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Regarding the Jan. 12 editorial “English taught in English” and Willie Taylor’s Jan. 11 letter, “Education methods don’t work”: While I laud Taylor’s efforts in espousing some (non-Japanese) views of Japanese teaching practices, I can’t agree with either his or The Japan Times’ view that Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) are “undertrained” or that resistance to teaching in English stems from “some teachers’ embarrassment over their own ability.”

Both views may be tainted by a lack of understanding of what the education ministry’s guidelines are suggesting. An educational online source recently said: “The draft guidelines stipulate that English classes should be used as a place for real English communication, indicating for the first time a policy of teaching high school English classes in English. The ministry explained that ‘teachers should first display an attitude of actively using English themselves’ to boost English conversation ability. Complicated explanations such as those about grammar may still be provided in Japanese.”

I am a native English speaker working as an assistant English teacher in a Nagoya middle school. My employer is one of the “dispatch” companies that Taylor cites. I work with six JTEs who ALL teach English in English much of the time. Grammar is almost always explained in Japanese. English conversation is taught in English, with Japanese translations provided only for unfamiliar vocabulary.

The JTEs in my school are not embarrassed to use English the majority of the time in the classes that I attend. The problem is not in the teachers; it is in the political will to make English the universal language, not only in the world but in Japan.

jeff smith

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