Hiroaki Sato’s March 29 article, “Hold the SOS call on the Japanese language,” is an insightful article. Japan’s case is different from that of the Indian subcontinent where, due to various reasons, English has become an absolute necessity. Take a language like Bengali, which has almost twice the number of speakers that Japanese has. But since the economic situation of the region is far from that of Japan, there are few students from foreign countries trying to learn the language. Just ask ordinary citizens in Japan if they’ve heard of a language called Bengali. Meanwhile, many students across the world are trying to learn Japanese, including yours truly.
It is a myth that Japanese people cannot learn English. They can do it as well as other learners given a changed learning atmosphere, less emphasis on grammar — and “native” teachers at language schools that charge insane amounts of money — and a greater purpose than just making foreign friends.
I have personally taught Japanese students who have shown good promise in mastering the English language so they can study abroad. They may not be able to crack jokes or use colloquial expressions extensively, but they make competent and interesting presentations in English.
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