Problems for learners in Japan I have been living in Japan for almost

I have been living in Japan for almost three years. During this period I had a chance to meet various Japanese people with different backgrounds. Even though English language is not widely used among Japanese but some words and expressions are used in daily life in Japan. For example, one can often hear the following words in conversation among Japanese people such as 'bye- bye', 'happy', 'relax', 'good luck', 'trouble', 'car', 'spa', 'supermarket', 'shopping', 'fashion', 'department store', 'pants', 'jacket', 'socks', 'drug', 'cap', 'spoon', 'fork', ' dryer', 'present', 'report', 'news', 'drama', list goes on and on.

I would like to share my personal observation about difficulties that Japanese face when they use English language. Most of the Japanese can read and understand English but they have difficulty to speak in English. In my opinion the first and main difficulty for that is a unique language and culture in Japan. What I want to say is that Japanese language has three completely different alphabets such as hiragana is used as simplified script, katakana is used for borrowed words from foreign languages, and kanji is used as sophisticated script. Compare to this, English language has only one alphabet. Japanese culture has specific distinction compare to western culture. These specifics are politeness not only reflected physically but also verbally. I had taken Japanese language course during my first year stay and found out that there were no exact English words for certain Japanese words. For instance expression 'Doozo yorosiku onegaisimasu' direct translation sounds like 'I ask you to please treat me well' (Matsumoto 1988: 409).

Literature review revealed numerous problems to which Japanese students are faced. Robert Norris' article on 'Raising Japanese Students´ Consciousness of English Article Usage: A Practical View' points out difficulties among Japanese students with usage of articles 'a' and 'the'. The author mentions why it is difficult and what students know about articles. He suggested using visuals and imagery to help Japanese students to learn articles. Hane Kim et. al. article on 'Learning English in Japanese Schools' describes existing English teaching practice in the schools. The authors pointed out the following problems such as English ability, participation, cultural and social difference. They recommended improving curriculum and learning environment in order to achieve successful learning goals. Jonathan Clenton's article on 'Learning Styles and the Japanese' investigates language learning process in terms of learning styles and describes particular issues to which Japanese students are exposed. In the article, author talks about the difference between Western teaching approach and Asian teaching approach. He also points out that Japanese students have analytic learning style, they prefer deductive explanations, and it is especially worth-mentioning that Japanese feel embarrassment even they are partially right. Ann Bradlow et. al. article on 'Training Japanese listeners to identify English /r/ and /l/' investigates speech perception and speech production. It is widely misused 'r' instead of 'l' because there is no letter or sound similar to 'l' in Japanese language. The authors developed technique for the modification of the structure of the trainee's phonetic system.

In conclusion I would like to say that no matter how difficult it is for Japanese to learn English language, the teacher can assist to alleviate above mentioned problems and difficulties by delivering lessons clearly, making it fun and interesting, using visual aids, variety of activities, and finally but not least encouraging students to speak more in English.


Robert W. Norris (1992), 'Raising Japanese Students´ Consciousness of English Article Usage: A Practical View',. In Fukuoka Women´s Junior College Studies Vol. 44: 95-104

Hana Kim, Nanae Nakamura, Ann Pan, and Elizabeth Ozar, (2004) 'Learning English in Japanese Schools: Design Proposal from the Situative Approach', Education 333A,

Matsumoto, Y. (1988). Re-examination of the universality of face: politeness phenomena in Japanese. Journal of Pragmatics, 11 404-425.

Jonathan Clenton. Learning Styles and the Japanese, MA Applied Linguistics Dissertation.

Ann R.Bradlow, David B. Pisoni, Reiko Akahane, Yamada and Yoh'ichi Tohkura (1997) 'Training Japanese listeners to identify English /r/ and /l/: Some effects of perceptual learning on speech production'