The March 31 Japan Times editorial, “Testing English versus teaching it,” has it right: Money should be invested in teaching English, not testing it.
Here is a suggestion that will save money and give excellent results. Instead of investing money on expensive standardized testing, invest in English libraries filled with interesting and comprehensible reading material that students are really interested in reading, including novels, graphic novels and comics, and magazines. Research done throughout the world confirms that those who read more read better, write better, develop larger vocabularies and have more control of complex grammar.
Research also strongly suggests that doing a great deal of “light reading” provides the competence that makes “heavier” and more “serious” reading more comprehensible. This is true in the first language and the second language, and is one of the most widely replicated results in educational research.
Of great interest to Japan is the fact that a good deal of some of the compelling research in this area has been done in Japan with Japanese adults acquiring English as a foreign language. Professor Beniko Mason of Shitennoji University has confirmed this result in many studies done over the last few decades.
Her most recent studies show that those who do mostly self-selected readings in English made outstanding progress on standardized tests such as the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) and the TOEFL, gaining far more rapidly than those who do traditional study.
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.