Some readers’ responses to “Is the Eiken doing learners more harm than good?” by Hans Karlsson (Learning Curve, June 9):
I’m afraid I do not agree with some of the things you wrote in your article.
I know a lot of people say rote learning is bad, but is it? If you are truly serious about learning a foreign language and are short of time, rote learning is definitely something you should incorporate in your study. Otherwise, how can you expect to increase your vocabulary to a meaningful communicative level unless you are gifted and have an exceptionally good memory? However, if you rely too much on rote learning alone to increase your vocabulary, it could result in poor retainment, as the article said. It must, of course, be combined with other activities like reading, listening, speaking and writing.
I also disagree with you about the vocabulary part of the Level 1 test. You cited words such words like “disheveled” and “sumptuous” as if to suggest they are unnecessarily difficult words that should not be in the test. Well, I thought you were talking about Level 2 or pre-1. Do you honestly believe “disheveled” and “sumptuous” are so uncommon that most speakers of English don’t know them?
I could go on, but I think I’ve said enough. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the article. Thank you.
Regarding Eiken, as I hold Level 1, I am not completely against the system itself. But it’s a very compelling argument that some contents are out of touch with reality. That said, we need something that tests our ability and endorses it with an official certificate.
My understanding of Eiken has always been that it was a test that focused more on academic subjects than communicative skills. I had no idea about its own definition, which the article touched upon many times. (Eiken aims to test “communicative skills in situations ranging from everyday life to business.”)
The Eiken Foundation should definitely change the stated purpose of the tests. It should instead be aimed at testing proficiency in skills ranging from reading novels and newspapers and writing scientific papers to watching TV news and giving opinions in English. TOEIC and other “modern” tests, on the other hand, are about communication skills in business situations or when living abroad. I would suggest Eiken should become more about basic English knowledge that is beneficial to Japanese people when communicating with English-speakers, such as famous novels or nursery rhymes that the average native speaker knows, or other basic subjects like science, math, history or geography in English, or even conveying Japanese culture in English.
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