Various discussions are underway, such as the revision of the Course of Study and the change of English tests in university entrance examinations, but I am concerned about English education. By the way, there is an opinion that solid English ability is cultivated from “reading ability”. Communication with people from all over the world is now indispensable in various scenes, but how can you acquire the solid English skills necessary for that purpose?
How do you acquire English skills that you can use?
It seems that English education based on the new Course of Study will start in 2020. They don’t get good grades in elementary school, but they seem to be working on English from the third and fourth grades. From the 5th grade, they use specialized teachers to cultivate the ability to use rudimentary English as a subject. In junior high school, it is a principle to conduct classes in English, and classes are scheduled to present one’s own opinions on news articles and listen to the opinions of peers. Upon entering high school, students develop the ability to communicate with English speakers with a certain degree of fluency. Not only are classes conducted in English, but it seems that debates and presentations can also be incorporated into the class.
After discussions in the Diet in November last year, it was decided to postpone the reform of entrusting English subjects in the Common University Entrance Test to private sector examinations. It seems that the viewpoint that in order to boldly change high school classes, it will not be effective unless the university entrance examination is changed. Among the proponents, there seems to have been the president of a company that made English the official language of the company, and other managers who criticized that “school education cannot be used at work.” On the other hand, it has also been pointed out that the early stages of the council did not include English educators.
As it has been reported, there are no concrete measures to correct regional and economic disparities among examinees, and they remain subject to implementation issues, and I believe it is only natural that the conclusion of postponement has been reached. As for the decision-making process and implementation issues, I will not go into more detail about them because they are only within the scope of what I learned from the media, but I would like to talk about the concept of English education based on my own experience.
Student time learning English through music and novels
When I was a teenager, I didn’t have any opportunities to converse in English, so I just studied by reading and memorizing it. When I was in junior high school, I just memorized textbooks. Then you will proceed with the learning of basic grammar. Listening to the teacher’s reading aloud with a rather suspicious pronunciation, we simply utter the sentences we have memorized. This is an English education at a municipal junior high school in downtown Tokyo more than a year ago. When you enter a metropolitan high school, your level of English improves, but basically it is a repetition of the same thing. I don’t memorize the whole sentence in a fluent way, but I read a little longer sentences from textbooks and supplementary materials, practice reading comprehension, and memorize words and idioms. During the university entrance exam period, students memorize words and idioms together. After that, I am running out of time to challenge the past questions of the entrance examination a little. Even in high school, I hardly studied hearings. But I personally listened to Western music. The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Carpenters. I remember hearing it many times while looking at the lyric card.
When I became a university student, there were English classes in liberal arts, but I don’t remember the contents. Also, although I had the opportunity to read the original book as a specialist, I think that I was only reading my own part. On the other hand, I began to read foreign novels in their original form. It was at the level of English that I studied at the time of the university entrance examination, and I was able to read about half of each book at once if I stayed up all night recklessly. I didn’t look up the dictionary at all, so there were parts that I couldn’t understand in the detailed description, but reading through it was my priority. Sidney Sheldon and Dick Francis were the authors I read at the time.
Basic English ability is “reading ability”
For more than 30 years after I got a job at a foreign-affiliated IT company because of my connections, I have been exposed to English almost every day in my work. On weekdays, I always read and write in English. There are also several conference calls each week. I regularly travel abroad for several days, so I give presentations in English and participate in discussions. However, this is not the case when it comes to being a master of English. if you’re watching a Hollywood movie, you see that the subtitle is in Japanese. English lyrics can still be heard mostly what I heard when I was younger, but I can’t really hear new singers. You can hear the news on TV programs quite a bit, but sometimes you can’t hear it on late-night talk shows.
The idea that “communication is conversation” is wrong, says Reiko Torikai, professor emeritus at Rikkyo University. He also says that the vocabulary and grammar necessary to use English are cultivated by “reading.” Based on the ability to read, students become able to listen and write, and use that power to speak, to communicate. If it is a conversation such as simple shopping, a boilerplate expression is fine, but in order to speak your opinion and idea logically and convincingly, you need to have a solid English ability. If you can’t read or write, you won’t be able to communicate with content. I am very worried about whether my own English skills are strong, but I agree 100% with the opinion of Professor Emeritus Torikai.
“English ability” to expand the world
By the way, can junior high school students these days express their opinions on news articles in Japanese? In high school, do you really have debates and presentations in English? Again, it would be better to acquire the ability to debate and give presentations in Japanese. As for English, my theory is that once reading ability becomes the foundation and you can write to some extent, you will acquire skills as necessary from there. It is said that the total number of people who speak English as their mother tongue, people whose official language is English, and people who use English as a foreign language are 1.5 billion to 2 billion. It is also true that the official languages of academics, business, and sports are mostly English. In the sense of expanding children’s future possibilities, English education is increasingly important, and it is expected to cultivate solid English skills.
As I mentioned earlier, during my regular overseas business trips at Stratus, I have communicated not only with Americans, but also with French, Indian, British, Germans, Singaporeans, and Dutchmen. I would like to continue to learn about best practices from regions other than Japan and to disseminate information from Japan as well. I would like young people who have acquired solid English skills to participate in such an international business arena.