the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Ultimate Question

So, students in Japan spend a lot of time reading and writing English,
but not much time speaking English. And it's hard to get native English
speakers to teach speaking courses. Especially out here in the rural
parts of Japan.

Recently a co-worker of mine was lamenting that he had never had a
native English teacher. However, his spoken English is actually quite
good (like I've said before personality and gumption more than make up
for a lack of skill / intelligence / education). And I started to ask
myself this question, "Why don't Japanese teachers teach speaking
courses?" Here are my answers:

1) Most obviously, Japanese teachers usually don't pronounce English
well either. And Japanese teachers teaching speaking classes would only
compound the pronunciation problem.

2) Learning English is important. So of course there is a huge
standardized test to judge English ability - the STEP test (among
others, think the ACT for English). On this test, there are three
sections: Reading, Writing, and Speaking. In that order. Only if you
pass the first section can you move on to the second section. So student
actually take this test on three separate days - after their passing of
the previous section has been confirmed. So in teaching for this test,
spoken English becomes the least important aspect of learning English.

3) Japanese teachers are generally shy in their ability, and don't feel
qualified to teach a speaking class. But honestly, I don't feel
qualified either! And I have plenty of English speaking experience!

More thoughts later. Now is lunch. I used to just get an obento because
I couldn't read the menu. But this week I decided that's BS. I need to
get off my bum and do something. So today I'm off to learn the rice
section of the lunch menu from the lunch ladies (Yesterday I learned the
ramen section). Wish me luck!


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