Teaching English to Japanese

Teaching English to Japanese -- How to get your students to speak 100% English

by David Martin

This paper is written primarily for teachers who have unmotivated to semi-motivated students and want (more than anything) for their students to communicate in English from the beginning of the lesson right through to the end. This would typically include most university, junior college and high school teachers in Japan.

Your first reaction may be that this is an unrealistic goal, one that you may have presented to your students before, but a goal they have always failed to achieve. You may be in a classroom situation where the students speak 20-50% Japanese. Or your students may not speak much at all.

(English to Japanese --Pictured: Flowers in Japan by Richard Baladad)

Is a 100% English goal unrealistic? First let me explain that by setting a 100% goal this does not imply that Japanese will be outlawed in the classroom. You should in no way hint that Japanese is forbidden, wrong, or in any way inferior to English. At times using Japanese is advantageous to an English-only paradigm. Using Japanese to translate (rather then explain) difficult vocabulary is expedient. This shortens the explanation time and thus gives the learners more time to communicate in English. Another example where using Japanese is necessary is when a student asks the teacher (or another student), "How do you say...in English?" The thrust of this paper is that the bulk of conversation in class, especially when real communication is going on, should be done as much as possible in English.

Do the author's students speak mostly English? Presently I have four college conversation classes of unmotivated to semi-motivated students. On average, I would say the students speak about 90-95% English. Recently there have been days when the students speak almost all English. These classes have been meeting for about four months now, and during the first month the students were generally unmotivated and spoke only about 70% in English.

What follows are some techniques that I have found to be successful in getting my students to speak mostly in English.

English Grammar -- Go to page two of this article.

On Education in Japan

"The country`s education system creates a huge gap between the skills Japanese employees possess and the skills they need to succeed in today`s world."

--Takumi Shibata COO of Nomura Holdings, p. 337 "Reimagining Japan" Viz Media, LLC

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