By Jon Doe
Tokyo—-One of the old stand by for Japanese based news sites and bloggers alike, to cure the slow Monday news feed, is to push out write-ups on the awkward effects of social alienation on the island. As this Monday’s news feed is pretty slow ‘why can’t Japanese speak English?’articles have once again cluttered the feed.
The fact of the mattered is that it’s true. The majority of the native born Japanese population cannot speak any language beyond Japanese. This is despite Japan having a above average education system and high rate of college graduates. Japanese was given at least six years of English education, in addition to, an abundance of private English education companies offering everything from light conversation to business classes. Yet, as much chances most Japanese seem to have to pick up English, a widely used international language, the average Japanese on the streets of Tokyo will struggle to give English directions to the nearest train station.
We have all head the following talking points many times before. The actual problem with language education in Japan is of course structural.
The systemic contradictions within the Japanese education system is a topic rarely addressed by neither the government, teacher’s unions or local BOE’s. These three key fundamental corner stones of education in Japan dare not mention that the current system has an established standard lacking in purpose or function.
The current English standard is based off of simply passing a written test to either enter university or impress a boss for a promotion. The ‘on paper’ fluent speakers of English are numerous on the island. This low level of English ability suits the interest of the bourgeois perfectly. To be honest, at work most Japanese need not speak a lot of English. Simply being able to read some speak and struggle though a few sentences will enough from day to day. With that in mind, English grammar and test are focus on instead of actual learning in most cases. Motivation to speak English fluently in order to enrich ones life is not on the dinner table of Capitalist agenda.
The lack of motivation spurred by learning something because it is required without any interest attached to it creates social alienation. The person disconnected from the knowledge in their head. The result is the current situation. A population who, at large, views learning English as a pain in the ass which has no connection to their actual life.
Only by changing the structure of the entire English education system in Japan can the contradiction be resolved. People must be connected to what they learn in a real and material way. In Japan, learning English remains a disconnected chore.