXT website)

    No need. I am well aware of the legal situation.

    Obviously not since the Course of Study is a policy document and not a legal document.

    If you have no idea of what the Japanese English language curriculum involves and no desire to find out I guess that ends this discussion.

  • -1

    Disillusioned

    Learning any foreign language is a skill and not a subject. Until they wake up and start teaching English as a skill that one learns to use and not as an over-tested subject there will be no change. I worked in over thirty different high scholls, both public and private and the amount of kids that finish high scholl with a basic conversation skill in English is less than one percent.

  • 0

    slumdog

    Obviously not since the Course of Study is a policy document and not a legal document.

    The law is what matters. What I understand is that it is the teachers that need the training. You seem to think having all licensed teachers acting as ALTs is going to make a big difference. I am saying it will not because it is the system that needs changing. License or not, the ALT is an assistant. You keep wanting to avoid this.

    What is it you think I have no desire to 'find out' about? Try being specific.

  • 1

    80393

    @akkio, your arguments are all over the place so lets look at them one at a time.

    Even if someone speaks English using Katakana I'd still be able to understand them.

    most people with no experience in japan would not. thats a pretty big chunk of the world.

    If it's a matter of pronunciation, it's the same if you reverse the positions. Foreigners and mainly westerners tend to suck at speaking asian languages.

    it is "a matter of pronunciation". id say thats a major part of communication. your gross generalization aside, this article is about english education in japan. language skills in other countries arent relavent to this discussion.

    languages are constantly changing

    this has nothing to do with pronouncing words like "fight" or "pink", which have been around for centuries.

    Sure if they aren't using English properly then correct

    exactly. so what are you arguing about?

    Plus if you're a foreigner coming to Japan; Actually any country for that matter, LEARN THE DAMN LANGUAGE INSTEAD OF EXPECTING THE NATIVES TO UNDERSTAND.

    again, completely irrelavant to the discussion.

    Sure, basic communication skills, I don't see why not.

    pronunciation is a basic communication skill.

  • 0

    hokkaidoguy

    2020...so the job market for bilingual foreigners will start to seriously dry up around 2030. I'll be drawing a pension by then, but something for the young potential lifers to think about.

  • -2

    Akkio

    English doesn't demand perfect pronunciation though. You only need know the grammar. Japanese however does demand perfect pronunciation most of the time. Plus they're in a foreign country and they aren't constantly exposed to English either; that and some people aren't all that interested or motivated. Frankly, if I were given an English test, I'd score pretty low despite being raised speaking English since most people learn languages via exposure/immersion rather than studying the grammar. The whole idea of languages is to get your point of view across, not to use it perfectly. A mistake here and there is fine as long as it's understandable. Just like how people learn Japanese because they want to, it should be the same for English. Therefore, English shouldn't be a compulsory subject unless you're in an English-speaking country. I'm more worried about geography in the educational system of some countries.

  • 1

    pointofview

    @Akkio,

    Japanese people learning English arent learning for the sole purpose of speaking to an ESL teacher their entire life. Its to communicate with anyone. Secondly, pronunciation is very important as a tourist from overseas wouldnt understand what cakey-cake or boru-ball means. FACT! If people put a little effort into speaking clearly there would be less problems. Youre right about communicating ideas and thoughts, that is the most important thing but if I cant understand you its pointless. Sorry, katakana is not English. You`ll just have to be more focused on your delivery and pay attention to complete sounds and remove yourself from the katakana world. Also, It is bad pronuciation that confuses me more than grammar. I can usually process a mixed up sentence more quickly than words that make no sense to me.

  • 0

    slumdog

    To me, it just seems very near-sighted to not want to get the best and brightest to come to Japan to ply their trade.

    I wanted to address this as well, but I pushed accidently pushed submit too early. I agree with this. However, there are many things at play. You keep talking about licensed teachers coming as ALTs as a solution. However, if they are not being used correctly, it makes no difference whether they have a license or not. As to the job title, it also makes little difference.

    The reasons for lower quality of ALTs has much less to do with the ALTs having licenses or not. I have met many with them that were pretty horrible and I have met many without them that were great. One of the reasons for lower quality ALTs has to do with many places and schools taking in dispatch company ALTs instead of MEXT approved ALTs. The pay is lousy and the pay to work ratio is also lousy. There used to be a minimum wage for ALTs and English teachers, but that is gone now.

    It is the teacher training that needs to be updated.

    As to this quote, I believe teachers should use the target language as much as possible, but I do think that there is room for using the native language. A good balance is more effective than just having someone rambling non-stop in the target language. However, if teachers are expected to use the target language more, they should get the training to do so and the textbooks and materials to make it possible in the classroom.

  • 2

    Knox Harrington

    So what exactly is the problem with Katakana? Even if someone speaks English using Katakana I'd still be able to understand them.

    First of all, how do you speak with katakana? It's a writing/reading system. You speak Japanese. Secondly, try listening to a Japanese using the words 'hurt locker'. Or 'heart rocker'. The exact dame pronounciation.

    Katakana is hindering the understanding of correct pronounciation in languages other than Japanese. Katakana, being a syllable language also obfuscates many nuances in languages and does not contain the finer details that is essential to learning languages. In short it hinders rather than helps. Lose katakana, I say.

    Going back to te original subject: "If there's a will, there's a way" is a great expression. Other non-English speaking people can learn English. So could the Japanese. If they wanted. But they don't.

  • 0

    justbcuzisay

    Starting a language earlier is of course a good idea, but the main problem is as others have said the content of the lessons. I think more effort and money needs to be in using native speakers to produce tests and learning materials. I know some are involved, but I think more often than not the Japanese people involved have more say on what is actually published.

    And no matter how young children start, there also needs to be a drastic reform to attitude about English study. For example, I have taught in Eikaiwa, and mothers are constantly putting too much pressure on little kids to repeat, repeat, when they should be learning in a more natural method of listening first and learning to negotiate conversation rather than mimicking. And no matter how young they start, they are often not exposed to any kind of English outside the classroom. There seems to be no belief that it is possible to study additional English or review materials without a teacher around. I struggle with students who can't even remember the alphabet after many years because they don't study at all on their own.

    Pronunciation is of course important, but no one can learn it perfectly without a lot of practice. Katakana should not be used as a pronunciation guide, and students should of course have regular pronunciation lessons. However, they should also be comfortable knowing that although they need to practice, it is ok to make some mistakes along the way, it is part of the learning process. They need to learn how to recognize when their conversation partner can not catch what they say, and how to deal with it. They need to learn it is ok to ask for clarification if they do not understand. Right now, it is a lot of 'I can't speak English 100%, so I won't speak at all'

    The biggest problem I have had teaching here is that students do not treat lessons as a place to learn new things. They hate to ask any questions, and will be overly apologetic if they make a mistake. I always have to tell them 'If you knew English, then you would not need to be taking a lesson. THere is no shame in not knowing everything'

  • 0

    Fadamor

    there are japanese words for "pink" and "shock", so use them and forget this katakana nonsense.

    I have to agree. "Miruku" does a disservice in that it reinforces the mispronunciation of the "L" sound. The native Japanese speaker pats them self on the back for using an English word when in fact the only native English speakers who would know what they were saying were those who have studied Japanese.

  • 1

    AramaTaihenNoYouDidnt

    Incept the plan in 2020 ??? There is no point. Commence now, or at least in 2015 !!
    Induce English, or any language of choice, at all public kindergardens and primary schools. Taking off with phonics is key for early learners to interact the language without drawbacks. I constantly regret with sad disappointments hearing students using katakana ending vowel sounds when speaking out in English.

    I am not discrediting Katakana, just pointing out that if, and only if, students start off learning English phonics, they won't be a need to learn a third spelling/pronuncing japanese phonic table. Kanji and Hiragana is more than enough. Just look around you...Japenglish is on the rise and it is not decreasing what-so-ever.

  • -3

    tmtmsnb

    2020 because by then all Japanese English teachers will be speaking English just like Americans, or Mombukagakusho hopes. So why not import American teachers right now, say from millions of bilingual Nisei (Japanese American), arguably the best candidates for the job? That's because Education is sort of a National Cultural Defense, or Mombukagakusho thinks it is, so it's alright you let a foreigner, even if 100% pure Japanese by blood, run an English juku, you must not let him run a classroom of a school.

  • 1

    Strangerland

    why not import American teachers right now, say from millions of bilingual Nisei (Japanese American), arguably the best candidates for the job?

    Yeah, because it's not like any other non-Japanese-American bilinguals would be any good at the job, right?

  • 0

    tmtmsnb

    I was thinking of the need to babytalk, at times, to kindergarteners and younger, in Japanese. Non-Japanese-Americans equipped with this ability of course are equally good. In case it's proven a zero-Japanese class is more desirable, (I wonder if it's possible) then it will be a totally different story.

  • 2

    Mike45

    I dont think its worth the effort until radical changes are made, otherwise its a doomed project. This has been tried again and again in the past, with the same "eigo dekinai" accompanied with annoying giggling results. There is an inherent resistance to anything foriegn in Japan and Japanese run back to their comfort zone of Nihongo whenever they are confronted with a gaijin situation. Nihongo is a language of control and heiarchy, whereas English is a language of creativity and expression. All the English grammar and mechanics will never correct this; without creative writing, debate, speech etc the end result is the same- grade fail. My name is (pause) Mr. Tanaka, I am Japan...is what billions of yen and effort have produced. I have never really been able to communicate with any Japanese in English; its always been a most annoying experience of somebody practicing their English, speaking at me, not with me about any subject. These strange habits will take more than a few decades to change.

  • 2

    Ex-Expat

    ALT are not supposed to be creating curriculum or teaching classes by themselves.

    It happens all the time, though. Many, many of the Japanese teachers hand over the classes to the ALTs, often with no advance notice what topics are to be covered. For some of them, "ALT in the room" = "smoke break".

    I've not heard much about the JET experience, but dispatch companies demand that their ALTs tolerate that, even though it's quite illegal. Considering the unprofessional management and dismal wages, it's no wonder qualified employees rarely remain ALTs for long.

    I find it strange that a government so "concerned" about education doesn't have set standards (training, pay, hours, etc.) for all of the teaching staff, ALTs included.

  • 1

    mito

    "FadamorDEC. 17, 2013 - 04:37AM JST there are japanese words for "pink" and "shock", so use them and forget this katakana nonsense.

    I have to agree. "Miruku" does a disservice in that it reinforces the mispronunciation of the "L" sound. The native Japanese speaker pats them self on the back for using an English word when in fact the only native English speakers who would know what they were saying were those who have studied Japanese."

    Yes. Case in point my Japanese friend ordered "miruku" at a restaurant in the US, and received . . . a coke.

  • 0

    umbrella

    English education in Japan, always has been and always will be a joke. But unfortunately it's a joke on the students. How could so much money be thrown at it for so little result??

  • 0

    tmtmsnb

    @Mike45DEC. 17, 2013 - 09:00PM JST “I dont think its worth the effort until radical changes are made, otherwise its a doomed project. This has been tried again and again in the past, with the same "eigo dekinai" accompanied with annoying giggling results. There is an inherent resistance to anything foriegn in Japan and Japanese run back to their comfort zone of Nihongo whenever they are confronted with a gaijin situation. Nihongo is a language of control and heiarchy, whereas English is a language of creativity and expression.”

    Eigo pera pera, outwardly seems for praising a fellow Japanese for his fluency in English conversation, in most cases it’s for ridiculing him for his lightness, boastfulness, unjapaness (sorry). Gaisha wo norimawasu, the luxurious, expensive imported car one drives around is, supposedly, bought with illegal money, the owner’s job dubious, etc. You see this mostly in media reports about criminal cases—a subtle way of slightly dividing Japan and others in a nationalistic manner, a way of rule by control and hierarchy.

    This has to change if Japan will need to fight evil empires for its existence. The empires’ control and hierarchy is 1000 times more robust than Japan’s, so fighting them using the same stuff is pointless. Let people speak English without fear, in public, without needing to look around and see if he is being watched and listened to and being suspected of being unpatriotic. Let “mecha-kucha” English becomes the norm, becomes the proof of a healthy mind that puts friendly and useful inter-communication before personal ego needing to be protected with a giggle, a jest, by avoiding delving into sincere, meaningful but difficult discussions, or by simply running away. The new government has the mind and ability to do that—creating a brand new atmosphere for a new society.

  • 1

    annnsow

    I had a special class like this in english, it was great so that's a good idea. Tbh the best is when you got a native english speaker as a teacher so I hope that english teachers will have more jobs...

  • 0

    sf2k

    The single best thing to do to improve English across the country is get rid of katakana. This would end the tyranny of mispronunciation of an alphabet that cannot match another language.

    If you want to speak English, then use English

  • 0

    Mannix

    Good news about the Education ministry, If you are planning to graduate from college or pursue an advanced degree then you always want to present yourself in the best way possible. One of the best ways to do this is to do well on standardized tests. Register for the GRETest

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