I applaud T. Mamoru Hanami’s March 28 letter, “Can’t beat immersion option,” for pointing out that many of the students he meets from English-language institutes in Japan “are being robbed blind. Their English is horrendous and I think they know that, too.”

His remark is a very relevant observation about the current English-learning environment in Japan. As it is with sociological issues such as racism and drunk driving, just because everyone is consciously aware of the problem doesn’t change the situation. Japanese people have to acknowledge loud and clear the pathetic state of their English ability.

The problem seems to have been conveniently equivocated through friendly advertisements and the lack of courage. With more and more people signing up at these institutions and buying study-English video games in recent years, enormous profits have been earned and the illusion of “learning” for many students has been perpetuated.

Learning English in Japan is, for most people, not a necessity. And to learn a foreign language that is so different from the mother tongue, the true prerequisite shouldn’t be merely having the money for an expensive tuition fee or being subjected to peer pressure. Instead, it should be having developed the commitment that originates from desperation. I believe Japanese people are up to it, considering the strong sense of shame in their culture.

kenichi sugimoto

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