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Monday, June 26, 2017

Japanese Schools Killing Interest In Learning English

According to a national survey conducted by Benesse Holdings Inc., an education services provider, almost half the junior high school students surveyed felt that the English language skills they are taught at school are "useless."

D'uh... I could have told them that without the need for a costly survey.

In fact, almost all the language skills you learn in school are useless, with the best way to learn any language, in my opinion, is to learn it conversationally.

That doesn't mean, however that the "school learnin' ain't" valuable, it just isn't something that you can use in day-to-day living.

Math is like that too. After learning to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division the AVERAGE person does not require further math skills.

I said AVERAGE... which is what most people on this planet are.

When it comes to learning a foreign language like English - all the rules and regulations you need to know to be considered Japanese capable, are ridiculous.

I know that the junior high school Japanese kids actually know English grammar far better than I do.

Let me clarify that. I know how to write and speak English properly - better than 90% of the population by non-professional estimation - but if you asked me about grammar beyond verbs and nouns, I would be at a loss to point out what's what.

I am sure there are some very smart people out there know what a dangling participle is and why it's important. I just know what sounds right and use it appropriately. But as for as those who know what it is, so what?

How does that work for you in your daily life? Perhaps Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry would have cared, but his improper use of a dangling participle worked out well for him: "To boldly go where no man has gone before"... SHOULD HAVE BEEN: "To go boldy where no man has gone before."

Yeah... I see the grammar and yes, Roddenberry was incorrect... but so frickin' what?

Oh Gene Roddenberry, how bad was your grammar? Let me count the dollar signs. Ka-ching!

In Japan, students feel that what they are learning in school is useless.

They are actually taught a ton of grammar - which I can tell you sucks the life out of anyone interested in learning a new language.

It's why the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme was initially created... to help Japanese students hear what real English sounds like. That and internationalization...

While almost every Japanese teacher of English (JTE) has done some studying abroad, there is little opportunity to use their English-speaking skills in Japan... thus it deteriorates... which is why we have Japlish.

You can't teach kids how to speak a language if no one can speak it properly... which was why they were so grammar-heavy, and which was JET participants came in to help kids to speak a less Japlish form of English. I said LESS. I expect a Japanese accent.

JET also realized the its participants from native English-speaking countries would also be placed in a position where they could carry on English conversations with young Japanese students. At least that was a hope.

Speaking a foreign language is always more difficult than understanding it when heard. You can pick up a word here or there and get the gist of something.

Reading and understanding is also difficult, because it's a different alphabet, and there's grammar issues - but the gist cab be understood.

Writing and understanding - holy crap that's difficult. Now this is where grammar really comes into play.You either know it or you don't.

Like I said, when it comes to English, I get it, even if I don;t know why I get it. I'm special. Or lucky.

Perhaps it's because I read a lot that I am more cognizant of English grammar, but again... I don't know what a gerund is. Knowing what it is does not add anything to my enjoyment of writing... I think.

Japanese students want more conversational English because they know that it will benefit them more should they ever travel abroad or want to converse with an English-speaking foreigner.

I had some JTEs teaching English who couldn't speak the language in a manner that made it easy for ME to understand. And that's too bad.

Researchers with Benesse's think tank agree that the grammar-heavy curriculum discourage students from learning English, and have called for reforms to keep students motivated once they reach higher levels of English-learning.

To read an article on the Benesse survey, click HERE to read a Japan Times news article.

Andrew Joseph


  1. Yeah, I do understand what you are saying. I think that's the reason that some Japanese people get so afraid of talking in English because they cannot understand English daily conversation, and the system is not doing any better whatsoever.

    1. Thanks, my friend... I agree... they are embarrassed to talk in English sometimes for fear of being ridiculed... and yet, I can't recall anyone ridiculing anyone who ever tried. I'm always impressed by people who try.

  2. I agree almost 100%. As someone who learned English as a foreign language, students in Junior High in Japan learn the exact same in terms of grammar as Dutch students do (I've actually compared the textbooks) The biggest difference is that Japanese textbooks: 1) Use a lot of Japanese, 2) have very short easy texts 3) have way too little vocabulary.
    That's why there's such a big difference between a Japanese student graduating junior high and a Dutch student graduating junior high. I think it's less in the grammar (which you need when you're not a native, though I agree that being able to use it has nothing to do with knowing what it is called) and more the fact that they learns so little vocabulary. Japanese students learn 10 new words where a Dutch student would learn 100. Which in turn results in longer, more difficult texts to read for Dutch students, because they know both the grammar and the vocabulary to read them.
    And here, in rural Iwate my students don't even see the use of conversational English, stating they'll never see a foreigner anyway (even when I am right in front of them, as a foreigner xD)

    1. Ha! Very well said Annabloem! I do understand more grammar than I let on, but knowing what a dangling participle is and knowing that it shouldn't be there are done because I read more than most people... I think they key might be to have more actual reading of longer texts as you suggest... reading comprehension... more reading out loud, too. Thanks for writing.