As a native English instructor in the same region of Japan as Masayuki Aihara, I feel I should reply to his Oct. 29 letter, “Texts stand some in good stead.” There are many textbooks written by native English speakers available for use in Japanese schools: Just look at any catalog released by book companies. The problem is that because the Japanese English education system is focused on accuracy rather than communication, the majority of schools are not interested in adopting these textbooks.
The 650 TOEFL score (cited by Aihara) is impressive, but does it necessarily make one a better communicator? The focus on accuracy may work for a few, but it doesn’t seem to be effective for most. You just have to look at the gibberish seen on the majority of signs written in English in Japan.
In my own classes, I only use textbooks written by native English speakers. I find that such textbooks use authentic material and encourage more creativity in students, making classes more motivating — arguably the most important factor in successfully learning a second language. I don’t want to imply that all Japanese teachers of English are blind in their approach to teaching, but perhaps some should take off their blinkers and adapt themselves to the more successful methods used in teaching a second language in the 21st century.
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