English education in Japanese elementary school

by Kaho Nagao

Since 2011, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology decided to introduce English class to 5th and 6th grade elementary school students (MEXT 2002). The aim of this project is to produce people who can command English well and build up English communication skill. In this post, I will discuss whether should we introduce English or other languages education, and whether we should introduce bilingualism.

Before talking about the topic, it will describe that what is bilingualism. Bilingualism is people who can make them understood in two languages. Needless to say, there are some differences of ability depends on people and where they use these language, in school, between family, in society and so on. Now in Japan, most people who live in Japan use Japanese and even foreigner who live in Japan use Japanese to communicate with the society. Within Japanese society, English seems to be not needed, however, in the world what happen now?

On the earth, it is said that there are more than 7 billion people and quarter of them speak and understand English (Amelia n.d.). Thus, if you can understand English, we can communicate with more than a billion people. In addition, we can get much information and way of thinking that is if you only use Japanese or any other local languages.

On the other hand, if the government introduces the English education into elementary school, there are also some arguments. Some thinks that if English education start from when kids are little they cannot handle it and kids make many grammar mistakes and get confused, in addition, they cannot command either Japanese or English well. However, if so, many people who can speak English but non-native cannot speak English in a proper way. For example, in Sweden, English education is started in 3rd grade (Sweden English 1979) and most Swedish people can understand English. Since they are young, they are familiar with English TV, movies and music. ABBA, which is famous music group from Sweden, they sing very nice and easy to listen. Of course there are linguistically difference between Japanese and Swedish. Swedish may be near to English compared to Japanese.

From now on Japanese society is heading to aging society and more and more people may go to abroad and come into Japan. At that time we need to communicate with somehow. At that time, English become one of the ways, so when the government especially MEXT realize it and make more useful policy, it is going to be more good to children and Japanese society.

References

Amelia English in the World http://www.amelia.ne.jp/user/reading/dialect_01_03.jsp

MEXT http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/shingi/chousa/shotou/020/sesaku/020702.htm

Hiroshima university. English education in Sweden http://ir.lib.hiroshima-u.ac.jp/metadb/up/ZZT00001/CaseleResBull_9_39.pdf

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The Death of Language

by Bun Kin

Today, half of the six thousand or so languages are spoken by fewer than ten thousand people. On the other hand, only a small number are spoken by hundreds of millions of people. Researchers believe that no language can survive unless one hundred thousand people speak it.

However, actually the death of languages is not a new thing. Since languages diversified, at least thirteen thousand of them were born and disappeared without leaving any sign. What is new is the speed at which they are dying out. For example, over the last three hundred years, Europe has lost about twelve languages, Australia has only twenty left of 215 languages, and Brazil has lost 500, three-fourths of total languages. This was brought by colonial conquests, whose territorial unity was linked to their linguistic homogeneity.

The effects of the death of languages are serious for several reasons. First, as each languages dies, a part of human history comes to an end. Because we can’t completely understand the origins of human language or solve the mystery of the first language.

Second, the destruction of multilingualism will lead to the loss of multiculturalism. Because a language is not only the main instrument of human communication, it also expresses the world view of those who speak it, their imagination and their ways of using knowledge. And last, the threat to multilingualism is similar to the threat to biodiversity, because many of the worlds endangered plant and animal species today are known only to certain peoples whose languages are dying out. As those people die, they take with them all the traditional knowledge about the environment.

The 1992 Rio Earth Summit made a specific plan to protect biodiversity. Therefore the need to protect languages began to be appreciated in the middle of the twentieth century, when language rights were included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since then, a number of methods have been adopted and projects have been launched to safeguard what is now thought to be a heritage of humanity. These plans and initiatives may not prevent languages from dying out, but at least they will slow down the process and encourage multilingualism.

The language is not just the main instrument of human communication, it is also the world view, the imagination and the ways of using knowledge of human. We can’t prevent the death of languages, however it belongs to one of very meaningful and important thing for human to heighten conscience about language.

Should the Japanese Government Institute an Education System for Immigrants?

by Megumi Takase

In “International Sociology” class, I was surprised to hear that in Europe, students from other backgrounds take two or three times a week to have lessons in their native languages. In Japan, some elementary schools in which there are many foreign students have Japanese classes for them to understand regular Japanese classes. However, few schools have lessons for immigrants in their own languages. In addition, there are not many ethnic schools in Japan. Even though foreigners living in Japan mostly consist of Chinese, there are only 5 Chinese Schools in Japan. If children from other countries continue to attend Japanese schools and don’t do vigorous effort to learn their history or culture, they will have difficulty in building their identities. This is one of the reasons why foreigners are unwilling to live in Japan for a long time.

In my opinion, Japan should institute an education system for immigrants. For example, it should begin classes for immigrants in their native languages. It not only benefits students from other countries but also Japanese. It will increase the number of immigrants if Japanese education system is reformed in favor of foreigners. Japanese is suffering an aging society, so Japan will face the problem of lack of labor in the near future. Thus, Japan should accept immigrants to solve these problems. In order for foreigners to be willing to come and live in Japan, Japan should create the environment for them to live comfortably. One of reforms which Japan should tackle is education system.

It will also lead to intensification of international competitiveness of Japan if many foreigners immigrate to Japan. It is said that Japanese have difficulty in speaking foreign languages. In the times of globalization, people who are fluent in many languages are needed. If immigrants grow up as bilingual and begin to work in Japanese corporations, they will largely contribute to corporations.

If Japanese government begins to institute an education system for immigrants, many people will come from other countries and live in Japan. They will serve Japanese society. It is difficult for schools to begin classes for immigrants in their native languages because immigrants come from different countries around the world. Schools should create these classes cooperating with the local universities specializing in foreign languages. It will also lead to create Japanese bilingual students.

Reference

[i] Weblio. (n.d.). Retrived October 17, 2013 from http://www.weblio.jp/ontology/%E4%B8%AD%E8%8F%AF%E5%AD%A6%E6%A0%A1_1