Teacher Hideo Iida holds up cards featuring simple images for his 17 second-graders to identify, getting them to name the animals, fruit and other items pictured.

It may seem simplistic, even for kids this age, except the questions and answers are in English.

Such activities ranging from games, songs and simple conversations in English are becoming all the rage at public elementary schools, not just Iida's, the No. 6 Nippori Elementary School in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward, because the government is behind the move, hoping to hone the people's skills in the language as Japanese society and business become more globalized.