Teach English in Jingji KAifAqu - Huai'an Shi

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English the most widely learned second language in the world, so it is not surprising that many countries require English-language learning for general school courses. As with any language studies, there will undoubtedly be a multitude of issues that English teachers will encounter during their teaching careers. In this essay, I will focus on contributing factors that may cause three common issues for Japanese English learners in non-academic high schools. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese high school education system, there are a number of different institutions that include academic high schools that offer general education and non-academic high schools such as agricultural, commercial, and industrial high schools. As I am currently teaching in non-academic high schools in Japan, I will be drawing from my own experience and from discussion with other English teachers who are in similar situations. The three common problems that I have found to be fairly prevalent in non-academic high schools in Japan include low motivation, differing levels of English ability in classes, and frequent use of the students’ native language rather than the target language by both the teacher and students. Throughout my teaching career in Japan, I have been able to pinpoint several contributing factors of why these issues may arise. The first and foremost problem that frequently comes up in conversation with other non-academic English teachers is low motivation from students. Most students in these vocational schools already have a vague objective in mind towards their career paths, such as obtaining technician or artisan positions. They have specialized courses that are geared towards these goals, and most often English is very low on their priorities. Many of these students are aware that their eventual career paths may not require any or require very little use of English in the future, so it is not in their range of interest to put much effort into studying it. However, foreign language, which is English in this case, is a required part of Japanese students’ courses regardless of being in an academic or non-academic high school. As with students in general, having a required course that is not willingly chosen often consequently results in low motivation. Another contributor for low motivation is that students who are in non-academic high schools located in more rural areas may not have much contact with foreigners and therefore have little incentive to learn English. The second problem with teaching English in non-academic Japanese high schools is the wide range of varying levels of English skills in classes. In some cases, students are grouped together in their areas of study rather than their English levels. For example, in one of my non-academic schools, students who are in the architecture course will remain in the same group of students for all general and specialized courses. Therefore, some classes may have students with very little English skills while other students in the same class have very high English skills. Trying to balance this vast difference has proven to be very time-consuming and may be a difficult issue to overcome. Low-level students require much more patience and encouragement, which leaves the higher-level students sitting and wasting possible learning time waiting for the others after they have finished their tasks. These students may not feel challenged due to this, which also relates back to low motivation. Unfortunately, it is often out of the teacher’s hand with these kinds of situations in non-academic high schools. It is usually the institution that places the students in groups. Even though it may be difficult to close the learning gap with the range of English levels, it is important to find strategies to encourage and suitably challenge all students. With the combination of the first two problems, students are more likely to use their native language rather than English in the classroom. It is much more comfortable for them, especially when students communicate with each other. They have a common language to communicate with, which is Japanese in this case, so it is much more preferable than using a language they cannot fully express themselves in. As a result, teachers may sometimes find themselves using the students’ native language to clarify instructions and get the lesson moving in a timely manner. However, this can prove to be very detrimental because students learn to rely on the translation rather than trying to understand the English words. In my experience, students will be unresponsive to nearly all English instruction for activities because they know they will only have to wait when the instructions are eventually translated into Japanese for students who struggle to understand. To reduce the chance of this problem happening, it is best to encourage the use of English as much as possible in early classes and refrain from using the students’ native language. These three common problems that may arise in Japanese non-academic high schools certainly have more factors than the contributing factors discussed. Low motivation, differing English levels, and both students and teachers falling back to using the students’ native language are only three of many other problems that can emerge in the classroom. It is important for teachers who may find themselves teaching in similar environments to be aware of these problems and understand the reasons of why they may occur. There are a variety of solutions and resources available, but it is also important to understand that they may only be temporary solutions rather than permanent ones. The simplest ways to prevent some of these problems, not only in non-academic Japanese high schools, is to build rapport with students, understand and meet the needs of students, prepare suitable lessons and materials to generate interest, and most importantly, come into the classroom with a positive attitude and willingness to adapt to all kinds of situations that may occur in the classroom