Regarding the March 22 article “Break ‘passive’ English effort“: Perry Akins, chairman of Boston Educational Services, is reported to have cited the teaching of only material to be tested as the main problem hindering English communication and efforts to foster global talent among Japanese youth. In addition to this debilitating phenomenon, known as the “washback effect” among second-language acquisition theorists and practitioners, Akins also cites the time devoted to the study of English as meriting attention.

There is a simple solution to the madness that has prevented Japanese from becoming even adequate communicators in English for far too long. The Japanese education system must change its adamant ways and employ foreign speakers of English as educators.

Even if curriculum revision allowing for the two hours a day three days a week that Akins is quoted as prescribing happened, it would not under present circumstances ensure learners’ exposure to the language they so desperately need to become proficient.

The assistant language teacher and team-teaching schemes have proven to be only minimally successful at best. Quality educators from abroad are aware of the flaws in the present situation and know how to evaluate learners’ progress beyond passive written tests. Increased time for learning or even further exposure to English alone will not solve much.

Learners need more opportunities to use the language as a tool of communication and to receive feedback through interaction and by negotiating meaning with English-speaking interlocutors.

chris clancy
shiojiri, nagano

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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