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the way that English is used in Japan

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annie
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the way that English is used in Japan

Postby annie » December 20th, 2006 12:17 am

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/language/20061215TDY14004.htm

Here's an interesting article from a Japanese paper (in English) about the way that English is taught and used in Japan.

check out their Japanese lessons too- the PeraPera Penguin links.

JonB
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not sure about that one

Postby JonB » December 20th, 2006 5:22 am

I'm not an English teacher so probably that's why I don't find it informative - more sweeping generalisms.

Being an Englishman I find the Japanese a bit like the French when it comes to English - they don't want to speak it but it does not mean that they don't understand you. The difference being with the Japanese it is more about shyness and confidence (or lack of it).

The company that I work for has re-introduced English lessons this year and I was looking over the course notes from one of my colleagues. They had a section on idioms and their meaning - sorry but 80% of them were virtually meaningless to me! What the heck is batting a 1,000 (be nice if some of our boys could get a 1/10th of that) and who on earth wants to talk cold turkey in a meeting?

I think people should start off on conversational first to build up experience before getting into business speak - that goes for learning Japanese as well. Well that's my opinion anyway!

PeraPera was OK - but then I discovered this place...

JB

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annie
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Re: not sure about that one

Postby annie » December 20th, 2006 6:12 am

JonB wrote:I'm not an English teacher so probably that's why I don't find it informative - more sweeping generalisms.

Being an Englishman I find the Japanese a bit like the French when it comes to English - they don't want to speak it but it does not mean that they don't understand you. The difference being with the Japanese it is more about shyness and confidence (or lack of it).

The company that I work for has re-introduced English lessons this year and I was looking over the course notes from one of my colleagues. They had a section on idioms and their meaning - sorry but 80% of them were virtually meaningless to me! What the heck is batting a 1,000 (be nice if some of our boys could get a 1/10th of that) and who on earth wants to talk cold turkey in a meeting?

I think people should start off on conversational first to build up experience before getting into business speak - that goes for learning Japanese as well. Well that's my opinion anyway!

PeraPera was OK - but then I discovered this place...

JB


that's kind of the article's point.
that confidence is beaten out of students.
and that japanese english education isn't focused on conversation or communication, but rather grammar. even when the textbook has a conversation activity, the students memorize the conversation with little regards to the meaning. at my school, students are never even encouraged to make the conversation meaningful to them, unless i'm the one who wrote the lesson plan.

if you're going to make generalizations about anything, Japanese education is the place to do it.

i chat with students in the hallway all the time. and there are a lot of them, who after we've had the conversation: "how are you?/i'm fine, thank you and you?" they shriek and get all excited and say "waa! communication dekita." or "eigo hanashita!!"

Bueller_007
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Re: not sure about that one

Postby Bueller_007 » December 20th, 2006 8:01 am

annie wrote:
JonB wrote:I'm not an English teacher so probably that's why I don't find it informative - more sweeping generalisms.

Being an Englishman I find the Japanese a bit like the French when it comes to English - they don't want to speak it but it does not mean that they don't understand you. The difference being with the Japanese it is more about shyness and confidence (or lack of it).

The company that I work for has re-introduced English lessons this year and I was looking over the course notes from one of my colleagues. They had a section on idioms and their meaning - sorry but 80% of them were virtually meaningless to me! What the heck is batting a 1,000 (be nice if some of our boys could get a 1/10th of that) and who on earth wants to talk cold turkey in a meeting?

I think people should start off on conversational first to build up experience before getting into business speak - that goes for learning Japanese as well. Well that's my opinion anyway!

PeraPera was OK - but then I discovered this place...

JB


that's kind of the article's point.
that confidence is beaten out of students.
and that japanese english education isn't focused on conversation or communication, but rather grammar. even when the textbook has a conversation activity, the students memorize the conversation with little regards to the meaning. at my school, students are never even encouraged to make the conversation meaningful to them, unless i'm the one who wrote the lesson plan.

if you're going to make generalizations about anything, Japanese education is the place to do it.

i chat with students in the hallway all the time. and there are a lot of them, who after we've had the conversation: "how are you?/i'm fine, thank you and you?" they shriek and get all excited and say "waa! communication dekita." or "eigo hanashita!!"

Yeah, that's the attitude they get from TV. English is literally a joke in Japan. I've seen celebrity contests on TV where they try to pronounce English words and phrases correctly.

After saying one sentence, like "thank you for your kindness" or some crap, they either have a shit-fit or sigh and say "疲れた". Then everyone laughs.

JonB
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Obviously too high brow for me

Postby JonB » December 20th, 2006 3:01 pm

as it appears I missed the point.

But I did latin at school for 6 years and French for 8 yet I can not converse fluently in either (even 25 years ago when it was fresh) and I think most of my class mates were pretty much the same. I can probably converse in French about as good as someone my age who learnt English at school that many years ago.

Those that want to learn will and you probably have some here who just think it cool to learn English. But the rest - what's the issue?

If it is the same here for every subject - rote learning - then it is the system hat is at fault and nothing to do with the way English is taught.

JB

annie
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Re: Obviously too high brow for me

Postby annie » December 21st, 2006 6:54 am

JonB wrote:as it appears I missed the point.

But I did latin at school for 6 years and French for 8 yet I can not converse fluently in either (even 25 years ago when it was fresh) and I think most of my class mates were pretty much the same. I can probably converse in French about as good as someone my age who learnt English at school that many years ago.

Those that want to learn will and you probably have some here who just think it cool to learn English. But the rest - what's the issue?

If it is the same here for every subject - rote learning - then it is the system hat is at fault and nothing to do with the way English is taught.

JB

I don't expect any fluent conversation... even studying Japanese for 10 years, 2 in Japan, I'm nowhere near fluent.

My issue with English education in Japan is that most students don't realize that the whole point of learning a modern foreign language is to be able to use it for communication. a lot of the English teachers can't converse in English... one of them asked me the other day how he could improve his English.

Yes, teachers here think that the best way to learn English is through rote memorization. but i don't know that you can separate the system from the teaching methodology. The system influences the teaching methodology. But there can be different ways to meet that same end-goal. And I'm going to argue that we could alter our teacher methods and still meet the needs of the system. I'd like to think that if students realized that English was more than grammar and memorizing new words, they'd enjoy it a lot more, and thus do better with it.

I can only speak for Junior High School English, but it's a lot of choral recitation and memorizing. I have one teacher who always asks me to play games with the students. And he'll cancel our classes together if he's behind in the textbook. I created an interview bingo game, using the previous few months grammar points. And the students spent the entire class asking each other questions and reviewing a good portion of the textbook material. The teacher was floored to see his class speaking English for 30 minutes. (and i ended up playing this same game with every grade level and every other teacher's classes for the next 2 weeks)

Bueller_007
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Postby Bueller_007 » December 21st, 2006 10:00 am

I agree.

You've got to keep your school English classes fun, and communication-and-game-based. I don't do any of that reciting/chorusing BS. It degrades and bores all of us.

JonB
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lucky school

Postby JonB » December 22nd, 2006 3:43 am

Annie - sounds like your school is lucky and will turn out better than average English speakers and no doubt win all the English Speech Competitions! Also the fact that they are open for you to go off the lesson plan - I've heard that is quite difficult to do and I take off my hat to all the JALT's out there - がんばって

I have heard it said from more than one source that the average Japanese English teacher (in the high school system) would not be able to get by in an English speaking country - which is sad because we are more tolerant (certainly in the UK) if it does not come out perfect but if we get it even slightly wrong when trying to use Japanese we (I certainly) get lots of "eh! eh! nani?"

Me: ちっかうのおくらホテルください
taki driver: どこ?

Ok so I got it the wrong way round but the fact remains that if you ask an English cabbie to "please take me hotel okura near" they will probably get the idea. And let's not forget that this is one of the more famous hotels in Tokyo... This is obviously not helped by the rote/chanting system.

Having said that it always amazes me that you do find good English in the most unexpected places sometimes - not that I go looking for it for I feel that I am here so should not expect it.

JB

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Re: lucky school

Postby seanolan » December 26th, 2006 6:36 am

JonB wrote:Annie - sounds like your school is lucky and will turn out better than average English speakers and no doubt win all the English Speech Competitions...


Alas, would that were true...

I had to judge two of these things back to back. One of them had 5 judges, two of which were Native English speakers, and the Japanese judges had a very good command of the language. A great deal of thought was put into judging natural pattern, comfort with the material, ease of speaking, etc. The next day I went to another one as the only native speaker, and one of the Japanese judges was, to my certain knowledge since I had worked with her, barely able to string two words together in English (and she never understood me unless I spoke in my halting broken Japanese). They judged things like, did they use gestures, (bigger, the better...one winner was literally flailing her arms about like a windmill!) which speech did they pick out of seven choices (I kid you not...seven official choices, and two judges automatically disqualified anyone who picked a specific one!), were they too loud (!!!!), and their pronunciation (but not "natural" pronunciation...rather, was EVERY letter enunciated in a very unnatural fashion?). Don't be certain if you are an English teacher that your perfect fluent student is going to win...they are VERY odd about judging the contests here. I kid you not, in the second contest, not ONE student that I picked as a winner actually won. When the native speaker is outvoted on his own language for every single speech, I begin to wonder...

I was told last year that there was almost a riot because one school was not "allowed" to win by the judges because they had swept the speech contests the year before!

Sean

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Postby djadams » February 22nd, 2007 7:35 am

There is one thing I find very odd and scary.
Most of the teachers teaching English in a Japanese school do not know English very well.
In one case, my friend's wife took English in High School and the teacher was an Indian woman. This teacher could barely speak any English. I was appaled that here was a teacher that spoke almost no English but yet she was teaching English. It seems that this is the way things are in Okinawa, not sure about mainland. So I've decided that when I get out of the military, very soon I hope, I'm going to stay in Okinawa and open an English school just for English. The teachers have to know English very well and have to be able to write, speak, hear, and read English with almost no problem.
Maybe I'm off my rocker but I think if your going to spend the time to learn a language then you need to learn it right from the people that know it very well.

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Postby tiroth2 » February 22nd, 2007 5:15 pm

It's interesting to hear these impressions, and then contrast them with views in Japan about the ALT program. There was just in the last week an editorial in the Yomiuri Shinbun saying that Japan was wasting money on the ALT program with little in return.

From my little knowledge of JET/ALT experiences, I have to wonder if that isn't true...but the fault seems to lie more with the use of ALTs. I think having native speakers is absolutely essential, and ALTs are pretty cheap compared to trained teachers. However, it seems that schools rarely utilize them effectively. This is a negative experience for the schools, the ALTs, and ultimately the children involved.

I studied Japanese using the JSL (FALCON) method, which makes good use of non-expert native speakers supplemented by lectures given by trained 2nd language aquisition instructors. I think this might be a good approach.

annie
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Postby annie » February 23rd, 2007 2:25 am

tiroth2 wrote: I think having native speakers is absolutely essential, and ALTs are pretty cheap compared to trained teachers. However, it seems that schools rarely utilize them effectively. This is a negative experience for the schools, the ALTs, and ultimately the children involved.


Actually, I've been told that JETs make more than 1st year teachers.
Though, I'm not sure if that includes things like the annual bonus.
Also, Japanese teachers are at school for probably 20 hours a week more than JETs.

JETs are a huge expenditure. Beyond salary, the school district pays for air fare, subsidizes housing, has someone to help the JET settle in.

I thought that editorial in the Yomiuri wasn't really a fair picture of the situation, and I disagreed with a lot of what he said.

But, I would agree that ALTs are generally a waste of money, looking at how most of the ALTs I know spend their days. (And I'll readily admit that I'm a total waste of money today, with my one class. Though, it's my own fault for being productive last week... I've planned too far ahead.)

Elfunko
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Postby Elfunko » March 6th, 2007 4:45 am

Way to go Annie! I've heard of a few books on team teaching and dealing specifically with the ALT situation on amazon. Don't have a link, but I'm sure if you search you might find it. :) Could be worth a look, though nothing beats actual expierence and the book could already be below your level/not befitting your situation. Anyway, good luck to you. I hope you actually get those kids to enjoy what would otherwise be "just another english lesson." :)

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Re: not sure about that one

Postby strugglebunny » October 10th, 2007 6:26 am

JonB wrote:I'm not an English teacher so probably that's why I don't find it informative - more sweeping generalisms.

Being an Englishman I find the Japanese a bit like the French when it comes to English - they don't want to speak it but it does not mean that they don't understand you. The difference being with the Japanese it is more about shyness and confidence (or lack of it).

The company that I work for has re-introduced English lessons this year and I was looking over the course notes from one of my colleagues. They had a section on idioms and their meaning - sorry but 80% of them were virtually meaningless to me! What the heck is batting a 1,000 (be nice if some of our boys could get a 1/10th of that) and who on earth wants to talk cold turkey in a meeting?

I think people should start off on conversational first to build up experience before getting into business speak - that goes for learning Japanese as well. Well that's my opinion anyway!

PeraPera was OK - but then I discovered this place...

JB


You never heard of "batting a thousand" or "let's talk turkey?" Hmm.. maybe they're just American colloquialisms (and if you're from America, Northeast coast-isms?)

EDIT--------------
--Err okay, you're English so that makes sense. MIssed that the first time (sorry I've been drinking!)

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Postby Nyako » October 10th, 2007 9:17 pm

In my 3rd year of Spanish, my teacher permitted no English whatsoever..written or spoken. Believe me, we achieved "conversational" level rather quickly. :D
Which tells me how adept you are at speaking the language when you walk out of the class depends upon the teacher. If he/she is serious about teaching you the language, they will require that you use it. Or you won't pass the class.

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