Reader Mail

Can new English exams be fair?

Regarding the editorial “Address concerns about new English exams” in the Sept. 6 edition, I wonder how they evaluate the speaking skill of each examinee. Usually, oral skills in a foreign language consist of various factors like pronunciations with phonetics, accents, intonations and gesticulating with body and hands. In addition, the speaker’s use of logic in order to persuade his or her audience must be considered.

Administered by private institutions, I wonder if the new exams can maintain validity and fairness. How do those institutions evaluate phonetic ability that is important in making the listener understand what is spoken?

Because most Japanese English pronunciations are awfully disastrous, private exam institutions cannot fairly judge the pronunciations of examinees and compare them evenly with other private institutions.

Due to these reasons, oral exams should be omitted from university common entrance exams, and the completion certificate of speaking classes at senior high schools should be considered good enough to attach to university application forms. In the meantime, English-language conversation classes in high schools should teach students not only aural conversation but also English pronunciation with phonetics, accents and intonations.

For most university students, English is not a specific subject of study but rather a tool, except for students who are learning English itself to become a linguist, interpreter/translator or English teacher. To compete on the international stage after graduation, most university students must learn the specific knowledge they need in English, rather than learning the English language itself separately. Therefore, some university courses must be taught in English. To follow along with those lessons taught in English, all students taking those classes are required to be able to understand lectures delivered in English. In this regard, listening comprehension is more important than speaking. Students can brush up on their speaking ability through daily discussions in those classes.

HIROKAZU SATO
TAKATSUKI, OSAKA PREFECTURE

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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