Thanks for your comments. It was interesting that a lot of the discussion focussed on the problem of teaching correct pronunciation.
Of course, it is neither realistic nor necessary to expect all Japanese teachers of English to be able to speak with a native-like accent, but they should at least have some idea of what English is supposed to sound like. If you have teachers who just pronounce English words using katakana, I can’t really see how that would be useful to the children in any way.
One point I forgot to make in my entry is that there are actually lots of junior high school teachers who can’t really speak English either, so it is not just a problem for elementary schools. As you know, I work in the faculty of education at a national university. I teach students who want to get an English teacher’s license. Although all of them graduate, I would say that only between 10 and 20% of them can speak English well enough to do a good job.
This is not a criticism of either my students or my university. Every university in Japan is the same. It’s just the way the system is set up. For some reason, English is viewed differently to other subjects that are taught in Japanese schools, and English teachers are given a kind of “free pass.” No one ever heard of a music teacher who can’t play the piano or an art teacher who can’t draw, but everyone accepts that it is quite natural to have English teachers who can’t speak English.
Our first-year students come straight from high school, and of course, most of them cannot speak English at all. Over the course of their four years of study, they have a total of around seven or eight English classes. Most of these are for a single semester, though, so the total is equivalent to about four one-year classes of ninety minutes per week, although some of those are taught mainly in Japanese.
There is no final English test that students have to take in order to graduate, and they are not required to have any particular TOEIC or TOEFL score, so it is quite possible for students to graduate without really having any English ability at all. Of course, our students are encouraged to study abroad, but there is no requirement that they have to do this in order to get a teaching license.
As you know, university in Japan is seen as a kind of “holiday” holiday period between high school and work, and for the vast majority of students in every department, their part-time jobs and their club activities are far more important than their studies. Unfortunately, this is just the reality of university education in Japan.
Anyway, we are changing things now at my university, and all our students will have to pass a number of one-on-one interview tests with me. I will not pass people who do not speak English well enough to teach it, so either we are going to have a sharp rise in English standards, or we are going to have a lot of fifth- and sixth-year students!
Here is some feedback on your comments.
I stand firmly against the reform if my son will have to learn English from current elementary school teachers.
Actually, junior and high school teachers are the same, though!
Very true, although there are lots of good ones too.
I remember the school master saying exactly the same thing.
it seemed that the homeroom teachers(担任) were just trying to set a good model of an active challenger for their students rather than actually teaching some language.
I think this is definitely the best approach for elementary school teachers to take.
I have helped English classes at the local elementary school
“I used to help out with the English classes …” is probably the most natural way to express this.
Today a lot of young children take English lessons before they start school.
That’s a very good point.
I have lots to talk about this topic!
I have lots to say about this topic.
I think that is what Japanese young people should acquire.
young Japanese people (A-Z: adjective order)
students who speak and pronounce English well are increasing.
The number of students who speak and pronounce English well is increasing. (A-Z: increase/decrease)
I often listened to Carpenters as my hobby.
I often listened to the Carpenters for fun.
and spoke English as if she had been a native
and spoke English like a native
I think the system to employ English teachers must be changed not only at junior high, but also at elementary school.
I really hope that happens!
which is a lot different from the policies I’ve written in my previous comment.
which is very different from the policies I wrote about in my previous comment.
Unfortunately, his teacher is almost 70
Really? Why hasn’t he retired?
Moreover when natives are asked ‘How are you?’ in the real world , they don’t use ‘I’m fine,’ very mush do they ?
Somebody else mentioned this the other day, but actually, “I’m fine” is “fine” as long as it’s not the only response you ever use.
I’m interested in how much ALTs are involved in organizing the classrooms.
This depends very much on the prefecture, the school, the Japanese teacher, and the ALT. I was talking to an ALT the other day who complained that her teaching partner never let her do anything except read passages from the book.
although almost every teacher didn’t have any idea on how to teach English
although most of the teachers had no idea of how to teach English
I say “I’m afraid he never will, by just sending him here once a week. If you really think so, you will have to talk to him in English 24 hours a day, or live in a place where he can get enough input outside the house, and work really hard himself.” It’s really interesting and also a pity that so many mothers believe that a language can be acquired that easily.
This is an extremely good point.
Anyway, his insufficiency of the language didn’t seem to bother the talk at all
Anyway, his lack of English ability didn’t seem to affect the conversation at all.
According to some book , to acquire enough language skills, you need 5000 hours!
I would say that is a conservative estimate. It’s simply not possible to do the necessary number of hours within the school curriculum.
I’m afraid, but I don’t think that is the reason.
I’m afraid I don’t think that is the reason.
As I mentioned, I personally think Japan is a very unique country. Most of us can speak only Japanese, all TV stations(except pay channels) air their programs in Japanese,
I’m not sure why you think Japan is “unique” in this respect. It sounds pretty much exactly like the situation in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
That’s it for today. Have a great weekend, and let me know if you have any questions about my feedback.