• Chikushino, Fukuoka


the Feb. 5 article, “What’s wrong with the way English is taught in Japan“: It would have been better if writer Gregory Clark had admitted that neither he nor anybody else is capable of dismissing the efforts of teachers and students alike without a comprehensive grasp of the situation in every school in Japan and Britain, which he clearly fails to demonstrate. In response to his negative dismissal, one reader has already pointed out that Clark makes no attempt to offer positive recommendations, making it surprising that he is in education at all.

As an English-teaching Briton, I can at least offer one suggestion where the Japanese high school foreign-language community might progress. French exams in England have included both listening and interview components for many decades. British teachers of French have good pronunciation as their education has normally included a year’s study in France, contrary to Clark’s assertions.

In Japan only a few students and teachers ever spend quality time abroad, in stark contrast to their Korean neighbors for example. Listening and speaking test components in language teaching must be the weakest area. Even though in recent years the Center Exam for would-be university students has included a listening exam, its application is very limited in private universities, which are the majority in Japan.

Furthermore, most teachers seem adamant about not attempting spoken interviews, which I believe are even more essential. Listening exams can be done by CD and don’t involve teachers at all, but spoken interviews could raise the standard in Japan overnight for teaching as well as learning foreign languages. Teachers and school administrators have no excuse not to facilitate this reform. A few brave steps would make a major difference without having to set the entire Japanese foreign-language teaching population adrift on a raft.

david wood

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