Problems for Learners in Japan I have been living in Japan for 6


I have been living in Japan for 6 months now and have had ´hands on´ experience with the problems which Japanese people have when learning English.

Firstly, I needed to understand that the Japanese language does not use the same alphabet system, but their own native symbols, so they needed a lot more work in the literacy area of learning the English language. Not only are the symbols different but the way they display and use their language as well. For example, a newspaper is read from pages right to left, the text is read from right to left and from top to bottom as well. Even the way they make sentences is the opposite to us. For example, "Let´s go to the mall together." is said "The mall together let´s go." - When it is said in their own language of course! But you can see what I mean. The Japanese students say that their number one problem with the English language, the main thing they have the most trouble with, is pronunciation. Which is especially hard to teach when they speak with such different sounds than us. I teach a lot of phonics to my students, which really is necessary due to their pronunciation issues. They seem to have a lot of trouble differentiating between ´r´ and ´l´ sounds and struggle to pronounce ´th´ , ´f´ and ´v´ sounds as well.

Secondly, because I was teaching in a country where everyone is speaking the same native language, I was teaching a monolingual class. The students often reverted to their own language in the classroom and it was difficult to prevent it. I always made my instructions clear and tried to intervene when I heard Japanese being used.

Thirdly, the Japanese culture. The culture is very different compared to western, English speaking, countries. The students often have very busy lifestyles wether they are a working adult or a 5 year old child. The teenagers study until all hours of the night, usually studying for entrance exams (cram school) and the parents are often working until very late and then have other family commitments as well. Because of this, some of the students are really reluctant to study and are understandably tired and exhausted from their busy lifestyle. It is also difficult, or even impossible to assign them any homework. Then again, in Japan, the majority of the population really genuinely wants to learn English as they know it is their key to the rest of the world! There are mixed levels of motivation and although it is difficult to adjust, I am finding ways of maintaining their interest and creating motivation for those who don´t have much. I am really enjoying teaching in Japan as they are a more disciplined society, therefore not so problematic... so far! Overall, I think Japanese students do encounter many problems when learning English, but they do try their best to overcome them, which makes it all worth while for me.