lifestyle

Why can't Japanese teachers of English ... speak English?

85 Comments
By Liam Carrigan

"A good teacher can get you to JLPT N2-level in a couple of years,” one friend told me, whilst also cautioning, “but if you get a teacher who isn’t serious, it could take a great many years more, if indeed it ever happens at all.”

What I’ve learned over my years of teaching in Japan is that public school students here can also face a similar lottery when it comes to learning English.

In the same way as I have worked with some brilliant ALTs – and conversely a number of freeloaders who shouldn’t be going anywhere near a classroom – I’ve noticed a similarly huge variation in the English communicative abilities of my Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) colleagues.

But why is this the case? Surely there must be a uniform minimum standard across the board for those who wish to teach English in public schools in Japan.

Well, as is so often the case with Japan, things aren’t that simple.

One of the main issues lies in the prevailing methodology for teaching English as an academic subject in Japan. Despite overwhelming evidence that the method is far less effective than competing strategies, official guidelines on the teaching of English in Japanese public schools still lean towards a Confucian, teacher-centered approach, with an emphasis on rote memorization at the expense of communication practice.

However, it would be unfair to my colleagues to simply condemn their methods as out of date and lacking innovation. It’s not that simple. So what are some other factors that might be behind this problem?

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

85 Comments
Login to comment

Why Japanese English teachers can't speak English? Simple answer......they had to take a written test!

And anyone who knows about the education system here, will intimately understand that answer.

33 ( +35 / -2 )

Yubaru, you always amaze me with your comments! keep it up!

1 ( +11 / -10 )

Why not learn about successful language acquisition from other countries? If they wanted to learn a language as a subject they picked the wrong language to help. English just has too many exceptions to learn it well. Many give up and I have total sympathy.

Esperanto on the other hand has a unified grammar, and is designed to not be a replacement for a natural language, but provide a simple auxiliary utility. It is being used this way in the UK, not to make Esperanto speakers, but to help students have the tools they need to understand languages as they move on.

from wikipedia:

"...Many schools used to teach children the recorder, not to produce a nation of recorder players, but as a preparation for learning other instruments. [We teach] Esperanto, not to produce a nation of Esperanto-speakers, but as a preparation for learning other languages.[70]..."

"...The Institute of Cybernetic Pedagogy at Paderborn (Germany) has compared the length of study time it takes natively French-speaking high-school students to obtain comparable 'standard' levels in Esperanto, English, German, and Italian.[69] The results were:

2000 hours studying German = 1500 hours studying English = 1000 hours studying Italian (or any other Romance language) = 150 hours studying Esperanto...."

Holy smokes man! If I only had Esperanto in high school!

"...Studies have been conducted in New Zealand,[71] United States,[72][73][74] Germany,[75] Italy[76] and Australia.[77] The results of these studies were favourable and demonstrated that studying Esperanto before another foreign language expedites the acquisition of the other, natural language. This appears to be because learning subsequent foreign languages is easier than learning one's first foreign language, whereas the use of a grammatically simple and culturally flexible auxiliary language like Esperanto lessens the first-language learning hurdle. In one study,[78] a group of European secondary school students studied Esperanto for one year, then French for three years, and ended up with a significantly better command of French than a control group, who studied French for all four years...."

Boom! That's putting it to the test

Therefore based on their success and the data available across half a dozen countries it would be reasonable to say that Japanese who learn Esperanto first, and then English, are more likely to acquire it at a higher level faster than English alone. Given the 10x fewer hours to learn it as well, it's more likely to be attained by the general population, and free up time for overworked students.

Also, while there is a fixed fundamental grammar, there is no country of Esperanto. There would be more freedom to incorporate it without fears of any latent Imperialism of another country. It might even be spared a Japanesto mix it would so easy who knows.

Even now for merchants getting ready for the Olympics it would be much easier to be internationalized without extreme effort

Don't worry, it won't happen. But if you wanted to know how you could do it, you could.

-18 ( +2 / -20 )

Japanese teachers don't speak English because 99.9% of the people who go through the English learning system here end up not being able to speak English. It's a pretty sad situation, but good for people who make a living off of it I guess. I personally feel that Japan simply didn't need English much in the past. We don't immigrate compared to other countries, and translate everything from movies to books into Japanese. Japan also makes a massive amount of local material such as television, manga, games, and appliances and households too. So English was a novelty for a rich people who didn't need it to live in Japan. Now the world is connected and we have a language disconnect.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Once again we have someone commenting on English education in Japan confusing a person's personal English proficiency with a person's skill in teaching English. They're two completely different skill sets. While it is true that someone with zero English proficiency is not going to teach English well, in general the two skills have little influence over each other. I know plenty of people who have extremely high English skills who can't teach worth a damn, and I have known a few people with rather low English skills but who understand how language learning works and actually get their students to a higher proficiency than their own.

18 ( +20 / -2 )

The problem? Japanese try to teach and learn English all the while trying their best to not get involved with foreigners in any way, shape, or form.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

“A good teacher can get you to JLPT N2-level in a couple of years,”

No. YOU get YOURSELF there. If you have to rely on a teacher, you'll never make it. This is the mistake made continually in Japanese "education."

19 ( +21 / -2 )

Katsu,

Spot on. I have seen excellent English speakers who, because they were hampered by the method required to teach in schools here, couldn't teach a fish to swim: teacher-centered lectures which bore students to death, especially those with no interest in the subject.

Why school administrators don't allow teachers the creativity to teach in an effective way often crosses my mind until I realize I'm in Japan: all students must get the same education and any creativity results in uneven results, enthusiasm, and motivation.

I also wonder about the cliché of Japanese English teachers not being able to speak English. I don't doubt that there are some who can't speak, but I have met many more who can. For example, how many could pass a lengthy interview / presentation? I suspect the percentage is quite high.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@sf2k I hate to say this, but sometimes "learning" is just about learning. It doesn't matter if the skills are ever used or how long it takes. We all learn calculus, how many of us use it? A lot of school is just about being off the streets. It's about keeping busy. Its about growing socially. It's about flexing our minds. It's a million things. Its why so many college degrees are pointless yet still required for so many unrelated jobs. Because you still gain things and grow in the process.

My point is if the kids spent 100 hours learning English and master 5%, or 100 hours learning Esperanto and master 90% of it. The end result is the pretty much identical. They still spent 100 hours learning.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Years and years ago I was in the old Yokohama immigration office getting those dreaded reentry stamps when a fresh, young college graduate/English teacher from California asked me how to spell February.

I would say most of the foreign English teachers aren't much better than the Japanese ones.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Esperanto... Isn't that a song by the Eagles?

Why can't Japanese teachers of English ... speak English?

Shouldn't we be asking why the school boards don't hire people who can speak English to teach English?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

"The problem? Japanese try to teach and learn English all the while trying their best to not get involved with foreigners in any way, shape, or form."

Partly true. In my experience working here, I'd say the majority of Japanese people are basically a write-off when it comes to communicating in a second language. People have mentioned Esperanto but I don't think it would make much difference - it's the problem of speaking to a foreigner in another language along with the difficulty of learning the language itself.

Time to stop wasting money teaching English to everyone at school. Make it an option and you'll very probably end up with the same number of proficient English speakers. The majority of people who don't speak English, nor need to, can go about their daily and working lives quite happily.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

coz they speak in katakana only... lol

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Engrish is still popular.

Was recently in Kichijoji and there was a shop selling USA clothing, one slogan on the window advertised "Dairy Wear".

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Who cares? If they can inform and inspire, great! I don't worry if my car mechanic can't drive....

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I like the fact that the Japanese are poor at English.

I hope it never changes.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Back in the day, English was seen simply a means for Japanese people to learn about technology etc. from gaikoku. For passive information acquisition only. It was enough to be able to read books.

Many years may have passed, but I don't think the way English is taught has changed much. The focus is on being able to understand complex written sentences, not on using spoken language which, among other things, would help people ask the questions needed to properly understand the complex information they are supposed to be acquiring.

As for the teaching method, I suspect that since Japanese literacy involves rote learning of lots of kanji, this biases the learning of other subjects toward rote learning as well. The linked article says "overseas training is expensive" but in inaka, teachers in public schools are relatively well paid compared to everyone else. The cost of sending a teacher overseas for a year or two, say 10 million yen for two years, to learn real English pales compared to paying them 6 million a year for forty years to speak unnatural English ("my hobby is....", "Three things I want to do on holiday" etc.) with katakana pronunciation.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

English communication is not a prerequisite of becoming an Japanese English teacher in Japan. One JET I worked with in a private high had a PHD in English (earned at a Japanese university). He was a very highly respected teacher in his late 50's. However, I would greet him in the morning, "Good morning. How are you today?" And, he would reply, "Yes!" >_<"

They use TOEIC exams for their entry scale and anything over 600 points is acceptable. Most public school Japanese English teachers have a TOEIC score of between 600 and 700, which is not much better (if any) than a high school graduate could achieve. The rote style of education is terrible for learning a second language, especially English because it creates a very false understanding of the language. They can memorise vocabulary and syntax structures to reproduce onto a test sheet, but are unable to reproduce them in different contexts. At present, around 12% of Japanese have an intermediate level of competence in any second language, not just English. The percentage of intermediate level English achievement is less than 10%. Unfortunately, this means that, over 90% of the roughly $3 billion that Japan spends on English education every year is just thrown out the window. I presently teach in a private high school and the English education for the senior high is specifically targeted at 'Juken' only (University entrance exams) for Todai and other so-called 'prestigious' universities. These students are memorising sentence structures in ridiculously complex grammar structures like, past perfect progressive, conjunctive phrases, passive voice in perfect tenses, but they cannot tell you the date in English. That is a very clear example of the failure of English education in Japan. I used to teach a Humanities course for returnee students and the other higher level senior high students. However, this course was quashed when the education minister announced the removal of all social studies and Humanities courses from Universities. His reasoning was, "It doesn't suit Japanese education or culture." In other words, they don't want students who can think for themselves. They only want students who can memorise and pass tests. For this means, the English education in Japan is perfect and they do not need Japanese English teachers who can communicate in English. They only need teachers who can read the textbook.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Katakana has nothing to do. If there were no Katakana in Japanese, they would use Hiragana to write down the pronunciation.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Sending teachers abroad is an excellent idea. When I was studying languages back in England, you weren't even allowed to graduate without having spent a full year working or studying in a country where they spoke the language you were studying.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

tinawatanabe - Katakana has nothing to do.

Katakana has everything to do with it.It is the main reason Japanese do not learn English. Japanese a syllabic language based on very strict syllable sounds. Whereas, English is called a time-stressed language. In most cases, when katakana is used to produce English it doubles the amount of syllables in a given word or sentence and completely destroys the timing of English. Katakana is also very lazy! It's easy to remember 52 characters. It took me less than 3 months to learn them. However, it is difficult to remember the many combined vowel sounds in English. Katakana is not and never will be English! Once again, it is the main reason Japanese do not learn English! It is just LAZINESS!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Katakana has everything to do with it. It is the main reason Japanese do not learn English.

No.. Katakana is only used to put down the English sound in writing.

Japanese a syllabic language based on very strict syllable sounds. Whereas, English is called a time-stressed language. In most cases, when katakana is used to produce English it doubles the amount of syllables in a given word or sentence and completely destroys the timing of English.

I agree.

Katakana is also very lazy!

Katakana is not human, can not be lazy.

Katakana is not and never will be English!

I agree.

it is the main reason Japanese do not learn English! It is just LAZINESS!

No logic. Work harder.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

@Disillusioned

Isn't using Katakana a problem for pronunciation rather than the ability to communicate? It isn't that Japanese people are using katakana pronunciation to communicate in English - most don't have the ability to communicate at the most basic level in English.

I remember being in New Caledonia and sometimes communicating in my appallingly limited and badly pronounced French - nothing much more than ordering in a restaurant, basic greetings and niceties or telling someone I was from the UK. I swatted up on some basic food and drink names which I didn't know on the flight over. Most of the Japanese tourists I saw there were utterly hopeless in English and didn't try a word of French.

I'm no expert on languages or language teaching but I just get the sense it's a problem of mindset.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Katakana has nothing to do. If there were no Katakana in Japanese, they would use Hiragana to write down the pronunciation.

Oukei, ifu yuu sei sou. I was watching the proactive tv commercial and the lady said boudii culiniingu burashuu. And i just though, is it that hard to say body cleaning brush? If it is, why not just say it in Japanese, why persist with this katakana English nonsense?

Another problem: I'm overhearing the Japanese teacher greet her ono-on-one student. For the first 5 minutes they chewed the fat, as you usually do as a warm up. But guess what? It was all in Japanese. And I thought, why are you, a Japanese person, paying another Japanese person to speak Japanese? Shouldn't the warm up be in English? And my Japanese is good enough that I understood they were talking about the weather. Also, every time a student enters, the Japanese teachers always greet them in Japanese. Never do they say, hello, how's it going today? Lovely whether today, etc. and then after the lesson, it's always, otsukaresama desu. Never do they say, good job, you did well, etc. This is the mentality and teaching techniques of these teachers.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's a fundamental human trait that it's difficult to pronounce, or even properly identify, phonemes that are not in our native languages. For the Japanese, almost all consonants are followed by a vowel, making it very hard for them to separate the vowel and consonant. For English speakers, we don't have the らりるれる set of sounds, and if you've listened to any English speaker who is new to learning Japanese, their pronunciation of these sounds is just as incorrect as Japanese speakers speaking English in 'katakana' form.

Expecting the average Japanese person studying English to be able to speak with native English intonation (whatever that is), is unreasonable. Most of them will never study enough English, nor have enough necessity of it, to learn accurate pronunciation.

So relax guys, it's not the end of the world.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Well, it's mainly because they didn't need to speak English to pass English tests. The system is based on passing old-fashioned tests, having rote-learned complex and often antiquated grammatical structures for those tests, instead of learning to "communicate" in simple, modern English. Many Northern Europeans appear fluent, but they often have a limited range, and don't even attempt passives or other complicated grammatical structures. They communicate using relatively simple language, which is easily enough for daily interaction. Non-Japanese arrivals here do the same thing with Japanese because we need to communicate, not read 19th century Japanese prose.

The Japanese system does not teach English as a language of international communication, neither does it test English in this way. Until this aspect of language teaching changes, the Japanese will remain weak when it comes to communicating in basic English. Banning TOEIC here would be a start, but other exams need to change in order for English to become more widely spoken.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why school administrators don't allow teachers the creativity to teach in an effective way often crosses my mind until I realize I'm in Japan: yes creativity and thinking outside the box leads to individuals thinking and doing things for themselves outside the group mindset. Certainly not a trait Japan is not accustomed too.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Shouldn't we be asking why the school boards don't hire people who can speak English to teach English?

The answer to this would take volumes to get it across right, so again simply put, NO, this is definitely NOT the answer either.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yubaru's point at the start is the key one - students (and their teachers actually are doing writing most of the time, and most of the testing is based on written form of the language.

Speaking? Of course people -teachers and students can speak English: eg. ' I can not speak English' is a common enough sentence for many of us to hear in Japan, often produced with no errors if in a strong local accent.

Speaking English well, or a lot, or confidently is a bit different ... in a place where people can do well with just Japanese just fine and often preferably so.

Anyway, as @choiwaruoyaji points out, is it really in the interest of a lot of us here for local people to have everyone being really good at English?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

the lady said boudii culiniingu burashuu. And i just though, is it that hard to say body cleaning brush?

She thinks she is saying body cleaning brush.

why not just say it in Japanese, why persist with this katakana English nonsense?

body cleaning brush is a kind of Japanese too.

often antiquated grammatical structures

English is a very logical language composed of strict grammatical structures, so it is important for English learners in Japan to study the grammar, who have limited time for English study..

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@Robert Dykes

My point is if the kids spent 100 hours learning English and master 5%, or 100 hours learning Esperanto and master 90% of it. The end result is the pretty much identical. They still spent 100 hours learning.

As it stands now learning English at such a low ability defeats any sense of accomplishment, motivation, or strength in learning that Esperanto gives away for free. I was merely reporting on what other countries do, because they want success. The Japanese system has nothing to do with useful outcomes as many teachers can attest.

Kids learn the recorder before moving on to the oboe or tuba too. It's the same principle, applied, and tested

0 ( +1 / -1 )

English grammar rules are way less complicated and strict than german(same roots).

Same can be said for many language groups, varies between people but some prefer strict rules.

Myself struggled with Afrikaans.

On same token Chinese has more kanji than japanese but only one reading and a grammar close to english.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My Japanese wife speaks English like a native and a trooper too. She teaches privately. Two six months courses at Pitmans in London for the grammar and writing. 25 years from me for the speaking.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My J-Wife was fluent in Korean, English and spoke a few other languages, she travelled the globe for 10yrs.

After we settled here for 4yrs she was worried that her english declined and took a TOEIC test score was 98%.

Know many Japanese whose English, etc are superb.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My J-Wife was fluent in Korean, English and spoke a few other languages, she travelled the globe for 10yrs.

My wife knows Scouse! No problems when entering UK immigrations. "Get de 'ell outi me way."

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Zichi.

LOL.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"My wife knows Scouse"

The English language at its most beautiful. I have to listen to something approaching that irritating RP at home. She's at least agreed not to use that horrible word 'loo' in my presence.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm not in the loop but do Japanese teachers have to study for TOEIC? I thought it would have been STEP tests (Eiken), the Japanese only test that is run by amakudari. TOEIC is at least internationally recognized and, from what I was told a long time ago, has a harder listening test.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

lady said boudii culiniingu burashuu. And i just though, is it that hard to say body cleaning brush? If it is, why not just say it in Japanese, why persist with this katakana English nonsense?

Well if you are going to try to make your point about this being katakana English, then at least please get the romaji right!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some years ago I started singing English songs with my 5th & 6th graders, just to introduce some other culture into the classroom. Obviously they can't read things like Hey Jude, Daydream Believer, Thriller, but with katakana pronunciation, they can. Kids went on to JHS, and weren't allowed to sing. The JTE refused to even consider it, even though the kids were extremely eager.

I'm not sure what my point was, but why would the JTE not do something that is obviously a benefit to the students' learning?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many chain english schools do similar, check the TV ads.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Katakana has nothing to do. If there were no Katakana in Japanese, they would use Hiragana to write down the pronunciation."

You are missing the point. They are using a phonetic alphabet, it doesn't matter if its katakana, hiragana, or Maritan, that does not adequately have enough phonemes to replicate even HALF the sounds in English. The Japanese phoneme system (which can be represented using hiragana and katakana) has something like 300 phonemes vs over 4000 in the English IIRC.

Plain and simple they need to use roman letters (i.e., the English alphabet) or even IPA.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Why can't Japanese teachers of English ... speak English?

Because speaking English is not on the curriculum.

They also can't write English either, because writing English isn't on the curriculum

They can hardly string a sentence together, written or spoken, because that's not on the curriculum.

So, what IS on the curriculum?

*Listening in Japanese to explanations of grammar points, sentence structure and meanings of words.

*Reading passages from text books.

*Listening to teacher reading word for word what is written in students' textbooks.

*Learning tricks that help pass tests.

*A chat with the pet gaijin - useful for those few students who have some actual English experience and a bit of a giggle for those who don't.

Speaking English doesn't come into it!

But, on the other hand, looking at it sarcastically, because of the Japanese Ministry of Education's total failure to teach students to actually DO ANYTHING, wareware gaijin can make a living here!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

My wife learned to become fluent in a conversation school talking with other non-native speakers, also got her used to different pronounciations.

A frends son(both parents japanese(father fluent in english, french) is also fluent in english at age 17.

Really depends on the school. Myself learned english from age 7(teachers same nationality), my teachers knew the difficulties and pitfalls to learn the language and thus could guide us.

Something that most native speakers can't do nor know as the language is natural to them.

Found the same with japanese many can't say or explain some phrases, usages etc just natural/given to them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's a fundamental human trait that it's difficult to pronounce, or even properly identify, phonemes that are not in our native languages.

True, but I'd argue that correct pronunciation of phonemes is not the biggest obstacle to reasonable English pronunciation for Japanese. (After all, we happily accept the heavily accented English spoken by Europeans and Brummies.) I think two more important elements are the stress-timing and the blending of words. Both can taught and learned to some degree. Using nursery rhymes to illustrate stress timing can be fun. (Hickory Dickory Dock, etc. ) Illustrating that "at eight o'clock' is really said as "ə tay tə clock" can be an eye opener for many students. With a bit of coaching, you can point your students to some written text (e.g. "the valve is very hot") and ask them to speak it "correctly" without hearing it spoken first. They'll soon be sounding like true Scotsmen. :-)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With the advent of emojis you really don't need English anymore.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

With the advent of emojis you really don't need English anymore.

Especially the youth with their heads buried in their devices, text messaging. Sat next to a young couple in a shabu shabu restaurant, one of those places you can eats much as you one for 90 mins. My wife and I enjoyed our meal drank our beer and sake, and exchanged a mixture of talk in Japanese and English while the young couple in between eating endless boxes of crab spent that time head-in-devices and didn't exchange a single word unless it was happening via their phones. So weird.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you've lived in Japan long enough, the question should be, "Why Won't Japanese Teachers of English Speak English."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Robert Dykes

You are very correct except that English letters don't tell you how to pronounce them.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I was watching the proactive tv commercial and the lady said boudii culiniingu burashuu. And i just though, is it that hard to say body cleaning brush?

Why would she say body cleaning brush when the ad is on Japanese TV for Japanese consumption? Fewer people would understand it, and the ad wouldn't make it past the review panel.

If it is, why not just say it in Japanese

She has: ボディ・クリーニング・ブラッシュ all three words entered the Japanese lexicon decades ago.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the distance (i.e. difference) from japanese to english is the same as from english to japanese. it is enormous. any japanese that can speak english is worthy of great praise. how many americans speak japanese? i dont. too difficult, too different. however, you shouldn't call yourself a "teacher" if you cant teach

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rote learning and a focus on grammar and writing.

What's more, a lot of the current "English teachers" have never really in fact studied English for the purpose of teaching -- especially recent elementary school teachers. I know no less than five teachers who had "studied English in university" on their original resumes and were forced to be the English teachers at their elementary schools, for their entire grade.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

the distance (i.e. difference) from japanese to english is the same as from english to japanese. it is enormous. any japanese that can speak english is worthy of great praise. how many americans speak japanese? i dont. too difficult, too different. however, you shouldn't call yourself a "teacher" if you cant teach

This is very true - a huge distance which is not helped by a Japanese reticence about learning English and expressing themselves.

A poster right at the top suggests Esparanto as a way in. While I think this is very unlikely, not least because of the lack of those skilled in it, there is a nearby language that could help the Japanese - Korean. It has similar grammar structure to Japanese and can be picked up pretty quickly - Koreans in my experience find the language pretty easy to pick up.

Rather than throwing children in at the deep end with a very difficult language for them (English), give them something easy to start with so that they can build the necessary language learning skills before switching to Korean.

It will never happen, of course.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'll never forget being in Nagano at that famous temple there, being approached by some teachers and their elementary school students on an excursion, and having a good chat in English with one of the teachers, but when I asked him if he was an English teacher he laughed and said no, he was a history teacher and said that's the English teacher over there, and pointed at a teacher with his head down hiding behind the kids, trying desperately not to have to speak English.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think what happens, often, is the the history teacher, or the PE teacher, or the math teacher, is roped into teaching English because there is no one else to do it. They do the best they can in the situation, and some are fairly successful. Most teachers who are actually English teachers who planned to be English teachers can speak the language enough to teach it. Whether they are good teachers a completely different question, but their English skills are not a barrier to their students' success..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Teachers teach the way they were taught. If the government really wanted to improve the English skills, it would invest in the teachers by contacting the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) to find out the next national workshop date. There will be many publishers there who have free textbooks and materials. The Japanese teachers can take them home and demand that the monopolized Japanese texts be changed. The government can also send a letter to every high school in California to find a foreign language teacher who will host a Japanese English teacher for two weeks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

to be honest, this topic keeps coming up and its silly. its never going to change. trying out a new method would imply that the old method didnt work, no way!

katakana isnt the major problem but it is another hurdle.

i see english teacher not being able to speak english like a driving instructor not knowing how to drive. its possible and he isnt driving while instructing you but how is it possible he is qualified to teach you but cant actually drive the car. is he tramatised or something?

how can you be inspirational if you dont know what you are talking about, and is living proof that he cant do what you aspire to do. there are many bright minds that might just go and learn and practise english themselves, maybe we can rely on them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“A good teacher can get you to JLPT N2-level in a couple of years,” one friend told me,

When I started reading, I thought that meant the eigo sensei was getting the JET teacher to JLPT level.... And that certainly happens.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She has: ボディ・クリーニング・ブラッシュ all three words entered the Japanese lexicon decades ago.

Here is another problem. As English continues to grow, as it borrows words from other languages and are accepted as being "English" not matter their origin, the Japanese language does not formally do the same.

If it doesn't have a "kanji" then it can't be Japanese, is the accepted argument. But as you wrote here, these "foreign" words are very much a part of the Japanese language, and like so many other "gaidai-go" they have become an important part of it as well.

But since their is no "kanji" for these words, they aren't really Japanese.

Hell I'd say they are very much Japanese, as is often the case, the meanings get chopped up in translation and have totally different meanings in Japanese vs their language of origin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is Japan. Why does anyone need to learn English if they won't use it outside their professional loves?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I like the fact that the Japanese are poor at English

So do I. Just last friday I was paid 15.000 for 10 minutes working in a TV station. They didn't want me to translate the Eng. VTR to Japanese (they already had it translated in their script) but just find exactly where was the part in english they wanted to put in their bangumi (please find the part when the guy says "it's juicy and yummy"). I was hired by this huge tv station with hundreds if not thousands of staff to do this task...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

like so many other "gaidai-go"

Gairaigo - 外来語

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I found that as an English teacher, most Japanese students were more concerned with grammar then speaking. Grammar is a very important part of learning a language, but communication is more important to learning a language.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I really have to laugh. These are exactly the same comments and arguments I heard 27 years ago when I first went to Japan to teach English. I suspect that they are the same as 50 years ago, too. I stayed 13 years and taught in a variety of situations - high school, college, private lessons, and chain school (briefly!). Clearly, nothing has changed. I hope those of you still teaching English enjoy your jobs, but please don't expect anything at all to ever change in English language education in Japan. It never has and it never will. God alone knows why!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Personally, I think it's because many of Japanese teachers who teach English share a common view of English is as an academic subject to be studied, not as a tool for communication to be used. However, I have also met some Japanese teachers who speak and teach Japanese students using English quite well.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Think how much right wing mentality goes into education, especially foreign languages. English included. Foreigners by definition will destroy Japanese nationalistic superiority thinking. Look at the whole Moritomo problem. What would it hurt having a TV channel in English? Even a few hours a day, aimed at all audiences, spread out. No Japanese subtitles. If it weren't that it's about business, English wouldn't even be taught...maybe some need to share technology.

Anyway, the government is not interested, really. Sigh.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese teachers of English do their job and their job is to get their students through tests. Their job is not specifically to teach their students to speak English. They do not need to speak English to do their job.

The reason so many of the Japanese teachers cannot speak English lies with the Ministry of Education and their tests. This Ministry is also responsible for the level of spoken English in Japan being so low.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What would it hurt having a TV channel in English? Even a few hours a day, aimed at all audiences, spread out. No Japanese subtitles. If it weren't that it's about business, English wouldn't even be taught...maybe some need to share technology.

FYI there is an English TV channel, You just have to get cable, that's all!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Online there's NHK News and short documentaries in English. There are numerous radio broadcasts via radio and online with all sorts of English and Japanese. NHK Radio 2. My wife listens to them and you can purchase a booklet each month for about ¥500 so you can read what is being broadcast. NHK also broadcasts some western programs in English with subtitles.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Gairaigo - 外来語

Weird that I got two thumbs down for giving more information on this word.

When I say something controversial and I get thumbed down, I enjoy it. When I say something that's just matter of fact, with no opinion and get thumbed down, I'm just confused.

Though I suspect it's just a couple of posters who probably thumb down every post of mine, but on other posts they are negated because I say something that other posters give a thumbs up to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is Japan. Why does anyone need to learn English if they won't use it outside their professional loves?

In a more interconnected world, it is a tool that it is helpful to have. The Internet is basically an English language system. Lots of people who do not have English as their first language need English to get the full benefit of the Internet.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I was also wondering which brand of English, the British mother tongue, the greater spoken American English, or Canadian, Caribbean English or Aussy?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@zichi

Sure and you're forgetting the silver-tongued delights of the leprechaun and the Belfast docker....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Luca

yes there are so many, need to be able to say "good morning faeries!" when crossing streams, in the various local tongues otherwise they'll come in the night to steal ya gold. Doffing ya hat is recommended too.

With our faerie students we recommend American English because its the one with the biggest pot of gold at the end of its rainbow.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The biggest pot of gold??

Certainly an enormous crock. Not sure it's full of gold, since 8th November....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why can't Japanese teachers of English ... speak English?

Because ........ they don't need to.

Their goal is basically to get students to pass an exam which tests their knowledge of grammar and spelling.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Because they don't need to. Getting their students to memorise by rote is enough. As long as students pass their exams. Historically speaking, Japan has always favored ''speak local'' rather than ''speak global''. Does a cabbage farmer living in Tottori need English? One of my students, who was the executive director at a Toyota plant, could barely string together a coherent sentence in English. Why? Because he didn't need to. With the recent influx of foreign tourists, even ''hoi poloi'' stall vendors at Osaka's Shinsekai are able to cajole tourists into entering their establishments courtesy of a smattering of English. Necessity is the innovation of everything. Having taught English in China and Cambodia, I can attest that the locals there can speak fairly flueny English. Because they have to. Rest assured, I have several fluent Japanese speakers of English. They either took the time to view the language as a boon, or they lived abroad which necessitated their cause.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Oh one other thing...EIKEN

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If it weren't that it's about business, English wouldn't even be taught.

It's clear that English speaking countries have that mindset, as someone said, Americans are not learning Japanese or any language. Japan goes far beyond most countries for English (a lot of that started to please US occupant). English is an official language and a compulsory subject. In France, the compulsory subject is "foreign language" and you can choose other languages (some taught in your school, some at distance learning), so some kids don't take English.

What would it hurt having a TV channel in English? Even a few hours a day

You wrote that in 1970 ? Access to foreign language stuff was surely limited back then. If you visit Japan again, you'll see that in 21st century, they have those TV programs (dumb and clever) in English version, you don't even need the cable. An they have the internets. And books, rental movies/series; etc, Now it's all available 24/24 in any language you want. And most Japanese don't want, are not interested.

Lots of people who do not have English as their first language need English to get the full benefit of the Internet.

Not at all. That's the excuse for oldies like my parents that still struggle with basics. Not for the youth. As my niece rightly said when she was 4 : "I can't spell, your phone spells for me. I can't speak in English or Japanese, your computer does it for me...".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sorry for the typo. I meant ''fairly fluent English''. As for EIKEN, merely a ''proficiency'' test.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In this regard, I really believe that local governments just need to bite the bullet and invest in sending their teachers overseas for a time to learn English properly. Even just a few weeks in an immersion environment would make a big difference.

Yes! By sending them to the Philippines!

From Kyodo/JT japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/11/business/corporate-business/more-japanese-look-to-philippines-to-hone-english-skills/

****More Japanese look to Philippines to hone English skills

Japanese are increasingly choosing to study English in the Philippines over the United States or U.K., driven by the lures of cheaper tuition fees and the proximity to home.

And corporations are also encouraging staff to study in the Philippines, where English is one of the official languages.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's clear that English speaking countries have that mindset, as someone said, Americans are not learning Japanese or any language. Japan goes far beyond most countries for English (a lot of that started to please US occupant). English is an official language and a compulsory subject. In France, the compulsory subject is "foreign language" and you can choose other languages (some taught in your school, some at distance learning), so some kids don't take English.

One English is only compulsory in the designated grade levels in ES and in all grades in JHS. In HS English is not compulsory, however, the overwhelming majority of HS's in Japan have designated English as their "foreign language". Some, very few, have other languages being taught as their "foreign language" requirement, and some have given the students the choice of choosing between English or another foreign language that they have on their curriculum.

Yes! By sending them to the Philippines!

I agree! A person can go the the PI, specifically, Cebu, for 8 weeks, room, board, (3 meals a day) included, for around 300,000 to 350,000 yen. One can get flights their for as low as 35,000 round trip too. Man-to-man lessons, ( 4 hours a day, morning) then 4 hours in the afternoons of small group discussion sessions.

There is NOTHING wrong with the PI English either, many of the teachers are US college educated as well. For too long people here in Japan looked down on PI English because of the strong accent that many people from there have, but the teachers in the schools do not have that strong pronounced accent. Besides that, so what if they do have an accent? American English speakers often come from places that have strong accents as well.

Besides that Cebu is a beautiful island, and the people very friendly as well! I agree!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nobody will learn any foreign language unless they really want to AND need to. There is no need to speak English in Japan, nor even read it -- how many signs are there in English in your city, or notices in English sent out by the local government, or any helpful information in English in your community (e.g. monthly city newsletter, tax or health insurance info)? And, more specifically, how many role models are there who can actually use English well? Ever hear the Emperor have a lengthy conversation in English? or PM Abe? MEXT leaders? How about any of your local Board of Education reps or even school principals? And on and on -- singers, movie stars, TV personalities, famous athletes.

Remember: Japanese is the sacred language of the land (key words: unique and kokutai). English education was very successful during the early Meiji period when many classes were held in English only, when Japan saw the need to become a part of the real world (think Clark of Hokkaido and Janes of Kumamoto and their influence on some amazing young men who went on to change Japan).

Perhaps Japan could use another Yukichi Fukuzawa or Arinori Mori right now...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ever noticed how well all the Formula One drivers speak English, Kobayashi included when he was still involved? Perhaps looking at people who speak English well despite not coming from an academic background would reveal some ideas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites