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What do you think about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's proposal that universities must adopt the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for entrance exams. Abe says it is aimed at reforming the En

23 Comments

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Won't work because Japan is saturated with horrendous Engrish.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

It's about time. Kids are taught to read it, but can't speak it worth a hoot(er). Since I'll be a guest teacher of Canadian and British Columbia geography and culture to a class of 6-year olds, and another of 11-year olds, when I visit Sendai, next month, I think I'll be able to confirm that without equivocation.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Although I think something drastic like this is needed in order for Japanese students to be on a competitive English speaking level with other places in the world, studying for an entrance exam is pretty much a zero-sum game; if students need to study their arses off to become proficient at English, then they will be losing out on study into some other topic.. It would be like English speakers requiring to pass an exam in French or Spanish as a prerequisite to go to Uni.

Therefore I don't think this is a good idea.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Won't work because Japan is saturated with horrendous Engrish.

Isn't that why they want to make reforms? Implementing the TOEFL will force people to develop communication skills and get rid of students who get 900 on the TOEIC but can't have a decent conversation in English.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

dcog9065: if students need to study their arses off to become proficient at English, then they will be losing out on study into some other topic.. It would be like English speakers requiring to pass an exam in French or Spanish as a prerequisite to go to Uni.

And yet they manage to do it in plenty of other countries by implementing a second language into the curriculum as soon as the kids start school. You don't really hear people in Scandinavia or other countries where people tend to be bi or multi-lingual going on about how children can't learn their own language properly if they learn a second one early. Little kids have brains like sponges. Let them soak up things while they can do so easily.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

And yet they manage to do it in plenty of other countries by implementing a second language into the curriculum as soon as the kids start school. You don't really hear people in Scandinavia or other countries where people tend to be bi or multi-lingual going on about how children can't learn their own language properly if they learn a second one early. Little kids have brains like sponges. Let them soak up things while they can do so easily.

I get what you're saying and I considered that, however it's not a mandatory requirement for gifted second language speakers (mostly Europe) in those countries to have to pass a second language exam in order to be given the opportunity to study at university. Besides, you still have a vast number of people in every country who cannot speak any other language besides their mother language who are getting along just fine.

The key is for the private sector to pressure candidates on their second language abilities rather than government enforce it with the possibility of disallowing students into the universities of their choice, although this hasn't really happened in Japan to the extent that it probably needs to happen.

Secondary education is a right, not a privilege.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

dcog9065: Besides, you still have a vast number of people in every country who cannot speak any other language besides their mother language who are getting along just fine.

And I see what you're saying but right now English is the lingua franca, so to speak. Additionally, education isn't just about learning only things that you're going to use. There are a lot of people who can only do basic addition who get along fine too but most schools still require higher level mathematics skills. Learning is about opening up your mind, learning critical reasoning skills and hopefully picking up some practical knowledge along the way.

The key is for the private sector to pressure candidates on their second language abilities rather than government enforce it with the possibility of disallowing students into the universities of their choice, although this hasn't really happened in Japan to the extent that it probably needs to happen.

I don't see that working unless it is in conjunction with schools. If people wait until university to study a second language they are far less likely to become fluent and fluency will become more of a privilege, the very thing your final comment seems to oppose. I understand your opposition to it being a requirement for university entrance but still think it should be taught from a young age, if for no other reason than to instill in children the idea that speaking a second language can be a simple fact of life and not some kind of intricate, out-of-reach concept that it currently is to too many Japanese.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

ambrosia.

I can see that you haven't travelled much outside the tourist and certain international business area if you think that english is the lingua franca.

There is a reason why most international business-man can speak multiple languages, I saw it myself at various companies across the globe.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Government mandated education = horrible learning, cramming for tests, students will spend their JHS and HS years memorizing and repeating answers to expected questions.

Private Enterprise - Those that are motivated learn whatever language will help them earn money.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Bad news.Even native speakers don't wanna teach TOEFL and for eikaiwas a hassle to find competent teachers. I don't mind the conversational elements of TOEFL,but the reading is a pain. It would be better to introduce English properly from the first year of elementary school and not in a token manner,but as a bona fide subject.But it's the material that will determine the success or failure,along with suitable teachers, that will in turn spur real improvement. Abe is just being like the average parent,not that he was one,in that I can't speak English,but you have to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As an English speaker, I feel this is a bad move. Requiring a foreign language as part of admissions isn't a bad move in and of itself, but limiting that foreign language to just English locks-out any students who studied other languages. Knowing English isn't really going to help someone who is majoring in Chinese History.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Agree with Fadamor, it shouldn't be limited to English only.

What I wonder is how the poor kids should learn communicating in English? I've only met a few English teachers, but none of them was able to communicate properly. You can't expect children to become better than their teachers by miracle. Whatever you think about their qualification, just from a quantitative point of view there aren't sufficient ALTs to compensate it, are there?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why bother with it anyway? It's not like everyone needs to speak English. And even though Japan has a pretty bad reputation for its level of English-speaking ability, the situation isn't that dire in my opinion. If you go out into the real workplace in Japan you'll find there are a great many competent speakers (of English). They exist and they are where they need to be. More than half the people who live in this country will never need it. To become a competent speaker of any language it takes time and effort, which most people don't have. Trying to teach the entire student population is a waste of effort.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Won't happen, because the people who become English teachers here, both native speakers and the Japanese people, are generally (GENERALLY) pretty low standard / unqualified / not interested on a professional level in the job.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ambrosia I agree with you on the importance of teaching kids second languages from an early age as that's the time when it is easiest to learn and most likely to be retained.

Having second language study as mandatory for primary schools I think is a good idea, but then there will be a sacrifice in learning time for other subjects so it's difficult to balance.

The best solution would be a bi- or multilingual environment where people are exposed to different languages on a daily basis like Malaysia or Belgium, but that's probably right out of the question in Japan.

I agree with Fadamor in that a student should be able to choose what language they would like to study as well, not just English.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The bottom line is that Japan needs more business people, high tech workers, scientists, etc. who are proficient in English. And while Japan is STILL debating the issue and falling behind, China's universities have been turning out thousands of skilled English speakers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In our college system, English is one of the entrance exams.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

shifting emphasis to verbal communications skills.

Really? How does TOEFL contribute to that? It is one thing to state an emphasis on verbal communication, but it is a completely different kettle of fish when it comes to acquiring it. The current English curriculum does bugger all to promote verbal communication. It only promotes English as a test subject that is studied the day before the test and forgotten the day after.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The reason for the abysmal failure of the education system to promote foreign languages is that language learning has never been taken seriously.In Japanese school,my son is taught a lesson of mathematics 4 times a week on a regular basis And his language lessons? His English lessons are regularly canceled as the dispatch teachers keep quitting. If he is lucky he will receive a language lesson once a month! The teachers' salaries (ALTs) and conditions don't allow for a living wage and there is no hope of a career here. So, give the kids notebooks and grammar tests and watch history repeat ...........

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It"S ME: ambrosia. I can see that you haven't travelled much outside the tourist and certain international business area if you think that english is the lingua franca. There is a reason why most international business-man can speak multiple languages, I saw it myself at various companies across the globe.

You know what they say about making assumptions, right? I've lived on four different continents so there's that. As for English not being the current lingua franca, how do you explain it being the language of aviation, science, the top official language in countries throughout the world and the most commonly studied second language? Obviously French, Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic are also good languages to learn in order to communicate to a wide variety of people but to deny that English is the world's current lingua franca is just silly and incorrect. It's not a matter of boasting about the importance of English or insisting that Japanese should learn it. It's simply the way it is right now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

dcog9065: I agree with Fadamor in that a student should be able to choose what language they would like to study as well, not just English.

That's fine if you're talking about high school or college students making that choice but it's a whole other matter when you're talking about kindergarten-aged or elementary school students. Starting a second language early and ensuring some level of fluency will make learning a language of their choice later all that much easier.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, I'm all for it, so long as the US doen't enact a similar adoption for TOJFl, or TOCFI, or TOGFI, or TOFFI, etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

TOEFL would establish a single standard that all the kids can work toward and which applies to more than just scholastic compliance so that would be a good thing.

On the other hand, I think schoolkids should be able to opt out of English as early as possible and instead declare a concentration in either Chinese, Korean or Russian as alternatives to English.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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