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  • Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

    Could anybody tell me more about this subject? I saw an article in a Japanese magazine featuring this. It looks like the next trend in this industry, with books and tv programs hitting both bookstore shelves and air wave.
    The emphasis seems to shift to the importance of being able to communicate, rather than structural grammar.
    The article in the magazine claims that the big schools offer classes for this.
    Any enlightenment? If this catches on, it looks like a big blow to English schools, and the quality of tne English language spoken by Japanese.
    You dig?

    Have a nice day

    Urban KawBoy

  • #2
    Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

    Cowboy,

    the sole reason that English conversation schools exist (and provide jobs for many unskilled foreigners in the process) is that Japanese high schools and high school teachers do such a lousy job of teaching english and only etaching grammar, memorisation of vocabulary and preparing students for an entrance exam. English is taught in Japan so that students can get into a university, not so that they can speak english.

    i teach english at a university with students who have studying English for six years, passed a difficult entrance exam and still can not utter a sentence in English.

    the Monbukagakusho finally realises the system they have used since the Meiji period does not work and has not introduced a communicative curriculum in the high schools. No one has bothered to tell the teachers who must teach the classes what they are supposed to do, nor given them any training in communicative teaching methods.

    There will always be a demand for English language conversation schools and the teaching of communicative English, and jobs for native speakers, as long as the high schools continue teaching according to a grammar based method which has plainly proven to be an ineffective way of teaching English.

    By the way, why should the introduction of a communicative method (which by the way has been used in Japan since the last 50 odd years) of teaching make the quality of Japanese people's English worse? It will make it better if anything- they cant be any worse than the way they speak and learn English already.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

      Paul,

      I have to disagree with your comment about (Japanese) high school teachers. They are teaching based on the system that had prevailed up until now. Are we to assume that if one studies English in school one must be expected to speak the language? It is a shame for those Japanese who want to speak English that they can't take full advantage of their younger years to learn conversational English in high school, but must we assume it must taught in high schools here? What's wrong with studying English to enter university? I studied French in the Canadian school system for about 10 years and I remember very little, it was simply just a subject that I had to take to get into university. If the system becomes fully communicative wrt method and the majority of students still fail to speak English due to the quality of teaching then you can call them lousy.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

        I have to agree with SB. It really becomes difficult to speak the language unless you're exposed to it. Even the best English teacher and the most motivated student will have a steep learning curve if you cannot find the way or the time to practice. It seems that in Japan, English is one of many subjects and students get their exposure to the language only during that one class. My girlfriend went to a private school in Tokyo and had to speak English while she was in school and of course, spoke Japanese at home. This provided her with a lot of exposure to English and Japanese at the same time. I have other friends who, because it was encouraged to speak English in school, can now speak English very coherently.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

          SB and JJ,

          If I could clarify my remarks somewhat it may shed some light on what I am trying to get at. I did not say that it is impossible to learn English by studying it at high school I studied French for a year (and Latin until college level, believe it or not) but the way that it is taught in Japanese high schools is counterproductive and ineffective. Consider:
          (1) in about 70-80% the Japanese teacher does not speak English or use it in the classroom, but rather explains the lesson in or translates English sentences in japanese. In essence the teacher explains ABOUT English, in Japanese. Students spend their whole time translating sentences from English into Japanese and vice versa.

          English is a means of communication or a means of instruction was missing in the classroom. There is no chance for the student to actually speak English or use it in a communicative way. I have been doing some research about the training of English teachers at their universities and about 50% were trained in the grammar-translation method with very little time devoted to teaching listening and speaking skills. The teachers are simply teaching the way they have been taught. Also students who study to become English teachers spend a total amount of three weeks in a classroom before they graduate and are thrown into the classroom.

          (2)Although most Japanese students can read and write English the English they learn for the examination is far above their level of comprehension and ability- they have been able to memorise and regurgitate it for an examination but are not able to use what they have learnt or even use it in a spoken sentence.
          teach English at a national university which is in the top 5 in Kyoto, they have had to memorise a couple of thouand words, the reading passage in the test is about 2 pages long, but if you ask them to tell you the time or describe what they did today, o r how to get to the nearest bus stop they couldnt tell me. No one has evr taught them pronunciation, many have never heard spoken English (not only that English is not even included as a listening section on the entrance test, so there is no reason to practice listening skills at high school.

          (3) English is not a compulsory subject at high school, but becuase it is included by universities in their entrance examinations to enter universities, it becomes a de facto subject at high school whether students study English whether they want to or not. So what you have is a class of 40-45 students of mixed abilities and aptitudes for learning languages, some who do not even want to study english. In essence they learn English because they have to (unless they dont plan on going to university) and you will have many disgruntled bored and unmotivated students who dont wnat to be there. When i studied French it was an elective, you had ten students in the class and everyone wanted to be there. In Japan the high school English teacher has a captive audience. If you take away the English portion in the entrance exam and make it an elctive in high school you will get smaller classes and more motivated students

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

            Yee-ha!
            Thanks for your participation.
            I guess one reason that patch English is catching on is a result of all the memorization the individual goes through during the teen years. Since they know so many words, it is a matter of adding them together, and you know how good the Japanese are when it comes to calculations!
            As for the quality of English spoken by the Japanese, All I meant is that the quality will evolve. Good or bad, that is for you to judge. I thought that new words would be introduced to the language, and as it gets widely used, it will seeps into one of your conversations haphazardly.
            One head-tilting, eyebrow-raising word that I like is 'nomunication' (nomu +communication).
            Do you 'nomunicate'?

            KawBoy

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

              Paul,

              Basically what I was trying to get at is the HS education system here does/did not require English classes to teach conversation, listening, pronunciation and other areas of the language that are used to assist in communication beyond grammar and vocabulary so you should not say that Japanese English teachers do a lousy job. The information you provided is not new to many of us. I don't blame high school teachers but universities for including English in their entrance exams with the focus on things like reading two-page passages (most likely it is due to the fact that it is the easiest to check in bulk...only one correct answer). Another thing, because the language classes we took in our countries also focused on being able to communicate, as well as the subject matter, we can't assume that the Japanese school system should be following suit. Not to sound too repetitive, but classes here are taught for the goal of passing exams which test mostly grammar and vocabulary. Again why bash Japanese teachers because the standards are different? What is counter-productive and ineffective about the goal of teachers is to help their students pass a test, tests that may influence the outcome of their future lives? Now I am not saying studying communicative English in high school is a waste of time, but maybe it doesn't suit the goals that students wanting to go to university have.

              Paul, your way of thinking is ideal for those who want learn to communicate in English, but realistically the high school system curriculum is geared to pass exams.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                I didn't know English wasn't a required subject.

                Paul, what's your take on pronunciation? Do you think they should be able to talk like Americans, Canadians, etc or would it be enough to be able to communicate where their English is understood (even with an accent)?

                Thanks!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                  SB,

                  therein lies the problem- you have what is called a backwash effect whereby teachers (and juku for that matter) teach to the exam and teach them what they need in order to pass an exam. You have the exam "tail" wagging the English "dog". JD Brown of university of Hawaii has written a lot about the entrance exams and the back wash effect if you are interested.

                  As a matter of comparison, I also teach TOEIC at my university which is used by many companies to test their employees English ability, and it is also used as a hiring measure, to decide promotions and pay raises. Students study for the TOEIC so they can get into a particular company, get a promotion or even by posted overseas. As you probably know TOEIC is used to judge a persons ability at a certain point in time (norm-referenced test) but is used by companies for other purposes than it was designed for. In my classes I teach them how to prepare for the test by showing them how to answer the questions without necessarily showing an improvement in their scores or an improvement in their ability to speak English. Im sure the same thing goes on in high schools.

                  Coming back to the original question- you have students studying English for six years at high school, taught by teachers who can not even speak the language, As I mentioned before you have teachers who are taught the grammar-translation method at their education universities, and they teach the same way, without needing to be able to speak or communicate in the language. There are many teachers who though hard working and dedicated teachers have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Japanese teachers will teach the way that works for them and will help their students pass the entrance exam.
                  but you have students who are burned out with memorising vocabulary and learning arcan grammar they will never ever use.

                  Im sure if you asked most students when they enter high school they want to learn English but are turned off by the teacher-centered lecture style format and the focus on grammar for the entrance exam. research has shown that most high school students grow to hate English and grow to believe they will never speak the language. They see the English entrance exam as a neccessary evil. I do agree that I shouldnt blame the teachers- they are only teaching to the system they have to work with. At the same time the government, schools, parents and teachers know the sytem they have doesnt work and they are working to change it. Also to blame are the universities which set the exams (they also charge exorbitant fees for students to take their exams even if they fail, and they will have less students apply if they introduce a listening or speaking element into the exams).

                  95% of my students at junior college are keen to learn oral English (not to mention the Monbukagakusho, which spends billions of yen every year on native JET teachers- now they are employing native speakers in elementary schools as well). I'm not
                  t sure if you have ever seen a high school or a university entrance exam but it largely consists of "fill-in-the-blank", multi-choice or circle the correct answer type questions. Obviously these types of questions are easier to mark, than say listening or speaking exercises, but they cost more money to administer and mark- money the universities have (they charge about 30,000 yen per applicant for the entrance exam, and some applicantsapply for up to 3 or 4 universities at a time).

                  Sorry if this reply is long-winded but in closing, when I studied French, the class was taught in French using an audio-lingual method, the teacher had probably received training overseas or training in cmmunicative techniques. Also if you go into most college English conversation classrooms or even elementary schools, the emphasis is on FUN and ENJOYMENT. English does not have to be about
                  memorisation of vocabulary and learning of difficult grammar. I have also read in many places that the goal of English in Japan is not that that student is able to master what they have learnt, but simply that they have been able to endure- go through a tortuous period just so they can get into a university of their choice. How mnuch they were able to cram for the test or how many hours they spent studying for the exam becomes the raison d'etre of studying English and high school etachers and juku teachers and parents to a certain extent have a vested interest in keeping it that way (I have heard of mothers of elementary school kids pulling their kids out of class becuase they dont teach grammar)

                  The fact whether they can understand or use anything they have learnt becomes almost irrelevant. Dont you think our students deserve better? Dont you feel students SHOULD be able to speak English (which is a spoken language after all and a meand of communication- its like students have been driving a a car with 3rd and 4th gear missing) If teachers should teach the way they have been teaching up until now what do we need 5000 native JET teachers for? Why are they teaching non-grammar, communicative techniques in elementary schools)






                  JJ re pronunciation:

                  This kind of leads on from the above topic, as to what 'kind' of English Japanese should learn- studies done on children show there is a critical period hypothesis, whereas after a certain age it is impossible to acquire a native-like pronunciation in English, usually before puberty. IMO there is no such thing as a 'correct' accent to learn- there are in fact more non-native speakers of English than there are native speakers. not only that in Japan you have speakers of English from many differnt countries- poke your head in the door at NOVA you will find Swedes, Italians Germans, Filipinos etc teaching English there. im afrom new Zealand myself.

                  I emphasise to my students that there are as many accents as there are nationalities and as long as they can speak so they are understood and they can understand different accents or dialects that is sufficient. Of course I teach English with a New Zealand accent which may be diffreent from what they hear in galsgowor New York, but at least they will be able to make themselves understood. it is not imperative they speak like a native unless they have a particular reason to, or they will be going to live in a particular area. My wife who is Japanese is partial to American accents but sometimes has trouble with my accent or australians but that has not stopped us from communicating with each other. We are also raising a bilingual daughter born in Japan who speaks with a quasi-American accent gained from her teacher. She would still be able to manage if she went home to visit her cousins.
                  In short- it doesnt make how students speak or with what accent- as long as they can communicate with native speakers or other speakers of english that is sufficient. If they want to learn a particular accent such as US or Canadian that is to their benefit, but noy vital to understanding IMO.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                    Thanks Paul. I appreciate your answer. I enjoy reading your insights and hope to learn more before moving to Japan.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                      While we are on the topic of the TOEIC, taken from the daily Yomiuri



                      Using the TOEIC: the right way and the wrong way

                      Marshall R. Childs Special to The Daily Yomiuri

                      Several months ago (April 26), I wrote that I had done a study of
                      appropriate and inappropriate uses of the Test of English for International
                      Communication (TOEIC). Some readers asked to know more about the
                      TOEIC. They had two basic questions: "How good is the TOEIC at
                      measuring a learner's English ability?" and "How many hours of teaching
                      does it take to raise a TOEIC score one point?"

                      Curiously (or perhaps not), test users have difficulty answering these
                      questions. The result is that the TOEIC is sometimes overused or misused.
                      Here, I will try to present facts useful to both test-takers and education
                      directors.

                      By the late 1970s, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) was
                      popular in Japan. But the TOEFL is rather academic, aimed generally at
                      students who will study at English-language colleges. The TOEIC was
                      created for the stated purposes of spreading out the TOEFL scale in the
                      lower range (where most Japanese learners are found), and measuring
                      "real-life listening and reading skills" rather than grammar and academic
                      English.

                      TOEIC testing began in Japan in 1979. From the beginning, the TOEIC was
                      oriented toward white-collar workers. It is now marketed primarily as a
                      means for companies to check up on their employees' English ability.

                      The TOEIC has two parts: listening and reading, with 100 questions in each
                      part, for a total of 200 questions. The number of right answers is converted
                      into a score that can range from 10 to about 990. A score around 200
                      points does not count for much, because random answers will put you in that
                      range.

                      In a society that prefers to evaluate individuals not directly but by examining
                      their credentials, test-taking is a national pastime, ranking in popularity just
                      below sex and hot springs. Japanese people make up just 2.3 percent of the
                      population of the world, but they took 63 percent of all the TOEIC tests in
                      the world in 1997-1998, the last year for which statistics are available.

                      The average TOEIC score of Japanese test-takers, about 451, is among the
                      lowest in the world. Of course, this average is not a measure of the overall
                      level of English ability in Japan. It is an indication that in Japan many
                      low-proficiency people take the TOEIC. Far from being a proof of
                      Japanese inadequacy, it is a tribute to salesmanship.

                      A strong factor contributing to the number of low-level test-takers in Japan
                      is that company education directors are too quick to order tests. As we shall
                      see, the accuracy of the TOEIC is not great enough to justify too-frequent
                      tests.

                      ===

                      Reliability and accuracy

                      The TOEIC is "highly reliable and accurate," according to the homepage of
                      The Chauncey Group International (a subsidiary of Educational Testing
                      Service in Princeton, N.J.), which manages worldwide design and sales of
                      the test. That is the kind of claim that makes statisticians nervous. What is
                      meant in this case by "highly reliable and accurate"? Let us see.

                      I did a study of a company program in which a manufacturing company gave
                      53 hours of English classes to 113 first-year employees. In a six-month
                      period, the company gave the employees an initial TOEIC, then 37 hours of
                      English in one week, followed by a TOEIC. Then the employees were given
                      four hours of English per month for four months, with TOEICs after the
                      second and fourth month.

                      Because the 113 employees took four TOEICs in a six-month period, I had
                      an excellent chance to measure the reliability of the test. One such measure
                      is the Standard Error of Estimate (SEM), which is a statistical measure of
                      the amount of score variation inherent in the test. In this case, the SEM
                      turned out to be about 40 points. An SEM of 40 can be interpreted to mean
                      that there is a 68 percent chance that a given test score is within 40 points of
                      the learner's "true" score (please imagine that each learner has a true level of
                      proficiency that the test is trying to discover). It follows, of course, that there
                      is a complementary 32 percent chance that a given test score differs from
                      the true score by more than 40 points.

                      Measuring language ability is not so accurate as measuring physical things. If
                      we measured your height with an instrument that had an SEM like the
                      TOEIC, we would get a vague result. You might really be 165 centimeters
                      tall, but the test report might go something like this: "Your score on this test
                      is 160 centimeters. But, because of the SEM of the test, the result means
                      that there is a 68 percent probability that your true height is between 154
                      and 166 centimeters. There is also a 32 percent probability that your height
                      is less than 154 or greater than 166 centimeters." For measuring height, such
                      uncertainty would be unacceptable. But for measuring overall language
                      proficiency, it is about the best we can do.

                      In the company I studied, the average increase of TOEIC scores from Test
                      1 to Test 4 was 56 points. This was significant for the 113 test-takers as a
                      group, but it was less meaningful for individuals. I counted the ups and
                      downs between Test 1, Test 3, and Test 4 (I left out Test 2 because, after
                      the intensive week, those scores were unusually high). So I checked two
                      score changes, from Test 1 to Test 3 and from Test 3 to Test 4. Only 35
                      people (31 percent) had successively higher scores in both periods.
                      Fifty-eight people (51 percent) had a higher score and then a lower score.
                      Seventeen people (15 percent) had a lower score and then a higher score,
                      and three people (3 percent) got successively lower scores.

                      Appropriate uses of TOEIC

                      For learners, there is one good result of this variability: If you take the test
                      several times, you will probably get lucky on at least one test and score
                      higher than your true level. So if the price of the test (6,615 yen in Japan)
                      does not matter to you, your best strategy is to take the TOEIC several
                      times.

                      In my study, if the education director wanted to check on average learning
                      from his English training program, the results were valid--but it cost him
                      more than 1.7 million yen for testing to get those results. If his intention was
                      to learn the progress of individual employees and perhaps to counsel them
                      on further study, he ordered too many TOEIC tests. The gains of individual
                      scores were too close to the SEM of the test to permit meaningful
                      conclusions.

                      Here is the moral: If the number of hours of class are not enough that you
                      can expect a measurable gain, a TOEIC test is a waste of time and money.
                      For the employees in my study, two TOEICs might have been justified, one
                      before any classes and another at the end of the program. But four TOEICs
                      were too many.

                      How many hours of class are enough to raise a TOEIC score?
                      Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends on the level of the student. At
                      higher levels, more hours are required for improvement.

                      The TOEIC is designed to locate the test-taker approximately on the
                      worldwide curve of English ability of nonnative speakers. It is not designed
                      to measure the amount of learning resulting from a given course of study. To
                      measure learning from a particular course, specific tests of the course
                      content should be used. Unfortunately, most education directors lack the
                      skill or inclination to write their own tests. So they continue to use the
                      TOEIC to measure learning. Even if the TOEIC is inefficient for that
                      purpose, to them it is at least a known evil.

                      Company education directors who incorporate the TOEIC into their testing
                      programs should do so thoughtfully. They should understand that the
                      long-term solution to many of their needs will not be the TOEIC, but rather
                      tests that cover the specific goals and methods of their English education
                      programs. The TOEIC should be used in its area of strength, to find the
                      approximate location of learners on the global distribution of English
                      proficiency.

                      In Japan, the sellers of the TOEIC are champion salesmen. But in some
                      cases, their blandishments should be resisted.

                      * * *

                      This series of columns is an attempt to reconcile language teachers, theorists
                      and bureaucrats. Readers are invited to send e-mail to mrchilds@tokai.or.jp
                      or letters to The Daily Yomiuri. The column will return on Oct. 18. Childs,
                      Ed.D., teaches English at Katoh Gakuen in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                        Paul,

                        Again I am not disagreeing with the ideas you are presenting and never have I said the current system is good. All I am trying to do is explain why things are the way the are. Also I hate to 'flame' people but again you are not writing anything new for people with a general knowledge of the education system in Japan. I have noticed in many of your postings on these boards you spend little time answering the issues raised and surround them with a lot of, although interesting, irrelevant information or simply repeating yourself or what others said.

                        Why do you continue to imply, almost insist, that it is necessary for someone to teach only English grammar and vocabulary to be able to speak English? What about other subjects in high schools? Have all teachers who teach literature written a book? Have all chemistry teachers performed the necessary experiments necessary to prove the fundamentals of the atom. Have all teachers who taught economics worked for companies? Have geography teachers been to all the countries they teach about? They can still teach their subjects so why should it be that English teachers be any different.

                        I can understand current teachers not wanting to change the status quo but until the system changes drastically I don't see a problem today wrt to their qualifications. As the system changes and communicative English is taught that will be a different story. It is starting to change but it has to be incremental and not radical. You should be more patient.

                        I agree that there is nothing fun (but who says schools must be fun...) about memorizing subject material for exams, but to measure everyone on a level playing field, teaching to pass exams are a necessary evil as long as people take classes to receive some sort of qualifications. Students would not be happy to take a class and discover they are being tested on things they didn't study because it wasn't covered. I feel for students who lead a drone-like existence and I know it is overdone here. Unfortunately it has evolved to its current state so we can only hope that it evolves to a state of functional learning rather than simply repeating facts. So at the present time if students want learn how to communicate in English they have to do so outside of school because, simply speaking, it is not their job to do so.

                        Now I strongly have issues with what you said about college conversation English classes. I think at that level of education, which reflects more of an international standard of qualifications, classes for fun and enjoyment reflects poorly on the students and the institutions because at the college level it should be academic. Even the fact that conversation classes are taught is questionable. But that is my personal opinion and I not saying things should change wrt this.

                        A question about what you wrote regarding entrance exams. Why do you think universities charge so much for people to still in on their exams? Is only because the cost to administer them is so high, or do universities (and high schools) see them as an additional source of income, or as way to deter too many students with no hope of passing the exams from taking them?

                        Also not trying to sound like I am losing patience, but people have to stop comparing what and how they studied in their home countries to the system here in determining what is best for people here. There is no correlation between the French classes you took and the English classes taken here. How big are the language departments in your high school to those here? You can't compare the way one subject was taught when the whole balance and nature of all courses taught in schools here are different.

                        Now regarding the questions you raise at the end of posting to me. About students deserving better, it is not for me to decide. Some student have their own goals, some short-term and some long-term, and some are not sure of their goals. The best system is one that allows students to make choices along a path that does not lead to a dead end or one that they don't have to backtrack along if the environment or their goals change (i.e. allows flexibility). Students should be able to speak English as a second language if they want to. But my question to you is must it be taught in high school? If so why?

                        Also regarding JET and the introduction of English at the elementary school level. JET's irrelevant to this discussion. The system began as Japan's program of internationalization more than for educational reform. About elementary schools it is an excellent idea but something very unorganized. Do you think that when his first batch of elementary school educated English speakers go to junior high, do you think the junior high schools will have adjusted their curriculums to reflect this fact. No, because what is taught in different elementary schools will probably not be consistent.

                        About what you said earlier about English not be compulsory is misleading. It is not manditory that high schools include it in their curriculum but it is well within the schools' policy to make it manditory for students to take.

                        Finally on an unrelated note, it better to paste url's for articles rather than pasting the whole thing. Not to mention it avoids breaking any copyright policies.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                          SB

                          Ok I can see your point and see where you are coming from. Rather than get into a flaming war I guess its best just to agree to disagree on certain points.

                          I just want to mention a couple of points that you raise- these will be familiar to you already but I think it comes back to the question of what students (who are the ultimate consumers) after all come to expect and and want from the experience and from their teachers. Do teachers teach the way they do because its convenient for the teachers?


                          "Now I strongly have issues with what you said about college conversation English classes. I think at that level of education, which reflects more of an international standard of qualifications, classes for fun and enjoyment reflects poorly on the students and the institutions because at the college level it should be academic. Even the fact that conversation classes are taught is questionable. But that is my personal opinion and I not saying things should change wrt this."

                          I dont know what you attitude is on this or your teaching background and even some university professors who stand up the front and lecture think that "eikaiwa" classes are a soft option and we are not doing real teaching. or being real teachers ( I in fact do academic research and publish like they do, and research my own classroom and students to become a better teacher and create better lessons) which in itself IS academic. Teaching just not have to be about standing up the front of the board and teaching AT them. In most cases the teacher should just get out of the way and let students get on with it, and that is the way things are moving now: student-centered classrooms, raher than the transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. In most cases students are simply spoonfed, with no chances to work things out for themselves, to make mistakes, which is where REAL learning takes place, by expereince, not having things handed to them on a plate.

                          Teaching a college eikaiwa class, if done properly, is not all fun and games but is based on sound pedagogical principles on learning languages that achieve these aims (speaking reading writing listening being among them). Perhaps rightly so the aims of a high school teacher teaching English and my aims may differ. The question amy also have to be asked as to whether students feel they "got their moneys" worth, or whether they were well served by the education they received?



                          At the end of four years we have students coming out speaking and understanding English. Some of them even go on to study at graduate school here and overseasor get 800 on the TOEIC exam. In the same token, I also give tests, and measure whether they have mastered the material assess individual ability and even fail people, including seniors if their work is not up to scratch, or they dont even try. You will get some traditional Japanese professors who pass students simply for turning up.

                          When I say fun and games I dont necessarily imply putting on a clown suit and being a "dancing bear" as many think it is. I think what is also important is that lessons are not simply 'fun' but that at the end of the day the students have learnt something,
                          even if this means using games, songs, dialogs and role play etc to achieve a aprticular goal. Why should only "chalk and talk" lessons be used. when there are other equally affective methods? If I study in engineering school I will build robots and do experiments and blow up things- real hands on stuff- that is essentially what we are doing: engaging the students mind with their mouth and ears and bringing out into the open all the knowledge they have hidden away for six years. Students KNOW stuff all about grammar from high school- no one has ever shown them how to use or apply any of it.


                          Students at university usually wnat to relax and let their hair down, many are not very serious about study and some even rarely open a book the whole time they are at university. This does not mean that learning to speak English and even teaching it is not a serious business. Most university classes have between 30-40 kids
                          in them, and many teachers I know spend 3-4 years at graduate school so they can learn
                          ommunicative teaching techniques as well as the more traditional ones. Why should these be of any less value than "chalk and talk"? I still give tests, get them doing assignments and readings etc.

                          Students generally dont want to spend ninety minutes in a class with a foreign teacher standing up the front giving a lecture- they can go to the literature professors for that. Most students want to learn English from a foreign teacher and learning it in a traditional teacher-centered lecture style format does not itself to achieving what they want out of a lesson.
                          I also think another aspect is catering to students needs- that is what students wnat and expect: when they sign up for an english class they want to end by being able to speak and hear some english, be able to understand a movie etc or improve their comprehension skills. Companies want students who have 600 on the TOEIC or listening skills- where else are they going to learn?Why shouldnt they learn that if that what they want?

                          they want to learn to speak English, and the lessons we provide fillthat need. (By the way as I mentioned I have taught more academic subjects, such as composition, TOEIC writing and reading in the lecture style format, but I see no reason why al four skills should not betaught as "speaking" lends itself better to physical activities, pairwork games, songs etc. One thing I am not sure about in all of this debate about teaching is whose interests are being served by the present system? Deep down I think the average kid entering high school wants to learn English so he can talk to the local foreigner or understand whats being said on the movies, but are rather disappointed with what they are faced with when they start learning English.


                          regarding your question about why and whether student
                          should study english: all I can do is quote from the directive of the Ministry of Education regarding the new period of Integrated study (which I quote directly from a paper I am currnetly writing:



                          The objective of the Period of Integrated Study is to give students the capability to find problems, learn, think and judge for themselves; to nurture the qualities and abilities to better solve problems; to acquire a way to learn and think; to foster an independent and creative attitude towards problem-solving and exploratory activities; and to enable them to reflect upon their own way of life. As such, it is necessary to actively introduce social experiences such as outdoor activities and volunteer work; observation and experiments; visits and surveys; presentations and discussions; hands-on learning such as productive activities and making things; and a problem-solving approach to learning. (Monbukagakusho 2000) http://wwwwp.mext.go.jp/eky2000/inde...ml#ss2.1.1.5.1

                          Another goal was also to create lessons that were based on students’ interests and needs. According to the Monbukagakusho, the ‘Period of Integrated Study’ is an attempt to ‘encourage students to use their time to address inter-disciplinary, broad subjects such as international understanding, information technology, the environment social welfare and health: topics based on students interest, of topics based on the regional or school characteristics’. (Monbukagakusho, 2001.p.121).

                          According to the report of the 15th Central Council for Education (July 1996), three points were raised with regard to education topics relating to the goal of achieving ‘internationalization’:

                          a. Open-mindedness and understanding regarding other cultures, and the development of an attitude that is respectful of those cultures and qualities, and the development of the abilities necessary for living together with people of different cultures.
                          b. Establishment of a strong sense of self and sense of being Japanese to better appreciate the concept of international understanding
                          c. Develop basic foreign language skills, the ability for self-expression and communication skills for the purpose of expressing one’s own thoughts and intentions, while respecting the position of others in an international society’.

                          One of the goals of the Ministry in having the children learn English, is that ‘when conducting foreign language conversation abilities within the studies for international understanding, activities should incorporate experiential learning、appropriate for elementary school age students、in which children are exposed to foreign language and familiarized with the culture and daily life of foreign countries (Monbukagakusho, p122).

                          website:Program for educational reform. (Monbukagakusho) English-language website.
                          http://wwwwp.mext.go.jp/eky2000/index-7.html


                          One of the goals of the Ministry in having the children learn English, is that ‘when conducting foreign language conversation abilities within the studies for international understanding, activities should incorporate experiential learning、appropriate for elementary school age students、in which children are exposed to foreign language and familiarized with the culture and daily life of foreign countries (Monbukagakusho, p122).

                          Instruction in International Understanding and English is perceived by Japanese as being complementary to this process of developing social consciousness in two ways: awareness of other cultures helps children understand their own identity as Japanese (Monbukagakusho, 2001) and it helps them develop a sensitivity towards other cultures (Toyama, 2001). In their own description of the goals of teaching International Understanding, Miyake Elementary school website suggests that as well as finding out about and respecting other cultures, Japanese should deepen understanding of their own (Japanese) culture, as well develop pride in that culture. http://www.hokuriku.ne.jp/miyake-s/kokusai/index.html


                          Anyway you will probably say I am repeating myslelf here and you are probably right.
                          The fact of the matter is you have millions of studenst who study hours and hours on a subject, spend millions of yen on tuition and cram school just to pass an exam and at the end of the day have very little to show for it.

                          PS the Yomiuri page was sent to me as a Word File and I have just passed it on as is.
                          As I am not financially benefitting from copying it as it is, and stating the source thereshould be no problem with copyright

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                          • #14
                            Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                            I forgot to mention another point you raised

                            As you probably know the number of students is falling and many schools are actaully closing or cutting back departments. there are several junior colleges which close their doors for good each year, or merge with four year colleges.

                            As such it has got to the point where if the students sits the exam at many universities they will be accepted, especially if the school does not have enough students. Student fees only go so far and schools get huge cash injections from the government but they also need to have a minimum quota of students to receive these subsidies. If students do not take the entrance exam they can not enrol, and for many students they have only one or two choices of schook they can attend (my nephew actually failed his entrance exams and is now at a yobiko" prep school to try again next year. For the schools the entrance exam is a cash cow for them, as you may have a couple of thousand applicants, (maybe up to ten thousand at some schools at say Todai) paying 20-30,000 yen a pop to sit the entrance exam. the school keeps the fee even if the student was not admitted to the university. ON TV recently there was a case of parents who paid fees of up to 5 million yen for their son to enter (medical school), when it was actually more of a bribe.The school kept the money in a secret fund. Im not sure if the boy got in or not but when he didnt i think the parents sued the university- there are now about 5 universities in Kansai being sued by parents for the return of fees for their children who did not get into the universities

                            From the fees that parents pay to sit the exam schools can well afford to include listening sections (though they cost more to administer in terms of equipment, staff etc) hire more markers, train them in assessment of listening sections in tests, but most schools dont do this for practical reasons, but thats another story.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Patch English (つぎはぎ英語)

                              More on the university entrance exam fee issue:


                              http://www.asahi.com/english/op-ed/K2002070200620.html

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