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March 02, 2004

Kids Choke on English Shoved Down Throat

A recent Mainichi Daily News report: Teaching Japanese kids English from an early age could ruin their brains, a sizzling claim states in Josei Jishin (3/9). With some elementary schools in Tokyo planning to include English on their curriculums from April, hopes have been raised that the traditionally terrible linguistic skills of the Japanese can be improved.

But recent research at Dongduk Women's University in South Korea, a country the women's weekly refers to as an English learning superpower, turns on its head the common belief that instruction in a second language is more effective the younger the student, suggesting that the early start is virtually worthless.

"About 70 percent of the teachers at English language schools for children have no prior experience and you really must question the quality of instructor," one of the Dongduk professors involved in the study tells Josei Jishin. "Loads of side-effects exist in forcing kids to learn English at an early age when they're not ready for it. They develop bad pronunciation habits they struggle to shake off, are enormously stressed out and their cerebral development can be hampered."

Dongduk's finding has sparked a backlash among Japanese educators irked at the national government's decision to force them to shove English down kids' throats at increasingly juvenile ages.
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