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November 18, 2004

The Earlier the Better for English Learners?

The asahi.com web site carried a couple of opinion pieces by influential academics on the topic of introducing young Japanese children to English language education. One was by Yukio Otsu, a professor at Keio University's Institute of Cultural and Linguistics Studies, where he specializes in the cognitive science of language, and a director at the English Linguistic Society of Japan. He cautions against what he sees as a rush towards introducing English into the elementary school curriculum without sufficient planning or hard evidence to support it. He also cites the problems experienced by teachers whose own weak English skills prevent them from teaching the language effectively. He calls for less emphasis in general on games and everyday conversation - what he calls "superficial English skills" - and more emphasis on understanding the fundamentals of language.

The other piece was by Mineo Nakajima, president of Akita International University, a specialist in international sociology, former president of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and currently a member of the Central Council of Education. He says now is the time to introduce English to younger learners, or the move "will be pushed back by another decade or more." His emphasis is on the need for English in an increasingly globalized society. To counteract what some perceive as a threat to cultural identity, he suggests teaching about Japanese as well as foreign cultures through English. He also sees a need to revamp the whole approach to English education from elementary school through college.
Yukio Otsu: 'Sooner' is not 'better' for English education
Mineo Nakajima:Globally speaking, Japan needs English for tots

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