quote of the day

Japan is changing and trying to increase communication-based learning, but it will take decades to catch up with China


Aki Higuchi, the founder of a Tokyo-based English education company. Japan’s English-language proficiency is falling behind China’s owing to an education system that doesn’t prioritize real-life communication skills, according to a survey that comes days after a political row over the issue erupted in Tokyo.

© The Wall Street Journal

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Communication-based learning, presumably meaning online courses, has only really been around for a decade or two.

It therefore says a lot about Japan if "it will take decades to catch up".

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All the English teachers in schools need to be properly trained, a) it's shocking how poor their knowledge of the language is and b) that they somehow still have a job!?

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I think they mean learning where the goal is to be able to communicate (i.e. make yourself understood to a conversation partner even if your English isn't perfect).

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Communication-based learning, presumably meaning online courses, has only really been around for a decade or two.

That's not what communication-based learning means, and it's been around for a lot longer than a decade or two. (Thousands of years, if we're being honest, although that specific label is maybe only in the last 50 years or so.) Communication-based language learning is typically a four-skills approach that emphasizes understanding and being understood in specific contexts where we use language.

Japan's problem in catching up has a lot of layers. Part of it is cultural--parents and grandparents have certain images of English, and so they push their children in many of the wrong ways for learning language because that's how English was treated when they were young.

Part of it has to do with teacher training. Language education courses at universities sometimes do well explaining to future teachers what communicative language learning means, but university courses are fairly impotent compared to the very strong force of senior teachers over new teachers. Every new teacher is assigned a senior teacher who advises and evaluates performance. New teachers are extremely hesitant to change and take risks that would upset older teachers who are stuck in their ways.

Part of it is systemic. Japan doesn't teach English for the purpose of developing people who can communicate in English. Japan teaches English to rank students by intelligence level and ability level. It's a useful subject for determining who gets to go to which high school or university. English is taught for the purpose of taking an exam.

Some factors could be changed very quickly, but most of the changes would face a lot of resistance. Some will only change as older generations die off, and thus it will take decades to "catch up," by which time other countries will have advanced even farther.

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