LONDON —English language teachers in Japan often complain about being met by a wall of silence when they ask students to talk in classes.
But until now there has been little if any academic research into the reasons why Japanese pupils are particularly afflicted by a reluctance to speak in a second language.
Jim King an expert in linguistics at Leicester University has been looking into this phenomenon and recently presented his findings in London to an audience of Japan experts and educationalists.
King who has himself taught in Japan argues Japanese students are often unresponsive due to a multitude of factors which include psychology culture and teaching methods.
The academic who studied the behavior of 924 students at nine different universities discovered many had a “neurotic dread” their English was not up to scratch and felt that if they tried to use it they would “lose face” among friends.
This hypersensitivity and constant feeling of being monitored inhibits their willingness to contribute concluded King from his hours of classroom observations and interviews.
He also found many teachers spoke too much and gave the students little opportunity to practice their English with one another. Considerable time was spent translating English text into Japanese.
King believes Japanese students may be more at ease with silence in classes due to cultural practices which emphasize the importance of being indirect deferring to authority and not wanting to stand out from the crowd for example.
WA4TKGDEC. 30 2016 - 07:34AM JST
Ridiculous idea of " Lose Face "...too bad it's TRUE. I find whenever ANYone tries and makes a REAL EFFORT to speak in the other guy's language (MY Language; English) I will bend over backwards to understand what it is they are trying to convey. I experienced the same when I went to South America a couple of years ago and was concerned my Spanish was no good...the woman I was speaking to at the Hotel Desk ATE UP the idea I was making a real effort to speak to her in Spanish and she reciprocated by speaking English...her's was just fine and apparently my Spanish was as well. TRY TRY again and you will succeed English Students.
MoonrakerDEC. 30 2016 - 07:52AM JST
Fear (such as of being thought badly of by others) passive-aggressiveness avoidance nothing to say and enormous appetite for boredom all contribute to life in the classroom and life in Japan in general.
Ah_soDEC. 30 2016 - 08:02AM JST
I haven't read anything here that wasn't commonly accepted 20 years ago by anyone who had been anywhere near English teaching in Japan. However I hope Mr King had a nice funded trip to Japan to put exactly what he knew already into an academic paper.
YubaruDEC. 30 2016 - 08:06AM JST
The one's who succeed somehow find a way to overcome their shyness and fear of being wrong. But what always unnerves me to no end is the people who THINK that they speak English well yet still have a "gaijin complex" and never get it that their English is no way near up to par.
There are so many problems with how English is taught here that there is no one quick way to correct it yet studies like this and hopefully others will come along as well from Japanese researchers too will find a way to correct it system wide.
My suggestion start from the top get rid of the butt heads at MEXT who have absolutely no idea what the heck they are doing!
SchopenhauerDEC. 30 2016 - 08:06AM JST
In Japan modesty is virtue and to speak is vanity. We hate people who speak aggressively. In China and Korea situations are different.