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Regarding the June 30 article “Rakuten’s English drive ready to take full effect“: I have a suggestion for making Rakuten Inc.’s drive to force employees to speak and write English at work more successful. Much research concludes that the ability to speak and write is the result of acquiring language, not the cause. The cause of language acquisition is understanding what we read and hear.

Rakuten uses the TOEIC to evaluate English. Research done by professor Beniko Mason of Shitennoji University Junior College shows that English acquirers can gain about 15 points a month on the TOEIC just from freely selected pleasure reading in English — reading books that the acquirer finds interesting and comprehensible without studying grammar and without trying to speak or write English.

Research also shows that English programs that include some time for self-selected reading (“sustained silent reading”) produce better results on a wide of variety of tests. Rakuten might consider adding a library of interesting books and magazines, and even providing a little time during the day for pleasure reading.

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.

stephen krashen

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