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Japanese American vs Native Teaching, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1169

Essay

Japanese English Teachers (JET’s) and Japanese teachers whose primary language is Japanese (L2 teachers) invariably exhibit differences which are sometimes unique to their cultural background or personality type and talents. Nonetheless, patterns emerge regarding JET’s and L2 teacher roles, teaching foci and approach, strategies, skills, and general efficacy in preparation for English proficiency tests, such as the TOIEC. The following literature review briefly examines these aspects.

In Japanese programs, teachers often utilize assistants or other support staff who are native to an English-speaking country. However, confusion still exists as to the appropriate and actual roles of L2 teachers and their JET support staff- with some JET speakers being involved primarily as sources of verification of linguistic use and others as cultural representatives and gestural demonstrators, placing JET teaching assistants in a minor role with less participation in the decision-making process (Mahoney, 2004, 229-231). Subsequently, the team teaching approach often creates an environment of subtle rivalries, as the Japanese and English-speaking cultures vary in their social and educational customs. Ohata (2005) also concludes that cultural differences effect the way both the teacher and instruction are perceived, and the Japanese educational norms of inconspicuous personal responsibility for learning may stigmatize students who struggle or excel in English as a second language (ESL) classes. Despite the advantages which JET speakers present from a sociolinguistic viewpoint, L2 teachers typically exhibit a greater cultural awareness of the roles and expectations regarding the student body (Nishino, 2008). Hayashi (2005) notes that exposure to English increased proficiency in that language at a higher rate when the prevalent local language, Japanese, was also used in both the school and everyday environments. Higher test scores in Japanese are correlated with lower proficiency in English and vice versa, creating the very real dilemma of prioritizing the students’ cultural attitudes and potential future use.

For example, Tanaka and Stapleton (2007) discover that extensive reading is strongly correlated with greater proficiency but not necessarily with an increase in the student’s motivation to read (pp. 125-126). Sixty-seven percent of Japanese students in public schools also attend supplemental classes designed to present learning in English vocabulary (Hayashi, 2005). Interestingly, more than ninety percent of parent respondents and seventy-five percent of teacher respondents supported English acquisition as a positive learning goal (Honna & Takeshita, 2005, pp. 368-370). Student-centered learning has taken many forms, and home reading programs increase the speed of recognition and comprehension for a second language (Tanaka & Stapleton, 2007, p. 125). The Japanese focus on the acquisition of a foreign language- although apparent and well-established- still produces lower relative rates of English-proficient students than the schools of Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand (Honna & Takeshita, 2005).

Kurihara and Samimy (2007) explain that L2 teachers of English in Japan frequently undergo preparatory programs which expect them, as adult learners, to assume responsibility for mastery of the learning yet expects them to remember and translate this language into student-centered units which engage the students as independent learners (p. 101). Snow and Brinton (1997) write that content-based instruction must incorporate both individualization and unification of thematic units and propose a rotating workshop schedule which accommodates both of these foci. Increasing the presence of English vocabulary and usage throughout the school further develops this linguistic expansion- provided that the increased usage of English is related to content areas which require technological or written proficiency.  According to one study, Japanese L2 teachers show a high level of awareness of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), as gleaned mainly from academic journals and articles (Nishino, 2008).

While Japanese L2 teachers frequently become proficient English speakers, Jungheim (2004) points out that general linguistic proficiency is often obstructed by the use of non-traditional gestures or other body language (128-132). The use of the hands and small body movements which confirm or deny a statement returned the highest correlation with a lower perception of speaker proficiency in a face-to-face conversation. The author also explains that, in addition to creating an incomplete understanding of these subtle characteristics of English speech, native speakers’ students employ a broader range of gestures, and their students typically rank higher in proficiency testing. Both JET’s and L2 teachers agree that English proficiency tests heavily favor written skills and that preparing students for a test creates a need to place less importance on the elements of speaking and listening which are typically more influential in the practical considerations of language usage (Nishino, 2008).

Particular focus has been directed to recent results released by the Test of English for Intercultural Communication (TOEIC), which has placed Japan among the lowest-ranked countries for L2 acquisition (Kato, 2005). After a statistical examination was compared against qualitative research, Kato concluded that the cultural techniques used to educate men and women varied and that metacognitive and cognitive strategies were not applied frequently, or, in some cases, appropriately (pp. 256-258). Communicative Language Teaching remains among the most-utilized forms of L2 acquisition (Nishino, 2008). Despite some L2 teachers’ objections to the emphasis upon reading and writing, only one out of seven respondents in Jungheim’s study felt that these considerations merited an overhaul of the testing methods (2004).

The research indicates that L2 teachers and JET’s in Japan earn respect and are admired and that, in general, their practices both seem to be working. However, the strategies and skills which create different levels of proficiency present a question with important nuances for future study. The further globalization of English in Japan- and other Asian countries in particular- will depend upon such strides for continued success.

References

Ohata, K. (Dec. 2005). Potential Sources of Anxiety for Japanese Learners of English: Preliminary Case Interviews with Five Japanese College Students in the U.S., Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 9(3): 1-21. Print.

Jungheim, N. (Nov. 2004). Hand in Hand: A Comparison of Gestures Accompanying Japanese Native Speaker and JSL Learner Refusals. Japanese Association for Language Teaching, 26(2): 127-145. Print.

Hayashi, A. (2005). Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism, ed. James Cohen, Kara T. McAlister, Kellie Rolstad, and Jeff MacSwan, 1010-1033. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Honna, N. & Y. Takeshita. (2005). English Language Teaching in Japan: Policy Plans and Other Implementations. RELC Journal, 36: 363. Print.

Kato, S. (2005). How Language Learning Strategies affect English Proficiency in Japanese University Students. Bunkyo Gakuin University. Web. Retrieved from http://www.u-bunkyo.ac.jp/center/library/image/kyukiyo7_kato.pdf.

Kurihara, Y., & K. Samimy. (2007). The Impact of a U.S. Teacher training program on teacher beliefs and practices: A case study of secondary school level Japanese teachers of English. Japanese Association for Language Teaching, 29(1):99-122. Print.

Mahoney, S. (Nov. 2004). Role Controversy Among Team Teachers in the JET Programe. Japanese Association for Language Teaching, 26(2): 223-254. Print.

Murphey, T. (1997). “Content-Based Instruction in an EFL Setting: Issues and Strategies.” Chapter 9, Multiple Perspectives on Content-Based Instruction: 117-131. Print.

Nishino, T. (May 2008). Japanese Secondary School Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices Regarding Communicative Language Teaching: An Exploratory Survey. Japanese Association for Language Teaching, 30(1): 27-51. Print.

Tanaka, H., & P. Stapleton. (Apr. 2007). Increasing Reading Input in Japanese High School Efl Classrooms: An Empirical Study Exploring the Efficacy of Extensive Reading. The Reading Matrix, 7(1): 115-131. Print.

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