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Japan is one of the most advanced and powerful countries in the world, and has a close relationship with English speaking countries like the US and Australia. Huge cities spread across the country, many of them are centers of international businesses and some of the most popular destinations of global tourism. One can imagine the importance of the international language - English in Japan. However, the average English level of citizens, whether old or young, is surprisingly low, most struggle to comprehend even the most basic words and phrases, not to mention conversations with English speaking foreigners. In fact, the English level of Japanese has been ranked among the bottom of Asian countries for years. Despite the obvious needs and benefits of learning English, few are able to do so because of some huge hurdles. This short essay will go through some of the biggest challenges that English learners face in Japan. Japanese education system does include English learning, which is compulsory in both elementary and high schools, but the time involved is lacking significantly. With just a few hours every week, it’s hardly enough for teachers to go through the basics of English and it’s very unlikely that a consistent and healthy environment for foreign language learning can be established in the classroom. Besides time constraint, how that time is spent is also problematic. English classes in schools mainly focus on grammatical structures and specific phrases. Students are often told to just remember them like formulas, instead of understanding the structure and logic behind. Even if they can remember all those teaching points, when they encounter different variations of those phrases, they wouldn’t be able to adapt and determine its meaning. The reason behind this method of teaching is that the aim of the English lessons is not about learning a second language, but to prepare for the admission tests of universities, which consists mostly of multiple choice questions and nothing to test listening and oral abilities. Many subjects in universities don’t even require knowing English. This whole system fails to convince students that learning English is important, many would just give up and put their time and effort on other ‘more useful’ subjects. Another problem of Japanese traditional schools is that the classes are huge and English lessons are poorly supported. The standard way of teaching is a completely passive experience, in which the teacher does most of the talking. Students don’t have many chances to speak, practice and interact in English. Many Japanese teachers are not able to speak fluent English, so they use Japanese to conduct English lessons, which is extremely ineffective and further takes away the little exposure to English students have. Besides many teachers’ English ability not being up to a desirable level, English textbooks in Japan are also quite poor. Many foreign teachers report that books widely used by Japanese schools have many obvious grammatical and spelling mistakes. Apart from the education system, one other major challenge is the confusion between Japanese and English phonetics. The first time a typical Japanese learns Roman characters is using them to represent pronunciation of Japanese characters. Naturally, when they see the same characters in English with drastically different pronunciations, it gets confusing. One particular problem is that Japanese characters are basically all combinations of a consonant and a vowel. Consonants like ‘s’, ‘d’ and ‘t’ as an individual sound are extremely hard for Japanese to understand and say. They are often read as ‘suː’, ‘dɒ’ and ‘tɒ’, even when they are supposed to be consonants in English. To make matters worse, the above example of using Japanese phonetics to express English pronunciations is a common practice when foreign words are borrowed into Japanese. It makes Japanese accent of English very difficult to understand, but many Japanese learners don’t recognise this problem. Modern Japanese culture loves borrowing English words, which seems to be a good thing for English learning. However, the ‘domestication’ of the pronunciation could actually be setting very bad examples for learners. The last major obstacle for English learning in Japan is the Japanese culture and the way of thinking behind it are so drastically different from that of the English language. In English, ideas and opinions are expressed rather blatantly, organized in a logical manner. The main idea is often stated first, followed by reasons, explanations and proofs as support. But to Japanese, the receivers’ feeling is the most important and must be respected. The English way of expression is considered by Japanese to be very rude and inconsiderate because it may offend others. Therefore the Japanese way of writing and speaking is to be ambiguous. For instance, when asked to express their views on a certain topic, they usually begin with a list of information or facts, often without stating their significance. Then start to explain different arguments, not to support their own view, but to cover both sides (to avoid offending anyone), leading to an inconclusive end. This style of expression is so confusing to native English speakers to a point that they find Japanese’s English that much more difficult to comprehend. In conclusion, Japanese learners face huge hurdles studying English because of the poor support and lack of emphasis in the education system. Followed by the confusion between Japanese and English phonetics, causing significant difficulties with spoken English. And even if they successfully overcome the challenges above and are able to grasp the basics of English, they must learn a very different way of thinking in order to produce truly fluent and coherent English.