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As an “English gentleman,” brought up in the latter days of the British Empire, I was encouraged to feel “superior” in being British. As a military officer, I was instructed to be superior to those of a lower rank, so I know much about “superiority”. But we were taught NOT to feel superior in matters of race, creed, culture, history, etc.

I was deeply disturbed to read in Nicolas Gattig’s Nov. 22 article, “MacArthur, identity theory and Japan’s lingering eigo woes,” that 60 years after the end of the war “native speakers of English complain about the tight-lipped Japanese” and that many Western people, “even those who appreciate Japanese culture … believe themselves to be intellectually superior to their Japanese interlocutors.”

I admit that this has been and is currently a common thought among “Western” (I believe predominantly American, not European!) residents and visitors in Japan, but not everyone thinks and feels that way. As for the so-called Japanese inability to speak English, especially in language schools, that is clearly and solely the responsibility of the teachers, not the students.

I have been teaching here at all levels for 15 years. In my school, there reigns an atmosphere toward students of humility, understanding, patience, care and, yes, “love”. In England, in business, in academia, in life, there is the well-known acronym TLC (tender loving care). This excludes all feelings of superiority and paternalism. I believe that if all teachers expressed such a sentiment to their students, there would be a far different response from the current shyness and embarrassment leading to a fear of speaking. I know this, as my staff and I have done this for the past 15 years!

I advise all students of the English language here in Japan to refuse to accept teachers who are arrogant, “superior” or paternalistic, but rather to seek those teachers who are dedicated to their work — to guiding, nurturing and educating their students in an atmosphere of TLC. Nothing less will do!

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

paul gaysford

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