At Smith”s School of English our job is to Coach Communicative Confidence. English Conversation is our tool. We have a challenge.
A recent survey of 6,173 students performed by Japan Youth Research Institute found that only 30% of Japanese High School students like to participate in classes where they are asked to talk and that 70 percent of Japanese high school students preferred “Classes where we can learn through precise instruction on textbook content.” Compared to the United States, South Korea and China, Japan is way behind when it comes to speaking out. This needs to change if Japan is to stay competitive on a world wide platform. It needs to change if the people of Japan really want to enjoy the wonderful bounty available to them through meaningful inter cultural relations. Our job is to help this change happen.
Last night I taught three trial lessons. Two students loved the way we taught and joined Smith”s School of English Kyobashi. These two students showed a real desire to learn how to speak English. They loved the “Morning Routine” (a present simple Questions and Answer routine) and responded perfectly to Smith’s High Student Talking time technique. The third student did not. Each time I asked him a question he answered “yes” or “no” I changed tactics and used why questions and he became annoyed. Then it dawned on me he was waiting for the text book. I opened the door by asking him if he had any questions for me and he immediately replied in Japanese he wanted to know about our text book and it’s philosophy. We sat there discussing the Smith’s Philosophy for maybe 30 minutes. I did my best to explain we do not use a student text book as we try to avoid these costs to the student. Yes, we teachers (coaches) are working to a common course of study but no, there are not any student text books. He fought back, yes he was now defending his belief, that without a text book he could not prepare for class. I wound down the lesson and let this fellow go home. I was saddened by this event. I know he will not master English Conversation with a text book.
With every minute of my 21 years in Japan and 13 years in this job of teaching English I know text books will not build confident English Conversation for the Japanese people. Student Speaking Time in class with a caring English Teacher will do that.
Teachers read this article and meet your challenge face to face. Students read this same article and know this about your system and try to change. Students please know we really do care about you. http://bit.ly/PassiveJapanese
P.S. Teachers there is quite a lot written to support my strong beliefs. If you wish to do further reading then perhaps begin by following up from here. Need to buy this article by Deborah Busch http://bit.ly/ExtrovertCornell
I feel sorry for that one student…but I know the type. And I agree, he most likely will not be able to master English conversation.
John C says
I think that this is also reflected in the overwhelming proportion of students taking TOEIC Listening and Reading exams as opposed to those studying for the Speaking and Writing test. It appears that the many Japanese employers who prefer high TOEIC achievers do not seem to mind that the vast majority of these employees or applicants have followed the far more passive route of the Listening and Reading test.
The Japanese education system is also largely based on multiple choice tests, and this also favours a passive, text-book based approach. An active approach, with students “speaking their minds” makes multiple choice, which virtually prohibits independent thought and self expression, impossible.
There, I’ve spoken my mind.