I would like to comment on Gary Henscheid’s June 16 letter, “Improving English education.” I fully support his suggestions to make English an elective and to have the education ministry expand programs for studying abroad.
Japan has changed at very high speed in various ways. For one thing, many different people from different countries work and live in Japan today. Most of them cannot speak English, so we cannot always communicate with them through the English language. In this sense, Japan can now be called a multicultural, multilingual society, and if we look at the whole world, we will find that the number of spoken languages is nearly 7,000.
Looking at this reality makes us think seriously that language studies other than English are also urgent. I admit that English study is important in this globalized society, but instead of making only English an elective subject, we should provide students more opportunities to learn other languages also.
I had a chance to study abroad about 40 years ago in the United States. The most unforgettable experience was that through contacts with students from Asian countries, I learned about Japan’s history in Asia. Although languages are very important tools, I finally realized that our ways of looking at histories of the world are much more important. In particular, young people today are being challenged to create a world in which different peoples can coexist in peace. Toward this end, contacts with different people are really something more than language studies!
One good method for improving English-language education would be to make frequent use of English-to-English dictionaries. I’m afraid this is too early for elementary school, but in junior high and senior high, it would play an absolutely important role.
Reading the definitions of words in English will make a student a better reader, a better writer, a better speaker. Of course, it will take a time. And I believe this method also applies to other languages.
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.