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September 12, 2005

False Beliefs About English in Japan

In his latest Practical Linguist column in the Daily Yomiuri, Marshall Childs addresses some of what he considers the misconceptions about English-language education in Japan. He applies theories of social psychology, saying that there is a "self-fulfilling prophecy that English teaching in Japan is of very low quality, and criticisms are too often aimed at people rather than at real situational causes." He questions the validity of surveys that place Japanese at the bottom of the pile when it comes to TOEFL test scores, saying there is an imbalance in the statistical sampling in different East Asian countries. Childs asks if it is fair to criticize Japanese pronunciation or willingness to speak English, especially when compared to the foreign language ability of high school graduates in the United States. He also insists that it is unfair to place the blame for the problem at the feet of teachers, referring to the social psychology concept of the "fundamental attribution error," a human tendency to seek to blame people rather than situations.
False beliefs about English in Japan (link will expire)
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