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Students' names in English? 
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
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Post Students' names in English?
Am I the only person that thinks students should always write their name in English, and NOT ONLY when the ALT is in the classroom?

I started cracking down this year so whenever the students write their name incorrectly in English, they receive homework worksheet where they have to write their name 10 times and return it to me. I track the class by percentage and I think it's a little sad when 1st year JHS students have a higher percentage than 2nd and 3rd year students.

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Thu Jun 21, 2007 3:22 pm
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First I should say that this is not a Japan specific site, so you might lose a lot of the audience with words like ALT, JET, kanji, hiragana, romanji and so on. Only about 7-8% of this sites' visitors are from Japan. It's OK of course but you might get a better response with more explanation.

The reason Japanese teachers prefer or don't mind Japanese is probably because it's easier/quicker to find them on the grade books as well as quicker for the students to write. Just as it would be easier for you to find them if it was all in English. (Since the a,b,c order is different from the Japanese character order.)

Ideally we'd do away with all L1 on our worksheets. I try to, but there's more going on than just English conversation and building English competence when you're looking at English education in the Japanese public school system. I'm sure you are aware of this, but students are learning English to pass tests. If as a by product of that they are able to speak, then wonderful. Teachers have to get students to a certain level in minimal time and to do so they use translation, L1 instruction and mathematical like equations for building English sentences.

That's what English in public schools is. I hope it changes and it has made some very possitive changes even since I've been here. But Japan won't make any drastic changes and certainly not quickly. That's just the way Japanese culture is.

By all means teach what you feel is best. My only advice is when you are questioning something or wish to change something, think about why they do it or don't do it. I have to just keep my mouth shut a lot of times at the junior high school. While our idea may be great for English education, think about whether the idea is truely helpful in regards to what they are ultimately trying to do at schools. - - - > Pass that test.

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Thu Jun 21, 2007 4:55 pm
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Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:04 am
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Location: Chatan, Okinawa, JA
Post Elementary
Ive heard that an English Teacher at Elementary schools is uncommon (or just picking up in popularity). I am an Elementary English Teacher (Japanese), and have been told that they arent necessarily supposed to learn anything from me (which I disagree with), rather, Im supposed to make English Fun. To be honest, I think I can do both, without upsetting anyone. The only difficult part I have is that in Elementary, the students (by law) dont have to write or read English. So, Ive found that there are many rules and customs you have to get used to before trying to make changes to their way of learning. Also, understanding the natural behavior of Japanese students (you can find on the web), you can understand how to teach them so they want to write English. Its all about finding a way around the culture barrier, not changing it.


Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:07 am
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
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First of all, thanks Mark for reminding me that this is not just a Japan teacher forum. I've been surfing Japan-specific forums for years, but have given them up in substitute for this one because of the posters here seem to actually care about what they do in the classroom.

Mark, you made a comment in your last post that I unfortunately agree with. Students in Japan study English with the goal of passing the test. Like I posted in another string, I think English fluency or a level of competency should be the ultimate goal, with the tests serving as a "means to an end." I still have my feet anchored to the ground, meaning, I know my thoughts aren't shared by Japan's Ministry of Education, but this doesn't stop me from trying. ;)

This isn't a new issue. One of the main problems with the English education system in Japan is the focus is on the tests. I've always been the type of person to put 110% into anything I do. This obviously produces great things, but can easily backfire when faced with an obstacle. My goal is to get Japanese students to think in English and to be able to read without the katakana (one of the Japanese alphabets) superscript. One of my methods is to encourage students to write their names in English and assign 'name writing practice' when they make a mistake. I believe having the students write their name in English is very miniscule but I believe every little shift away from the students thinking in Japanese in English class is a good thing. Yes, this might seem pedantic and minute, but I'm trying to use every weapon in my arsenal to give Japanese students the chance to learn more-than-a-test English. There are a lot of creative techniques used in Japan's present English system, but I think there is a major problem with the system as a whole when I can ask a 3rd grade JHS student, "How are you," and they don't have a problem with the question. But, the moment I ask, "How is Takumi [the student's friend's name]," I receive a blank stare. While formulas might work in Math class, when the main focus of learning a language is heavily based upon formulas and rote memorization, all I see is a dismal future.

Professor Yoshida from Tokyo's Sophia University relates Japan's English education system to a fish in fish bowl versus a fish in the open sea. He says a fish in a fish bowl is reliant on the owner for food and can do nothing without the owner having a hand in it. Whereas, a fish in the open sea must learn to survive on its own. It's given the tools to survive but it must make an independent choice to live or die. The student doesn't understand. I don't think I have to explain the metaphorical analogy Mr. Yoshida was trying to say about Japanese students in English class. While I can see the negative consequences of this method when juxtaposed to Japanese society, I think Yoshida is onto something.

My English goal is different from the vast majority of Japanese English teachers and education system. They want to teach their students English that is useful to the tests, but I want only want to give the students to tools to explore English on their own without their teacher's help. What I think is sad is a lot of young Japanese English teachers start out in their career having lots of ideas and dreams about teaching their students useful English, but as the years wear on, their great ideas and motivation seems to dissipate and they start going through the motions of teaching English.

What I'm trying to say, Mark, is while Japan's English goal are focused on "learning for the tests," this doesn't mean I have to assimilate my goals. People all around me tell me all the time that why bother or care because Japan will always be slow to change and they will never listen to a foreigner. While this may true, it doesn't change who I am and what I want to accomplish. So, while Japanese English teachers continue to use katakana to teach English pronunciation, allow their students to superscipt their entire textbooks in katakana, and allow their students to write their names in kanji in English class, I will continue to give students the tools they need to read without having to resort to rote memorization or katakana superscript and continue handing out 'name practice' homework to the students forgetting to write their names in English in English class. :)


Siegrist, to answer your question about elementary school English in Japan, I believe it was about 6 years ago, English teachers started teaching in elementary schools. At when I say English teachers, I mean foreigners who have a college degree but not necessarily in teaching English, teaching English in Japanese elementary schools, or even have a license to teach English in a classroom. So, it's quite natural that the 'higher ups' are hesitant about letting these foreigners into areas their society where children are most susceptible, especially with the goal of teaching versus having fun. It is my own personal opinion, but I think one of the primary reasons foreigners started teaching English in elementary school in Japan was to start getting the children used to foreigners, seeing that most rural students have never seen a foreigner, which isn't surprising since Japan only has 3% foreigners and is trying to reduce that to 2%. [Feel free to correct me if my stats are a little off.]

In my personal opinion, Japanese are scared a foreigner, with no experience or training, could scar the children and make English a horrible experience for them when they enter JHS. And honesty, I've seen a lot of bad foreign ES English teachers who have made me cringe! So, it's not surprising the Japanese are just a bit hesitant, considering ES children are extremely impressionable.

The next couple years in Japan should be interesting to see what Japan's English education system creates in regards to the implementation of mandatory English from 5th grade on up. You are correct, when you say English reading and writing is not, by law, required to be taught in ES in Japan. However, I think the many of the topics suggested, like shopping, are a waste of time.

I believe teaching the correct pronunciation of alphabet letters and their sounds are more beneficial than teaching students how to go shopping. Personally, I don't ever recall a student ever needing to say, "How much is this shirt?" And, even if there ever came a time to use that question, what do you think the chance is that the student would freeze, or have the capacity to understand unformulaic responses? It is my personal belief that time is best spent studying something more useful. What is more useful? I think it all depends on what the teacher is good at teaching...

At the individual schoo level, I don't think the school really cares too what you teach, as long as:
1. They can see you care about the students,
2. The focus of the lesson is on English
3. It's fun.

That being said, if you can keep English fun, I don't think there will be too many complaints.

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Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:30 am
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Quote:
While formulas might work in Math class, when the main focus of learning a language is heavily based upon formulas and rote memorization, all I see is a dismal future.

Well, I don't think learning English to learn how to read and write is a waste or a bad thing. Many of the students won't need English as adults, and of those that do, many will need English just for email or other written communication (at least that's the case for the companies around me now.)

Take away English from their high school entrance exams and college entrance exams and what will happen? ... People will stop studying English all together, because it's not just English, the whole point of junior high is to get into high school and the whole point of high school is to get into college. The sad fact is we need that exam or English will die.

Again, increasing communicative competence is ideal but it's not the system's goal. The system itself, although introducing native speakers, doesn't recognize communicative competence as more important. So, when you have an idea and it doesn't go over well, it's good to remember they're not fighting you. You are fighting the objective of the system. I'm not telling you, or anyone for that matter, that you shouldn't try to make positive changes but you must remember that you have different objectives from the school system.

It's hard to tell by 'reading' you whether you are enjoying the experience or frustrated by it. I hope you are enjoying it.

It's really not a great position to be in. If you really want to make a difference in the speaking competence of the students, I would suggest working in a English language school outside of the public school system. It's very rewarding and you get to make a lot of those changes for the better. I actually didn't love teaching English until I started teaching outside the public school system. (I still teach part-time at a JHS but I do it to stay in the loop, not because it's rewarding or gives me a platform to show any talent what so ever.)

Quote:
In my personal opinion, Japanese are scared a foreigner, with no experience or training, could scar the children and make English a horrible experience for them when they enter JHS ... So, it's not surprising the Japanese are just a bit hesitant

Japanese in general like untrained labor. That is to say they like to take you in and train you their way. Because they don't really want you to interupt the system they'd prefer in general not to have trained teachers. Trained teachers will just complain that things are different, be combatitive in the system, and try to change things for what they see as the better. It's not a rule but a generalization.

I studied French for 4 years and can't speak a word now. I really tried hard in French class but just had no use for it after high school. (English in Japan is a little different from French in America. I actually wish I had studied Spanish.) The point being it really is just a required subject for most and I can see the BOE's point in trying to make it fun, starting with a 'just fun' approach in elementary school.

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Tue Jun 26, 2007 12:09 am
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Wow, I can see so much of my experiences reflected in these posts, and it warms me to think I'm not alone.

I have to say that I agree with the initial posting that it seems silly not to expect the students to write their names in English during every English class (as opposed to only when the dim-witted foreigner is around) but I agree that it's a bit of a losing battle.

Unforunately, it is faster and easier for the teachers to correct them when they are labeled in L1. But then again, not all in-class worksheets need to be corrected and recorded (at least I hope not) so native teachers should be willing to sacrifice some slight convenience for the sake of the students' fluency and relent this point when possible.

What gets me more irritated than anything is not the idea of them writing their names in English only when I am around, but rather a teacher telling students that the only reason they should so such a thing is because I can't read their names' kanji. It makes my blood boil when one of my teachers frames it that way every time it comes up because it is such a blatant reinforcement of so many negative stereotypes that Japan holds towards foreigners: they can't read or understand our extremely complex kanji system, they are difficult to work with because they create these kind of inconveniences, and the only reason we should bother to abandon L1 is to accomodate our stupid Assistant Language Teacher. It drives me CRAZY!!! :smt013

Anyways, you mentioning the subject made me remember how much that annoyed me. Thankfully, I only have one teacher who is that noticeably disdainful of foreigners. The others are pretty great.

Try to hang in there with your goals of creating students who don't have to rely on formulas. It's definitely worth it, no matter how disheartening people's reactions to it may be.


Wed Jun 27, 2007 4:23 pm
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