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Education minister proposes English education for 3rd grade

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Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura has proposed revising school curriculum guidelines to mandate beginning English education for 3rd graders, as well as Japanese history courses for high school students.

Shimomura made the proposals this week at a meeting of the Central Council for Education, which is tasked with formulating revised education guidelines by 2016, for implementation in school curricula from fiscal 2020, TBS reported.

The guidelines are revised every 10 years.

Shimomura suggested that children should begin familiarization with the English language as early as the third year of elementary school (two years earlier than in the current curriculum), after which a regimented English curriculum would begin in the fifth year.

He said the goal is to have junior high school students proficient in English, which will, in turn, help make Japan more competitive on the global stage, TBS reported.

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

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

Also proposed was making Japanese history courses mandatory for high school students as opposed to an elective.

Shimomura also discussed promoting "Active Learning," a new learning style through which students of every level would be encouraged to exercise more independence in addressing and finding solution to problems.

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You can force kids to learn English at any age, make them take all the tests, and hire 5 foreigners for each classroom but until you change how you teach English, nothing will improve.

When I first came here as a teacher and since, Ive taught from pre-school to university and I can honestly say the most eager and teachable kids for me were the 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders, but I still wasn't allowed to teach them. I just mainly was their fingers up the bum pincushion.

25 ( +26 / -1 )

I don't know what Shimomura's got in his pipe, but he clearly doesn't understand how language learning works. "Near-native proficiency" is simply not achievable by the average compulsory language learner through a few hours of classroom study a week, even over a span of ten years, unless they have opportunities to use the language regularly (there are always exceptions, of course--the unusually motivated or highly gifted student), and unless instruction goes beyond rote textbook lessons given by non-native speakers.

20 ( +22 / -2 )

He said the goal is to have junior high school students proficient in English, which will, in turn, help make Japan more competitive on the global stage, TBS reported.

and

Also proposed was making Japanese history courses mandatory for high school students as opposed to an elective.

A few thoughts here: Give up in English already. Forcing kids to endure stilted English lessons, with uneducated so-called English teachers will do nothing more than up their resentment towards this language at an even earlier age. The problem is not that kids here don't get interaction with English early, but rather that the teaching methods are based on the very typical (and boring) reading/writing proficiency and tests, tests, and more tests. I am aware of Japanese politicians being old-fashioned and no-understanding of how things work, but it would have been nice if they took a step forward some day. Soon.

Furthermore, English skills in Japan are not encouraged in any way whatsoever. Just saying that this will "help make Japan more competitive on the global stage..." Means nothing at all as long as actions point in the other direction. I suggest a different road. Hire good English educators at top levels. Make an effort to educate usable English, ie, learn how to speak first, then have your tests. Until that happens, Japan might as well stop teaching this language that people all over the world manage to speak.

As for the Japanese history being mandatory, I guess this goes well with the revisionistic tendencies we see from this government, yes? Kinda like the NHK being mandatory but not truth-telling. Perfect for make Japan more open minded and more "competitive" on the "global stage". Good luck, Japan. Tell me when Sakoku v. 2.0 will begin...

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Any country should make the study of its own history mandatory--the question is how and what it chooses to present in that very short, one or two-year window of opportunity.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I agree Shimomura's got something good in his pipe, but I don't think it's necessarily about how language learning works, it's about Japan and the entire Japanese education system.

Quotes like these

partake in challenging debates with their fellow students.

students would be encouraged to exercise more independence in addressing and finding solution to problems.

show a tenuous grasp of how Japanese society works, let alone the education system.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Near-native level by High School.... Spewed my coffee on that one. Not because it's a bad idea, but because the MOE could begin education at birth and not see any measurable gains using current methods.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

"Near-native proficiency" is simply not achievable by the average compulsory language learner...

Agreed. I'm not even sure it's desirable. Many of us here are non-native speakers. Some of us speak with heavier accents, some with less, but what we have in common is that we can communicate. Even if it might sound different. I feel Japanese students are indoctrinated with this BS, unachievable, "near-native" crap, and get unmotivated when they realize they can't get there. Any language training takes practice. Your have to be ready to make a million mistakes (and being laughed at) to improve.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@Stephen Knight

don't know what Shimomura's got in his pipe

The same stuff Abe has in his. The stuff that makes people in charge here think that just setting a goal is enough to make it a reality.

Yeah, but I told them to make kids fluent in English. Why isn't my plan working!? I know! Let's hire some retired senior advisors and pay them silly money to see how they used to do it in the "good ol' days."

5 ( +6 / -1 )

If they eliminated katakana as a pronunciation guide - and stressed phonics they might make some progress at that age. But they still need to get rid of their rote-memorisation techniques. However Japan's education system is its own worst enemy as this, so I won't hold my breath

14 ( +15 / -1 )

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

Ah, thank you for the laugh Shimoura. He's a comedian, right?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

So third graders learn a few vocabulary words and learn how to write their names in romaji to include names like Sato and Kato with an h on the end or Komei written as Koumei and examples like this are becoming too trendy lately. But this article is about introducing English at a younger age and hoping that by the time they get to junior high school, they may make progression. Trouble is, English conversation books for junior high school students will still begin with 'Hello, I'm Mary'. If it is truly standardized and followed by ALL elementary schools, then maybe this would not be necessary to start from the basics when junior high school classes begin. Also, how do you improve speaking skills when you have 40 students in a classroom and only teach once a week for 45 or 50 minute periods. How about every day? Oops, who is going to pay for this? And who would teach these classes? Foreign teachers? My, oh my .. I feel an earthquake coming. I thought Elementary students were already getting some classes in. Would love to hear how those classes are coming along. Politicians are GREAT at promising this or that . . .

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I've been here for 15 years and have lost count of the number times I've heard vacuous tongue flappings from Education Ministers regarding English education. It has about as much substance as Abe's 'beautiful Japan' noise making. As for 'challenging debates', do they do that in Japanese in Japanese schools? What debates would he deem suitable? Soba or udon? Another empty suit.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Being a person who learned Japanese as an adult and i am a native english speaker, there is simply no way to be native proficient from classroom learning. I ended up hiring a japanese actress to teach it to me, everything from the right accents to stroke order on my kanji.

One thing which would help is katakana used phonetically with English words. I have long noticed katakana used for english is done based on the spelling of English instead of the phonetic spelling. At least doing it phonetically will get sounds closer to English for English words used in japan often.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Well, I don't disagree with all the commentators that just increasing the length is not enough, but it is a start and the guy is at least mouthing off about "Active Learning" - that doesn't mean he'd do it but at least it is better than if the idea doesn't even enter his skull.

In theory, with that much education, depending on how picky you are with the "near-native" part and how they are taught, it is hardly unfeasible.

As for mandatory Japanese history ... I would prefer to retain the present mix, which is IIRC either Japanese or World History.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Ask any Japnese over the age of 40: "How are you?" And you will in 9 out of 10 cases get the memorized reply: "I'm fine, thanks, and you?". It's almost comedic in a way.

As most people here understand (but few locals can ever seems to grasp) there is something the matter with educational matters here. I honestly do not believe for a second that this country wants it's perfect people to think too much. That might make things uncomfortable. People might start speaking the hell up.

Problem is, to understand a language, you have to think. That includes understanding language roots and etymology. This will Never happen in Japan, a country that borrowed much of it's language systems from other parts of Asia. Instead, it seems the rote learning and the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality is what's popular around here.

I absolutely agree that abolishing katakana would be a good start. It mauls so many of the world's languages into a horrible mush of liguistic okayu and does not benefit anything that has to do with pronounciation or understanding of languages.

I know that back in fascist Spain, one of the tools they used to control Spanish people's view of the outside world was dubbing of foreign films. That way, the Spaniards couldn't get the original information, but was instead left to the cleaned up version of the censors. In my opinion, thing work very much the same way here. If you have masses that can only receive information from one source, things will be much easier.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

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

Ha! After being working eight years in the Japanese public education system all I can say is, good luck with that. Not gonna go into details but I'm at a point that I don't even care if my students learn anything from my classes or not. It's so frustrating that after teaching the same kids for three years they cannot say more than "I'm fine, thank you. And you?"

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Problem is, to understand a language, you have to think. That includes understanding language roots and etymology. This will Never happen in Japan, a country that borrowed much of it's language systems from other parts of Asia

Knox Harrington,

Japan is not a country that borrowed much of it's language systems from other parts of Asia. Japan borrowed Kanji mainly more than 1,000 years ago. Most kanji words Japan uses now are Japan made. That's why Japan's kanji and Chinese kanji are so different.

Kanji is used only for writing. Japanese language system itself is not borrowed.

English is made of far larger number of borrowed words.

if you start learning Japanese at high school in your country, how well do you think your country people become fluent in Japanese? It's not easy.

Japanese study lots of English grammar which includes understanding language roots and etymology

If Japanese don't use Katakana, how do you suppose they put down the sounds of English they hear? In HIragana? What is the difference?

The reason Japanese cannot speak English is not because Japanese don't think or are dumb, but mainly because they don't have enough oppotunities to speak in English.

Conclusion: Your analysis is wrong.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

This guy reminds me of a blind moose! "No eye deer!" It's pretty obvious that, the last time this goon was in a classroom was over forty years ago when kids were beaten into memorising as much irrelevant garbage as they were force fed. What's the bet his next move is to reintroduce Saturday schooling because he believes more is better. I feel terribly sorry for kids that go to Japanese public schools. They spend 15-20 years of their life being force fed a whole lot of garbage and have very little ability of creative or conclusive thought then, after graduation, they spend the next twenty years being told what to do by some fart in a suit - just this this twit minister! More is not better! Better is better!

7 ( +10 / -3 )

English education for 3rd grade only around 20yrs too late, once again Japan playing catchup to its Asian rivals

5 ( +5 / -0 )

As somebody who has taught in both Japan and Australia I feel that the Japanese education system actually gets a lot right and in many ways does things much better than Australia. But that debate is for another day.

The Japanese - like most English speaking nations - struggle with teaching a second language. In English speaking nations it boils down to laziness on the students part, because most students think "I don't need another language".

In Japan their main problem is that to get into a good high school or to enter a good university all you need is written English. Make students take a conversation test and a written test to enter university or high school and you would find that the schools would change their approach very quickly.

Also as somebody else pointed out in an earlier post their is far too much emphasis on being perfect grammatically. Quite often students display English comprehension, but will receive nothing for that comprehension, because they have not used the correct article in a sentence. It just destroys their confidence.

On the whole I am for teaching English from an earlier age, especially if they start encourage more conversation.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Also proposed was making Japanese history courses mandatory for high school students as opposed to an elective.

Are we talking about "real history" ? Or the Government "revised" edition ?

@Jimizo

As for 'challenging debates', do they do that in Japanese in Japanese schools? What debates would he deem suitable? Soba or udon? Another empty suit.

How about politics ? Start 'em off young and who knows ? A "decent" PM might get elected...

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Are we talking about "real history" ? Or the Government "revised" edition ?

FightingViking, you obviously never read those textbooks in Japanese. Read first and tell me which part is problem.

Personally, Japan should view history more from Japan's side, not from war winner side. You think there is only one "real hitory", US is all angel, and Japan is all evil, nothing else. You don't even allow Japan looking into details. You don't even doubt the nuke bombings were necessary.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

'How about politics ? Start 'em off young and who knows ? A "decent" PM might get elected...'

Ah, we can dream. Perhaps the first subject of debate could be if it's a good idea to have politicians who are in power because of their bloodline. Other interesting topics for debate could include revisionist history, the neutrality of national broadcasters, political corruption and wealth gaps.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If Japanese don't use Katakana, how do you suppose they put down the sounds of English they hear? In HIragana? What is the difference?

Learning a language means remembering the sounds of the target language. Yes, English spelling makes it a little more challenging, so they need to use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). It is already in the textbooks, but I am not sure how well the students learn it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm with harvey pekar. I also have experience teaching kids of all ages, as well as adults, and the learning ability of the younger groups (3 - 5 years old) was astounding. They soaked everything up like a sponge & you never had to review anything with them. At the same time, if the material wasn't up to scratch (ie. no fun), you'd lose them for the entire hour. They government has to start younger - I'd even go as far as preschool.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Scrap the current program for ALL grades. Start 1st graders in an English only curriculum for P.E. math and science. Include 2nd graders the following year, 3rd graders after that, and so on, gradually adding other school subjects. Those students will be near native level when they graduate from high school.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Christopher Glen and beowulf have good points. Katakana has no place in English textbooks or classroom. When learning Japanese the first thing my teacher did was make me learn hiragana. "Don't use romaji for Japanese, the sounds are different" she said and she was right.

Use a phonics-based English curriculum. Don't ruin kids' confidence by demanding perfection. Kids learn early the shame in non-meaning and the embarrassment of speaking a new language, starting them younger with phonics may help them learn fundamentals of English sounds before the shame sets in.

Rote memorization is perfect for learning kanji. It is great if you need to remember a list of vocab for a test. But the language will remain unattainable if that's all you do. It will never "click" if you associate it with shame in kids' minds and fail to supply daily opportunities for creative verbal practice.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It doesn't matter at what grade a student starts to learn English. The problem is the boring material the corrupt department of education requires the teachers to use. Send the teachers for one month of home stay/classroom observation in March or April in elementary schools to learn how to teach ESL. Will it happen - no. The Japanese publisher are only interested in keeping control. Why doesn't the Japanese department of education contact the California department of education or any of the hundreds of elementary schools to ask for such a connection? Answer: $$$

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I believe that children should start learning a foreign language in kindergarden and continue through high school because learning languages helps increase listening ability, memory, creativity, all of which are thinking processes that increase learning in general. In addition to developing thinking skills, foreign language study does expose you to other ways of looking at the world. A private tutor is what helped me out while growing up as a child so I know that becoming fluent in foreign languages takes years. Fortunately as a child you do absorb foreign languages more easily than older students and adults. Therefore it is important to have an uninterrupted sequence of foreign language study in grades K-12 to gain the level of proficiency needed to communicate with people around the world in other languages. In the end starting early and learning to speak at a sophisticated level eventually became an advantage in the work force and corporate world.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@tinawantabe

If you visit China you can see much of the Kanji is the same. The Japanese just changed the meaning.

You borrowed much of your culture from China, no matter how hard you deny it. Western people can clearly see that you just modifited it to become Japanese.

If Japanese started to use English for foriegn words of English origin, and ditch the katakana, it wouldnt work because Engish in its original form is gai and it must be changed to Japanese or it cannot enter Japan. You mangle the English language and its original meanings into katakana, so this habit must be unlearned, in a sanctioned way of course, and native speakers brought in from abroad.

The cycle just goes on and on. So why bother to learn English at all? Is it just an optional cool skillset?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The teaching of English in Japanese schools has been a colossal waste of money, resources and valuable educational time. Throwing more time and money at this isn't going to solve this problem. This is a problem of the Japanese mindset. To be realistic, the majority of Japanese people don't need English or would be incapable of using it when confronted with a non-Japanese speaker anyway. They can also live perfectly happy lives without it. Teach it from JHS onwards and make it an option in HS. Those who have an interest in it and a flair for it should be encouraged but hammering this into the heads of those who will probably never have, nor even want, the opportunity to communicate to a non-Japanese is pointless. How many Japanese people really need English in their daily lives? Under 10%?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

5petals

Most natural science and social science kanji words Chinese and Koreans are using now are Japan made. In 1900s, Chinese leaders such as Rojin(Lu Xun) and Shu on lai (Zhou Enlai) came to Japan to study at Meiji Univ. and other J colleges and bring back Japan's Kanji. There are lots of records, and China and SK know it, only you don't know.

Ren-ai (Love), Shakai (Society), Jiyu (Freedom), Kyosansyugi (Communism), Minshushugi (Democracy), Keiyaku (Contract) Shijou (Market), etc. Japan translated from English to Japanese kanji.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Actually there are many elementary schools that are teaching English from 1st grade. At the elementary school I teach at, we start from the 1st grade. The biggest problem is that they schedule interview tests at the end of the 2nd semester...how pointless this is! It causes nothing but fear and anxiety. Why must elementary students even at the young age of 5 take an interview test?! Actually I'm tired of the system and ready to move on to something else here in Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This will simply result in more strain on the limited english ability of Japanese teaching staff, and more unqualified and underpaid foreigners being dispatched by black companies to jump up and down and entertain the kids.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The reason Japanese cannot speak English is not because Japanese don't think or are dumb, but mainly because they don't have enough oppotunities to speak in English. Conclusion: Your analysis is wrong.

I'm afraid you are on this point. Because kinds learn to pronounce words in katakana, while native speakers don't - they soon find that there is a difference when it comes to pronouncing new vocab. Unfortunately it's difficult for many to break out of that "katakana" mentality. That, and fear of making mistakes impedes their learning. If having few opportunities to speak English is your excuse, then what is China's and South Korea's excuse, when "opportunities" are roughly similar in these countries - yet their learning is ahead of Japan

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Forbid all teaching of English in elementary school and junior high. Instead, turn on Sesame Street reruns in first and second grades for 40 minutes a day, just before lunch. The teacher should watch it, too, but not model pronunciation. That system will cost less and most likely yield a better overall result, including attitude toward learning a language.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Christopher Glen

The second largest reason is the big difference of Japanese and English. Chinese and English have some similarities in grammer and pronunciation. I don't know about Korean, but I've heard that they are having difficulties as well.

Native don't need Katakana but J students are studying English only a few hours? a week, so they need some way to write it down in to remember the pronunciations.

I think it was Mark Petersen of Meiji University who said that English is the most difficult language. So, be patient.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Tinawata - you made a comment about how difficult it would be for non-native Japanese high school students to learn Japanese in their home countries, and you are correct it is difficult.

But it's interesting that my limited contact with high school students from Australia, Thailand and France who had been studying Japanese in their homelands, when homestaying in Japan could converse quite well re daily conversations. They could easily indicate their wants, needs & interests in simple, correct Japanese. People here were often amazeed that they could - shock, horror - "talk". While their knowledge of kanji and advanced grammar was limited, they could cheerfully and confidently Communicate. Why? Simply their courses of study were focussed on that - communication. No rocket science. Many in the thin air echelons of Monbusho haven't quite clued into that yet. Living Language is an active dynamic phenomena not a passive analysis of rules subject to an assay. That can happen later with in depth liguistic studies. The few dozens of overseas students I've witnessed here have taken the rare chance to communicate in living Japanese in their grasp and "gone for it". Needs to be more of a "go for it" approach here.

And I must say that Shimomura's talk about promoting the new style of learning - Active Learning - brought a cheesty grin to this dial. Actually I watched this being reported on NHK last night and the excitement over Active Learning was more surprising than anything. For those in the education field esp out of Japan, know that "Active Learning" as it is called here, has been a mainstream component of educational practices in many countries for decades & decades.

It just showed how out-of-touch they really are.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@ TIna

I understand your Japanese, but your answers are very Japanese, indeed )

So let me get this straight; your saying that its not the Japanese who borrowed from China, but the inferior Chinese borrowed their language from Japan? Sorry, but thats the first time Ive heard that one

"The second largest reason is the big difference of Japanese and English"

Now this one is one I have heard over, and over again from Japanese. But you failed to respond to my point; why you feel the need to change everything outside to become Japanese? Actually English is not that difficult to learn. Many countries that Japan considers inferior are quite fluent in English. Why the need for katakana? You can have Mado in Kanji, and then learn to pronounce Window correctly in English. Your making an already established way of learning the language even more complicated. Its not that its that difficult to learn, its you complicating the process.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

browny1, I think you are right. I add two things.

Japanese speakers to learn English is more difficult than vice versa because the concept in English is more precise, so it is hard for Japanese to, for example, divide the wide Japanese concept into several English concepts.

It hasn't been proven whether "Active Learning" works for Japanese. There are aleady too many Japanese who have been studying privately at English conversation schools for decades, and no avail.
-7 ( +0 / -7 )

@Tina If I were able to do time travel and return to Japan in 100 years, there would still be no progress in English. It goes to a much more fundamental "problem" (I put problem in quotes out of respect, because its relative to who you talk to, Im sure you dont consider it a problem at all) of Japanese culture unable to open to the outside world. It has nothing to do with preciseness or other nonsense written by Japanese authors. You dont think so? So why not ditch katakana? Unthinkable, right? Under Japanese product labels, use correct English labels as well. Absolutely not, koko Nihon dakara.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Tinawata- thank you for your comments.

While not debating whether or not concepts are more "precise" in English, which in turn you suggest puts Japanese English learners at a disadvantage, I do believe this has little to do with ability in general basic daily conservation. Stating "I'd prefer to eat at the Italian restaurant" or "It's a nice day, lets go to the park" is a very easily understood concept I imagine in most languages. Just that the students here in Japan in many cases, are not taught, shown, encouraged or engaged in the art of communication in a foreign language to the point of being able to use it confidently in simple situations. As I said before it's not rocket science.

And re Active Learning - you are correct - it hasn't been proven if it works in Japanese Schools, because it hasn't been implemented on a broad consistent scale. And it's use as mentioned by the ministry was to be in many subject areas - science, history, maths etc - not only English.

And I'm not sure if you can call private English Conversation Schools , often utilized part time, as examples of failed active learning. They bear little in contrast to mainstream educational institutions.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

'Japan is not a country that borrowed much of it's language systems from other parts of Asia. Japan borrowed Kanji mainly more than 1,000 years ago. Most kanji words Japan uses now are Japan made. That's why Japan's kanji and Chinese kanji are so different.'

@Tinawatanabe This kind of mindset is part of the reason Japan has failed to engage well with non-Japanese and speak English. I've never yet met a nationalist from any country who hasn't tried to play down the influence of foreign culture on their own to try to prove some kind of uniqueness, intelligence or innovation on the part of that country. Nobody outside nationalists really cares. All too often this kind of thinking tries to portray Japan as a somehow unique country and foreigners as alien to it. The barriers Japan creates are fixed in the mind by this nonsense and they very often exaggerate the differences between cultures and the difficulties of learning another language. Many Japanese are still shocked when I speak the supposedly ultra-difficult Japanese language which is somehow based on telepathic understanding between a particular 'race'. This is counterproductive and based on dangerous nonsense.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Maybe it should read "Education minister with IQ of 3rd grader proposes History Revision lessons in native English so that High School students will become better ambassadors of Japans real WW2 history?"

But seriously, everybody who has worked in Eikawai knows what a joke it is. I compliment this minister for trying, but seems they always miss their mark

1 ( +3 / -2 )

japan should give up teaching English in schools. What's the point?? And japan's army of teachers can then return home and finally start decent careers. Everybody wins. Anyway soon technology will allow for instantaneous interpreting machines and all language learning will be redundant.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Let's not forget that Shimomura may well not be the Education Minister in two, three weeks. After the election, Abe, if he wins, may well choose a woman (as they are better at education.... hahahahahah). So Shimomura is just spouting off catchphrases: Active Learning, which in many parts of the world is called 'Learning.'

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japanese people should make greater efforts to learn Chinese.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

5petals,

Japan imported Kanji from China by sending personel called "Ken zui shi" at China's Zui Dynasty, and "Ken Tou Shi" at China's Tou Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago.

But since Meiji era, Japan has received West countries influence and new concepts and ideas such as "Freedom" or "Individual" which Japan has to translate into Japanese by creating Japanese kanji words. China and SK imported those kanji from Japan.

Today's Korean news paper, Cyuou Nippou Japanese version happens to carry an article about Korean Kanji imported from Japan. It says about those 3,600 Kanji words were created by Japan.

http://japanese.joins.com/article/079/193079.html?servcode=100&sectcode=140&cloc=jp|main|top_news

Japanese do not consider China inferior. Japan still study Chinese classic literature at school which Chinese don't study, so Japan respects China more than Chinese respect themselves.

About Japan changing everything to Japanese, I don't understand what you are talking about.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Tinawatanabe Give the silly nationalism a rest. Nobody cares apart from people who are either insecure or hateful. Yes, Japan has many things to be proud of but its ability to deal with non-Japanese and ability to speak English are not two of them. The quicker Japan can dispense with making excuses as to why they are unable to speak another language the better. I'm a person of pretty average intelligence who was able to pick up Japanese quickly. Maybe it was because I didn't have any pseudo-scientific/nationalistic rubbish rattling around my head that this was a particularly difficult language for a British mind to grasp. The verb is at the end of the sentence. Got it. I also didn't fall into fits of laughter or find it strange that Japanese people pronounce imported words differently ( "McDonald's" - how hilarious ). In short, Japan needs to grow up and drop the Nihonjinron based rubbish if they want to speak another language.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

browny1

"I'd prefer to eat at the Italian restaurant" is not easy for Japanese. The 'd' after I' is the subjunctive mood, which is very difficult. The 'to' before 'eat' is also not easy, why not 'eating'? The 'at' is also not easy, why not 'in'? ' "It's a nice day, lets go to the park" is easier, but some Japanese would think, It's or This is?, a or the? 'to' is necessary after go? 'the' is necessary before park?

Japanese go thru those questions to themselve before speaking the sentences. Japanese do not have preposition (at or in) or article (the or a, an), so those things are difficult.

So, basic conversations of English also require Japanese lots of thinking.

You may be right about Active learning at school for not only English but other subjects may work, yes.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

A major problem is that no matter how you teach English there is a dearth of teachers who are fluent enough in English effectively. They are out there. Thousands. Like the grossly underpaid adjucts who make up 76 percent of university faculty in the US. They would jump at the chance of teaching in Japan if offered stable jobs. But it will not happen because of good old Japanese xenophobia. Native speaker teachers should be let in small numbers, used as human tape recorders and then fired after a couple of years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Personally, Japan should view history more from Japan's side, not from war winner side. You think there is only one "real hitory", US is all angel, and Japan is all evil, nothing else. You don't even allow Japan looking into details. You don't even doubt the nuke bombings were necessary.

In regards to history, I think many Japanese like things they way they are.

They like role of denying what the "war winners" are saying.

They just have to deny the "war winner side". That's all they do... just deny deny deny.

They are satisfied with that.

And certainly... just denying something is easy.

They never have to do the more difficult thing... which is look honestly themselves at what they have done. Investigate and, through the expert research of their best historians, conclude what bad things their own country has done.

As a Brit, and based on research of British historians, I can conclude that Britain has done many bad things around the world. I can tell anyone about and I am happy to do so.

Sometimes Japanese people say to me... yes, we did many bad things in WW2.

When I ask them..."Exactly what bad things did you do?"... they will never tell me.

Maybe they don't know. Maybe they don't want to say.

However, when it comes to just denying what America says... suddenly they have a lot to say!!

Many Japanese seem happier just denying... they are happy to say... "this is not true"... "these statistics are wrong"... "that never happened"...

They are very satisfied to take the denying role.

But they never look at things honestly themselves.

They never consider, through the research of their own historians, what bad things they may have done.

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@ tinawa

About Japan changing everything to Japanese, I don't understand what you are talking about.

Right. Exactly. Slightly crossed eyes and wakarimasen. That may be one of the very few things that are uniquely Japanese and so ingrained in the national DNA that it's unrecognizable except to non-Japanese. Tina, go to Italy to eat spaghetti and pizza and you will understand. Or perhaps not. Perhaps you will think it is not 'real' spaghetti or pizza. (Like why doesn't it have fish-flakes on it?)

"I'd prefer to eat at the Italian restaurant" is not easy for Japanese. ... So, basic conversations of English also require Japanese lots of thinking.

This is an excellent example of Japanese text-book English that complicates matters for the learner. The question this quote answers likely is: Where would you like to eat? However, to say "I want to eat Italian tonight" or is much too direct. Hence the waffling around with "more polite" and complicated reply in case some offense is given to the person asking the question.

It's a cultural phenomenon. There is way too much over-thinking going on when answering simple questions in Japanese. That over-thinking (plus a shame culture that demands perfection--which you can forget about when learning any language) constipates the whole process of communication.

"Where would you like to eat?" requires a one word reply. Mario's. If you want to be polite in English you need two more: And you? Taught that way, English is a lot easier than read-the-air and honorific-loaded Japanese.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Such an interesting article, and so many great posts!

t's a cultural phenomenon. There is way too much over-thinking going on when answering simple questions in Japanese.

One thing jumps out at me here. A simple truth, seemingly lost on those who are over-thinking. It applies to learning any second language, but I'll supply it in terms of a Japanese learning English: English is NOT translated Japanese. (There should not be a "translation process" going on in the head.)

The unfortunate part is that most courses are designed as though it were. But I also wonder if there's a reluctance to take on a more effective route. To really be effective at another language, it has to be approached the way an actor approaches the role of a character in a play that might be totally unlike themselves. If they do it really well, the risk is that digging to the character brings insights that change them in some way that they can't control. (I hope readers can see what I'm getting at.)

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

why not stick the Japanese-speaking kids with English-speaking kids, NO TEACHERS, and the kids will learn from each other? A cousin was in Europe and she learned French in a short time because she was playing with local kids. Formalize the gathering, not the methods. If you want results, that is

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

How about sending the Education Minister to see what is happening here? Perhaps he could learn how to create success from this example.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/specialreports/20141119.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"The second largest reason is the big difference of Japanese and English. Chinese and English have some similarities in grammer and pronunciation"

Chinese and English have similarities in grammar and pronunciation? Have you ever studied Chinese? I have, and I can tell you its one of the more difficult languages to learn. One word has many sounds, and those sounds are not easy for a native English speaker to make. I found Japanese to be easy to pronounce and understand. In 6 mos you can pick up most of the grammar tenses and rules. The kanji (borrowed from China) is somewhat challenging as is writing in keigo etc. But Japanese is cake compared to Chinese.

But when it comes to Japanese...its always them Chinese messin everything up )

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5petals, I've never said "Chinese is easy". I only said "English is difficult" or "It's easier for English speakers to learn Japanese than vice versa"

Somebody said Chinese people learn English easily, why can't Japanese? so I said there are some similarities in Chinese and English. I never said Chinese is easy.

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@Tina, Many "inferior" countries near Japan have a good grasp of English. They dont have all the barriers put in place by society towards the outside world.

Agreeing with many posters here, I dont think Japan really needs to continue studying English, if they wont make it a second language. Japanese are connected to that collective cerebrum cloud where all the same answers that elude NJ are to be found. Japan is semai, japan is an island, Japan is unique etc. They can easily close themselves off from the world, once again. Blessed with abudant geothermal and wind power, they can produce their own energy once the population stablizes. They can scale back on imports of dairy and meat products, and revert to their conservative diet of fish and vegetables. They will continue to export the unique and superior Japan image, and become close knit kingdom, like Sweden perhaps.

So I think the reason to why Japanese cant speak English eludes NJ so well is found in the cloud that Japanese are connected to and we are not. They know they dont need the outside world unless it benefits them and are intelligent enough to create their own destiny.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tina - thank you - your grammatical explanation sums up whyJjapanese people have difficulty using English. They think too much about making mistakes. My posts were focussed on the art of communication which is NOT analyzing the structure of a sentence, debating the whys & why nots of an article, translating a question into the mother tongue then formulating an a response into the target language. This is exemplified by your comments. Comunication is NOT a test.

You suggested why not "eating" instead of "to eat" - why "at" not "in"? So you are hung up on the intricacies of linguistic notions and NOT communication. A perfectly simple sentence for an English language learner, which would be UNDERSTOOD by all native listeners in the same context as I wrote earlier -

Native speaker - What restaurant do your prefer to go to ? (some tricky grammar - eh?) Japanese English learner - I like eating Italian - or I prefer eating Italian - or I like Italian - or Italian.

All responses would be easily comprehended by the listener. and a successful communication moment would have been had.

To the Test Bashed Japanese mind, subjected to zillions of act scrutiny re whether or not an article is correct or a prposition is misplaced, I can only reccomend - When you communicate in a foreign language with foreigners you are free from the constraints of the burden of the "don't make a mistake or else laws of Japanese protocol.

Get it. It is NOT Japanese. Relax. Talk. Have fun! Laugh!.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He probably noticed difference between students who had studying in private English teaching schools and other students who went to Jr Hi without any knowledge of English. He probably want to give the same chance to all children,

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How about allowing English conversation to be an elective at some stage of their education? A class that is limited in numbers and attended by students who are interested in learning English. I began learning Japanese in college and learned Toyo kanji (trying to remember that term) or the 880 basic kanji characters that a Japanese students learns up to sixth grade in elementary school. I did this in four semesters of college. Please reward students a chance to learn English conversation in an atmosphere where one can actually come out of the classroom having learned something.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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