Jan. 12 editorial “English taught in English” has identified the problem but proposes the wrong solution. The traditional grammar-based approach is wrong, but simply insisting on the exclusive use of English in class could make things worse. Language acquisition research over the last three decades tells us that we acquire language when we understand messages — that is, when we understand what we hear and what we read.
This means that the focus needs to be on comprehensible English input. An occasional explanation in Japanese, or allowing students to occasionally respond or ask questions in Japanese, can help make input more comprehensible.
Most important is to increase the amount of comprehensible English reading and listening students do, and the easiest and least expensive way to do this is to improve English collections of books, tapes and CDs in school and public libraries. This will not only raise the competence of students, but will also help teachers improve their English, and the amount of English used in the classroom will increase naturally.
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