I agree wholeheartedly with the March 13 editorial. Japanese folks should learn English in order to succeed, but because of culture and identity, they tend to shy away from challenges. The only time I’ve seen these phobias fade is when I’m in a karaoke bar listening to a drunk Japanese singing American tunes or trying to have a conversation with a Japanese guy who speaks English perfectly. But how does one learn without fear of losing one’s culture? Easy, immersion.
Learning English in Japan is way too distracting and there are no incentives to concentrate on a topic and the culture behind the language. The best type of immersion for learning American English is to find a family of Japanese ancestry. I’m sure a family (probably second- or third-generation) would love to teach students by slowly seguing them from Japan to America. From there, the student could move on to another family and eventually find a non-Japanese American family and apply what they’ve learned. When the student felt comfortable, he or she could always go back home to Japan and get the career that requires traveling abroad.
Until the government looks deep into the English-language institutes, Japan will be ambivalent about English. Many of the students I meet from these institutes are being robbed blind. Their English is horrendous and I think they know that, too.
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