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Professional Development - Learners' Voices Archive

Originated by Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL students

December 31, 2008

Welcome to Learners' Voices: Empowering Learners, Enlightening Teachers

What do students think about learning English? How do they feel about the future of English? What do they believe about language learning and teaching, and more questions that we’ve yet to ask them?

Learners’ Voices provides a unique opportunity to share students’ stories, opinions, and ideas from the whole spectrum of English learning and teaching contexts (e.g. K-12, universities, private language schools, businesses, community colleges, etc).

Teachers and researchers are invited to discover more from our learners by sharing interviews, discussions, and talks by and with students. The column further offers them an incredible chance to be heard by thousands of teachers throughout the ELT professional community.

So, please enjoy listening and contributing to Learners’ Voices. We're eagerly looking forward to hearing from you!

Phil Brown
Column Editor, MASH Learners’ Voices

Submission Guidelines
1. Make a 5-10 minute audio(video) recording of (you and) your student(s) and send the file (up to 5MG, preferably mp3 or wav format) to Phil Brown: philza2003(at);
OR for larger files, upload the file to YouTube then send me the link;
OR record directly onto VoiceThread then send me the link. For example: Welcome to Learners' Voices.
2. Write a short summary to introduce:
- the context (e.g. Junior High School, university, private language school)
- the student(s) (e.g. 1st grade students from a beginning writing class)
- the format and topic (e.g. This is a student-led discussion on recycling)
3. Provide the following basic details:
- Your name
- Your institution (and institution name if you wish)
- Mini-profile (30-50 words)

: Please ensure you obtain consent from the students (and parents and/or institutions where applicable). We cannot accept any responsibility for any consequences that may arise in the event of failure to do so.

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January 24, 2009

What's hot and what's not: Senior HS Girls' opinions on 'studying English in Japan'

SteveHerder.Seibo1.jpgSeibo Jogakuin is a private Catholic girls junior and senior high school located halfway between Kyoto and Osaka. We haven’t used textbooks since 2007, instead using a task-based/project-based approach focusing on a balance of input and output. We also promote Extensive Reading (ER) and Extensive Writing (EWr).

SteveHerder.Seibo2.jpg The audio clips are by our OPINIONATED 2nd year HS students. Teachers simply wrote, “What do you think about studying English in Japan?” We told them to form groups of 2-3, make a plan in English or Japanese, then come up to be recorded in English (with or without papers).

They really enjoyed this project!

Just click on the following links to listen:
Chisato & Aoi; Kana & Sawako; Rie & Nanaka; Saori & Riko


Five easy steps:
There are countless ways to record students and send audio files. For anyone looking for an idea, the process that I used took under 30 minutes from start to finish with the following tools:
1. iPhone 3G to record students, using…
2. Recorder (version 7) from iPhone Apps store, then…
3. PhoneView, Version 2.1 (2.1), Copyright 2007-2008 Ecamm Network, to upload from iPhone to MACBOOK.
4. Playback and check on iTunes 8.
5. Switch Sound File Converter (Free download and the easiest software I've ever used) to convert giant-sized AIFF sound files into small manageable MP3 sound files

Steven Herder, Seibo Jogakuin

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February 25, 2009

A Negotiated Syllabus: Company Classes with a Twist

Asuka Publishing Company, where most students are beginners, has had in-house weekly English classes for a few years now. Sachiko Onoda (pictured third from left), an editor of language books (and the class coordinator), generously agreed to be interviewed for this project even though it was her first time to have an interview in English. Asuka1.JPG

Interview with Sachiko Onoda

I am also grateful to Terry Yearley and Colin Skeates who kindly shared their insightful comments and provided invaluable feedback, prompting me to address the following 3 questions:

1. What aspects of the interview may be potentially interesting and useful for other teachers, as well as myself?

A key consideration is students’ reactions to having a negotiated syllabus, and the views of the institution may also need to be taken into account. Unfamiliar approaches and change might be welcomed enthusiastically or met with resistance. At Asuka, three elements appeared crucial: discussion with the class coordinator prior to the course; outlining a clear step-by-step approach to negotiating and designing a syllabus; and, most importantly, the students’ willingness to ‘try something new’.

2. Fostering learner autonomy

A negotiated syllabus offers students the opportunities to become more aware of their goals, select course objectives, and create content that is inherently more motivating as they have greater ownership, autonomy, and self-direction.

3. What do we need to take into consideration when conducting and recording interviews?
There may be a ‘learning curve’ for both the interviewee and interviewer. Accordingly, the main interview questions were discussed 2 weeks in advance so the interviewee had time to prepare answers and obtain feedback on them. Naturally, it takes a few minutes to relax and get comfortable so the first 5 minutes of the interview (which was subsequently cut) focused on basic general questions before moving onto the main topic.

Philip Shigeo Brown
Column Editor, MASH Learners’ Voices

Recommended reading
Johnson, S. (1998) Who Moved My Cheese? London: Vermilion.
Nunan, D. (1997) “Designing and adapting materials to encourage learner autonomy”. In P. Benson and P. Voller (eds.) (1997) Autonomy and Independence in Language Learning, pp. 192-203. London: Longman.

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April 27, 2009

Teaching English in context to promote student autonomy

LearnersVoices.MdB.jpgI have advocated over the years that teaching English using a variety of methodologies can be effective. Yet teaching a subject, using English as the medium can bring more meaning to the English and less focus on English as a subject in itself. The research I conducted for my MA looked at the interaction between students in a classroom where the focus was on doing something, rather than learning English per se. In the lessons I did leading up to this recording with the students, they learned some of the issues of global warming and the problems they will face as the next generation who will need to face this crisis head on.

I’d like to separate this approach from ‘Task Based Learning’ where the focus is still on the use of English. I think students need to be challenged so that the language they get is based on the language they need at any given moment for something meaningful. Our assumption is that we learn language to communicate, yet with Vygotsky’s approach, children attempt to communicate and in doing so, acquire language (Scovel 2001).

In my classes I have sought to promote student autonomy, getting students to learn English through English (de Boer, 2009). I have found that the English becomes more meaningful and applicable to the lesson they are doing. At the same time, they use the English right away after receiving it, either by scaffolding from another student or by asking for meanings or clarifications on what they are trying to say.

In the audio clip here, I am asking the students their thoughts on learning in this kind of classroom, and what they thought of learning a subject in English. Please have a listen and tell me what you think!

Play audio file

Is anyone out there doing the same sort of teaching? Does anyone out there want to try this kind of methodology? If you have any comments I’d love to collaborate with you.

Mark de Boer

de Boer, M. (2009). "The V-task: Building a more effective EFL classroom." In The Tohoku English Language Education Society, 29, 75-85.

Scovel, T. (2001). Learning new languages. A guide to second language acquisition. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

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May 25, 2009

Lifelong language learners: What keeps them going?

Roughly half of the students at my eikaiwa (English conversation school) are adults; most of them are women between the ages of 35 and 65. I wanted to know what kept these keen students interested in learning English all these years, aside from their devilishly handsome teacher.

I was lucky enough to coerce one of my students, Naomi, to sit down with me for a casual “interview” about her experiences learning English in Japan over the years. We covered many topics of interest to both English teachers and English learners:

Why was there a decade-long gap in her English language learning and why did she eventually return to English?

How does this lifelong learner maintain her motivation for learning English despite the limited opportunities to use it outside the classroom?

How do group dynamics and Japanese culture influence her attitudes and behavior in the eikaiwa classroom?

Aside from going to an eikaiwa, how has she studied English the last fifteen years, what are her current goals, and what advice does she have for other learners?

Play Interview Part 1 Play Interview Part 2
[Editor's note: Please accept my apologies for having to split the interview in what turned out to interrupt Naomi mid-sentence, "I quiet"]

To all teachers out there, it would be interesting to hear if your lifelong learners share similar points of view. The more we know about these unique learners, the better equipped we will be to guide them on their English language learning journey.

To all English learners reading this, please share your thoughts and opinions as well. In my experience, it’s best to get this kind of information straight from the horse’s mouth.

Chris Wharton

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June 25, 2009

When language learning 'clicks': a JTE and lifelong learner

Cathy is a Japanese Teacher of English, who I first met a community center where we both teach. Her enthusiasm for English and English movies in particular is infectious. Mia-san is Cathy’s friend, who also volunteered to take part in the interview. Mia-san joins an English speaking circle most weeks and works in IT, which has taken him to America.

As a student of Japanese, I was particularly interested in Cathy and Mia-san’s learning experiences, especially those few golden moments when all their hard work and study seemed to “click”, and they realized that they could understand another language. Both of them found songs and music to be the most enjoyable and effective methods for learning.

Listen to their interview by clicking on the links below:

Golden moments I (Cathy)

Golden moments II (Mia-san)

Teaching with movies and speeches

Future goals for learning and teaching

Their findings motivate me to do use movies for learning Japanese and see if it can work as well for me as it has for them. Cathy has transferred this method to her teaching as well. She holds regular Cinema English classes, which are fun, interesting, and can be viewed here:

Geoff Sinha

Geoff has lived in Japan for nine years, and has taught Junior and Senior high school students and adults, including senior learners. He is a University of Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL graduate and his special interest lies in sociolinguistics; especially in researching attitudes, global English, and in researching lifelong learners.

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July 30, 2009

Goals - like maps - lead us in the right direction

What do students think about learning English? How do they feel about the future of English in Japan? What do they believe about language learning and teaching, and more questions that we’ve yet to ask them?

Learners’ Voices provides a unique opportunity to share students’ stories, opinions, and ideas from the whole spectrum of English learning and teaching contexts in Japan (e.g. eikaiwa, private language schools, K-12, universities, juku, etc).

Teachers are invited to discover more from our learners while offering them an incredible chance not only to be heard by thousands of teachers throughout Japan and across the globe, but also hear back from the professional community.

Colin Skeates interviews interpretation student, Yuka Taniguchi

In this learners' Voices interview we hear from Yuka, a student who is studying interpretation. The topic of our discussion is something that I overheard Yuka say a couple of weeks ago - she now believes that it is possible to learn English in Japan. I thought it might be interesting to ask Yuka to explain what she meant. The following is the result of our discussion.

Interview with Yuka

A significant point that I hear from this interview is the importance of having goals. Yuka talked about how her goals have changed over the course of her learning. As she thought more of what she wants to do with her English, her goals have become more and more specific. I think that this is interesting and reminds me of an old saying ...

"It is a lot easier to get where you are going if you know where you want to go!"

A component of language learning for Yuka seems to be setting goals for what she wants to do with her English.

Colin Skeates
University instructor

Bio: I have taught in Japan for over 12 years now. 6 of those years have been at the university level. I love my job and feel successful when my students teach me something new..

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September 25, 2009

Returnees' Learning Paths: Challenges and Triumphs

Andy Lawson interviews 2 returnee students on their experiences learning English and asks for their opinions on learning English in Japan:

Yui Shinada is a 19-year old student at Airline Business College Narita who spent her 2nd year of high school in New Zealand, and 11-year old Mai Kato lived and attended school in the USA from 4-8 years old. These 2 girls have had very different experiences of learning English.

Yui%20Shinada2.JPG Yui was a very brave 16-year old, who left her family and friends to spend a whole year in New Zealand, where she used English all day at school, and all evening at home with her host family. She then returned to Japan, where she was able to re-assimilate sufficiently enough to graduate high school, and go on to become a student at Airline Business College Narita.

Interview with Yui

Mai was just 4 years old when her whole family relocated to California. Although she used English at home with her parents, Mai went to a regular English-speaking elementary school for over 3 years. The Mai who returned to Japan in 2006 sounded just like a typical 8-year old Californian girl, and she had far bigger problems reading kanji than she had reading Junie B. Jones books.

Interview with Mai

The thoughts which both girls expressed in the interviews were entirely their own. But I found it interesting that they shared many of the same ideas. Both mentioned the frustration of moving from situations where they used English every day, to returning to Japan, and having to seek out sufficient opportunities to use their English in genuine communicative situations.

Yui is fortunate that she has several English Communication classes per week at college, and can take additional Conversation Classes. She can also choose what she wants to watch on her DVD player at home. Clearly highly motivated, Yui makes the most of every chance to express herself in our conversation classes, no matter how complex the subject. She is the youngest member of the class by several years, yet feels confident enough to play an active role in all discussions, and ask enough difficult questions to keep the teacher on his toes!

For Mai, the situation is more difficult. Her parents are highly-supportive and encourage her efforts to maintain her English language skills. She has English class at elementary school several times per week. But Mai is unique among her classmates and siblings. While they are at the stage of learning the ABC Song, and how to say whether or not they like apples, Mai is trying to remember what simple predicates and compound sentences are. She relishes the few ‘activities’ in class, where she has a chance to actually put her English to use, rather than repeating basic vocabulary or ‘chanting’ in parrot fashion. At home, there is little opportunity to do so either, as her English skills far exceed those of the rest of the family. Even choosing to watch cartoons in English is rarely an option, given the presence of a strong-willed monolingual 7-year old sister and 3-year old brother.

The challenge for me to is to decide how best to spend the one hour per week that Mai comes to private class. This is a challenge which I relish as Mai is a great student. I’m also delighted to say that she recently passed level Pre-2 of the STEP Eiken!

Your thoughts

Have you ever taught a returnee student? I would love to hear any comments or advice from your experience of teaching returnee students, particularly regarding some of the unique challenges it presents, and how best to deal with these. These are students with enormous potential, and we, as educators have a responsibility to ensure that we do all that we can to help them fully realize that potential.

Andy Lawson is employed in several institutions, including Airline Business College Narita (ABCN) and LETS Kids, and recently featured in MASH Names, Faces & Ideas.

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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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November 28, 2009

EFL learners communicating with proficient L2 persons of interest using L1

In this conversation, I asked two university students, Hikari and Akie, about their thoughts and experience of English prior to entering university, as well as their impressions of English classes at university. I then asked their feeling of having the ability to listen and talk to a high-level L2 speaker, and if they believe their experiences helped motivate their learning in anyway. The background and rationale for this is outlined below.

Background and rationale

In 2008, I began instructing in an intensive English programme at a women’s university in Tokyo. The students were all at different levels and it seemed that the lower level students were motivated intrinsically (i.e. one’s own interest, enjoyment, and pleasure), while the higher level students showed more extrinsic motivation (based on the need to attain qualifications, please others, or avoid punishment) (Griffiths 2008). Reflecting on my own language learning experiences, I therefore tried to accommodate my students’ requests, especially the lower level students, to meet L1 persons in the community that interested them to maintain and help increase their motivation levels.

I considered starting an interaction programme with L1 speakers similar to one that I helped administer teaching ESL in my former university’s intensive English programme in Canada. One of the attractions of that programme for L2 students is that all of the intermediate students and above have the opportunity to interview native English speakers in the community that share similar interests with the students, or are in occupational fields that students want to enter. However, I realized that it would not be practical to administer the same sort of programme at the university I instruct at in Tokyo as there is a shortage of L1 English speakers in the various fields that my students have expressed interests in.

hikari_canada.jpgAs an alternative, I re-thought the interview concept and decided to have the students talk to high-level L2 persons of interest. I first introduced a first grade student, Hikari, to a former student who I taught in Canada, Yumiko, and who works in the airline industry. Hikari showed a high extrinsic motivation level as she expressed a strong desire to pursue a career in the airline industry when she graduates university. Hikari spoke to Yumiko for over an hour mainly in English and talked about the industry that she has her sights set on entering in three years time.

Listen to the interview with Hikari Part 1

Listen to the interview with Hikari Part 2

Akie.jpgRecently I used the same L2 student and high-level L2 speaker model again, but changed the concept slightly so that one class of fifty L2 students listened to a high-level L2 presenter, Kanami, who is currently completing her PHD studies in Canada. Kanami spoke of her research at length, but also talked about her English education and the many opportunities that she has been able to take advantage of because of English. This model was used to try to help motivate a larger student audience, intrinsically or extrinsically, in a shorter period of time and in a setting where the students could ask questions of Kanami in groups and thereby decrease the individual pressures of sustaining a longer conversation. Akie, a first year student involved in Kanami’s presentation is not interested in the same field as Kanami, but possesses an interest to travel and speak to many L1 people both here in Japan and abroad.

Listen to the interview with Akie

Your thoughts and ideas

As educators, it is important for us to help our learners stay motivated so that they can maximize their learning, especially when students are studying a language in a setting where exposure to the target language is minimal at best. I would like to invite comments and ideas form teachers on how you motivate your students. In your opinion, are L1 models a better choice than L2 models to help motivate our L2 students? Is it possible, or even practical to try and meet the motivational needs of all our students?

I would like to thank Hikari and Akie for taking the time to answer some questions and share their thoughts. Their comments are certain to be useful to educators when they consider motivational methods in helping heir own students.

Griffiths, C. (2008). Lessons from Good Language Learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Richard, originally from Winnipeg, Canada, has been living in Japan since 2002. During the last ten years, he has worked as an instructor in an ESL program at a university in Canada, an ALT on the JET Program, a NET and curriculum advisor, and an instructor at two universities in Tokyo. His interests are vocabulary acquisition, SLA, testing, motivation, and teacher training.

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January 25, 2010

The Real Voice of Japanese Students

Welcome to Learners' Voices 2010!

Last year, we heard from a number of learners and teachers in a wide variety of educational contexts in Japan. This promises to be another exciting and engaging year as we continue to learn more from our learners, hearing their voices, listening to their thoughts, opinions and ideas, and further reflecting upon and innovating our own teaching practices.

In this month's edition, courtesy of Tim Murphey and Yuichi Suga, we listen to the real voice of university students reflecting on their language learning experiences and appealing for meaningful change in English language education in Japan.


Philip Shigeo Brown
Editor, Learners' Voices


If you would like to contribute to Learners' Voices, please review our Submission Guidelines ( and feel free to email me anytime: philza2003(at)

In spring 2009, 30 first year university students in Tim Murphey’s seminar, at Kanda University of International Studies, wrote their language learning histories (LLHs). In the fall, small groups read and analyzed them for motivational and demotivational factors and wrote reports, giving recommendations to students, teachers, and the Japanese government Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) Then they made the video, summarizing the findings, ventriloquating some Japanese proverbs and sound bites from other famous quarters. They intend to send the report and LLHs to MEXT and the newspapers along with the video link.

Click on the link below to watch and listen to The real voice of Japanese students:

The actual reports (edited by Tim Murphey, Joe Falout, and Maria Trovela) can be downloaded and read freely by clicking on the link below:
Real Voice: Suggestions for Changing English Education for Future Generations from 1st Year University Students

Biography of the Video Co-Producers
Kanda University of International Studies graduate (2009) and movie producer Yuichi Suga co-produced and edited this video on his Mac. Tim Murphey has a history of asking students what they think (1993, 1999, 2002, 2004; Murphey & Arao 2001; Murphey, Chen & Chen 2005; Murphey & Ijima 2006; Murphey, Falout, Elwood & Hood 2009; Murphey & Falout in press).


Murphey, T. (1993). Why don't teachers learn what learners learn? Taking the guesswork out with action logging. English Teaching Forum 31 (1) 6-10. Accessed Jan 24, 2010 at
Murphey, T. (1999). Publishing Students’ Language Learning Histories: For them, their peers, and their teachers. Between the Keys (the newsletter of the Materials Writers SIG of JALT) VII, no.2 p. 8-11, 14.
Murphey, T. (2002). From the horse’s mouth Advice from second-semester Japanese university students to JHS/HS English teachers in Japan. Learning Learning, 9 (1), 2-10.
Murphey, T. (2004). Participation, (Dis-)Identification, and Japanese University Entrance Exams. TESOL Quarterly 38 (4) 700-710 Winter
Murphey, T. & Arao, H. (2001). Changing Reported Beliefs through Near Peer Role Modeling. TESL-EJ. 5(3)1-15. Accessed at
Murphey, Tim; Chen, Jin; & Chen, Li-Chi (2005). Learners’ constructions of identities and imagined communities. In P. Benson & D. Nunan, (eds.). Learners' Stories: Difference and Diversity in Language Learning. pp. 83-100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Murphey, T. & Iijima, Y. (2006). University entrance exams, copyright law, academic ethics, and reality. The English Teachers’ Magazine. May pp. 45-47 (In Japanese)
Murphey, T., Falout, J., Elwood, J. & Hood, M. (2009). Inviting Student Voice. Asian EFL Journal, Professional Teaching Articles, Volume 36 pp. 1-25. Accessed May 2, 2009 at
Murphey, T. & Falout, J. (in press). Critical Participatory Looping. TESOL Quarterly.

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April 25, 2010

Do Students Read More Research on Learning than Teachers?

Classes are great when…


“I can learn with my friends, not one-way from the teacher.” - Keisuke (left)


“We have choices.” - Naomi

“I have the opportunity to speak English, and say my ideas.” - Natsumi (right)

The title is not directed to you the reader. However, these students seem to know a lot about what research shows is necessary for learning. The students in our video discussed concepts frequently documented in scholarly journals; such as student engagement (e.g. Clifford, 1999), student collaboration (e.g. Apple, 2006), and learner autonomy (e.g. Little, 2007).

Speaking%20section%20and%20lounge.jpgThe students are from the University of Tokushima on the island of Shikoku. They are visitors of our English Support Room. We have a daily average of over 25 visitors from all five departments and two campuses. They visit to hone their English skills, as well as receive advice and strategies for effective learning. As Einstein once said, “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn” (cited in Walter & Marks, 1981, p. 1). We, too, try to provide students with a relaxed, trusting, and autonomy-supportive environment to learn (Finch, 2001; Niemiec & Ryan, 2009).

Study%20section.jpg In our Support Room, students have frequently voiced their opinions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of their courses. Three students; Naomi, Natsumi, and Keisuke from the Department of Integrated Arts and Sciences had the idea of creating a video for their teachers to create a better learning environment. Naomi majored in chemistry, and is now teaching English at a junior high school in Tokushima. Natsumi is majoring in European studies and plans to be an English teacher after graduation. Keisuke also majors in European studies, and is now an exchange student in Kyungpook University in Korea. They asked me to lead their discussion; also we gathered comments from other students to create this video.

In our discussion, they expressed their view on their university courses and experience learning English. I was startled when I noticed their ideas sounded much like teachers’ talk: hence, the title. I hope you have the time to view our video as well as create and put out your own. Together, little-by-little, we can produce this much needed change. We greatly appreciate you for taking the time out of your hectic schedules to read and view our thoughts. Many thanks!

Naomi%20Steve%20Michito%20Kensuke.jpgStudent Voices Part 1 (3:49)

Student Voices Part 2 (8:27)

Photo: Naomi (bottom), Steve (middle), Michito (left), Kensuke (right)

Apple, M. T. (2006). Language learning theories and cooperative learning techniques. Doshisha Studies in Language and Culture, 9(2), 277-301.

Clifford, V. A. (1999). The development of autonomous learners in a university setting. Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1), 115-128.

Finch, A. (2000). The non-threatening learning environment. Korean TESOL Journal, 4(1), 133-158.

Little, D. (2007). Language learner autonomy: Some fundamental considerations revisited. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 14-29.

Niemiec, C. P., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice". Theory and Research in Education, 7, 133-144.

Walter, G. A., & Marks, S. E. (1981). Experiential learning and change: theory design and practice. New York: John Wiley & Sons.


Steve T. Fukuda is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokushima. His research interests are in learning motivation, learner autonomy, and self-access centers. His day consists of teaching English courses based on learner autonomy training and spending time facilitating students learning at the English Support Room with his colleagues.

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January 20, 2011

Japanese student voices on "Go Study Abroad!"

Following on from innovative and inspiring work, The Real Voice of Students, Tim Murphey and his students at Kanda University of International Studies, deliver their next important message on studying abroad, challenging some of the assumptions that may underlie, "...Japanese young people's perceived turn against studying abroad and increasingly inward-looking attitudes." (The Mainichi Daily News, January 5, 2011)

And if you would like to join us, MASH Collaboration & JALT will be hosting Representables 2011: A weekend with Tim Murphey, Feb 11-12, in Nagano with the theme: Inviting student voices. We hope you can make it!

In the meantime, please enjoy the video and article below.

Philip Shigeo Brown
Editor, Learners' Voices

The Real Voice of Japanese Students 2: GO STUDY ABROAD! (Click to watch)
Videoed by Yuichi Suga and Tim Murphey
Mixed and edited by Yuichi Suga
Script edited by about 100 students

The Making of RealVoice2: Go Study Abroad!
Tim Murphey

The decreasing numbers of Japanese students who are going to US to study was reported in The Wall Street Journal on November 18, 2010 (14% less in 2008 and 15% less in 2009) while students from South Korea, India, and China going to the US are increasing. Japanese going abroad to other foreign countries are also decreasing. The news media blame it on three factors: the fact that most students who want to go abroad still need to pay a fee to their home institution while paying the foreign school as well (double tuition); the job-hunting system that has crept into the end of students’ second year in school now and the fanning of fear of not having a job upon graduation; and the poor attitudes of students (which when you consider the first two causes, makes sense actually).

The spur for the video came from a student in my media English class who brought me the double tuition article and then we found many more. My students would truly like to go abroad (and several are still daringly doing so!) But they feel trapped in a “catch 22.” The script we made benefited from student-feedback and trail-videoing in three different classes.

It was filmed on Dec. 9, 2010 and Yuichi Suga did a great job mixing and editing the final version. We hope the government, companies, and universities will lend an ear and change procedures so that study abroad becomes more attractive and less of a burden.

An interesting outcome of the video for me was a non-verbal gesture that one student made below in the photo (on the right):


The question from Uncle Sam (on the left) was “Are you serving your country?” With the advent of globalization and a greater sense of altruism in the world today, young people worldwide are stepping up to the challenge and saying “Go see the world!” and “Learn about WHAT you, and your country, can do to make the WORLD a better place!” In the end, we serve ourselves by serving the world. [Nasaki wa hito no tamenaraizu] …Think globally, act locally! These pictures side by side give me hope that the world is evolving (at least in some places) into a better ecology for altruism and realizing that helping others helps ourselves. For Japan to really make a mark on the world, we will need more internationally sensitive leaders and teachers and citizens. Thus, we need to help students to “Go see the world.” My wildest dream in this regard? If I had my way, every 13 year old, in every country in the world, would go abroad for a year. But for now I will settle for not paying two sets of tuition fees and only doing job hunting in the last year. These can be decided quickly by those in power and give our present students the rights that 90% of the rest of the students in world presently benefit from.


Most relevant articles
Fewer Japanese students studying abroad a cause for concern (The Mainichi Daily News, Jun 7, 2010)
Job hunt keeps students from overseas study (The Asahi Shimbun, Sep 24, 2010)
Home Schooling: Fewer Japanese Head to U.S. Universities (The Wall Street Journal, Nov 18, 2010)
Japan should encourage students to study abroad (The Korea Herald, Dec 28, 2010)
Fewer Japanese Students Studying Abroad (Braintrack, Jan 10, 2011)

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