Regarding the Sept. 7 article “Don’t blame JET for Japan’s poor English“: Participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching program, as a a group, probably have the single broadest picture of English education in Japan. I say this because JETs talk to one another about their very different situations regardless of the level they teach at. In general, high school teachers don’t discuss their system of teaching English with their elementary school counterparts.
My fellow JETs and I have many suggestions for improving English education in Japan. The problem is that no one asks us. I’ll share with you a suggestion that I think could have a dramatic effect on English ability if properly implemented. Stop using katakana in English class! Roman characters can be used to accurately represent Japanese sounds, but katakana simply cannot do the same for English. The use of katakana only encourages incorrect pronunciation. So please, stop. It’s not necessary. Just teach proper pronunciation from the beginning.
Also, teach the verb “to be” in its entirety, all at the same time. In some cases, students are learning how to use “I am,” “you are” and “she/he/it is,” but not how to say “we are,” “you are” and “they are” until several months later. This does not make any sense. Native speakers do not learn the verb “to be” this way; nor should people learning English as a second language. This isn’t the way I learned Japanese either. Just teach the use all at once, even if it takes an extra few hours of class time to get it right.
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