An interesting article on English education in Japan over at The Diplomat. Referring to the Japanese government’s making English classes compulsory in 5th and 6th grade (that’s the last two years of primary school for you non-U.S. readers) onwards, law-school graduate Hiroki Ogawa writes,

The reality is that raw English ability alone is unlikely to produce any significant change, even assuming that Japanese students go on to have basic conversational skills in English which is often not the case anyway. The problem for many Japanese doesnt necessarily stem from the English lessons themselves, nor the lack of opportunities to use English in Japan though this does exacerbate the situation. The big problem is often the significant cultural barriers.

I’m going to comment on a few points of this article, as it’s well worth reading and makes an important point, but needs amplifying. Ogawa’s point is that Japanese don’t learn to discuss or argue in English class, and that this severely cramps their English communicative ability, and that (inevitably these days) the government should do something about it!

I think he’s right. Partly. But the situation is more difficult than he implies, and I don’t think the solutioncan be implemented by governmental regulation or initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »

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