English-language teachers in Japan often complain about being met by a wall of silence when they ask students to talk in class.

But until now there has been little, if any, academic research into the reasons why Japanese pupils are particularly afflicted by a reluctance to speak in a second language.

Jim King, an expert in linguistics at Leicester University in central England, has been looking into this phenomenon and recently presented his findings in London to an audience of Japan experts and educationalists.