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Junior high school English in Japan from the perspective of students

66 Comments
By Steven Simonitch

Perhaps the most popular job among Westerners living in Japan is Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at a public school.

Anyone who has worked as an ALT before could likely write a book on their observations of Japanese students and all the crazy things they say (or, as is often the case, don’t say) in and out of the classroom. But have you ever stopped to think about how your students are observing you?

A thread on Japanese message board site 2channel titled “Things that often happen in junior high school English” offers some humorous insight.

A list of the “observations,” accompanied by a bit of interpretation from a former junior high school ALT (yours truly), follows below:

  1. Everyone is too embarrassed to try and pronounce words with “th” (and so everyone says “za” instead).
  2. Told not to use “Pardon?” when asking to have something repeated, even though it’s in the text book (because who actually uses ‘pardon’ like that in everyday conversation?) .
  3. “Oops!” (One of the many exclamations students pick up from TV. See also: “Oh mai gah!”).
  4. No one actually “repeats after me.”
  5. “Open the textbook!”
  6. There’s always some person who incessantly uses the newly-learned English right after class.
  7. Doing literal translation. Only practicing vocabulary words.
  8. “HOTTA IMO IJIRUNA” (translated as “don’t touch the dug-up potatoes!”, a famous phrase that Japanese people use to remember “what time is it now.” Run “掘った芋をいじるな” through a text-to-speech translator to see if you can catch the similarities!)
  9. Being forced to watch “Top Gun” or “Footloose.”
  10. Someone always pronounces “Monday” as “mondai” (which means ‘problem’).
  11. Textbooks chronicling the adventures of Ken, Kumi, Meilin and Mukami (and don’t forget Ratna!)
  12. The black person in the textbook never says anything of any importance.
  13. “A: Is this an apple? B: No, it isn’t. It’s a dog.”, and other conversations that no one actually has.
  14. Teaching SVO (subject-object-verb) and other crap no one understands.
  15. “By the way,”
  16. Phrases like “Oh my foot!” catching on at school.
  17. Conversing in English even though everyone is Japanese. (Apparently this is strange to Japanese students in an English class.)
  18. The teacher English isn’t good enough to teach.
  19. The Japanese teacher doesn’t even try and talk to the ALT.
  20. The Japanese teacher’s pronunciation is so bad that even the ALT has no idea what they’re saying.
  21. An awkward sense of distance between the ALT and the Japanese teacher.
  22. The ALT responding to boys messing around and telling dirty jokes in class with “Haa, you’re crazy!” followed by a forced smile.
  23. The Japanese teacher’s English pronunciation is irritating.
  24. The Chinese kid that speaks English even though he’s in Japan. I’m talking about you, Wang Ming!
  25. The class clown abusing the phrase “Shut up!”
  26. The kid who’s back in Japan after living abroad has better English than the teacher.
  27. Sending a teacher from the UK even they though they teach American English.

And there you have it! While surely not an exhaustive list, it does prove that the kids aren’t completely spacing out during class.

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Ha, ha, ha! Especially in reference to "Oh mai ga!". This one girl in a factory in Tochigi used that every other second. I thought she got that through the Filipinos she always hung around with. (The factory employed a large number of Filipinos, Chinese, Peruvians and Brazilians and a few Thais, Burmese and Russians.) One Japanese co-worker was an English teacher who was laid off for a few months. I spoke to her in English and she responded in Japanese "un... un..." She stated that she loves British English, visits the U.K. whenever she can and ALTs really don't do much.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Steven Simonitch You've never used "Pardon?" I was raised to say pardon/excuse me so I find "what" to be rather jarring. Instead of saying "What?", I say, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that." or "Come again?"

4 ( +6 / -2 )

One of my students in Sapporo was in his eighties. He couldn't speak very well, but he could read at almost native speaker level - without a dictionary - and with good comprehension.

He had kept the English text books that he had used as a child and brought them in to show me. I was impressed. They were very simple, clear, easy to read, straightforward.

That was when the the Japanese Ministory (sic) of Education had the purpose of teaching Japanese children TO READ ENGLISH. They weren't taught "hearing" (aural comprehension), conversation or anything else.

My elderly student is not the only person I've come across like this. I've met many older Japanese who read well.

The English curriculum today is a mess. It's obviously designed by a committee. Educators who sit in offices and only ever meet or speak to other educators. All they know of life comes from reports. And the bottom line is that it DOESN'T WORK. Japanese children are way behind Philippine children in English, for example.

With very few exceptions, the only Japanese people who speak English are those who have lived abroad or who have had English conversation lessons outside the classroom.

You simply cannot teach 50 kids conversation.

"Good morning, how are you Taro?"

"Great! And you, Keiko?

"That's good. How about you, Kentaro?"

That would eat up half the lesson and all it would mean would be that each student got ONE chance to practice an exchange in English with a teacher.

So, what should be done?

1) Scrap the curriculum in use

2) Focus the purpose on teaching reading and writing really WELL. Forget about conversation and hearing because most of the kids are never going to use it anyway.

3) Use the ALTs to teach the JAPANESE TEACHERS of English, not the kids.

That way it wouldn't be so much of a problem having kids in the class who had studied abroad, as their speaking level may be high, but, in my experience, their grammar knowledge and spelling are poor. It would also give the curriculum a clear goal, a direction. Those who want conversation can get private tutors or go to a conversation school.

Simple is best.

7 ( +11 / -5 )

I was practicing the EIKEN listening test with this JHS girl in a one-on-one. There was a long listening section, about thirty seconds or so. After the listening was over. She, paused, and then looked at me with a puzzled look on her face and said,

"Pardon?"

9 ( +10 / -1 )

17... Instead of being self-conscious, students ought to concentrate on getting to practice. Since English is not an elective, they can't enjoy learning it. 26 I met a teenager who spent a year or two in Australia because her father's work took the family there and she could understand when I spoke to her in English but responded in Japanese. She wailed, "eigo tsukaenaku natchata!"
-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Focus the purpose on teaching reading and writing really WELL. Forget about conversation and hearing because most of the kids are never going to use it anyway. That way it wouldn't be so much of a problem having kids in the class who had studied abroad, as their speaking level may be high, but, in my experience, their grammar knowledge and spelling are poor. It would also give the curriculum a clear goal, a direction. Those who want conversation can get private tutors or go to a conversation school.

Utter rubbish.

First you have to comprehend is that English is very much 2 languages, as opposed to being a single language such as Spanish, where if you learn to read, you can, with practice, eventually learn to speak. Written Spanish like a lot of languages conforms very much to spoken Spanish in lexical/phonetic script and grammar.

English is very diiferent. There are 25 lexemes, while there are 47, at a conservative count, phonemes in English. There is no representation of the omnipresent schwa in the written form of English and the spelling pronunciation of English is so irregular that it is a problem for native speakers. As an example the words 'War' 'Law' 'For' 'Four' 'Corp' 'More' and 'Door' all end in the long back vowel O:

English spoken grammar, with its concise active SVO structures, back references and over dependence on pronouns, is markedly different from English written grammar, with its expansive relative clause attachments and full use of proper/common nouns and definite/indefinite articles.

Spoken English vocabulary, with its use of idioms and multi-word verbs, follows a likewise differing path from written English, with its single-word latinate verbs. Even spoken English adverbs, often expressed with an adverbial particles, are different from the spoken latinate adverbs, Example 'I cleaned my apartment up' from 'I cleaned my apartment' to 'I completely cleaned my apartment'.

You're going nowhere with your proposed methodology for teaching English, until you sort out your approach (more specificly your understanding of what exactly is the English language) to language.

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

@BertieWooster (love Wodehouse, btw! loved MT hosted by Alistair Cooke!) A few months ago, I met a Japanese man, middle aged around his 50's, who spoke English well. I don't know if that was because my friend taught him well or he was a good student. He didn't make the grammar mistakes the Japanese usually do. (Thanks to a TESOL course, I found out the problems common to Japanese/Koreans/Chinese.) He didn't have to use English at work. He was a security guard at a private school before being laid off. I agree with you about having the students concentrate on reading and writing. But the Japanese are so hung up on pronunciation (American accent, British accent...) and wanting to sound like a native speaker without putting in the effort to actually learning the language that chances that change will take place will be at a snail's pace. ("We'll have to form a committee to see whether we need to form a committee to make changes!" ala TEPCO!)

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Brother DenTok,

Great to find another PG fan!

Did you see the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie series?

Excellent stuff.

In Japan I continually hear the terms "British English," and "American English."

I'm not so familiar with "American English," but I wonder what they think "British English is?

East End Cockney? "Posh" Cockney like Mick Jagger? London and Southern Counties BBC? Scottish BBC? Edinburgh Scots? Glasgow Scots? Geordie? Manchurian? North Wales? South Wales? Northern Ireland? Wiltshire? Devon? Somerset? East Anglian? Yorkshire? Shropshire? Lancashire? Northumberland? Cornwall?

I'm sure I missed a few, but you get the point.

This is one of the problems with teaching conversation in the school setting. In any case English is an international language. There is no standard pronunciation for the language. Japanese people who don't know this think of it in terms of their own. "Standard Japanese (hyojungo) and dialects (hogen). English doesn't fit this model.

It makes another point for teaching reading/writing only in classrooms.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I agree with your observation DenTok2009, many people use pardon, but DenTok2009 remember, @Steven Simonitch didn't write this list. He is just reproducing a translated copy for us. Perhaps the teacher that did this doesn't use pardon, but that doesn't mean it isn't used in everyday conversation by other people. There are a lot of people who use English around the world, and teachers should never assume that the way they speak is the golden standard. Teach pardon, then explain that where you live it isn't used, and give an example of what is used in your area. It is not incorrect, it is just a different was of saying the same thing. Different English speaking countries have different ways of expressing themselves. I remember when I first taught in JH and HS in Japan, there were some teachers who marked British spellings, like colour, as incorrect. (The spell check on thus page is also set to American English it seems.) It seems unbelievable, but in some schools now, similar things are happening. If the answer is not according to the textbook or materials, it is sometimes marked as incorrect. Very frustrating for students, parents, and native speakers of English. This may be related to the entrance examinations though. @Steven Simonitch, was this list actually written by junior high school students, or just Japanese people of all ages? If possible, could you post a link to the original Japanese list? Just curious.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Bertie

I'm not so familiar with "American English," but I wonder what they think "British English is?

Sure, their are a lot of British dialects, but there's a common vocabulary which distinguishes British usage from American: pram, telly, flat (=apartment) etc. And there's spelling, which again is common to all the regions but differs from America.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And when you say "Manchurian", I'm guessing there's a typo in there somewhere, right? ;)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

But, do Japanese need to speak 'perfect' English? Do they need to use the complicated grammar structures drilled into them in senior high? I think not! The way English is taught in Jr & Sr high schools will never produce English speakers. From my experiences, less than 2% of public school kids and 5% of private school kids actually get any communicative English skills in their standard classes. The only time the students actually study any English is the day before mid-term and term end tests. I can't count the times I've had a Japanese teacher say to me, "Make an easy test . We need a high average score." This of course makes my presence in the school a purely token gesture with no real academic prowess. Hence, the role of an ALT in Japanese schools is only to justify some mythical dream of the BOE that Japanese people can learn to speak English.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

18. The teacher English isn’t good enough to teach.

Nor is the writer of this article, who happens to be an ALT, judging by the above.

ALTs are a waste of money! They are unnecessary for what the Japanese want as far as English requirement goes. It may have been fun to have a pet 'genki gaijin' jester bouncing around and teaching nothing at all when money was plentiful but now money can be spent on much better things. I say that as an ex-ALT.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@Steven Simonitch You've never used "Pardon?" I was raised to say pardon/excuse me so I find "what" to be rather jarring. Instead of saying "What?", I say, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that." or "Come again?"

Yes, but they are teaching American English so manners are optional.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Dog, it's not just approach that is at fault. The Japanese have an ingrained idea that English is difficult and that they can't learn it. Anyone who can and who does, also has to wrestle with the (again) ingrained cultural notion that standing out is a no-no.

So much has been spent on English over the years yet the English level of most Japanese remains low. It isn't as though they haven't been given the opportunity. Not all JTEs are bad. I've worked with many who have excellent English and good teaching skills. I don't think the textbooks are bad either, although many do: they teach the grammar and structures in a logical way and build up a reasonable vocabulary. The JHS 3rd grade texts can be quite advanced. Yet the level remains low. It's up to the students whether they want to take what the teachers offer. Many see English as a useless subject and have already developed a bad attitude towards it before they even enter JHS, from family no doubt. And in rural areas it's true. They don't need English.

Then comes the bouncy, blond ALT with songs, games and all manner of fun, fun, fun that is supposed to make the kids 'want' to learn English. It doesn't work though, does it? Let me tell you, I've seen every episode of 'Father Ted' and many of the antics have me in stitches, yet I have no intention of entering the clergy. Entertainment isn't education. If elementary schools stopped being so deluded and started teaching English properly there might be a higher chance of English improvement at JHS but that will never happen.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Language-learning is almost entirely an outcome of necessity. When I lived in Brazil, I could speak Portuguese because I had to. Now I'm in Japan, I speak Japanese because I have to. Never been to Romania, can't speak a word of Romanian.

Japanese kids perceive no reason to speak English and, for the moment, they're right. If the economy tanks as badly as some believe it will, then English levels will rocket.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

shiofukiJul. 22, 2012 - 11:16AM JST

Dog, it's not just approach that is at fault. The Japanese have an ingrained idea that English is difficult and that they can't learn it. Anyone who can and who does, also has to wrestle with the (again) ingrained cultural notion that standing out is a no-no.

I totally agree.

From the perspective of the Japanese elites, English teaching is totally successful in Japan. The Japanese masses remain monolingual, snared within their sakoku linguistic chains, believing whatever NHK tells them; even in this age of the internet.

Many a budding language student, by the end of their high school and New Horizons textbooks is totally put off learning English and believes even a modicum of communicative ability, outside of japanese syntax and katakana, is an impossibility.

The children of the elites keep riding high by their bought language education from LSE or University Of Southern California and they keeping seeding the bed of the Japanese inferiority complex (and all the bad acts and thoughts that come with that) as being the spokepeople for a nation.

In layman's terms, the people running MEXT don't want the japanese populace to be competent communicators or recipients of the English language.

(As a little unknown side note. After the war and the end of the occupation, The japanese ministry of Education employed a disproporionate number of ex - Japanese thought police, The Tokko. So I think that gives you some idea of the ethos behind the Japanese education ministry, if you believe in the idea that recruitment in Japan is an opportunity for an elite to refresh itself with a new generation of like minded individuals)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

shiofukiJul

Then comes the bouncy, blond ALT with songs, games and all manner of fun, fun, fun that is supposed to make the kids 'want' to learn English. It doesn't work though, does it? .......... If elementary schools stopped being so deluded and started teaching English properly there might be a higher chance of English improvement at JHS but that will never happen.

Again I totally agree. I'd love to go back into EFL elementary education and as a qualified elementary teacher (PGCE English and ESL from the good olde grant soaked UK circa 1980's), I am sure better suited to it, than teaching the spoilt immature deadheads of the Japanese tertiary education system. However I refuse, both on the principle of age and self respect, to spend half my working time singing 'Old McDonald Had A Farm' for the umpteenth time or making animal noises.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Language-learning is almost entirely an outcome of necessity. When I lived in Brazil, I could speak Portuguese because I had to. Now I'm in Japan, I speak Japanese because I have to. Never been to Romania, can't speak a word of Romanian. Japanese kids perceive no reason to speak English and, for the moment, they're right. If the economy tanks as badly as some believe it will, then English levels will rocket.

I disagree. For years unscrupulous, desperate eikawa schools in bog cities have pushed English as a way to get a job. Students have paid a fortune to attend these schools yet their English does not improve much. Most Japanese do not really need English unless they work in big cities where they have contact with foreigners on a regular basis, or they move overseas. I don't see how Japan's failing economy would make them suddenly want to learn English. They'll do what they need to to survive and none of that really needs English.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

lucabrasi - well spotted

A combination of an over-zealous spell checker on my iMac and early Sunday morning blur. It should, of course, have been "Mancunian" (from Manchester)!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In layman's terms, the people running MEXT don't want the japanese populace to be competent communicators or recipients of the English language.

Oh, I've seen this first hand, especially at elementary schools. So it beggars belief that so much would be spent on JET in the past, and that so much is being spent, even now, on English 'education'.

I still don't get it. What is it they want?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Teaching SVO (subject-object-verb) and other crap no one understands.

No wonder they don't understand that. Shouldn't that be 'SVO (subject-verb-object)?

The teacher English isn’t good enough to teach.

Stop...the irony...it's...too...much...!

9 ( +11 / -3 )

ha, ha, ha! thumbs up, Ben Jack!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@BertieWooster Loved Wodehouse (teared up over Sunset at Blandings) and thought the Fry/Laurie series was excellent!

In reference to your query on "I'm not so familiar with "American English," but I wonder what they think "British English is?" They want to sound like the royal family. Since the Japanese are so anal over pronunciation and the superiority of British English (I often hear "America is only a couple of hundred years old." So to the discerning Japanese, British English is the accent to have!), I am guessing they think British English is refined and the grammar/vocabulary is not considered. Or when grammar/vocabulary difference is considered, it's to point out, "My British teacher ...." blah, blah, blah then "Your English is American/Canadian/whatever so it's not proper."

BW, did you catch Fry's Planet World? I caught a couple of episodes. One episode touched on regional accents.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zabutonsenbei I realized SS didn't write the list but he did provide commentary. " (because who actually uses ‘pardon’ like that in everyday conversation?)" " If the answer is not according to the textbook or materials, it is sometimes marked as incorrect." My friend's mother went back to school and I helped her with some of her English lessons. She told me the teacher (Japanese) shook his head and said, "That's not correct." So I got her to get him on the phone and I gave him a grammar lesson which he was able to follow. However, he stuck to his guns about what was the correct answer. He was going by the answer key! I told him to contact the publisher. (Back in college, my teachers were all in agreement over a particular book's convoluted theory was wrong. They wrote to the publisher and we were told "This is what the book says and it's wrong because...") The Japanese teacher was reluctant to do that. I was flabbergasted that he understood the principles of grammar but stuck to the answer key!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Disillusioned Who says the Japanese need to speak perfect English? They just want to sound "American" or "British". Have you ever perused Craigslist>Tokyo>Jobs? Check it out. There's one in particular I get a kick out of every time he posts. A headhunter who really needs to have someone else look over his ads. I think he uses Google translate or some other freebie translator because it's so agonizing to read.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

DenTok2009

I am guessing they think British English is refined and the grammar/vocabulary is not considered.

You're are guessing wrong. Standard British English can be quite clearly systemised with an IPA chart and British English has an accepted 'correct' form of pronunciation, regionnal dialects aside; both points cannot be applied to US English.

The accepted correct form of British pronunciation is not the form of English spoken by the Queen or RP, but a southern estuary accent. British English vowels - and remember the only difference between different forms of spoken English are the pron of vowels, Consonants in all varients of native English are pronounced nearly the same - have a clear distinction beyween short and long vowels.

American English on the other hand does not have a standard form accepted by all. GAE is a fossil and given that Obama nearly gets it right, has not been spoken by a US President since Ford. The power of the media has greatly enhanced the prestige of West Coast US English and while North East US English is by far the easiest English to systemize, it's WASPish connertations give it a certain stigma.

In short British English pronunciation is far easier to teach as the basic foundations of an English language sound system and from that show the phonetic and allophonic variations of other regionnal speakers and nationalities, rather than deal with the headache of starting with US English pronunciation and its whine.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Congratulations to the students for trying to learn another language and to the school system for trying to provide the tools to learn the language, I will admit it is more than I have accomplished (I try, but hearing damage make it very difficult for me, another story).

But what really jumped out at me is this:

The black person in the textbook never says anything of any importance

I wont get long and drawn out about that line. However if that observation is correct then the book publisher and the students who made the statement are racists. The book would easy to fix, but the students perceptions . . . Since we all learn our values primarily at home.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Dog I don't know about the Japanese you speak with but the Japanese I've come across don't tell me they want to learn British English because "...British English can be quite clearly systemised with an IPA chart and British English has an accepted 'correct' form of pronunciation..." I wasn't debating the teaching of British English versus American English rather the Japanese preference for one or the other. I've yet to meet a Japanese individual who reasoned that studying British English is better for the reasons you state. And no, they don't have to give me a reason. It just so happens that nearly all the Japanese I've come across, feel the need to to tell me British English (or as a few have said, "Queen's English") is the English to study. I got the impression they are going more for the accent and if pressed for what particular accent, they flail around and settle on the queen. I dislike discussing/debating the English language with the Japanese so I try to steer the conversation to something else as quickly as I can.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

BW, did you catch Fry's Planet World? I caught a couple of episodes. One episode touched on regional accents.

I did. I'm afraid I like Stephen Fry when he has a script to read. His reading of the Harry Potter books is superb. In programs when he is expressing his opinion ... Well, he can go on a bit.

Still, it's a matter of taste.

Back to the topic.

When I first came to Japan in 1976, I knocked on a few doors, looking for work. I am a qualified Elementary School teacher and had an ESL Teaching Cert., but was told, when the school owner found that I was British, that they didn't need "regional accents," they only accepted teachers with "standard" American accents.

Gosh!

One wonders where they think English came from :)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Oops!

usual = useful

It seems I hit my own glass house :)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@BertieWooster " I like Stephen Fry when he has a script to read." That's exactly how I feel about David Duchovny!

"they only accepted teachers with "standard" American accents." Oh dear! That calls to mind how some Japanese (students not the owners or perhaps the owners too) preferred New York accents. My friends and I cracked up! I think it's the image. NYC>Big Apple>Big City Oooh! Or Boston. (Have you ever heard JFK speak? Not an actor portraying him but JFK? <- I ask those who fell over themselves in their rush to be taught by a teacher from Beantown.)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They want to sound like the royal family.

Oh come on, surely no one wants to sound like the royal family......

who actually uses ‘pardon’ like that in everyday conversation?

(Raises hand). I was always taught that 'What?' (or in my native accent, 'wo?') was a no-no.

Consonants in all varients of native English are pronounced nearly the same

When they're pronounced at all.....oop north we do wi'oot initial 'h' and final 'g', and swallow most of our 't's.

they didn't need "regional accents," they only accepted teachers with "standard" American accents.

Pity the poor students at that school, unable to understand anyone but 'standard' Americans..... You should have tried the JET route, when my kids were in junior high we had one lad with an east-London accent, a bonny wee lass wi' a beautiful Scottish accent and a lovely young lady with perfect southern estuary diction in addition to a couple of Americans - I think it was one from Utah and one from Canada. They gave the kids a much broader view of the world of English.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I understand that most of you all have kind intentions. I guess the way of teaching English in elementary and junior~senior high schools is part of the problem, at least in the old days. Teaching English in Japan is much more than reading and writing and listening. They all have to work in conjunction. The days of rote (memorization) are long gone. One has to become a psychoanalyst when teaching English here to break through the invisible wall of Me=Japanese You=Gaijin. Fear, shyness and lack of being able to express your own ideas (since elementary school) have made the task of teaching much harder.

As a STEP test examiner...I just hand the students the cards, I have a booklet with all the questions and answers. Even the degree of level of answer. Ex. 5 is the highest and then what the sentence should be...even examples of 4...3...etc. Do I really need to teach? No.

I also teach at Community Centers (4 of them actually) of course the students are all nice, polite elder mostly housewives. Some have been in my classes for more than ten years. One class has been going for almost 13 years. There are some that never said anything but read the paper (handouts) or textbook. I've ran into them on the street and said, "Hi, How are you?" and they froze up with fear...and couldn't muster up even the basic greetings. I mean after over ten years every Wednesday class. Let's also take into consideration how one feels about his or her teaching ability when such things happen.

There are others who are almost shocked if I say any violent word just in pertaining to news, a knife, someone hit someone, a gun shot...as if I were saying I liked those actions. Most in this society have grown up super protected, and in "Hello Kitty Land World"! "kawaii" "kawaii" They don't want to see anything else besides what they already know or is in the safe box area.

Students sit next to/near me on the train studying English, yet no~one even says, "Hello, How are you?" Which of course could began a conversation in English. I've even asked students sitting next to me on the train (they were studying an English textbook) and they'd just give me the cross hands "No" gesture...and I've never asked anyone in the years since then.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

I do not think that British English is in anyway more valid than American English and the differences are exaggerated by the Japanese. However, British English is the one that most of the world learns as its second language, so it would seem logical to learn the version of the language learned by most of the world rather than the one used by the people of one country and a few satellites.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

British English is the one that most of the world learns as its second language, so it would seem logical to learn the version of the language learned by most of the world

Most of the world speaks whatever version of English it's learned, decorated with its own accents and foibles. I'm a Brit, so I'm happy when Japanese people speak British English (not often) and spell things properly (even less often), but I think they need to be able to understand a wide variety of standard and non-standard accents and dialects if they want to be able to use English in the big wide world.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

@cleo You go, girl!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Cleo you are raising a good point here, the Japanese will speak to the world not only to the British or Americans. This is strange to know that only native English teachers can teach in japan, while even in America and in UK the teachers are from all over the world, a large number of teachers from south Asia India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are teaching there and they are quite successful.

English language should be encouraged at all level and the Japanese media especially the electronic media should play its role for promoting the English language,unfortunately the Japanese TV have no program in English for the Japanese audience.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most Japanese speak Japanglish, unless they have had some time abroad in which case they tend to imitate the people in the country they were in.

Provided they can be understood, pronunciation is of very little importance.

What's more important is the ability to hear and get the gist of different kinds of English.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

BertieWoosterJul. 22, 2012 - 08:48PM JST

Provided they can be understood, pronunciation is of very little importance.

If you can't pronounce it right, you don't hear it right.

Classic consonant case for Japanese are 'think' and 'sink', and classic vowel case are long schwa and long lower medial vowels in 'heard' and 'hard'. Most japanese really do think we live on the planet arse.

Pronunciation is a great tool for increasing the student's L2 comprehension skills, when presented properly and professionally.

Besides, if you don't give your japanese students an alternative L2 phonetic/sound system, the majority of them will use their existing L1 phonetic/sound system. And we all know what a curse Katakana has proven to be

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Probably the most pointless readI've had in a while, maybe coz I expected and anticapteda much more interesting one. Plus JT would do well to correct the lil mistakes therein. It's annoying to stumble on mistakes and actually reread coz u try to force meaning of what you've read. Duh!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Brother Dog,

If you can't pronounce it right, you don't hear it right.

There is truth in what you say. I have found this too. However I've also seen teachers spend an inordinately long time on pronunciation and set great store by it.

I don't think you can do one without the other, but, ultimately hearing is the more important.

I mean the student could ask for directions in perfect British English and get an answer that sounded, from his point of view, like someone with a speech defect gargling motor oil with a mouthful of pebbles, which is what, I am informed, Norwegians sound like when they try to speak.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I mean the student could ask for directions in perfect British English and get an answer that sounded, from his point of view, like someone with a speech defect gargling motor oil with a mouthful of pebbles, which is what, I am informed, Norwegians sound like

Or they could just as easily be in Birmingham.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan is a whole mix of British and American English. Try picking them out from below:

truck = lorry movie = cinema glasses = spectacles accelerator = gas [pedal] gearbox = transmission car park = parking lot boot = trunk motorway = freeway/highway petrol = gasoline windscreen = windshield mobile = celluar candy = sweet cart = trolley chapstick = lip balm coffee shop = café cookie = biscuit diaper = nappy drugstore = pharmacy jail = gaol ladybug = ladybird last name = surname season = series Santa Claus = Father Christmas sneakers = trainers zucchini = courgette vacation = holiday turtleneck = polo neck trash = rubbish

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I learned English almost exclusively from traveling abroad and online courses. My writing is almost native but I can thank my husband for that. I learned very little in school and agree with the sediment that writing should be a focus not speaking. You can communicate just as well if not better through writing then speaking anyways. If you want to learn I suggest you go online and do it. Much better then what you get in class anyways. I really do wonder though what the point is of teaching English here when no one is going to use it. Unless you are a business student, planing on working abroad or maybe within the medical, finance or public relations industries.

Having a strong command of the English language will do you little if any good in Japan. ALT is a compete waste of money time and resources which could be put to better use elsewhere. I found it at first unusual when I asked my husband why he learned Japanese. He said I did it for fun!! This is something you would never hear from a Japanese. If it doesn't serve some sort of purpose as in a job or career advancement then what's the point. My husband later pointed out as well.

It's important in helping to understand Japanese people and culture more accurately within it's various contexts. After all you can't expect to understand another culture without first learning to communicate. It allowed me to push myself beyond my limitations as well as make me a better person because of it.

After all these years I think I understand that now and am grateful I found someone like him. Fate has looked good upon me hasn't it. My English speaking ability is still not great but reading and writing has done more to help with that then any Japanese Jr High/ High school class could have ever done. With all do respect I have to question then why so many continue to teach here when it is clearly futile doing so. At least if you are going to teach do it where you can put your skills to good use.

Even Korea is a better choice as they are screaming for teachers right now. Not to mention Korean students win hands down. Most are genuinely interested in improving their English. They are respectful and easy to teach. Not to mention the pay is twice that what it is in Japan for English teachers. We Japanese have some growing up to do of our own first and only then should language even be a part of the school curriculum. What that said just stick to online courses which are better anyways or a patient understanding husband. :b

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The black person in the textbook never says anything of any importance.

HAHAHA

2 ( +4 / -2 )

JadeDragonJul. 23, 2012 - 06:20AM JST

Having a strong command of the English language will do you little if any good in Japan.

The Economist in 2010 estimated that having an educated population competent in English contributes, between 1 -3 % to GDP, depending on the type of industry.

The part arrogance and ignorance of the statement that 'English language will do little good....' is another nail in the coffin of Japan Inc.

The IT industry in Japan now, is a classic case of things to come, where the Japanese workers have often been reduced to wire holders, socket inserters and the HR dept, while all the work is done by Indian ITs

My English speaking ability is still not great but reading and writing has done more to help with that then any Japanese Jr High/ High school class could have ever done.

This also goes to Bertie Wooster, with his promotion of teaching reading and writing skills, unless the world starts interacting by e-mail alone, you're not much use in the global 21st Century world.

What that said just stick to online courses which are better anyways

Again I think you, like a few posters on here, are missing the point. Some people, with an aptitude for language or an interest, will always learn a second language, no matter what the failings of one system and the benefits of another. The failing of the present system used in the Japanese public education system is that it ensures that the pool of successful second language learners are only the barest number possible, while it should be aiming for the largest number possible. This does not mean that every Japanese will learn English or will need English. It does mean that a larger number will be successful in their endeavors than is happening at present.

However the above is based on the premise that the Japanese elites want a larger native pool of English speakers. My own opinion is that Japan is one lost war above North Korea. Just like North Korea, the Japanese elites want the narrative that they choose to give to be the only narrative the general Japanese populace receive. This is only possible, in the age internet, if the general populace remain monolingual in a language only spoken by a 100,000,000 people

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

unless the world starts interacting by e-mail alone,

That started a while ago.

Plus JT would do well to correct the lil mistakes therein

Oh yeah ! U rightin' like an ALT.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

They have to learn both .. Japanese grammar and English grammar .. Use both in a sentence . Don't hire teachers that do not understand both languages cuz how can you teach a Japanese when you can't explain yourself in Japanese . How can you explain the usage of adjective , verb , noun , preposition if you don't speak their language . and understand their grammar,??? ll... not effective .. Not implement that well . Teachers just let students learn it from Remedial school. It's ok .. So that Nove , Minerva . school will survive .. Business as usual .. selling books . etc .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

pontananagomaJul. 23, 2012 - 09:54AM JST

They have to learn both .. Japanese grammar and English grammar .. Use both in a sentence . Don't hire teachers that do not understand both languages cuz how can you teach a Japanese when you can't explain yourself in Japanese

I think the idea that effective language learners make good second language presenters is one of the great false statements about foreign language teaching.

Nearly all the best language teachers I have met have been bad language learners themselves. I think this has a lot a to do with their empathy to relate the lowest common denominator and all else is gravy.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Never had an effective native language teacher. They didn't have to go through what foreign language learners are going, they don't understand the difficulties. Always best to choose a non-native as language teacher.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

cleoJul. 22, 2012 - 07:27PM JST

...but I think they need to be able to understand a wide variety of standard and non-standard accents and dialects if they want to be able to use English in the big wide world.

Agree, but one is enough to learn in the classroom, don't you think? The rest they can learn as they use English in real-world settings like most native English speakers do. But when they learn 'The fundamentals', it would probably be easier for them to learn in one dialect or accent, whether it is British, American, or Australian English... as long as it's not Jengrish! (Japanese English, of course)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You know, this program started in the 1890's! It's amazing we are just now getting a curriculi put together. Also why, do we not use the phrase "once again please" or "one more time please" more? Japanese seem to pick this phrase up pretty quick, even JHS,and HS students do. What, or even pardon, seem a bit abrasive to me. But tohis own style. i especially liked number 18, The english teacher is not good enough to teach. I got to tell you, brutal honesty only make you get better at the craft if you can embrace it. If someone saus something like that about you teaching, it about time to step your game. Peace.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

one is enough to learn in the classroom, don't you think? The rest they can learn as they use English in real-world settings like most native English speakers do.

No, not really. Sending people out into the world with what is basically a one-way-only language (they can speak, but not comprehend unless it's a very stylised 'fundamental' form of the language that, realistically, nobody speaks), is setting them up for frustration and the 'yappari, English is difficult, I give up' syndrome. Native English speakers don't learn just the fundamentals and then go on to tackle different dialects and accents once they're fluent: kids come into contact with a variety of different speech patterns from a very early age from the different people they meet on a daily basis, and pick up more from TV, etc. In the classroom, ideally students should be exposed to as wide a range of voices as possible; teachers from different parts of the world, audio and video featuring different speakers, etc., so that the students learn not to be fazed by slightly different pronunciation or speech patterns. As for the language the students themselves speak, I suppose a kind of neutral, not-too-obviously British/American/Australian accent would stand them in best stead.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Cleo:

I'm a Brit, so I'm happy when Japanese people speak British English (not often) and spell things properly (even less often)...

"Properly" according to whom?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Agree with Cleo exposure to multiple dialects is important. Had to play translator for my japanese colleagues who could only understand US english as we had Finnish, Indian, British customers.

I would say "properly" english spelling means british, given the History of US-english spelling. A Teacher compiled a Dictionary and adjusted the spelling to differentiate from british english, it got printed and distributed.

Rest is History.

Similar with "Little Black Sambo", the kid was supposed to be Indian but the Illustrator made him into an African and it got printed thus.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Yardley

Properly as in original........ bit hard to argue with that no?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

12, 20, 26! Say it all

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have Japanese friends who were taught by both British and Americans, and the ones who speak American English have a hard time with my English. I don't say sidewalk, oftentimes, guess, trunk, etc... so it can be a wee bit confusing.

I did a TEFL course (before realising I needed a degree to work in Japan... bugger!) but most of the course-work was jam-packed with American spelling and vocab. "This is the trunk"... no, it's the boot...

Luckily my ex's son was young enough for me to influence his English. The only kid in Chiba prefecture to use 'plonker' at school? lol

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Number 12 gave me a chuckle this afternoon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Anyone who has worked as an ALT before could likely write a book on their observations of Japanese students and all the crazy things they say (or, as is often the case, don’t say) in and out of the classroom. But have you ever stopped to think about how your students are observing you?

So, the question is why do they say "crazy things" if, they got a teacher, books and other resource should we only blame system and students? Or I wonder if English teachers are only teacher because they are native Speaker. Or do they really want to teach English?

Laughing at someone and laughing with some is entirely different.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese students are the most immature I have ever encountered.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

1.The black person in the textbook never says anything of any importance I wont get long and drawn out about that line. However if that observation is correct then the book publisher and the students who made the statement are racists.

No. The students who made the statement were merely pointing out the facts. The emperor has no clothes. Don't shoot the messenger.

The accepted correct form of British pronunciation is not the form of English spoken by the Queen or RP, but a southern estuary accent.

Who the heck is the arbiter of "accepted" or "correct"?? You talk in a estuary accent in my town and you'll be mocked. Southern ponces!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some english is better than none. The students seems to me are having fun with it, even though the teachers are tired of jumping around it still helps somehow...if only the U.S would do the same about having kids learn ninhongo. I would have been happy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Being forced to watch Top Gun? I love that movie since I grew up with my father in the military during that time period. I watched it while I was teaching high school school and a teacher asked me what happens in that movie is true in the real life military. I talked to my father about it and he shares with me everything that Maverick does would get someone kicked out of the military. I share this with the JTE I worked with and my students and they totally freak out.

Add this to the list, having to listen to either Justin Bieber or One Direction and getting Justin Bieber jokes because your first name is Justin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Italian-English. Mexican-English. German-English. Finnish-English. The southern regions of the fourth smallest mountain of Papa New Guinea-English. UK-English. Aussie-English. Chinese-English.

These are all dialects of English. There are enough speakers of English that reign from each of these countries that the English speaking world has learned to understand each of their unique spoken styles. All of these dialects, along with every other country in the world that manages that have a majority of their population proficient in English, are what comprise the global English language. UK, US, South Africa, AUS and every other country that speaks English natively, I am sorry to be bearer of bad news but your version of English is just another dialect now.

In the entire scheme of things It really doesn't matter if Japanese people learn that a car has a bonnet or a hood because if their goal of being a part of a global English community is ever met then the English spoken by the majority of Japanese people will be……..you guessed it!!! Japanese-English!! The global English community will simply learn to understand Japanese-English because Japanese people will play some important role in the community.

This is already happening in so many native-English dialect speaking countries I am surprised the debate in this thread even exists. If I walk into my favorite juicy bun joint, I receive those tasty delights not because the Chinese-English speaking attendant speaks a perfect “Queen’s English” or that I, a native-English dialect speaker, have spent years mastering Chinese; it happens because we both need each other for that moment in time, and this need has occurred for us both in enough occasions that I have learned to understand Chinese-English and he/she has learned to speak the necessary English as a Chinese person to handle a order of juicy buns.

If it gives you the warm fuzzies to hear a Japanese person speak with a Australian accent, then by all means keep this debate alive. I just think that once Japanese people become a part of the global English community, the majority of them will sound...Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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