How to Study English

How to Study English while living in Japan

"For toddlers, learning one language is no more difficult than learning another...Even if the child doesn't continue in the language, learning so young clearly stimulates brain activity."

-Francois Thibaut, Founder of The Language Workshop for Children and a pioneer specialist in Early Childhood Education

Here is some advice for your students, or for you if you are a student studying English. (Note that at the bottom of the page there is a link to this same article in Japanese.)

Learning English while living in Japan is a very difficult thing to do. However it can be done. When learning English one must remember that "Rome wasn't built in a day." It takes a very long time to be able to speak well. Learning English is more like learning Classical piano than it is like learning how to ride a bicycle or how to swim. With swimming lessons you can see the results very quickly.

How to Study English

After only a few months or less, you can swim. English is very different. It takes years of English classes to become fluent. Arguably, English is the most difficult language in the world to learn, comprising the largest vocabulary in the world, and possessing a system of grammar that often leaves students and even teachers dumbfounded.

(Photo of prayer cards in Japan by Ian Griffin)

so that it's interesting, informative and


English Lessons for You

Is a solid resource of content for English Lessons and valuable strategies for EFL Students, EFL Teachers and Childhood Education Learners. Video Tutorials, Plans, Worksheets and interesting information to enhance

EFL learning and teaching.

How to Study English

I digress, but in many ways Japanese is actually much easier to learn than English, the grammar rules do not change very much, whereas English grammar has many exceptions to the rule. If you are lucky enough to go and live in an English speaking country for a year, and study hard, speak everyday, and avoid having many Japanese friends while there, you will come back to Japan as a fluent English speaker.

How to Study English

Why is this so? Well if you simply add up the hours of English speaking practice--let's say 8 hours of English speaking and listening per day, multiplied by 365 days, that comes to 2,920 hours of English for the year! Wow! If you go to a typical English conversation school, and you are a very good student and do homework each week, study each week, watch English movies, listen to English music, and read English books, and sometimes think in English when you are on the train or walking home, then perhaps you experience English for 8 hours a week, multiplied by 40 weeks (excluding holidays, sickness, class cancellations etc), and this comes to 320 hours of English per year.

How to Study English

To equal a year of living abroad, you would have to study at a conversation school and at home for almost ten years. This is probably pretty accurate. Language school students who do stay for 4 years or more, tend to be very good English speakers. The ones who have stayed 7 or more years are approaching the level of students who have lived abroad. I do not want to discourage students from studying English at a language school! It is a very good thing to do if you want to learn English and cannot live abroad.

How to Study English

It is also necessary if you are going to go abroad for a trip or to live. But you must realize that you cannot study for a few months and be a great English speaker. It just isn't possible. Learning to speak English is more like an art, one which took native speakers a long time to master. Even North American children frequently make mistakes when they speak. Frankly, so do many adults!

How to Study English

Hopefully you are still reading this, and haven't run away from the computer screaming about all the money you spent on English study! There are some students who learn English very quickly and become very good speakers, and even fluent in a short time. Just like the person who becomes very good at tennis, they practice. You do not need a fantastic tennis coach to be a very good tennis player, you do need to practice. The same rule applies to English study. Here are some habits of Japanese who speak English very well:

How to Study English - Advice

1. PARTICIPATE: When you come to class, speak up. Try to talk as much as you can. When asked a question answer more. ie) "What did you do on the weekend?" Answer: "Nothing." Not only is this a terrible answer, you obviously lead a very boring life, and need to get out more! Better answer: "I went shopping in Odawara with my friend." Also the teacher can't correct you, if he or she can't hear you. Speak up! Come to class on time, try to come every week. Borrow English study software, videos, and books from our libraries. Read English newspapers and magazines, especially magazines about the hobbies you like.

Try to really get into English, and make your home into a little Canada as much as possible by watching English movies, and using the English study software on your computer. Get Wow Wow or PerfecTV and watch as many English TV programs and movies as you can. I have mentioned this many times all ready, and that is because it is so important to becoming a good speaker and listener. In your car, listen to English cassettes which you can borrow from our schools, or listen to FEN radio AM 810 or InterFM, FM 76.1, both of these radio stations have a lot of their programming in English. Also, don't give up! Our teachers would be glad to recommend study software for you, or a good listening cassette or book from our libraries. For Junior High School Students: Some of you need to leave the negative attitude at the door. Try to have fun, your teacher is.

You may not realize it now, but English is going to be very important to your future. If you plan to travel anywhere outside of Japan, then English really is a necessity. English is cool! If you can speak well, you will have so many opportunities that others will not.

It really is the world's language, so you can learn it now, or you can learn it later; when it will be more difficult as you will be very busy working, and perhaps have children and other responsibilities. See below.... Listen to English music!

How to Study English

2. DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME: When you come to class speak English. You can speak Japanese at home. Never use Japanese during class, and remind your classmates of this as well. When you finish a pairwork activity, this is a good chance to do free talk in English. Don't waste your time by doing free talk in Japanese. Your Japanese is all ready very good! If you don't know the English word, describe it or use gestures. Be creative! Do your homework EVERY week! Study the important points in your textbooks every week. For every hour of class time, you should spend at least one hour of home study to prepare for class. So three hours of classes per week equals three hours of study at home, plus you must do the assigned homework each week. No one said it would be easy! You can of course study much more than this, and this will increase the speed at which you become a good speaker.

How to Study English

3. PAY ATTENTION: Listen to other students talk. You can learn just as much from them as you can from the teacher. Look at the student who is speaking. Also, make eye contact with everyone when you speak, not just your teacher. It is rude to just concentrate on one person when you speak, you should make eye contact with everyone in the class.

How to Study English

4. THINK IN ENGLISH: By answering quickly you can train yourself to think in English. If you translate everytime, your English will be very slow, and your grammar will be bad. It is difficult to translate from Japanese to English and speak well--the languages are so different. Answering quickly will prevent you from translating into Japanese.

5. RECORD your English lesson and listen to it later.

6. PERSEVERE: Students who become good English speakers don't give up. They continue to study until they master English. This may take a long time. But so do many things in life.

7. TRAVEL to English speaking countries whenever you can. It helps you to practice and it spurs you on to study more.

8. JOIN us for our school parties and events, and join some of the international societies in Odawara, Yokohama, and Tokyo. You can meet many people from other countries and practice your English. If you go to Kinokuniya Bookstore, they have many magazines in English. The Tokyo Journal and Tokyo Classified, advertise many international societies which you can join and meet others from other countries. You shouldn't join just to practice your English of course. You should join a society in which you have a genuine interest.

9. JOIN our Kevin's English Schools Online Community, it's free! You can ask questions about English, post messages and have discussions in English. The more you practice your English either by speaking or by email the better!

10. MUSIC: Listen to songs sung in English. Sing English songs when you go out for karaoke. Above all, do your best to enjoy your studies, that way you will persevere and study longer.

How to Study English-written in Japanese 日本語

To Vocabulary Exercises

From How to Study English to How to teach English in Japan (home)

To Motivating Japanese Students

To Adult ESL Lessons

What is Shadowing?