Teach English in XiAngshAn Nongchang - Tongliao Shi

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I am currently an assistant language teacher (ALT) in Japan. These are things that I have observed during in an English class. I believe that there are four key reasons as to why Japanese have a difficult time learning English. They are: teachers, reliance on grammar and vocabulary, speaking, and survivability. The biggest reason I think that Japanese learners have a hard time learning English is because of the English teachers in the Japanese educational system. Most teachers are unable to speak English, so they only teach grammar and vocabulary. Because the teachers are unable to properly teach English, the learners suffer greatly from this. The teachers are not able to help students learn how to speak because they’re too focused on teaching grammar and vocabs. They are also too focused on the textbook that they don’t have time to use what they learn in practice. I have also noticed they often skip the “let’s try” and “speaking” portion of the textbooks which further hinders the learning of the students in class. Another problem facing Japanese learners when it comes to learning English is that teachers are often overworked and may have too much pride to use ALTs, who are hardly ever utilized for class. Teachers usually do not have time to make a plans with the ALTs, either. With the time they do have, they will prepare for club activities in which most teachers do nothing but watch. For these reasons, ALTs are essentially worthless in Japan. They are a great asset to have, but when they are at school they do basically nothing but stand and sit in class. They are only used as tape recorders. When their roles are over the teachers immediately teach students the wrong pronunciation in class and do not allow for the ALT to correct them. It is, instead of a collaboration, a power struggle in which teachers do not want to appear to know less than an ALT. In Japan, elementary school students begin to learn English around the age of eight. English is considered a foreign class activity. It’s just being exposed to foreign culture, mostly the western culture, so the students do not have to take the class seriously. However, there has been a recent push to have students actually start to learn English at elementary school. Teachers suffer the most from this. Elementary school teachers are not trained to teach English. It wasn’t even required for them to know English when becoming a teacher. So when they teach English, the students suffer. Because the students learn things that are not natural and grow up with it, they carry that forward, particularly incorrect pronunciation. The children also do not learn the meaning of what they are being told. Rather, they are told to just learn how to use it. So they are blindly following rules they do not seem to understand. When a new grammar point is being taught, the students are not able to differentiate the two so they will immediately forget what they learned. Students are never in a position to learn how to use English: it’s always constantly learning new grammar. They are never taught how to use the grammar in a real life situation so students are never able to apply the usage. Further, there are no formal speaking tests in the Japanese classroom; they are only for show. Even during mid and final exams there are no speaking tests. As a result, students have no need to learn how to speak. This is the same when trying to take high school or college exams. The main thing that students need to focus only is the grammar and vocabulary. Yet another challenge the Japanese learner faces is cultural pride. As they have not been well prepared, students in class are very shy when speaking in front of others and don’t want to give the wrong answer. They may say the word with bad pronunciation. With that being said, the classroom environment doesn’t allow students to relax at all. Most students in Japan already believe that they do not need to learn English when they grow up. The reason is because they live in Japan. The simple thought of never leaving Japan makes them feel very comfortable about their own language. However, Japan has one of the most powerful economies in the world. There are also a lot of foreign tourists that visit the country, too. So thinking that they don’t need to know English is very common. Students are never put into a situation of where they can only use English. In a classroom setting, too, students are never put into that situation. They can simply speak in Japanese without any punishments. Also with the enhancement of technology and AI there are machines that can help translate languages for you. Another big reason why learners are not able to learn how to speak English is because of the katakana system in Japan. Japanese rely heavily on katakana to speak making English sound very unnatural and hard to understand. By the time students graduate they will have remembered next to nothing. The only thing they will have perfected on saying is. “How are you?” That is the only complete full sentence they can say with no problem. The greatest failure is the English program in Japan’s education. It is the considered one of the worst English speaking countries in south eastern Asia and, unfortunately, due to the many reasons above, it is not likely to improve anytime soon.