I read with concern the Feb. 18 article “Teachers worried about new English classes,” which highlighted some elementary schoolteachers’ lack of confidence in teaching English as a required subject to fifth- and sixth-graders beginning in April and their perception that doing so will be a burden.
This raises the question of whether our elementary schoolchildren will be inspired to learn English if they have been so unfortunate to be taught by teachers who lack confidence in the language, whose conceptual understanding of English-language teaching is vague, or who are not convinced of the merits of English as an international language.
It must be remembered that elementary school is a fertile ground for nurturing the seed of a second language. But if teachers themselves are not enthusiastic about teaching English, how will young children be motivated to embrace it?
As a parent of a 10-year-old boy, I am worried that my son and the future generation of Japanese schoolchildren will grow up resisting English because their early experience with it has been unpleasant and uninspiring. In my teaching experience at a prefectural university, there have been several occasions when students openly displayed an “I hate English” attitude in class as a result of their early English training.
It’s unfortunate and ironic that such an unhealthy disdain for English can be fossilized in some students when some 750 million people in Asia are hungry for English, believing that proficiency will enable them to plug into the global economy. While the attempt by the education ministry in English curriculum reform is laudable, the entire process must be monitored, evaluated and supported. I urge the ministry to equip and support our elementary teachers to enable our young learners to sense English as a living and vital language.
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