Editorial on ELTNEWS.com
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Editorial - David's editorial Archive

I would like to thank Russell Willis of eigoTown who owns the ELT News site for making everything possible and for taking a risk with me as editor. I have a habit of stirring things up and changing things, and editing this site will be no exception. It took courage to appoint me to the position

I am also very grateful to Shuhei Tomita and Matthias Reich of eigoTown who have designed and organized the site. It's beautiful! It feels like walking into a brand new home where everything is clean and working well. Now we have to try not to mess it up too much.

When I first started to plan the content for this new site I drew up a list of names of those who I would like to write for the site and 99% of them agreed. There's so much new content that we are going to have to introduce it little by little over the next few months.

You can already see new columns by David Lisgo (Classroom Activities), Carla Wilson (Young Learners), Mike Guest (The Uni-Files) and Phil Brown/Steve Herder/Mark deBoer (Professional Development). The Think Tank has also been rejuvenated together with the ELT Book reviews and the interviews.

Over the next few months there will be new regular columns by Jim Smiley (materials), Myron Wright (teaching at public elementary schools), Chris Hunt (humanistic teaching), Grant Trew (testing), Guy Cihi (entrepreneurship), Rob Waring (reading) and John Wiltshier (fluency).

This site is going to be really dynamic. If you'd like to know about new articles and features, I suggest you sign up for the weekly e-mail newsletter which will have links to anything new that is on the site.

I very much hope many English teachers in Japan and other countries will derive great benefit from all the hard work many of us are going to put into making this site a success.


This is the time of year when a lot of teachers are considering studying an MA by distance learning. The application deadlines for courses starting in April are rapidly approaching. Having been closely involved in researching and representing distance MA courses and giving advice to potential students for many years, it might be helpful for me to point out a few things.

One of the most important things is to distinguish between those courses that have a strong international reputation and those that do not. This is particularly important if you are planning to use an MA to get a job in a different country from the one where the university is based. It is even more important if you may return to your home country with an MA obtained from a university in a different country - for example, if you return to Canada or the US with a distance MA from a British University, it is important to be sure that your MA will be fully recognized. There are quite a lot of advertised MAs that do not have this full international recognition, and some that are even not accredited at all.

Assessing MAs from British Universities

With British MAs, it is important to check the official research ranking and teaching quality assessment of the university faculties that issue the MA. If the faculty has a level '5' for research, it means the faculty has full international recognition. An 'Excellent' ranking for research also means the MA is likely to be very respected.

The only distance MA in TEFL/TESL that is from a faculty that has a '5' for research and an 'Excellent' for teaching quality is the one available through the University of Birmingham. This is why I was so keen to bring this course to Japan many years ago and it is a big reason why it has become the most recognized and popular course of its kind in Japan.

How about MAs for those who don't plan to stay in teaching?

To be honest, MAs in TEFL/TESL or in Applied Linguistics are very useful for those who want to make a career out of teaching English, but not so useful for those who are just planning to teach for a few years. Some years ago I had a number of friends who taught in Japan for a few years and who had good Japanese language skills, but couldn't get good jobs when they returned home. They were asked for paper qualifications to prove their Japanese ability, but most employers had never heard of tests like the Japan Proficiency Test.

This was why I searched for a university that offered MAs in Japanese language and Japanese studies that had the same degree of recognition as the University of Birmingham had in TEFL/TESL At the time, it came down to two universities, the University of Sheffield and SOAS at the University of London. After considerable research, I approached Sheffield and, fortunately, they were very positive about making their MA course available by distance learning in Japan.

The courses have gone from strength to strength over the years and the range of options has increased considerably. There are now specialist MAs in Japanese to English translation, Literature, Economy and Society, Gender Diversity and Citizenship.

It is wonderful to have seen so many people in Japan benefit from these courses over the years, and to know that wherever they go their qualifications will be fully recognized.


If you haven't taken a look at the latest Think Tank, I strongly recommend it. Chuck Sandy, Marc Helgesen, Curtis Kelly, Dorothy Zemach, Peter Viney and Chris Hunt have all shared some wonderful stories and insights.

It's actually made me reminisce a bit. In my case, I started work in music after leaving university. I was promoting concerts, working with new (and not so new) musicians, and even had a mobile discotheque called the Spanish Inquisition. It was all very successful, so why did I become a language teacher?

Part of the reason was that I had stumbled into music. I found myself on a national committee of student charities in my first year at university being volunteered to organize Bangladesh concerts. The concerts went well, and this, in turn, led me to organize the music for many of the Cambridge May Balls, become the Union Social Director, and then walk into a job in a music agency straight after university. Within a couple of years I had my own company, and we were a doing a lot of exciting things all over the country.

When an electronics company offered me office space in the center of London, I had to make up my mind If I really wanted a career in the music business. I decided I wanted to be as far away from any kind of business as possible, took a TEFL course, gave my business away to friends, and started teaching in Cambridge Language schools

The move to teaching was definitely one of love. At that time I could earn more in one evening as a disc jockey than I could in a whole month as a language school teacher. But I have never regretted the decision. It's a privilege to be a teacher, and to be able to make a contribution to the development of children's education. Ironically, I've ended up using some of the business lessons I learned to further educational causes. Life works in mysterious ways sometimes.


I wonder how many teachers realize the harm that is being done to the English language teaching profession in Japan whenever English teaching materials are ordered from overseas.

Associations, events and training courses for English teachers in Japan often depend on sponsorship by the major publishers, and this kind of sponsorship has declined a lot over the last ten to fifteen years. The publishers' Japan offices have had smaller budgets for providing this kind of support.

One of the main factors has been the tendency for books to be ordered from overseas. Individuals do it, universities do it, and many booksellers do it. Booksellers have often been able to order course materials at a low price in another country and sell them at a substantial profit in Japan. Little of this profit has been passed on to the customer.

With the yen being so strong at the moment, it is becoming even more attractive to order from overseas, and there is a very real possibility that the budgets of the Japan offices of the major western publishers will be hit even harder. This is likely to hurt associations such as ETJ and JALT.

It is time to make a stand

ELT.Books.com, which used to be the David English House Book Service, has always fought this trend. The store has always had a deliberate policy of obtaining books from western publishers' Japan offices so as to support the English language teaching profession in Japan, and has still managed to pass on substantial discounts to customers. Why not check that your school or your bookseller is doing the same?

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David English House, my language school in Hiroshima employs about thirty full-time teachers and this is the main time of the year that we need new teachers. When I took on the role of editor of ELT News late last year, I thought I would also try advertising for teachers on the ELT News jobs page

To be honest, I didn't have high expectations at first, but I thought I would give it a try, and I've been very pleased with the results. I would strongly recommend advertising on ELT News to any schools out there that are looking for teachers. It's cheap (only ¥20,000 for an ad for one month) and eigoTown, the owners of the site, have obviously put a lot of work into streamlining the system and finding job applicants.

I should make it clear that I have no financial involvement in this. I receive no payment as editor and have no involvement in the jobs page. However, if the jobs page does well, eigoTown are likely to provide more and more support for ELT News, which should provide considerable benefit to teachers in Japan which will, of course, make it more rewarding to be the editor.

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The ELT News 'Win a new MacBook' competition has prompted me to reflect on my own experiences with MACs over the years. It actually goes back to 1986 when I got MAC Plus computers for the David English House office staff.

Looking back, it seems we were years ahead of most language schools. By 1987 we already had an extensive database and were using it to advertise our school. We also soon got a MAC II and a laser printer and started publishing magazines for teachers.

The first of these magazines was 'Snakes & Ladders', which I'm very happy to say is still going strong. At first we sent the magazine out free to teachers in Hiroshima, but more and more teachers around Japan began requesting it and it soon became a nationwide publication.

All of this, and much more, was possible because of our Apple MACs. And we have stuck with MAC through thick and thin, sometimes suffering derision along the way. I even had one of those first MAC Portables that weighed a ton and was almost impossible to carry around. No wonder we suffered derision! Love is blind.

Fortunately, MACs have come a long way since then and I can now enjoy saying 'I told you so' to all the doubters and all those who lost faith and turned to the Windows dark side.

Unfortunately, as editor of ELT News I am unable to take part in the current competition. All I can do is gaze at the MacBook longingly.

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Reading Chris Hunt's interesting article on common sense has made me think. Chris started off with 8 quotes from famous writers and asked us which we agree with. I found that I pretty much agreed with all of them, especially the quotes from Einstein, Emerson and Hull. This made me wonder where Chris and I may disagree.

Maybe there's far more we agree about than disagree about. I basically agree with Chris' views on capitalism and absolutely agree that 'the function of education should be to help children become self-actualizing'. I also agree we should maximize the opportunities for children to make genuine choices in the classroom.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that Chris seems to focus on the children's democratic right to choose. I am much more focused on where 'choice' comes from and the role of the teacher in motivating children to choose to learn English and to choose particular language targets in our lessons.

George Kelly, the constructivist who has had the most influence on my own views on learning, wrote that 'A person chooses for himself that alternative... through which he anticipates the greater possibility for extension and definition of his (construct) system.' Like Chris, I think that children are natural learners, and like Kelly I think there are psychological reasons why people make particular choices and these reasons can be examined and understood - they don't just come out of the ether.

I agree with Chris that formal education and 'teaching' so often pushes down children's natural desire to learn. However, I don't see the solution as doing away with school. I see it in training teachers in techniques that emphasize the need for children to make genuine choices, in developing a deeper understanding of the psychological reasons why children make one choice rather than other, and in looking for ways to motivate children to choose to learn English.

If children are to reach their full potential as learners, develop the confidence and courage to make genuine choices and attain greater self-actualization, then, as Lev Vygotsky, so wisely pointed out, they need to interact with others that know more than they do. In some situations, they can learn by interacting with other children. But for most Japanese children learning English, it is the teacher that needs to play this crucial supporting role.

We just need to be careful to teach in such a way that children feel they are making genuine choices. They need to feel they are learning what they have chosen to learn. This comes down to the teaching techniques we use and these can be acquired through training.

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I would like to welcome three new columnists that have started writing for ELT News over the last week. I know all three of them personally, though in rather different capacities.

Chris Hunt has been an active advocate of a humanistic approach to teaching for many years. He is particularly known for supporting children's democratic rights and opposing competition in the classroom. I haven't always agreed with Chris over the years but I respect where he is coming from and think it important that he has an effective forum for putting his views across.

Grant Trew is a specialist in test preparation. I first got to know Grant when we ran a teacher training course together a couple of years ago, and I was very impressed by the freshness of his approach and the deep knowledge he has of his field. My first full-time teaching position was at a school that prepared students for the Cambridge First Certificate and Proficiency exams, so at one time I was also something of a specialist in exam preparation, but Grant knows far more than I ever knew.

Guy Cihi is one of a kind. He is one of the most successful businessmen in the ELT world and yet he retains the sincerity and idealism that an aging hippy like me can relate to. Anybody who is thinking of running or is already running an ELT-related business should read his column regularly. He certainly provided invaluable advice and support to me when I really needed help, and I will always be very grateful to him for this.

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The current government guideline is that reading and writing should not be taught in elementary school English classes. Having been very involved in training teachers when English was being introduced into elementary schools in Korea and having also been a consultant and trainer for the Ministry of Education in Thailand, I think I'm in a position to offer an opinion on this.

The guideline is very understandable, but it is misguided. There is clearly a danger that reading and writing would be taught in the way that was used when the Japanese teachers were students at junior high school simply because those methods are familiar. This would be difficult and demotivating for many children. It is also true that teaching reading and writing requires training.

Training elementary school teachers to teach English is actually surprisingly easy. Having trained tens of thousands of teachers over the years, I can say without hesitation that it was much easier to train Korean elementary school teachers with very limited English ability to teach English than it is to train most native speakers of English who are not professional teachers of children. This is true even though I speak almost no Korean and I was sometimes training hundreds of teachers at the same time. The Korean teachers had a deep sense for how children learn things and quickly latched on to the basic principles involved. It was a question of showing them how methods they used for teaching other subjects could be applied to the teaching of English.

Reading and writing can be a lot of fun and taught in ways that are achievable for all children in a once-a-week class. Without reading and writing the children cannot retain much of what they learn and cannot use the time between lessons effectively. It really comes down to method, and I'll write more about that next week.

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Some of the arguments used against teaching reading and writing to Japanese elementary school children are that it is too difficult, not enough fun, and means the children spend less time on speaking. Whether these criticisms are fair or not largely depends on the method we use.

If we start with a top-down whole language approach where the focus is on meaningful context (usually stories) then, yes, this is too difficult in the once-a-week English class that is normal in Japan. Most Japanese children do not have a rich enough English environment to be able to handle this kind of approach.

If we use a whole word approach that starts with ABC and then moves on to high frequency words like cat, dog, book..., then yes, this is also too difficult. Japanese children do not have enough exposure to written text to be able to acquire many words in this way without having them pushed in by the teacher. This tends to result in lessons that are not enough fun as well as being difficult.

I think the only effective way to start teaching Japanese children to read and write is through phonics. I have written extensively on this elsewhere so I won't go into the details here. I will just say that systematically scaffolding the children's phonic skills can work well in a once-a-week class, can be made to feel easy for the children, and can be a lot of fun.

Phonics is of course only a starting point. It is important that we never lose sight of the need to build up whole language skills while the children are learning phonics. We cannot teach language in lots of little bits and then expect the children to magically develop whole language reading strategies.

And what about the argument that teaching reading and writing takes time away from speaking? I think it is important to distinguish between speaking and communicating. A child who says automatically, 'How are you?', 'Fine, thank you, and you?' is speaking but not communicating.

If we want children to communicate, they need to internalize language, and I think this is almost impossible if the children focus too much on listening and speaking in a once-a-week situation. If they learn listening, speaking, reading and writing in a reasonably balanced way in a child-centered and fun learning environment, it is not too difficult for the children to internalize language patterns and so develop the potential to use them flexibly and communicatively.

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The British Embassy in Tokyo and the Consulate in Osaka have been making a concerted effort to get British nationals in Japan to register with them. They are worried about what will happen if there is a major earthquake or some other kind of emergency. Information on how to register was posted on ELT News last week.

They are quite right, of course. It is very important for foreign nationals in Japan to register with our embassies. If we don't register, we can't expect any support.

I was always told there would never be a serious earthquake in Hiroshima and almost everybody here believed this myth until one day in March 2001. Very few people were killed that day, but we were certainly shaken out of our false sense of security. Most people in Kobe also believed they were not in any danger and so were woefully unprepared when the Hanshin Earthquake hit in 1996. The tremors only lasted 20 seconds, but over 6,000 people were killed.

It's going to happen again, and it could easily happen in your area. At the very least, those of us who are foreign nationals need to register with our embassies so we can be contacted and supported if anything does happen.

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The new school year is upon us and so is the recession. The big question for many of us is how much effect the recession will have on our fortunes this year.

Language schools will obviously suffer. Those that depend on company contracts will probably suffer the most, and smaller schools with strong personal relationships with their students will probably suffer the least. I live in Hiroshima, and it's not a good time to have a language school in a city that is so heavily dependent on a car company. When Mazda is in trouble, it has a strong negative effect on the whole local economy. The number of new students enrolling at our school this year is well down on last year.

Publishers and other ELT-related businesses are also likely to suffer to some extent, especially with books that are suitable for company classes. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The strong yen is having a positive impact on schools and companies that send students overseas.

Even if we are being seriously affected by the recession, I think it is always important to remember that there are millions of people around the world who are suffering much more. Even in Japan, the Brazilian community has been devastated. The number of students at Brazilian schools has declined 40% in two months and almost 70% since 2007. Brazilians have been losing their jobs in droves and cannot afford to educate their children. This is a local tragedy on a scale that puts the problems of English language schools and other ELT-related businesses into perspective.

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One of the main sub-groups of ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) is the ETJ-owners group for language school owners and those teaching privately at home. The group began shortly after ETJ started in 1999 and has become the main place for owners to share their ideas and support each other. There are currently about 1,500 members.

The increase in the number of small schools with non-Japanese owners and of independent non-Japanese teachers over the last ten years has been quite phenomenal. This was mainly due to the relaxation of the visa laws in 1998. There are over five times as many permanent residents in Japan now compared to 1997 and there are many more freelance teachers who are not employed by one particular school.

When teaching independently or running a small school, it is easy to become isolated. We all benefit from being part of a professional community where we can get support and interact with others who are facing the same challenges as us. Fortunately, ETJ has been able to step into the breach and provide a much needed home for small school owners in Japan.

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Recent British research that seems to show that primary school boys do better in English in all-boy classes and girls do better at maths in all-girl classes seems to me to support my long-held opinion that children are so often held back by self perception, expectations of what it means to belong to a particular gender, and general social conditioning.

The argument is that gender conditioning in particular can hold children back when they study with members of the opposite sex, especially when girls study a subject like maths or engineering that have traditionally been regarded as more suitable for boys. I find it a bit surprising that this kind of explanation for the research results has generally not been mentioned in media reports.

There are classic role-play experiments, such as Hartley's 'Imagine you're clever' experiment, where children who did badly on tests were encouraged to role-play imagining they were clever, and of course, while doing the role-play they did much better on the tests. There are other classic experiments where girls have been encouraged to role-play being boys, and become better at subjects that boys are normally good at.

It seems to me that, once again, George Kelly's Personal Construct Psychology can provide a perspective that is surprisingly still often neglected. I would suggest that separating boys and girls is only a short-term solution that has negative as well as positive consequences. I think the deeper solution to this kind of issue comes from focusing on and questioning the constructs that children develop about themselves.

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There are very few recognized training courses for English teachers in Japan. There are MA courses such as the University of Birmingham MAs in TEFL/TESL and Applied Linguistics and the University of Sheffield MA in Advanced Japanese Studies, but there is very little for those who want take a shorter course that leads to a certificate that is widely recognized.

In many countries there are one-month intensive training courses that lead to qualifications that are valued by language schools, but there is little demand for this kind of course in Japan. Most teachers cannot just come to Japan and take a one-month course before looking for work, and hardly anybody can take one month off from work to get better qualified.

This is why Oxford University Press and David English House started the one-day certificate course in teaching Japanese students about eight years ago. Just about everybody can take a Sunday off to attend a course and can spare time to write up the assignment afterwards. This certificate course has built up a very high reputation over the years and is highly recommended for teachers of teenagers and adults. The courses will be held in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya on Sundays in June. You can see full information on the Oxford University Press website.

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There are active ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) in many areas of Japan, but there are some areas where there is no local group and other areas where the local group needs more help. These regional groups focus on workshops for teachers of young learners. If you are interested in getting involved, it would be best to check for more information on the ETJ website and send me an e-mail.

One area that needs active organizers is Sendai. This is especially important because there is an ETJ Expo in Sendai each year. If you live in the Miyagi area and may be interested in helping, please contact me. ETJ was set up for busy teachers, so being an organizer does not need to take up a lot of time.

The areas that currently have ETJ groups are Hokkaido, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanazawa, Nagano, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima. The Kanagawa group is likely to be restarting very soon.

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It's been a tough year for language schools. Companies have been cutting back on English classes, individual students have been questioning whether they can afford to study English, and even parents have been forced to economize on English lessons for their children.

There is also every indication that, despite the increasing importance of English in the world, the trend is for Japanese people to be less interested in the English-speaking world. The trend is for fewer Japanese people to travel to English-speaking countries and for students in Japan to be less interested in studying overseas. An important exception to these rather negative trends is that both Japanese parents and the Japanese government are placing more and more importance on English education for children.

And now we have swine flu. Although the government's reaction to swine flu has been commendable in many ways. Of course, everything possible must be done to protect lives, and it's better to err on the side of caution rather than risk a tragic pandemic. At the same time, the negative effects on the economy could be more than is immediately obvious.

Language schools may be particularly badly hurt. Schools that close will often not be able to receive tuition from students, students and potential students are more likely to decide to study English at home, and the trend towards insularity is likely to increase as more people perceive overseas travel as dangerous.

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The one-day certificate courses in teaching Japanese students start in Osaka this Sunday. The other courses are in Tokyo on Sunday June 14th and in Nagoya on Sunday June 28th. The certificates are issued by Oxford University Press and David English House and the courses are run on behalf of ETJ (English Teachers in Japan)

These courses have gained a tremendous reputation over the years and are highly recommended both for experienced and inexperienced teachers. Please note that the courses are on teaching Japanese teenagers and adults. There is a separate one-day course on teaching children.

Teachers who would like to get a certificate need to write a report after the course. Those who do not want a certificate can just attend and enjoy the sessions. For full information on what is covered in this year's courses and on how to register, please click here.

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There are various professional directions English teachers can choose. One option is to improve one's academic qualifications and try to get a full or part-time job at university. Another is to find a long term position at a language school, elementary school or high school. A third is to go independent and teach a bit of this and a bit of that or possibly even start your own school.

Another option that is worth serious consideration is to work for a publisher. I have had many friends over the years who have chosen this direction and found long-term personal and professional satisfaction. Whether you would find fulfillment in this kind of work does, of course, depend on the publisher and on whether the kind of work suits you.

Oxford University Press are currently looking for reps in the Kanto or Kansai area. Working for OUP is clearly an ideal job for anybody who would like to work in publishing. There is information about the position on the ELT News jobs page. Those who are interested can also send an e-mail to OUP by clicking here.

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Some teachers have given many presentations at conferences or smaller events. Many others have never tried. Personally, I think giving presentations is one of the best ways to develop as a teacher. It forces us to question and think through our ideas. It also enables us to step outside the immediate world around us and get feedback from teachers with different personalities who may be working in very different situations.

The ETJ English language teaching Expos provide an opportunity for both experienced presenters and would-be first time presenters. The Expos are held in October/November in six cities each year - Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

If you are interested in giving a presentation, you just need to send in the following information:

• Name(s) of presenter(s)
• Name of your school
• Your e-mail address
• Title of Presentation
• Presentation description (max 50 words)
• Biographical data (max 30 words)
• Topic area (e.g. reading)
• Type of teachers for whom the presentation is relevant (e.g. university teachers)
• The language the presentation will be given in (e.g. English, Japanese)

The person to contact for each Expo is as follows:

Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka.

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These days, the development of computer software has made it possible for a teacher with reasonably good design skills to produce teaching materials that have the potential to be used by a lot of other teachers and schools. However, it is difficult to promote these self-made materials on a national scale. It generally takes years for a teacher to gain the national credibility that is needed before many schools will take a serious look at the materials, and building up a nationwide marketing network is beyond the ability of most individual teachers or schools.

David English House (DEH) has come up with a way of making the marketing of self-made materials very achievable. We are setting up a new company, David English House - Professional Development, which will focus on teacher training, distance learning, be the central office for ETJ and the Expos, and will put its marketing resources at the disposal of individual teachers, schools and small companies that take out shares in the company.

Since the early 1990's, DEH has been supporting the professional development of teachers in Japan, introducing and marketing quality courses and materials, and building up effective ways of communicating with teachers. This is why it was possible for ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) to start - DEH had extensive data on English teachers in Japan and had gained sufficient credibility to be able to launch a new organisation for teachers.

DEH has come up with a range of marketing benefits for those who sponsor the new company. We are not in a strong enough financial position to offer this support at a very cheap price - the minimum sponsorship is 500,000 yen - but for a one-off payment we are offering indefinite access to DEH's marketing channels and a share of the company's profits (even for those without materials to promote, it is a worthwhile investment).

A power point presentation outlining the benefits and plans for the new company will be sent to anybody who would like more details. Please click here to request this by e-mail.

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The English language teaching industry in Japan has been suffering in many ways. The demographic and economic changes have hurt both employment prospects and the amount of money publishers and other ELT companies can put into teacher training and the professional development of teachers in Japan. Some of us are trying hard to fight this trend and we need your support.

Many volunteers around Japan put a lot of time and effort into the ETJ Expos that are held in six cities in October and November each year. Support from publishers has been declining for some time, but this has been replaced by increasing grass-roots support. There are more presentations by local teachers and more displays by teachers who have developed their own materials.

Not only do all these teachers deserve to be supported, but their energy and focus on the grass-roots realities that teachers are facing every day in the classroom guarantees some pretty dynamic events that all teachers should find extremely useful.

Fortunately, there are some publishers that continue to provide steadfast support for the Expos, particularly Oxford University Press, and this has made it possible to attract famous presenters as well as an extensive range of high-quality materials in the display area of each Expo.

Click here to see the dates and presentation schedules for each Expo.

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And what have we done? Well, most of us have survived, many of us have adapted to the recession, and some of us are looking positively at new opportunities. As an owner of language schools, I have to admit to being worried about the way things were going early this year. Our schools grew 10% last spring and shrank 10% this spring, but since the spring the local economy in Hiroshima has adapted better to the recession and we have benefited from this. I've been hearing similar stories from other owners around the country.

The attendance at the Expos was certainly very healthy this year and the volunteer spirit and grass-roots participation were stronger than they have ever been. The only symptom of the recession was the reduction in support by publishers, but this was more than made up for by the presentations and displays of self-developed materials by local teachers.

The year has ended with champagne. My long-term dream of starting a company that focuses on supporting the professional development of teachers in Japan finally came to fruition just last week. It's all very exciting and means that here at David English House we can look forward to an exciting 2010.

I wish all readers of ELT News a very happy Christmas and a successful 2010. Let's hope it's a good one without any fear.

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Teaching children is a very big responsibility. We can easily have life-changing effects on their interest in learning English, on whether or not they will be curious about the world outside Japan, and on their attitude towards different cultures, races and opinions. Unfortunately, the training of teachers of children, particularly with regard to building motivation and long-term skills is sadly neglected. Many teachers of young learners have almost no specialist training.

For quite a few years, I have been trying to address this issue both in Japan and other Asian countries. Every year at this time, I travel around Japan running one-day certificate courses in teaching elementary school children. Personally, I find this the most rewarding thing I do all year.

One of the great things about teaching young learners is that we can focus on the long-term development of everything from their ability to communicate in English to their willingness to read English books by themselves at home to their attitude towards the international world. Instead of having to consider next week's test, we can scaffold their English skills and psychological attitudes step by step over a period of time.

In a way, we are spoilt compared with teachers of older students. We have a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference to the children's lives. But, what a responsibility this is! I think it's important that we all do everything we can to study and reflect deeply on how to make full use of this opportunity and help the children reach their full potential both in English and as future members of an international society.

If you would like to know more about the one-day courses, please visit this website. The dates of the courses are as follows:

Jan 24 Osaka
Jan 31 Nagoya
Feb 7 Tokyo
Feb 14 Sendai
Feb 21 Kanazawa
Feb 28 Fukuoka
Mar 14 Hiroshima

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E-Quality.gif

The reputation of the English language teaching industry in Japan has been badly hurt by the dishonest practices of some schools and it has become necessary for schools and independent teachers that strive for higher professional standards and value financial honesty and transparency to get together, agree to abide by a code of conduct, and get the message out that not all schools and teachers put business before educational standards. This is why we have started E-Quality.

This does not mean that all members of E-Quality do everything perfectly. It just means that we are sincerely trying to make things better. The basic level of membership, which is available now, is available to schools and teachers who are willing to sign a basic code of conduct. Higher levels of membership, which will be introduced later, will involve agreeing to more detailed standards, and schools may receive the official endorsement of E-Quality.

All schools and teachers that join will receive benefits that will gradually be introduced over the next few months. Some of these will be free and some will involve a fee. All will be optional.

ELT Books has increased its discount on all English language teaching books that are available in Japan and published by western publishers in order to support E-Quality. The discount will be available for all ETJ members (membership is free) until May 31st, and it will then only be available for members of E-Quality.

Click here to go to the E-Quality web site.

Click here to go to the ELT Books site and receive a 20% discount on books.

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At first sight, it would seem that the language school industry in Japan is in free fall. Nova and Geos, two of the big four language schools that have dominated the industry for the last fifteen years, have both collapsed. Geos and Nova between them had 1,400 schools at their peak, and less than 500 have been taken over by G.communication. The Ministry of Trade and Industry says enrollment at language schools has dropped from 826,858 students in February 2006 to 335,604 this year.

But do these figures paint a true picture of the industry? It is certainly true that corporate ELT has declined rapidly. There is also little doubt that the number of adults studying at language schools is a shadow of what it was in the 1990's before the bubble burst, but there is every sign that ELT still has a lot of life in it at a local level.

There are far more children learning English at language schools than there were fifteen years ago, but while adults were willing to travel a reasonable distance to study at a school with a glossy sign in a prime location, many parents prefer their children to study as near home as possible. This is one of the factors that has led to the proliferation of small family-run schools. Another is that the large chain schools are outsiders in the community and have found it increasingly hard to compete with the local teacher who is known in the community and may have children at the local schools.

Where are all these local teachers coming from? There are over 5 times as many permanent residents now as there were in 1997! Another fundamental change began when the visa laws were changed in 1998 to allow native speakers to teach independently. This completely changed the rules of the game. Native English teachers were no longer obliged to work for one school in order to get a visa. The collapse of Nova accelerated this trend - some teachers who lost their jobs went independent - and the collapse of Geos will undoubtedly contribute to the same trend.

ETJ (English Teachers in Japan) alone boasts close to 1,500 small school owners as members, and the number is growing all the time. It is unlikely that many of the students at these schools are included in the Ministry's figures. A new wave of English schools is coming. They are in the community, and they are tapping into the Japanese tradition of learning from the local sensei.

David Paul

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There are very few recognized training courses for English teachers in Japan. There are MA courses such as the University of Birmingham MAs in TEFL/TESL and Applied Linguistics, but there is very little for those who want take a shorter course that leads to a certificate that is widely recognized.

In many countries there are one-month intensive training courses that lead to qualifications that are valued by language schools, but there is little demand for this kind of course in Japan. Most teachers cannot just come to Japan and take a one-month course before looking for work, and hardly anybody can take one month off from work to get better qualified.

This is why Oxford University Press and David English House started the one-day certificate course in teaching Japanese students about nine years ago. Just about everybody can take a Sunday off to attend, and can spare time to write up the assignment afterwards.

Unfortunately, even though the course has built up a tremendous reputation over the years, this June will be the last chance to take it. Thousands of teachers have now taken the course, and most attend once or twice. It is now time for us to start a new course that will be appropriate for those who have already taken the current one.

This year, the courses will be held in Tokyo on Sunday June 20th and in Osaka on Sunday June 27th. Click here for full information and to reserve a place..

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The recent closure of David English House has led to some confusion about the status of ELTBOOKS.com that I feel I should clear up. Up until the end August DEH was responsible for the fulfillment of books to customers and also represented ELTBOOKS.com at the ETJ Expos.

However ELTBOOKS.com has been owned by eigoTown.com since it bought what used to be the DEH book service 5 years ago and renamed it. The fulfillment operations for the service have now been transferred to Tokyo. ELTBOOKS.com is very much up and running and continues to support ETJ and I have become a special advisor to the service. One way of supporting ETJ and me is to buy your books from ELTBOOKS.com.

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When David English House went under at the beginning of September, I was very worried about what would happen to the Expos this year. I was more than willing to put in the time to support the Expos, but I no longer had the money to even pay for things like travelling to the Expos, let alone bigger costs such as advertising.

It has been very heartening to see how much support there has been. The generosity of Oxford University Press has been amazing. I don't write for OUP and have no business relationship with them, but they offered to pay for all my travelling and hotel costs so that I could get to the Expos. They have also paid for a postcard mailing to ETJ members that David English House has paid for in the past.

I have long known that OUP are a charity and have a charter stating their mission to support educational initiatives. That's why I was comfortable with asking them to be a General Sponsor of ETJ. But, to see this mission carried out in such an unselfish way in practice, is really quite wonderful.

I would also like to thank Russell Willis, President of eigoTown. He has personally stepped up to the plate by designing and sending out lots of digital advertising. He has also made programs for each of the Expos that are far better-designed than anything we have had in the past. He has been sacrificing so much time to support the Expos this year. There was a big danger that the end of David English House would have led to a big drop in the promotion of the Expos, but Russell has ensured that the promotion has increased!

And what can I say to all the ETJ volunteers around the country? It is impossible to express in words how grateful I am for their kindness to me in these difficult times, and for the way so many volunteers have stepped into the gaps left by the closure of David English House. The local organisers of the Expos have been doing a fantastic job, and the grass-roots support for the Expos among local teachers has noticeably increased again this year.

There are still four more Expos to go. I hope that teachers reading this editorial will show their support for all the hard work of the ETJ volunteers by attending the Expos and encouraging your friends to do the same.

David Paul

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