tech

AI robots to help teach English in 500 classrooms next year

96 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© 2018 AFP

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

96 Comments
Login to comment

AI robots already on the market have various functions. For example, they can check the pronunciation of each student's English, which is difficult for teachers to do," 

says a lot about the skill level of teachers, or the distaine they are held in. Any native speaker can check pronunciation. It also further distances students from interacting with real people. But considering that the goal is to pass a test not to actually communicate it probably suits the ministry's agender.

33 ( +35 / -2 )

What an utterly stupid idea and waste of money! Or perhaps it's the LDP old boy network and someone giving SONY a leg up!

English is an international language. There is no ONE pronunciation to check.

If they want to improve English skills, all they need is: 

A decent curriculum - which they don't have.

To practice English instead of the students sleeping while the teacher drones on and on and on.

To understand and practice each step so that the whole is mastered.

Mind you, thanks to the utter failure of the Japanese Ministry of Education, gaijin like you and me can make a living here.

29 ( +31 / -2 )

Japanese schools struggle to find qualified teachers for English classes 

Uhmm...with some exceptions, this struggle is not just limited to English by the way. And the "system" here is 100% to blame for this one.

In learning a 2nd language, particularly English, the learners need to had freedom to think on their own to find appropriate responses and not expect everyone to speak to them in some set pattern.

Robots are not the answer to a human problem! (MEXT)

25 ( +27 / -2 )

So when you are approached by a cute Japanese kid and he / she starts talking without inflection, you'll know that it was the robotic teachers and not that they learned English in Germany.

20 ( +23 / -3 )

What accent will they use?

19 ( +20 / -1 )

I guess they got tired of all the English teachers telling them they're doing it wrong, or laughing in class. Might as well make all of Japan's educational system a correspondence course at this rate.

No, this will increase the rates for independent teachers. Language is a feature of human beings, for the expression of human beings

17 ( +19 / -2 )

This will undermine the ability to speak English even more, not less. They will teach the robot to their tests, tests that are failures themselves. Ensuring utter failure as a national standard while the rest of Asia just learns English properly. It's quite remarkable in its total tone deaf application

17 ( +18 / -1 )

So, 250 million-yen's worth of robots for 500 classrooms, has been deemed cheaper and more effective than human beings and other classroom resources like online studies, Skype teaching/exchanges, interactive studybooks, and the like?

Goodness me. That;s where European language studies have been going wrong then.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Just some more Nihon Sugoi PR nonsense designed to kill two birds with one stone: boost Japan's global image as an AI/robotics leader and create the pretence of actually trying to improve the underfunded and abysmal language training in public schools here. 250m yen for a few plastic toys with tablets hung round their necks? Yeah right, that'll do the job.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

as the country seeks to improve its English skills among both children and teachers

I’ve been teaching in Japan for nearly twenty years and heard this same thing over and over every year, but nothing has changed. Robots are not going to change anything about English education in Japan. Nothing will change until students and adults have a sense of need for English. A need other than passing a test with memorized responses. All Japanese study English 4-5 times per week for the full six years of high school and most study English for s further four years at university. However, less than 10% of Japanese adults have a TOEIC score above 700. This appalling statistic can be summed up in one statement I’ve heard time and time again, “This is Japan! I don’t need English!” = FAIL!

14 ( +14 / -0 )

This reminds me of my Japanese boss. When something doesn't work, he just decides something else to try and puts it on all of us. He never actually asks for opinions from anyone on how things should be fixed. He never looks into why the current approach actually went wrong. He never looks at examples of how to do it right. He just makes a decision then makes us enact it - and it usually fails same as the original method.

Is this a common Japanese trait? It seems that their government is doing the same thing as my boss.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Lol, is this how inward thinking we are??

So Japan turns to robots to help English and the guy uses pronounciation as a plus point and forgets that Japan made up Katakana.

You can’t change all foreign languages into Japanese and then expect to not have problems pronounciation.

This whole deal is probably some shady business thing.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Live IN the language you want to learn. It's truly the best method to learn quickly!

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Specifying English accents is absolutely absurd. Very often I see job advertisements for North American English speaking teachers. The accents in America vary greatly from Florida to LA to New York and all through the mid-regions. The same can be said for the the UK. Then, you find all these native speakers mimicking katakana English just to be understood. One thing that really disgusts and annoys me is when teachers start to use 'pidgin English' in a condescending attempt to make it easy for the students to understand.

English education in Japan will never improve until it is treated as a skill to be learned on not just a test to be passed. Young kids do pick up the language very quickly. However, as soon as they hit junior high school and settle into the rote pattern of memorising garbage for tests any actual skill they had in English very quickly disappears.

The Japanese education ministry just don't get it! If students are doing doing well in English they decide to increase the number of classes. However, the reason the students are not doing well is because of the style of lesson and too much focus on nonsense textbooks. More is not better! Better is better!

I currently teach in a somewhat high level private high school. I have pretty much been given a free reign on what I teach. The first thing I did was got rid of 'New Crown' textbook. I focus my classes on the logical structures of English and learning how to use the 5xWH and How in a logical order. This is then applied to writing and speaking. The students pick up on it with alarming success. Their English skills increases very quickly without using a textbook. For the most part, students never understand the garbage they are being taught in their textbooks. They can remember enough to get through a test after being told exactly what is in the test and that's all they ever do. The Japanese English education system is set up to treat all students as if they are stupid. They do not need to think or create. They only need to memorise some garbage for the tests. This is where the biggest fail of English education in Japan comes from.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

What's the point of Japanese kids learning English nowadays, anyway? The country has already demonstrated that it hasn't a clue how to teach English or make it stick, and at this point, the global tech/innovation economy has basically passed Japan by and left it in the dust already. Might as well teach Mandarin, if anything...

Yes. They’ve been flogging the dead horse of teaching English to Japanese for years with miserable results. May as well throw robots at it now.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

JonathanJoToday  07:32 am JST

If you really want to learn English, start before you are 2 years old, not 10.

Maybe in other countries, but not Japan. If you don't learn the real language but the pidgin version then you're no better off no matter the age when you started. Japanese have to learn the language as it is, not as they want it to be. That basic respect doesn't exist, which is why it's such an abysmal failure.

Japanese who study abroad discover this, but more experience this online, and thus learn real live use that way. Build up friendships and staying connected is much easier now.

This does nothing to encourage that flow of communication but keeps it locked up in a box. If they could get out of the box, then they'd have a chance

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Japanese students need the tools to understand language,

The very thing that MEXT does not want is people that can think on their own, or act on their own. They want to control the process, thereby control the learners.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

What's the point of Japanese kids learning English nowadays, anyway? The country has already demonstrated that it hasn't a clue how to teach English or make it stick, and at this point, the global tech/innovation economy has basically passed Japan by and left it in the dust already. Might as well teach Mandarin, if anything...

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Olympics is around the corner and barely anyone speaks English anyhow..

11 ( +13 / -2 )

sf2k, thats an interesting idea. Of course esperanto is a useless language, but the recorder is also a useless instrument. Knowing trigonometry is also a pretty useless skill (for most people). But if it does what you say and introduces the concept of language then it could be quite useful.

I was introduced to language as an abstract concept early on, having had to learn 4 languages before i was 10 years old. So to me an apple is just a picture in my mind. The word that represents it depends on who i am talking to. I remember trying to explain this to my monolingual friends and they just couldnt see it. An apple is apple, there is no other way of seeing it in their mind. I learnt Japanese within a year with no prior study, or official classes. Obviously i was quite rough, i only had a small vocabulary, but it was enough to communicate without resorting to English.

If Esperanto can teach a concept that translates to quicker adaption of foreign languages, then i am all for it.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

My kids are 3 and 5 and speak both English and Japanese as fluently as they can for their ages. Both went/go to English pre-school for 4 hours a day, 3 times a week but now the 5 year old goes to the local kindergarten and has a private English lesson an hour a week, focusing on reading and writing. Of course, they have the benefit of speaking English with me in the evenings and at weekends and Japanese with mum during the day or any other time but we see a lot of parents who take their Japanese kids to the same English pre-school, who I feel are wasting their money because their children have absolutely zero exposure to English other than that (most of the parents can't speak it at all). Sadly, their kids will likely forget what they have learned when they get into the Japanese school system.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

At last ‘a teacher’ that can endlessly mime and sing ‘head, shoulders knees & toes(?)’ without suffering a bad back.

8 ( +14 / -6 )

Thankfully the kids have Youtube. They could also have just Skype'd in actual English teachers from around the world, but that would have made sense. Can't have that, must strive for national failure at all times. Anyway, those that offer online video chat services should charge higher rates on this news!

Unfortunately this will split up the student population into the have and have not's

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Belrick

It doesn’t prove that his theory is flawed.

I think that yes you can become fluent like you claim to be, as an adult, but you are also the exception...if you are indeed fluent and not just good.

Most people who are truly bilingual or at least half around the world grew up in a bilingual atmosphere or started young.

What I’m really saying is one theory doesn’t cancel out the other.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

English should be compulsory for all Japanese and taught by foreigners fluent in English and with good old fashioned textbooks. English tuition is too complex and requires far too much skill to be taught by robots

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Learning from a robot leads you to be a "scrap" at the end. Less creativity and lack of personality or personal talent, perfect to be another "robot" in a controlled society to follow the govt. policy. Is Japan going further this way?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I wonder whether the robots will be participating in other activities (cleaning the classroom, participating in extracurricular activities...) plus giving the parents a report on how their child is progressing.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Esperanto does the job.

Yes, lets teach kids a useless language that they won't be able to use anywhere in the world. That makes real sense.

7 ( +13 / -6 )

LOL.

With human teachers:

"This is a pen."

With robots:

"I'll be back!"

7 ( +9 / -2 )

If schools are hiring largely untrained foreigners whose main qualification is having a native accent, and then using them primarily to read scripts and perform in front of students, then there is very little that those human tape recorders do that the robots cannot.

However, what students need are teachers who can establish clear contexts for language, react to students attempts at language, and foster genuine communication. These are fluid tasks full of unpredictable situations. Robots aren't going to help.

In essence, the Japanese government is investing in a flashy robot program that will make Japan's English education efforts look modern and cutting edge, when, in reality, the robots are merely a veneer that allows Japan to continue down its same outmoded, backward path. What's needed is a change in how English is taught. These robots will only reinforce the negative ways of teaching currently used, to the detriment of students. Pity.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

A lot of people here ridiculing the idea of AI and tech playing a part in education. Reminds me of the whingeing taxi drivers put out of business by Uber, the hotel owners savaged by AirBnB, and conservative workers who can't adapt to the modern economy.

You can't fight progress, especially when it's technological progress. AI will replace humans in education, there is nothing anyone can do about that.

Whether those who are affected most by this change spend their time whingeing and complaining about change like conservatives, or adapting and re-educating like free-marketers, will determine their competence in today's economy

7 ( +11 / -4 )

I started learning Japanese at 28. Now I speak fluently, almost native. And having taught kids as young as 2, seeing them grow up still only saying "This a pen! Oh yeah!", proves your theory is flawed.

Ofcourse you can learn a language as a 10 yr old kid or a 50 yr old but young kids in a stimulating environment can learn a new language in no time. Many expat kids however go to International schools where English is the lingua franca.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Just some more Nihon Sugoi PR nonsense designed to kill two birds with one stone: boost Japan's global image as an AI/robotics leader....

Boosting an imagine for sure as Japan is no genuine AI / robotics leader, a widespread misunderstanding....

and create the pretence of actually trying to improve the underfunded and abysmal language training in public schools here. 250m yen for a few plastic toys with tablets hung round their necks? Yeah right, that'll do the job.

Probably referring to the Pepper robot developed in France by a company bought by Softbank. At the moment very suitable as companion for Alzheimer patients really :)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Oops, nothing to lose! blush

6 ( +6 / -0 )

AI Robots which can understand native English speakers cannot understand the average Japanese person's English

It is logical to assume, that since this is Japan, the programmers will reprogram the things to understand Japanese English and speak Japanese English back to students.

Nary a worry folks, the cycle of robotic, bad English will continue unabated, with all politicians able to pat themselves on the back after billions of yen are pumped into this wonderful idea.

I sure do wonder how every other nation on earth managed to get its population speaking English though, you know, before AI and robots were around.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

another dumb idea from the dinosaurs at eduction ministry

6 ( +7 / -1 )

they can check the pronunciation of each student's English, which is difficult for teachers to do

Completely untrue.

The vast majority of students are lazy and propped up by a system that mollycoddles them by giving a bare minimum pass no matter what they did all semester.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

This idea is beyond stupid. I didn't need to read the story, just the headline and the photo is all I need to see.

THIS is the best use of AI? Better idea: Use AI to come up with more useful ideas for AI.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Silvafan

I guess Im not getting into the actual “which is more dominant” in a bilingual person debate. Thats a bit nitpicking.

I am a Japanese/Caucasian American/ Hawaiian mix whos Japanese by nationality was born here, but grew up all over with all kinds of languages in the house, and yeah, I’m not billingual but some are.

There is a level of fluency that you can attain and be consider proficient, then perhaps fluent.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@personiamnow

It doesn’t prove that his theory is flawed.

I think that yes you can become fluent like you claim to be, as an adult, but you are also the exception...if you are indeed fluent and not just good.

Most people who are truly bilingual or at least half around the world grew up in a bilingual atmosphere or started young.

What I’m really saying is one theory doesn’t cancel out the other.

Actually, he isn't the exception. The point that you both are missing in your theories is that children learn differently than adults which means learning new skills need to be approached differently and will change over time. There are a lot of physical and psychological factors at play.

but you are also the exception...if you are indeed fluent and not just good.

The same can be said for most people that you consider to be truly bilingual. They are just good in the second language. That is also true for people who grew with parents who speak different languages. Just because you can talk to both parents at the same time doesn't make you a "true bilingual". One language is always more dominant. To be truly bilingual which is actually rare means that you would need to intentionally studied both language with the same intensity and reach the same high level ability in both. Most people including bi-racial/bi-cultural have not.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

This is great news! A good amount of technical disruption is definitely needed in the language learning industry, and long overdue. Just like all other industries disrupted by tech, the old ways of doing things are over

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Goodbye to the relatively easy to do and formerly well paid jobs for us gaijins in Japan.

The final blow to the Japanese dream lol :(

4 ( +9 / -5 )

What the education ministry needs to do is-to plan a road-map to make "conversation" English compulsory from the day you enter school up until you enter college. Now for this they need teachers from countries where the first or second language is English and these teachers should be qualified/certified to teach English, the latter is very important else we have the current scenario where anyone from a English speaking country automatically becomes a qualified English teacher, and majority of these folks get exploited by the private English teaching schools.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is Japan. They don't need English.

And even if robots can check pronunciation, can they correct pronunciation?

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Geeliez sums it up well. Average age 60yo JT poster is no different from those j oyaji politicians, fixed in their ways, unable to "think outta that proverbial box".

AI isnt a cobol program based on a inflexible set of oyaji early 50s "this is a pen" stereotypes, its all about computer adaptibility and learning. The future.

Japan is facing a demographic problem, the critical knows yet when a technology solution by those "fax users" is proposed it gets criticized. Damned if u do, damned if u dont..

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Do these robots wear atrocious floral shirts during cool biz and knock off early on premium Friday?

Can they teach how to pronounce ‘regrettable’?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The education ministry plans a pilot project costing around 250 million yen to improve Japanese students' notoriously weak oral and written English, an official told AFP.

Meaning the "human tape recorder" will be replaced by a robot! Hell they both cost about the same!

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Finally!!! A teacher that will know that Japan has 4 seasons!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

IronBeard

the fear of making mistakes

You can't learn a language without making mistakes. That's the joy of discovery. If Japanese cannot find joy in learning then it doesn't change their fear and language training remains useless. The temperament needs to change. All it will take is one conversation with an English speaker to destroy whatever confidence they had from a robot.

I had to explain once that TPO is not a romantic notion in Engrish, but the Time, Place, Opportunity is what happens in a court of law when a prosecutor is trying to logically conclude that someone is guilty. The horrific look on the person's face told me that I had burst a pretty serious bubble. This should have been a funny moment but was instead met with dread. How to accept new information has to change as well.

We all have to learn language as it is, not as we think it should be. Those that get it, do well

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Now isn't this something?

Robots teaching, robots translating ... and look at what you get (at least sometimes).

No, learning a language needs much more than listening to or communicating with a "computer".

"Watching" how you pronounce various letters is one point.

Mimics, gestures and so on are more.

And I don't think that this can be used by a "mechanical teacher".

Humans were, are and will always be needed.

But, YES, a couple of more brown envelopes passed to the "right" people ..... that's how it works.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Thank you Disillusioned for your teaching, your students are lucky to have you.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Good luck with that...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is psychologically a very bad idea. It's just like sticking a child in front of the TV and hoping for them to learn a foreign language. Children need interaction with other human beings, otherwise their learning experience is wasted.

Having Alts replaced by robots isn't even the worst thing in the English classroom. Many of the current Japanese born English teachers can barely string a sentence together in English. Imagine how embarrassed they must feel when their English is nearly as bad as their students. Maybe this is to help them save face.

This isn't really anything new. Korea has already implemented a similar idea, where teachers teach via robots. The government has already blown a lot of cash on AI technology and hasn't really produced anything significant. We all know why this idea is being rolled out.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

ALTs should be replaced by something

Definitely.

That's where you have got it backwards. These A.I. are nothing more than hadndheld devices. No, you won't have Asimo's dancing in front of the class.

The education systems inability to reward talent, and settle for low risk dispatch companies is one of the main reasons for this 'transition' to alternative education. (cost cutting being another).

Many ALT's are actually trained in ESL methodology, quite diligent, and fully prepared to go the extra mile..BUT...most schools are held prisoner by greedy dispatch companies that refuse to reward talent and lose all their best teachers to Private schools or lies from their dispatch companies.

The introduction of A.I. devices which will work in conjunction with Japanese Teachers struggling (albeit with the best intentions) to teach a language they are not fluent in is a step backwards.

But after the Olympics, Japan really dosen't care anyway.

The staus quo will remain, the kids who attend Eikawa will learn the language, the rest will have fun.

Nothing will change; everything will stay the same.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Applications like Blackboard and Moodle now have simulated or synthesised voice, accent capabilities. Also, the Pearson

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Applications like Blackboard and Moodle now have simulated or synthesised voice, accent capabilities. Also, the Pearson test of English requires speaking test with a computer. How soon might these be included in said robot's protocols?

Can't understand the obsession with accent in posts above, nor in Japanese foreign language education in general (still, after 33 years in it!).

I'd have thought the issue was more having to interact with a non-sentient entity (ie. something without self-awareness nor a brain). That being said, it is how much oral communication is going.

For instance, have you had an enlighteing conversation with your Siri or Alexa recently?

And who needs English - bad accent or not - to do that.

ALTs take note!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

DakanashiToday 08:18 am JST

Esperanto does the job.

Yes, lets teach kids a useless language that they won't be able to use anywhere in the world. That makes real sense.

I see, so the passive aggressive comment above stays, but my comment showing that this is a failure of reading comprehension gets deleted. Japan in a nutshell

2 ( +4 / -2 )

At 500 yen an hour, 250,000,000 yen would pay for 500,000 hours of online Skype lessons for teachers and trainee teachers. That's 200 hours each for 2500 teachers. Someone who cannot communicate in English after 200 hours of one-on-one lessons shouldn't be a teacher.

If they are struggling to get "qualified teachers", I would say this is because many people do not want to put themselves in the distorted environment that is Japanese schools. I don't think teachers are underpaid, but they are definitely overworked, a lot of it with meaningless non-classroom duties.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I think Wellington, Darmstadt and Geeliez make very good points here.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

For me the worst thing is that the government is proud of its AI without thoughts of how it affects people, especially our young. These young have, as is, difficulty dealing with humans, now they’re going to add more machines. I’m totally against this idea. Tell me the country’s short of teachers then I’ll say a robot is not an answer.

Whats wrong with having more TV programs in English? I’ve long advocated this. Where’s Japan stand in education in the OECD?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What an incredibly stupid, wasteful but not surprising idea for Japan. It must have a business basis (support the robot industry) or it wouldn't be happening. I taught English at Matsushita Denki back in the 1980s and then later sent Japanese employees of an American company to the US for month-long immersions with home-stays. They returned having lost their fear of making mistakes and with the positive experience of having built relationships with American colleagues and their home-stay families.

Requiring Japanese teachers of English to have a high standard of English fluency would be a good start, followed by changing the method of instruction from the long out-dated grammar-translation method to an interactive, communicative style of teaching. Japanese schools teach about English but, for the most part, don't teach living English. They teach it as a dead language, not a living means of communication. Robots won't solve these problems.

One may wonder why the kikokushijo / kaigaishijo are often segregated into their own schools when they would be an asset in English languages classes in ordinary Japanese schools. They are usually fluent in English and speak it better than many Japanese teachers of English.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We need a special robot for university English classes. It will say: (1) Please stop talking. Stop talking! STOP TALKING! (2) Please don’t sleep. Awake up, please. Please for heaven’s sake wake up. (3) Please don’t do your homework, read comics, do the Internet. (4) Stop texting! (5) The following students have escaped since roll call.

This would be a great help in saving the English teacher’s vocal cords. Improving the students’ English? No.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

AI robots already on the market have various functions. For example, they can check the pronunciation of each student's English, which is difficult for teachers to do," 

says a lot about the skill level of teachers, or the distaine they are held in. Any native speaker can check pronunciation.

Id imagine it is difficult to check each and every student’s pronunciation on a regular basis, especially if there are 20 plus kids in one class. There wouldn’t be enough time.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So, 250 million-yen's worth of robots for 500 classrooms, has been deemed cheaper and more effective than human beings and other classroom resources like online studies, Skype teaching/exchanges, interactive studybooks, and the like?

Goodness me. That;s where European language studies have been going wrong then.

Let's face it, the results of the old methods have been zero to none in Japan :)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We all know that language instruction is a farce here, so let the kiddies have fun and play with the robot. Absolutely nothing to loose. If it retires those that have been going through the motions doing the same thing for thirty years with no real results , then even better. At least the robots will have the kids attention!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Finally the officials up top are acknowledging that Japanese education is so lifeless even a robot can teach it as well as a human. Why not put it all online and students can all do their rote memorization test passing from home/wherever on their own time? Oh wait then we couldn't inculcate them to be salarymen already used to pointless tasks and unpaid overtime.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

If you really want to learn English, start before you are 2 years old, not 10.

I started learning Japanese at 28. Now I speak fluently, almost native. And having taught kids as young as 2, seeing them grow up still only saying "This a pen! Oh yeah!", proves your theory is flawed.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

Ah, Japan's answer to all it's current social and economic problems -- pray for robots to help. I've met a number of teachers who are LIKE robots, but a robot will NOT be able to help in the near future at least, and even in the distant future they will be useless with Everyday conversation, idiomatic expressions, and anything besides BASIC translation.

0 ( +8 / -8 )

@yildiray,

I think you mean, Finally a teacher that will know that Japan is UNIQUE in having 4 seasons. :)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

BTW, are the robots Made in Japan? Are we now subsidizing the AI world in favor of foreigners? Is this the trade off? Is the government trying to lower the numbers of foreigners while subsidizing a few companies? What makes a robot better? Cheaper. Maybe..short term. Loss of interactive skills will be a high cost at a time when Japan’s neighbors are working hard to provide quality HUMAN service. Choose a salesman: Human or robot?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think it's pretty good. English teachers are already like robots. 250 million yen is actually pretty cheap(only 2 yen per person), considering that Japan pays 200,000~300,000 yen a month to ALTs that just stand for 40 minutes and repeat after Japanese English teachers in the rest of the time. (There were about 18,000 ALTs in 2016. (200,000×12)×18,000=43,2 billion yen).

Revealing information so thx.

ALTs should be replaced by something

Definitely.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Robots claim another job from humans. Just face it, a vast majority of jobs are repetitive and require little intelligence, and they are exactly what AI/Robots excel in. Its the future of the world. And more so in Japan due to the shrinking population.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Or! Drop the requirement down to an A.A/A.S. degree and figure out to budget the salary because as much money that went into this could have been put towards the budget. Yes, I'm feeling some type of way because I want to teach ESL in Japan and I only have a 2 yr (working on TESOL) and can't afford to go back to college (and I've used up all of the student loan money trying to get my bachelor's).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i don’t know... the laser/prod function could speed education of resistant students.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For example, they can check the pronunciation of each student's English, which is difficult for teachers to do, what a load of old crock! why spend this large sum of this money on robots? just employ native speaking teachers/people! any way, which accent will these robots programmed to understand? Scottish, Brummies, Welsh, Scousers, Cocknies? Geordies? can you imagine it a Cockney programmed robot " cor blimey punters get your nice pies into you Donald Ducks, page dirty tree wheres we start. well that will totally confuse the students.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

This will bring a lot of competition to the English language learning industry and will heavily drive down costs I assume.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Language is a tool first.

Then there is what you do with it.

Normally you exchange your ideas and share them. That is not what Japanese do a lot, to say the least...it is cultural.

I get my English/French nephews asking questions all thetime, silly or not.

About my Japanese nephews and nieces...only one is the same, so far he is very small (4) and I am afraid he will have to get back in the line. And it is not about my Japanese ability to reply.

And by the way, why would English be the chosen primary language ? It can easily be set as the second one in the timeline of education (my kids lol).

About the accent, same challenge as to choose between: language can be learned this way or it can be learnt that way.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

There are hundreds, thousands, of English accents, dialects and pronunciations. Which will the robot choose? Will it correct students speaking with a British English accent and say they are wrong because it's teaching one of the many types of US English accents? What about Canadian, Kiwi, Aussie etc variations? Automation doesn't understand my English, so how can it teach it to others.

Language is not a precise science and it evolves. Using robots is a lesson in futility, not English.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Another brilliant brainf*rt of the bureaucrats from the education ministry: Robots teaching bored, robotic students which can only result in producing a bunch of lackluster Daleks! Learning English in Japanese schools is merely teaching to the test, and without human teachers possessing intellect and charisma to leaven the language learning with their culture and life experiences, students can hardly be expected to respond with enthusiasm. Just more old wine in new bottles from unimaginative mandarins ! BTW, Sorry, but Esperanto is not worth the effort as it is a barren, artificial language devoid of the riches that only history and culture can give a language.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

JimizoToday  05:53 pm JST

Do these robots wear atrocious floral shirts during cool biz and knock off early on premium Friday?

Can they teach how to pronounce ‘regrettable’?

A better challenge for them would be to see the robots do the Japanese style greetings (kiritsu! Rei!), taking attendance, and checking for homework and students bringing their books, and their students, especially in junior high, responding accordingly.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

A lot of people here ridiculing the idea of AI and tech playing a part in education.

Some do but AI is not good enough yet and tech is already playing a part in education.

Reminds me of the whingeing taxi drivers put out of business by Uber, the hotel owners savaged by AirBnB, and conservative workers who can't adapt to the modern economy. 

As a 'modern economy' means a race to the bottom for those working with Uber and similar firms it's no progress. Hotel business will thrive despite AirBnB which means often no progress for the neighbours of those who use AirbnB and the neighbourhoods where the apartments/houses are situated.

You can't fight progress, especially when it's technological progress. AI **will replace humans in education, there is nothing anyone can do about that. **

Technological progress is irreversible but the replacement of humans in education in the forseeable future is nonsense. AI has still way to many limitations :)

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

English should be compulsory for all Japanese and taught by foreigners fluent in English and with good old fashioned textbooks. English tuition is too complex and requires far too much skill to be taught by robots

Foreigners 'fluent in English' have been here 'teaching' for decades. Seems you missed something as the results are zero to none :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

One may wonder why the kikokushijo / kaigaishijo are often segregated into their own schools when they would be an asset in English languages classes in ordinary Japanese schools. They are usually fluent in English and speak it better than many Japanese teachers of English.

Sounds like a good idea but the attached article may answer why these kids are segregated.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/05/04/issues/kikokushoji-returnees-country-yet-ready/#.W33g1C2iH_Q

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Robots claim another job from humans.

It's just an intention and when you would have a clue about the current status of AI and robots you'll know that they can't replace a skilled language teacher.

I understand the background of the intention though as the added value of native speakers working as ALTs is very low.

Just face it, a vast majority of jobs are repetitive and require little intelligence, and they are exactly what AI/Robots excel in. Its the future of the world. And more so in Japan due to the shrinking population.

Definitely, but not yet.. :)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Well all this will do is drive teachers’ wages down further. How much does the average English teacher in Japan earn? I have been told it can be as low as 280,000 a month, poverty wages. But young foreigners fresh out of university will come to Japan if the salary is 150,000 a month or less. They don’t care about money, they just want a long holiday overseas. Good for school owners too, they can pay vastly lower salaries and still get the people they need.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There might be hope, as long as it does not answer to "How are you," like "I am eeto, fine. And you?" "I am eeto, fine too."

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I think it's pretty good. English teachers are already like robots. 250 million yen is actually pretty cheap(only 2 yen per person), considering that Japan pays 200,000~300,000 yen a month to ALTs that just stand for 40 minutes and repeat after Japanese English teachers in the rest of the time. (There were about 18,000 ALTs in 2016. (200,000×12)×18,000=43,2 billion yen). ALTs should be replaced by something

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Blue Ocean Strategy - lots of openings in the future for robot mechanics and maintenance engineers. These Iron and Silicon friends do break down; even Asimo has a large crew with it for every performance.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Well, you won't have to worry about renewing your contract every year, cause you won't have one.I wonder how many teacher will loose their jobs. They'll have one teacher visiting 10 schools a week. Might have to get that job in the convenience stores.... or join the Union.

BertieWoosterToday  07:23 am JST

There is no ONE pronunciation to check. *

You mean.... you mean...... you mean....... the American accent isn't the correct one? I thought it was the ONLY ONE. But... but....... trousers is now totally wrong.

You mean the American "cyaaaaaaan't" is the only one and British CARn't is totally wrong.

God help us when they get a Scottish, Irish, South African accent.

And why oh why do they over complicate the R and L pronunciation...

It's obvious they are saying I "LOVE" you and not I "RUB" you. It's good for some entertainment, and fun but once you've drilled it into them for 8 years, its time to let it go, and accept it, just as we do for the pronunciations around the world.But some teacher make it their mission.

The students don't have to write anything, so of course it bad. They only have to write a Word to fill in the blank or choose the NUMBER.

Can't tell you how many students have been marked down because they wrote,

I "had" breakfast, instead of I ATE breakfast.

Or, These are the "words" you "should" remember, instead of These are the "English Words" you must to remember. Well, if there studying english its obvious they need to remember the ENGLISH words.

And don't get me started on I'm going to watch TV tonight, and I "will" (probably) watch TV tonight.

Some teachers, don't seem to give students any leeway on anything that would be acceptable by any native speaker.

Anyway it all about the test, there are no points for speaking well in the Uni tests.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

If Esperanto can teach a concept that translates to quicker adaption of foreign languages, then i am all for it.

I was thinking something similar, but using Korean instead and teaching that for a year - the grammatical similarities would help develop the concept of language learning before switching to the more challenging task of English.

Unlikely in Japan.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Everyone seems pretty quick to shoot this idea down but considering that the issue Japanese people have with learning english is the fear of making mistakes I think a robot could help alleviate that fear. So long as they get the NLP in the units right I don’t see an issue.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

afanofjapanToday  08:40 am JST

sf2k, thats an interesting idea. Of course esperanto is a useless language, but the recorder is also a useless instrument. Knowing trigonometry is also a pretty useless skill (for most people). But if it does what you say and introduces the concept of language then it could be quite useful.

Yes, thank you. That's all I'm getting at, that it has a neat utility to it. Perfect for a school setting as a lot of subjects are like that. Concepts of language structure and learning the grammar allowed me to see language in a brand new way, even as a middle aged adult. I now also see my native English from a new perspective as rather odd. I feel bad for anyone who has to study it!

Internationally, I experience two kinds of English. A level 2 and below, where it's up to a certain point but no further, and a level 1 where it's near native or native level. Unfortunately there's too much of level 2 and below. (this is just an arbitrary scale). It's the fate of any native language anywhere I'm afraid.

Esperanto hopes to change that. It means, one who hopes after all ;)

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

It was just a matter of time. I think this will be the thing in Japan and human English Teachers may be a thing of the past. AI is getting more and more advanced very quickly.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

More so at the junior high school level, but a way to make this not a disadvantage to teachers would be to flip the classroom like Khan Academy. Have the kids go through their lesson videos (or new scary robot experience) at their own pace, watch at different speeds, even rewatch until understood, then discuss issues and problems with the teacher later.

That way the teacher can focus on students who are having the most problems as well as have the most input on curriculum

It would also mean they can do their lectures anywhere and not even have to attend, and the teacher time is la practice tutorial class.

Language is all about practice so a lot of time could be saved and struggling students could get the help they need

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

When you were in music class, you learned the recorder. Did we all become recorder musicians? No. The purpose was to get to the good stuff faster rather than staying stuck in the basics for too long. We didn't learn a bassoon as 8 year olds. Recorders were easier and met the educational expression of music. Our little fingers could reach all the notes. It was scaled to the needs of children, at that stage in our lives.

Esperanto is a recorder. It's a language that people use, but at its heart it's a great beginner human language. Takes about 100-200 hours to learn. Already used throughout Europe as a recorder, to get young students to think about language, about the good parts, faster. Compare that to the drudgery of the decade Japanese students will spend learning bad English and the waste of time that will be for most students.

How does this help? With Esperanto, they can get to a high level of expression fast. Kids won't be bored to tears. Then, when they switch to learning English (or any other European based language) they will already have an understanding of the purpose of language grammar as a tool, and recognize many similar root words.

Studies in France and Australia has shown that students of Esperanto first, then who switched to another language, were better at the new target language than students who only had studied the target language. It's because they learned the tools about language, not specific to one language.

Japanese students need the tools to understand language, with the side effect that they learn English.

Esperanto does the job.

Also for the Tokyo 2020 Games, it would be easier to ask people as adults to learn Esperanto for 100 hours to help communicate with the world. The world could be also asked to learn Esperanto for fun to help communicate with Japanese. This was the original purpose of the language. To help bridge communication between people as a world language. It didn't get there, but this limited use case is s perfect place to do it. It's not meant to be a replacement of your native language. But as a utility language.

There are Esperanto groups throughout Japan. Ask them yourself. It's fun! Look up the Japanese Esperanto Institutes or Leagues in your area. Especially if your kids hate language. Get them to have fun, and the work is done

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

If you really want to learn English, start before you are 2 years old, not 10.

-10 ( +7 / -17 )

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