No word from Cambridge ESOL... My previous inquiry about whether they had done any research into the efficacy of the CELTA etc. being met by a deafening silence, I was advised to send a note for the attention of a Monica Poulter, so I did, on June 8th:
Dear Ms Poulter,
I was given your name by Scott Thornbury.
I am writing an article on teacher training and I wonder whether you could provide any information on the following: "Do learners of English learn more effectively (however defined) with CELTA-qualified teachers? What studies have been done to show that they do (or don't) ?"
It's been over a month and nothing yet. Perhaps Cambridge ESOL is so traumatized by losing millions upon millions of dollars trying and failing to popularize their exams here that all messages from our stubborn island now get routed into the circular file...
A new paradigm?
The third part of our interview with Professor Kumiko Torikai is now online... and just like the first two parts, addresses issues of real importance in English education in Japan. This time round, Professor Torikai explains how our whole approach to teaching and learning English needs to change. I think it's an entertaining and stimulating read. Please take a look.
Great local talent
There's a lot of great independent talent in Japan who have decided to produce their own materials and make them available to others. David Lisgo's supplementary phonics books and games continue to be very popular as do Greg Crawford's "Fun Phonics Readers". Robert Murphy has produced a whole series of course books, "Optimal Levels" based on his studies in neuroscience whilst Laurel Kamada (a plenary speaker at this year's JALT conference in November) has produced a book on "Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls" which I know will be of interest to many. And, of course, Tim Murphey has had published "The Tale that Wags", his story of how university entrance exams can push people to suicide and corrupt the whole system. (I'm told the long-overdue Japanese version of this will be out "soon".)
Often great materials like these aren't commercial enough for the major publishers, but are at least as good. (Although, the design of some needs a bit of attention...) Let's support our local talent.
Debito's IN APPROPRIATE misses its mark
Japan-based teacher and activist, Arudou Debito has recently published a book "IN APPROPRIATE" with a plot centered on child abductions in Japan, and like Tim Murphey has chosen to write a novel in order to reach a wider audience. Whilst Tim's book will win no literary prizes, it is an enjoyable read with engaging characters, amusing passages and an acceptable style. It gets its point across effectively and succeeds as propaganda. Sadly, Debito's work is populated by cardboard cutouts, nearly all of whom are either downright repulsive or completely unsympathetic, from the American husband to the teenage daughter. The novel's style ranges from brief attempts at fast-paced drama to pages which seem to have been cut and pasted from Wikipedia. There are whole passages of info about Japan that are just shoved into the novel without any real (or, at least, successful) attempt to incorporate them into the story.
Don't get me wrong, the issue of the rights of parents and children when international marriages go awry is extremely important and I support the efforts that Debito has made to raise awareness of this problem. But this novel doesn't do anything to support the cause. It's not something I would give to anyone to help them become aware of the issues. It fails both as a novel and as propaganda. As I am painfully aware, writers need editors -- and a good editor would have made sure this book fulfilled its aims, at the very least.
On the bright side, the plot is well constructed and Debito should be congratulated for spotting a good story – in the hands of a Richard North Patterson a story like this could be a bestseller.
*** Update*** due to editorial reasons we won't be able to publish the planned interview with Marcos Benevides.
P.S. Our very own Matthias Reich is looking to do volunteer work in Tohoku, from the 15th to the 19th of August. He'd like to help out a school or institution that needs either manual labour or help organizing, teaching, repairing -- whatever is needed. Matthias speaks and reads Japanese fluently and is happy to take care of his own expenses. Drop him a line through our "Contact Us" page.