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Professional Development

Originated by Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL students

October 25, 2009

Understanding and filling the gaps in HS and university English education

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University’s (APU) multicultural student body is unique in Japan. With approximately 2,500 international students from roughly 80 countries living and studying with Japanese students, the campus offers plenty of intercultural exchange in both Japanese and English. I am currently in my second semester working in the Center for Language Education at APU.


I recently had a conversation with Lina Fang, a second-year student who has lived half her life in China and half in Japan. Lina, cheerful and hardworking, was a student in an intermediate level class I taught last semester. During the interview, we covered topics relating to her impressions of her high school English education and its usefulness to the university English learning context. Lina also talked about her active approach to learning and using English, particularly via online opportunities. In addition, she mentioned her desire to use English beyond her academic career both in social and occupational situations.

Interview Part I
Interview Part II
Interview Part III

The insights gained from this interview can be useful for students, teachers, course designers and administrators alike. This student pointed out that there is a gap between what is taught at the high school level and the skills students find desirable. In addition, Lina mentioned her desire to learn more content-specific vocabulary related to her chosen field of study, and how socializing on the Internet was providing new avenues and motivation for language learning.

This conversation with Lina raises the issue of connectivity and cohesion between secondary and tertiary English education. I would like to invite responses and comments from teachers that can help us identify and provide solutions for any gaps that may exist between these two levels of education. What can high school teachers do to help prepare students for university English course content? And what can university educators do to maximize language skills students acquire in high school?

Thank you very much, Lina, for your time in answering these questions. Thank you for this opportunity for us to share our thoughts and ideas. Thank you valued colleagues and energetic students for your time in visiting this site.

Joe Siegel

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Hi Joe,

Thanks for sharing this interview. I enjoyed listening to Lina's comments. She seems like a very pleasant and motivated English student. If your class is full of Linas, you must really enjoy teaching them! Please tell her that I think her English is great!

Her comments about English eduction in Japanese high schools were pretty much par for the course, but it was nice to hear that she was satisfied with the increased opportunities to speak in university. It was also nice to hear that she went online in search of ways to meet foreign friends and improve her English. Very independent!

I'd have liked to hear more about her experience coming to Japan at age 10. Did she study Japanese before coming to Japan. How about English? It must've have been quite the chore to study Japanese and English at the same time! Does she have opportunities to communicate in Chinese as well?

Overall a very interesting interview. Thanks again!


Hi Chris,

Thanks for your questions. I passed them on to Lina and here are her responses...quite insightful and funny too. She must have had a difficult time when she arrived from China but persevered and made the best of it, which is no surprise to me.

Lina said:

"1. Did you study Japanese and English in China before you moved to Japan?

I had never studied Japanese and English in China before I came to Japan, so it was hard for me when I came to Japan. There were no people who could speak Chinese. I went to school but I couldn't understand what the teacher and students said so I drew the teacher's face during the class. I could understand Japanese after 2 months, and I could speak Japanese after about 4~5 month. I think it's because I was a child.

2. Do you use Chinese sometimes now at APU and in Beppu?

Yes I have many Chinese friends in APU, and I speak Chinese with my parents at home so I have many opportunities to speak Chinese. But at first, when I came to APU I couldn't communicate fluently with Chinese students because I didn't have Chinese friends before I came to APU, so I forgot some words and I didn't know difficult vocabulary in Chinese. Now I am studying English and difficult Chinese both."

Thanks again for the questions, Chris.


This is the first time i heard Chinese that wants to learn English i mean most Asian that want to learn English are Korean right cause a lot of Korean travel outside their country to study well great story keep it up

Well yeah, lots of Chinese people are found of English and they are learning great!

Yep, I agree that Korean mostly want to learn english

Thanks for sharing this interview. I enjoyed listening to Lina's comments. She seems like a very pleasant and motivated English student. If your class is full of Linas, you must really enjoy teaching them! Please tell her that I think her English is great!

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