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As an English teacher here for the past 14 years, I was saddened and disturbed — but not surprised — at the contents of Mizuho Aoki’s Jan. 6 article, “Japan far behind in global language of business.”

Long-term, mature, native English teachers, with a wide range of students, are perhaps the best people to “take the pulse” of English teaching in Japan as opposed to the myopic bureaucrats of the education ministry who neither see nor understand much, as is evidenced by the poor English education in state schools. It is no wonder, therefore, that we lag far behind our neighbors in all matters related to English.

There must be other reasons for this poor state of affairs and I believe, from my own research, that a deep-seated general aversion to “foreign” is still widely prevalent here. There are more than enough examples of this thinking. It continues to be an almost insurmountable barrier to the adoption of English as the second language, while those in power still lean far to the right and refuse to see the necessity for this global language. It must surely be the case that there is no such discrimination in our “successful” neighboring countries.

One more point: Japanese youth in general have “lost their way.” They have no vision of, and no hope for, their future and are thus unwilling to make an effort to learn English. Until they are motivated and stimulated to have pride in themselves and in their country I fear that this situation will continue.

I strongly advise the government to set up a special committee of experienced native English teachers and open-minded bureaucrats from relevant ministries to thoroughly and sincerely tackle this major problem — for the sake of Japan today and especially for the Japan of tomorrow.

paul gaysford

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