Another Perspective on English Language Education in Japan
A while ago I had a couple conversations with a fellow ALT (that is, a foreigner teaching English) who has thought about his profession a good deal. Here are some things he said:
In the US (Europe and elsewhere) they have been using lab schools for decades. You run one style lesson in one room, immediately in the next room is a class of the same level of students from the same demographic running the control methodology. From this research, scientifically (applied linguistics) proven methodologies have been developed. Common sense guidelines about what works and what doesn’t work. The Japanese don’t need to run demo lessons or learn from each other, they need to pull their heads out of you know where and learn from the outside. Demo lessons and Japanese-lead kenshu are a joke; they are too far behind to be taken seriously in the field of language education. They are just too stubborn and ethnocentric to accept it. They should be importing teachers and working as assistants, not importing assistants. JTE=not a real English teacher but they for some weird reason see it the exact opposite way around.
Unfortunately the people doing the [Board of Education] audits don’t know how to teach English, sometimes don’t even speak English. I work with one woman who actually knows how to teach and speak English very well, having lived and studied abroad in both Europe and the US. When she had an evaluation, some moron from the BOE comes in and tells her some completely invalid nonsense and directs her to do more of what doesn’t work. It was such a joke.
I think on the ground level Japanese teachers have a lot of leeway to do what is right (or not) kinda like as an ALT, depending on your situation, sometimes you can T1 or spend extra time with kids and have a positive impact in someway. So… the teachers in other subjects can find a way around the nonsense and provide a good quality of education. When it comes down to it I actually agree with many JTEs’ viewpoint (whether they say it out loud) that English is not that important and that the other aspects of their job, namely helping these kids grow up, is most important. So I think the teachers (if they choose to) can do some good work. It’s not a big secret the system is a joke. Teachers in basically every subject express it themselves, but they usually take pride in one aspect or another of their job where they are able to have autonomy and are able to be successful.
On language itself:
Scientifically speaking, functionally different languages carry roughly the same amount of forms if critically measured. (There have been many studies of languages exploring phones, vocabulary, grammar etc.). Once at the dialect level for a specific language task all languages will use different systems if compared and will seem to be more cumbersome or less if observed in parts, on the whole though it all kinda balances out. English has evolved from many creoles and has been recorded over time the most extensively, each of its dialects both by region and period have been written in extensively and this causes forms that would otherwise die out to remain on record and still ‘exist’. I doubt the average vocabulary of an English speaker is much larger than that of most any other language. English has the Oxford Dictionary (the big official one) which compared to other languages’ most extensive dictionaries English likely hands down has a higher percentage of words the average person has never even heard vs. words they use. The is an accomplishment of how many peoples our language has been pressed on, how many of them rebelled to instill and create literature in their own dialects and how diligently we’ve recorded it all.