Having the esteemed professor emeritus Stephen Krashen contribute to the ongoing question of English education in Japan is always pleasurable. However, his letter of Jan. 16, “Recreational reading will score,” raises more questions than it answers.
Just how investing in libraries and promoting recreational reading will solve the problems of inadequate resources and staff, as well as too few hours of instruction to meet the education ministry’s reform goals, is difficult to envision. Though the plan may very well ensure that growth in English will continue after students finish school, it fails to relate to the issue at hand — reforming English study from elementary to high school.
Also curious is the claim that research studies involving self-selected pleasure reading have been conducted among learners acquiring English as a second language here in Japan. This perhaps exemplifies that the good doctor may be off target.
Technically the study of English as a Second Language (ESL) pertains to situations of foreign speakers in an English-speaking environment — Latin Americans in the United States, for example. Contexts such as that in Japan, where English is studied more as an academic discipline than a tool for communication, are usually referred to in terms of English as a Foreign Language (EFL).
As for the issue in question — bolstering English education from elementary to high school — there are tremendous hurdles to be overcome prior to even considering any notion of sustained silent reading, or reading for pleasure. Krashen appears to be out of his league.
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.
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