Hideo Kageyama Rocks

According to The Japan News (formerly The Daily Yomiuri) renowned Japanese educator Hideo Kageyama (homepage in Japanese) will be release a rock song entitled ‘Benkyo Shiyoze’ (Let’s Study!) on 8 May.

You have to hand it to Prof. Kageyama who is now advisor to the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education. His techniques for motivating students are fun and simple, making you wonder why we didn’t think of that in the first place.

A lesson from running

I ran into a retired professor who had taught me during my Masters degree recently. He had taught me about the difference between study and research (let’s leave that one for another post).

Being the teacher that he is he told me about his chance meeting of an old coach of the ekiden (Japanese style marathon) in the famous local high school. The coach said that one should not worry about the final goal when running but focus on the goal he can literally see. He said to focus on the goal of reaching that telegraph post at the top of the hill or the bend in the road, not on the final goal which is a concept in one’s head far beyond the place where you are on your run.

Like running then academic research is similar in that if you think only of the end goal the task will seem overwhelming.

Make your goals small and achievable. This is true not only of research but of everything we do. In some ways it is to focus on immediate tasks rather than long term ones even though we need the over picture, the roadmap so to speak, to get anything big like a thesis done.

Learning languages: the importance of motivation, repetition, authenticity, proportion of time

Yesterday’s Hiroshima JALT monthly meet was a good one.

Four non-native speakers of English talked about their experience and how they went about learning the language. One point was common to all four speakers: motivation. And three of the speakers had repetition and authentic material use as a commonality.

Motivation is ultimately a most factor to the success of acquisition. Whether this be intrinsic (for personal reasons) or extrinsic (for reasons of more concrete gain) motivation, I believe, is the factor cited most by learners. It certainly was my own when it came to learning Japanese. Mine was of the intrinsic kind.

Repetition is also an important factor. Like the speakers I also used repetition. For me it was movies, books and music. In my estimate I watched Tampopo at least 50 times. What was important, I believe, was not watching lots of different films (a common mistake by many language learners) but watching one film lots of times. Repetition meant I got to know particular phrases and pragmatics very well. I had aimed to say what I can say like a native. After all, there were a small number of things I wanted to convey. Conveying what I wanted to convey well was more of a priority than being able to convey many different things that I did not mean, or am disinterested in.

Authenticity of the material was therefore important. There is nothing more motivating than reading what native speakers are reading, to ultimately approach the reading level of native speakers.

None of the speakers had spent any substantial time in an English speaking country yet were able to communicate effectively. What was also common to all four speakers was the proportion of time they had spent learning a language. I do not mean the total amount of time but how concentrated the time was. Two hours a day was a figure being thrown around.

I think all these factors are all linked together. The more motivated one is the more time one spends on it. The more one spends on time on something the more one realizes that they don’t fully know what some things being said mean. The more one realizes they know less than they thought the more they see the need to be in contact with authentic material. The more one reads authentic material the more one gains motivation.

This is a nice feedback loop, isn’t it.