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June 15, 2005

The Steiner Approach to English

Yesterday's Daily Yomiuri carried an article on Steiner schools in Japan. Based on the educational theories of Austrian educator Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Steiner (or Waldorf) approach is in use at 950 schools worldwide, seven of which are in Japan. The article focused on the teaching of German Steiner expert Christoph Jaffke, a 6-month visiting professor at Hiroshima University, who has been teaching English to children at a local primary school for the last few months. He leads the young students through games and songs during the 15-minute extracurricular class. Though the school has been offering English classes for a few years, Jaffke's classes use a radically different approach to that used before he first arrived. Among the principles applied at Steiner schools are that students learn two foreign languages from when they enter at the age of 6, after they have a solid grounding in their mother tongue; teachers speaking the target language all the time provide the role models for younger students, rather than multimedia tools such as CDs and computers; realia, or authentic materials, from the country of the target language are used whenever possible. The main problem Jaffke observed in English classes in Japan is the over-reliance on translation. He believes that it should be made compulsory for prospective English teachers to study abraod first in order to develop confidence in their speaking ability.
Hiroshima kids sample Steiner approach (link will expire)
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