Regarding Takamitsu Sawa’s Jan. 20 opinion piece “Japan going the wrong way in English-education reform,” one day, I asked one of my classmates at school, a returnee from the States, “How can I be fluent in English?” He replied, “Think everything in English. Try.” Of course, this conversation took place in Japanese. I wondered how I could think in English.
A week later, that moment came. I was on a train on my way home. I said to myself very slowly in English, “Now, I am looking out of the window. The sky is blue. There are trees. The leaves are green. What I see there is a kindergarten. Wow, I am thinking in English!” I rejoiced.
I was fortunate to have such a bilingual classmate. We learned English from native speakers since our school was run by a foreign mission. They taught us the most important thing was the English word order. To speak in English was to choose appropriate elements according to the word order and say it aloud. It should be simple as that. It was not so simple because my vocabulary was limited. I recognized that there is a flow of words, which can be mastered only through experience. I decided to use an English dictionary. From then on, I immersed myself in English.
I am a qualified English tourist guide now, though I work as a physician/scientist. Thanks to my English skill, my world has doubled. I still have been struggling with differences between Japanese and English/Western ideas, but that is another story.
English education is now mandatory in elementary schools. Nobody taught me how to think in English at school. I hope pupils who want to become fluent in English will be taught by teachers who are able to think in English.
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.