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April 14, 2004

Japanese Kids Less Confident in English

Japanese high school students lack confidence in using English compared to their East Asian counterparts. The survey of 13,600 students from Japan, South Korea and China, carried out by Benesse Corp. and an international team including Sophia University professor Kensaku Yoshida, also showed the Japanese scoring lower on a standardized test. On the Global Test of English Communication (GTEC), the Chinese students averaged 432.6 points out of 800, the Koreans 414.1 and the Japanese 407.8. The test assesses reading, writing and listening skills. Korean students had the best scores in reading and listening, but were considerably weaker in writing. But even Korean students with a lower overall grade were more confident than the Japanese when asked to assess their own ability to handle everyday situations, such as answering a phone call or listening to their favorite songs, in English.

According to Yoshida, the Korean students overall have more opportunities to use English outside the classroom than those in Japan. The number who have made a phone call in English, for example, was almost two thirds, compared to less than a quarter of Japanese. Almost three quarters listen to news in English, as opposed to only about 38% in Japan. The emphasis in Korean classrooms is also more on practical English and expressing opinions in assignments rather than the Japanese approach of mastering grammar and set phrases.
Story in Japanese

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