Collections of Essays on Japanese English Education and English Learning

As I am teaching English for living, I have something to say about English education in Japan and my English learning. These are some of the essays I wrote about them in other blogs :

New Guideline for English Education in Japan

(OK another radial criticism about English education here. Well I felt frustrated by English classes 30 years ago and still I see chaos. It is amazing to see it has been taking more than thirty years to change English education simply from grammar-translation oriented one to one for communication. To some people this essay may sound too harsh but think of those frustration I have been feeling and allow me to write this way)

Now we have new guidelines! We will teach English in English. That is OK with me! Actually I am thinking of teaching one hour a week in English, this year. I don’t have to do that because they are not the first graders but I will do that so that those students will have no disadvantage in future.

Now when I took a look at new textbook, my reaction was, “it is appalling.” On the left side there are passages you will teach and on the right side there is a script on the right side. I f you just read them, you can teach a class. Ready made text! But wait, is that a class? You will just read out the script. What about the level of the students? Do everyone understand them? But when I think of the many teachers I know (not from our school) from public school, I think they will need “scripts” to teach. At the same time I am afraid that they will be tape recorders. I think you will need another 10 years before the real English classes will take place because it will take about 10 years for new teachers to replace the old teachers without any communicative English. Who that cannot communicate in English can teach students to communicate in English? When you teach translation and test taking techniques, it was not difficult. Anyway, at least I can foresee the chaos. I cannot help feeling sorry for students (not teachers) who will learn English in this chaotic situation.

Along with use of TOEFL, there will be revolution but I don’t think people think of all those ideas know about the actual classrooms. At least we have to train teachers for some years before we start this. I want to be a teacher trainer. Anyway, I am a lover of American English and at least TOEFL make American English more useful.

Dramas, Movies and Books
You know when you fall in love. You think of all those logics, his or her outlook, height, age, nationality (not often in Japan) or even characteristics… Well once I was devastated by following my sense then I swore that I would never use my senses or instincts as my guides then I think I made a BIG mistake there. You should follow your instinct…

Well, that was my woe of thirty years ago and it is not important here. What I want to say here is how I fell in love with one drama. I have been watching “Legend of the Seeker” since I watched it on HULU. I bought the DVD set and original books.

As I repeatedly mentioned, being into books or dramas is one of the best ways to bring you the huge progress beyond imagination in English (this has been lately proven by one of my apprentices who has learned so much from the watching of the dramas). If you just read textbooks, you feel something but from my experience it is weak. But if you love the story and are into it, your heart goes through the emotions and that connects the words you hear or read to your emotions and then, those expressions, sentences, words, idioms, sounds and whatever will be part of you.

This is another thing I mentioned before but I still believe in what Krashen said, to acquire a language, you have to internalize them. That is all those elements have to be part of you!

These days a lot of people talk about “AUTOMATISM.” I think it is important. I, however, want to emphasize the importance of connection between expressions and emotions. If this is established, your response will come from your heart and it will be quicker.

Anyway, enough for my excuses and rationalization for my loving Legend of the Seeker! I have been watching episodes of the drama like a mad man. I finished first 22 episodes in 4 days. But thanks to this, I have been listening to English for 8 hours non-stop one day. I could hear all the characters pronunciation in my head without any efforts. This will further improved my listening skills and pronunciation. And this is the main reason I am writing this essay today!! How dramas and books help your English if you are into them. If you like movies, dramas or books, that is the greatest advantage you have over the others in learning a language because you can make efforts without realizing you are. You are having fun and it is helping you!!

There are two more things I want to talk about. One is the pronunciation.

All four main actors and actresses have American accents. So how is pronounced as “haeu.” I love the sound of “ae.” “But how?” “How?” “how can you … ?” Whichever one of the four main characters (oh, the enemy wizard king, too, so make it five!) speak, they pronounce this way. Some of you might not see the point. I am sorry. I just want to say I love the sounds and glad that I hear them so many times that I was able to master this pronunciation completely.

Another thing is there are so many good lines. I will repeatedly introduce them.

Today’s one is :

I know what it’s like to doubt yourself at every turn, but I’ve realized that if I stop and question every decision I make, I’ll never get anywhere. All we can do is make the best choices we can and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Yes, yes, as I grow older and look back on my life, there are so many regrets about past, especially the wrong decisions that I made. I cannot but rue it and kick myself for it when I brood over each decision. But come to think of it, I made each decision because I thought it seemed the best choice at the time. I will make mistakes from now on. I made mistakes before but you can say it only because you saw the result. So exactly what this sentence says. If I was afraid of mistakes and did not make decisions, I would be far behind in my life with more regrets. So I guess I can say that I did do the best I could, came to the farthest place I was able to reach under this circumstances and I will do the same from now on.

This line today has really eased my pains (more ore less self-inflicted) I have when I look back on my life and has helped me move on with confidence from now on. This, I believe, is the benefit you have when you love dramas, movies and books and this may be even more important assets than those for English learning.

There Are Two Ways to Learn English
There Are Two Ways to Learn English :

This maybe is the fact that every single person who has studied English might know but I would like to reiterate it once again here because although I insinuated this here and there, I did not enunciate it from this point of view.

I think there are two paths to climb the mountain called English. One is done by using logics and another is done by using senses. In the long run, you need both and you know that if you think about how you are using your own language.

To acquire senses you have to be exposed to a huge amount of English (both letters and sounds and this I have been emphasizing throughout my articles) and to acquire logics, you have to read logically explained text books. I am learning English with trying to achieve balance between these in mind.

So yesterday, I watched 5 hours of English dramas without caption (even did some “shadowing” when the protagonist was speaking. I read 70 some pages of a novel and read two articles from Time magazine, which I think enough exposure to English in one day.

Then I wrote the total of 500 words here and there in English, memorized 20 new words from SLV LV12 list (250 more and complete!) and summarized 1 chapter of 英文法解説. That is my logical side. Since I had a whole day to myself yesterday, I was able to study for 8 hours which I was unable to do for the last couple of days (usually 4 or 5 hours) and won’t be able to do from next week. Though I did not dream last night, if i had had a dream, I am sure that I would have dreamt in English.

Reading Experience on Kindle
Reading Experience on Kindle

Now Kindle has become an important part of my life.

What are the good points?

1. If you carry one device, you have all the books with you;
I have about 20 paperbacks, 5 dictionaries (all English ones. if I really need English-Japanese dictionary, I use iPhone), Time and some magazines and a couple of grammar books in this device. I cannot carry all these books.

2. They are cheap :
Some might have the same price tags but usually they are half or sometime one third of the price for the real books. Sometimes you get a real bargain.

3. I can get it right at the moment even from Japan:
So you can down load it right after you click “Purchase.” 5 minutes later you can start reading.

4. If you tap, you can get the meaning :
If you come across some words you don’t know. if you press the word for a while and get yourself a meaning. You can change your dictionary, so I assign Webster’s advanced learners dictionary.

The odds are :
1. I am a person who writes in the book a lot. You can digitally take a note and write whatever you want but it gives you a different feeling. Not critical, though. Also, I haven’t had any troubles so far but I kind of get the feeling that if something goes wrong, you might lose all your memos and all because they are just digitally recorded. The fact that I have back-ups of memos on my Macbook gives me a sense of security.

2. My sense of ownership is not sated. So sometimes I buy the books, too. BUt come to think of it, I can store the paper ones as part of collections and read digital versions. This can be a merit.

So I am happy with Kindle and I am sure it does your reading good!

How fun it is to learn English #1 whatever you do in English is “learning”
The Legend of the Seekers, Burn Notice and Nikita:

I have been watching dramas like crazy! But at the same time, a good thing about learning English is even being addicted to dramas and keep on watching all day long is justified as studying. I mean if you keep on listening to English more than 5 hours that is really good for you all four skills of English.

So I bought the box set for the episode 2 of the Legend of the Seeker and some books that are those dramas are based on. With Kindle, it was cheap and easy.

Now we are living in the great age of technology. I guess Japan is behind not just making use of it but in the attitude of making most of it. In the United States, they use iPad to provide textbooks in high schools. What is technology? It is to make humans better. Then why don’t we just use them as much as possible. What I am afraid of is if Japanese people stick to the attitude right now, we are left far behind. I personally believe since there are too many people on earth and the only hope we have is the technology because we know that unless we overcome them with technology, nature alone cannot handle this many people on earth and I want everyone to live happily as possible.

Another Dictionary:

Two weeks ago, in Grammar Girl Podcast, she introduced the new dictionary, “American Heritage Dictionary of Idiom.” When I checked it out in Amazon, I found out that It had just come out in 2013 (this year!) so I bought it with just a click! It is a brand new edition.

To see how it is, the best way is to look some expression up in it so I looked up the expression, “kick in.” Right now I don’t hear it as often as before, but a couple of weeks a go, I heard the expression a lot in the news of Sequester. The anchors kept saying, “Sequester will kick in” all the time. Now the third definition of this entry might be appropriate definition :

3. Begin to operate, as in Finally the motor kicked in and we could get started. This usage was first recorded in 1908.

Well, interesting information and easy to understand definition with a good example. I (want to) believe that it was worth the money. LOL

Anyway my life goes on with English. Where will it end up, I do not know but it will be fun! Let’s have fun together!


About dw64 (or Masa(aki) or Mark)

I am 52-year-old Japanese male. Ever since I watched Sesame Street when I was VERY young (5 years old?). I fell in love with American English and culture. I learned English hard and now I am teaching it. Then when I was 18, I had an opportunity to stay with an American family in Shell Knob, Missouri and I asked them to educate me as an American kid. So they taught me the American way and even my taste for food has changed completely so I call this rebirth! Then when I was 30 (I visited the U.S. several times but they were short stays), I joined the MA course in teaching English of graduate school in Vermont. I stayed about 10 months there (it was an intensive course). I stayed in a dorm and learned a lot inside and outside of classrooms. I got all the credits but I failed because of the difference in the context between the U.S. and JAPAN cuz it is so hard to teach English in The way I learned in the course because in Japan, teaching is about understanding grammar and structure in Japanese. But my journey does not end here. Last year I was admitted the CELTA course in NYC where I worked hard and got this certificate that certifies that I had finished the course and qualified to teach English to people who want learn English as a second language by Cambridge University standard. So if you are one of those people, send me a message and I can help you learn American English (I got this at Cambridge but basically they teach different English depending on location). Why did I pick NYC? Well, I am a huge fan of American everything! I live the country even when that demagogue guy is the President so I am an authentic fan of it. I mean, I love the U.S. more than anything in this world. There was a guy who loved Japan so much so after he retired he came to Japan and became a citizen. I want to do the same, actually. So now I am so into it, I listen to NYC CBS radio 880 all the time except when I watch dramas on Netflix, HBO or HULLU or read paperbacks on Kindle (read 70 books in the last two years). And then I am writing in English. I hope to be able to write something publishable in the future but I have to learn some more. As for my learning, I have almost done usual stuff so now I decide to do things that native speakers who wish to be writers will do. At least I learned 8000 words and phrases in the last couple years and I confirmed that I know more than 22000 words, which is tantamount to the number of words American graduate school students have. Well I might talk about these things, too, but I will talk about my favorite things in this blog. I love American dramas. I love the ones with some sci-fi portion in it. Like, from HULU, Gotham, Lucifer, Fringe, etc. I love good comedies so I love Seinfeld, SNL and night shows. Netflix? Luke Cage, Daredevil, and other defenders. I love legends of tomorrow, too. HBO, Game of Thrones!! And I also loved Night of and West World. I also might talk about cycling (road biking) and all other stuff! Please feel free to comment!
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