It’s about time such a program was introduced anywhere in Japan.
Tokyo University will start streaming some students into an elite language program to groom future global leaders (13 July 2012, Daily Yomiuri).
Although many unversities in Japan have something similar running nothing with such vision and aim is available.
Tertiary institutions have to take the lead in this way to ensure their country’s and people’s future.
I will be giving a presentation on function words, what we can learn from corpora about them, how we understnad them in light of conceptual metaphor theory and what this all means for second language teaching.
The venue and date: PanSIG @ Hiroshima University, 16 June 2012.
In today’s Daily Yomiuri there was an article about the results from a survey of 3,225 middle school students on their perception about English.
The survey conducted by the National Institute for educational Policy Research found only eleven percent of students want to find work which requires English. But seventy percent also said they believed knowledge of English will help them get work in the same survey.
How to interpret these results?
It seems while there are pressures to learn English from companies and society the reality is most people don’t feel they really need it for work. In all likelihood most students will go on to work for companies which will continue to look at their English abilities all the while not really requiring them to use that knowledge in the workplace for any great length of time.
Do we really need to teach English in schools? The short answer is ‘yes’. This is obvious but it is not clear how we should teach it. Of course it should be compulsory BUT it should not be tested, if the survey results are any indication.
Since the bulk of students do require English in their work English should be taught not for passing tests but for practical communicative skills. If English is taught has a non-tested subject then teachers will have more freedom to teach these practical skills rather than grammar and vocabulary far removed from actual usage.
But because teachers are obliged to get students pass tests they focus on the things which are peripheral to actual communication. I have rarely met an English teacher who is truly interested in some aspect of English culture and so few teachers who ask questions about the pragmatics of language. So how do we expect our students to gain this knowledge when teachers are not interested themselves?
According to a quiz question on Sekai no Hate Made Itte Q (The Quiz Show that Goes to the Ends of the Earth [for answers]) Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, The Philippines and Romania rank first (with 100%) as countries in which their tecahers are respected most by their students. Second was Italy and Third was Venezuela. The average for the fifty-one countries surveyed was 93%.
At the bottom was Japan with 41.8%.
There are two things which should be noted:
- The average is skewed heavily to the top, and
- There are at least 196 countries in the world.
One must be suspicious of the results from these numbers, especially if you are a statistician. Firstly, with the above information Japan must be an outlier in statistical terms. Secondly, was the countries for the survey randomly selected. Lastly, Korea was second from the bottom (is there a Asian connection here? Thanks A.E.).
From experience I would have to say Japanese students are rather disrespectful of teachers, often without reservation. But also how many cultures have “respect” grammaticalized as the Japanese language has.
≪学校の先生を尊敬する国ランキング≫ (in Japanese)
I have fond memories of my undergraduate days as a Japanese major.
To me they were exciting times. The world was seemingly spinning at a furious pace. The people I met were doing things, going places. My future was ahead of me.
My future now, of course, is still ahead of me (metaphorically, can it be nothing other than ‘ahead’). But it is different, still exciting, perhaps a little more focused and a little less uncertain. Twenty years down the road and I have made more progress (alas! a little slower than I would have liked) towards my goal as an academic. Continue reading
My kids watch this show on NHK called Cooking Idol Ai My Mine. Great show about a girl who is a real live cooking show host. Shows like these truly give kids imagination and creativity.
But I was really disappointed in the looseness of their script writing in this dialogue shown the other day:
Child: “Are there truly angels in the world, Mine?”
Mine: “Yes, there are … Probably.”
So which is it, Mine – yes or maybe?
Were they (the script writers) afraid to take sides on this issue? Afterall, Japan is not a Christian nation (there is no concept of angel in Buddhism). Japanese Children are indecisive like this. Perhaps the writers were only a mirror for society. Or are they wearing rose tinted glasses?
Either way it is troubling.
This is one instant I can think of right now but there are many others I have come across over the years.
I found this online concordancer called JustTheWord. It looks like it was made for teachers to search for (Japanese) student errors.