It takes more than an English test

The March 19 article, “Higher English test hurdle awaits ministry applicants from fiscal ’15,” has caused me some anxiety about the attitude of some Japanese toward English.

Once the Japanese are given a numerical target for either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), they will devote themselves to achieving that goal by any means, and perhaps overlook the real purpose of the test.

In considering the TOEIC, which is said to be the most common test for measuring one’s English ability in Japan, I find that there are many schools and materials dedicated to helping students get a high score on it. Regretfully some of the methods and techniques are good for achieving no more than a high score, which is a far cry from actually improving English conversation skills.

I know a lot of Japanese colleagues who got more than 900 points on the test but cannot communicate with foreigners. Nor are they good at English composition. I believe that English tests such as the TOEIC or the TOEFL are good for measuring one’s English ability, but a lot of Japanese people misunderstand how to use these tests.

Government agencies and companies should not casually accept high scores on these tests as a qualification for English-speaking ability. We should realize that the true value of English is being able to express our opinions in English, not to get a high test score.

shuichi john watanabe
tokyo

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.