I’m a university student and have a Twitter account. So do many of my friends. We freely write anything on Twitter — where we are, what we’re doing, what we’re thinking about, who we’re with, whatever we want. I made my account to get firsthand information about my favorite foreign artists from the artists themselves.
I also use Twitter as an English textbook. That may sound strange to some people since Twitter is nothing like an educational or academic textbook. It is, however, a textbook for real English expressions used in daily life. The usual textbook for Japanese students has a lot of grammar content, because Japanese educators attach greater importance to grammar than to communication.
Many junior high school students have to memorize sentences like “This is a pen” or “There are two apples on the table.” But who talks like that? When do we use these expressions in daily life?
Also, we end up analyzing which word is the “subject”, the “verb” and the “object,” etc., sentence by sentence. Is this so important when we talk with someone? Yet, many Japanese students have to study English this way for at least six years.
Twitter is full of real expressions in English. It’s a board for writing as if we are talking to friends about anything — just like a spoken language. And since Twitter is used all over the world, I can read contributions from native English speakers. I’m following many English-speaking artists, actors, actresses and models who tweet a lot in their mother tongue. Often I can’t even find the subject in their writings as they use simplified forms such as “going on stage in 4 min TOKYO!” or “almost home. Wow. What a year.”
We never learned these kinds of expressions in English class, as they are unnecessary for English examinations in Japan. But when native speakers open their mouth, they don’t use “textbook English” any more than we use textbook Japanese. I’m thankful for the tools now available for learning English.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.