Regarding the March 5 article “Elementary school English: Ready or not“: No, “they” are not ready. It is a trial, and as long as no definitive guidelines are provided, it will remain a trial. The problem is that the folks in Tokyo come up with an idea but don’t develop the details. Just having children repeat the same sentences again and again, very often with wrong pronunciation as well as intonation, does not do the job! Such playing around should be left to the kindergartners.
Understandable, interesting and challenging textbooks should be used — not at random but from step one. Elementary school teachers are definitely overburdened with the additional task of teaching English to fifth and sixth graders. Very often not able to communicate in English, lacking the fundamentals, they are left alone and must decide what will be done during class hours.
The ALTs (assistant language teachers) have very little influence on what happens during the English lessons. Quite often they are an attraction to be seen and admired once a month. Japan still has a long way to go until the level is reached where we can say: Yes, our children are really learning English.
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