Teach English in Shenfugang Zhen - Zhuzhou Shi

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Japan has ever been a country that separates itself from the outside world. Until 1853 Japan’s gates were almost closed for every foreign who would come to cross the border. However, since July 1853 the Japanese started to get more and more influenced by the western culture. But also due to the end of World War II, the Japanese government as well as the education system got influenced widely. Even though many western concepts have been partly adopted by the Japanese, they are still struggling with commuting and interacting with foreign people. Japan is a very traditional nation and they never change their habits easily. The traditional Japanese ideals are not compatible with the foreign model of education they adopted. Even Japanese Senior High School students are almost not able to speak a full sentence without preparation or write a proper structured paragraph with logical argumentation. In the following abstract I would like to introduce the problem of a lack of communication skill among Japanese Senior High School students (15 to 17 years old). After that I am going to give a couple of ideas to overcome this obstacle as a foreign English teacher. What could a foreign English teacher in Japan do to improve the students’ communication skill? A major obstacle in a Japanese English class, which most likely will occur, is the poor active and autonomous communication ability of the students. Some of them do understand the teacher and just hesitate to speak out, others are not able to phrase a full sentence and others again are not able to either understand spoken English or speak out. This kind of problem might arise from the different teaching style in Japan. The general education is based on teacher-centered teaching and the students have barley the chance to proactively use English in the classroom. The teacher would write an English sentence on the blackboard, explain the grammar and instantaneously write the Japanese translation without having the students thinking about it by themselves. The students only copy everything from the blackboard and try to memorize. Multiple choice tests are also very common in Japan and the same sentences as written on the blackboard will be used. Unfortunately, most Japanese teachers just try to follow the curriculum and the goals for the school year without thinking about deeper education methods. In order to improve the participation and keep the students attentive, there are several things a foreign teacher can provide to the lesson. The first important element to improve the students’ communication skill is a good rapport with the students. It may depend on the teacher’s personal conditions, but I believe that an approachable, kind and humorous person is way easier to talk to than a strict and unfriendly one. The students should know that they can talk to the teacher whenever they want or need to. Creating a friendly atmosphere and throw here and there funny comments into the conversation will show the students that communicating in a foreign language is fun, even if it is performed in school. Also trying to connect to their interests will help to achieve this goal. Once the students are interested in the teacher as a person, it is much easier to encourage them to give English a try. It is also important to let them know that making mistakes is okay or even welcome and they should never be afraid of making them. The rule should be: There is no judgment in the classroom. Secondly, practicing is another very important aspect of learning and teaching a new language. Studying the grammar and all the basics is very important as well, but the more we use a language the better we can speak it. Japanese English lessons lack interaction but putting the focus on activities and letting the students practice in class raises the enjoyment and lets the student’s brain connect the studied content with an active memory. If a lot of grammatical content must be taught and the time is short, a straight arrow ESA class might be easier to manage, but if time permits a boomerang ESA class is a great opportunity to include as many activities as possible. A good activity to practice speaking freely could be a presentation practice. The teacher lets the students choose a topic they can easily talk about (e.g. their favorite something). The teacher can introduce phrases and practice them together with the students first before starting the activity. For the activity the students are only allowed to use three keywords, which they can choose by themselves and they must talk for three minutes in total. Using keywords is the only help they get but at the same time using them is not obligatory. Then they will practice in groups of five and they will talk one after another. Some of the students will stick to the keywords, but others will end up talking excited about their favorite things. It’s rather important to encourage the students to talk freely than evaluating the content. Thirdly, another essential aspect is to be aware of the students’ English level. In Japan the students usually lack English ability and the level, even in senior high school, seems very low. This can be a big obstacle for a foreign English teacher. By often communicating with the students the level will be clear, but especially when teaching a great number of students for the first time, performing a placement test to get an idea of their level can be beneficial. If the teacher starts off with English the students cannot understand at all they might be intimidated and discouraged. So, it’s very important to adjust to their level and talk on the same level with them without looking down. To answer the question asked above, “What can a foreign English teacher in Japan do to improve the students’ communication skill?”, it’s necessary as a foreign English teacher to know your position in class and find a way to connect to the leaners. Showing that learning a new language is not only studying grammar, but also having a fun communication. Being always attentive will help to find out what their needs are and to provide the appropriate learning environment. Creating an interactive, educational and fair class will help English learners enjoy English.