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May 09, 2011

NHK references CEFR for TV syllabus

Teaching-English-in-Japan-Education-NHK" NHK has launched a "grand design project" for its English-learning programs based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

The CEFR, with which most major ELT publishers reference course books, was released in 2001 by the Council of Europe and "provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. across Europe," according to its website.

CEFR evaluates learners' language skills based on what they should be able to do with the language, rather than their levels of vocabulary and grammar and has six levels-- from A1, the lowest, to C2, the highest,--and provides can-do statements for learners.

Speaking with the Daily Yomiuri, Seiichi Kametani, head of NHK Educational's language-learning department, said: "Up to now, we have positioned our programs in terms of target ages and learning levels--but mainly based on our past experience. By referring to CEFR, we now can decide their positioning based on more specific criteria."

Pre-kiso Eigo (6:50 p.m. Saturdays, NHK-E) targets primary school students and is the first of the project's new shows. According to NHK the program is like a quiz show with questions coming from overseas, and features Shigeyama Doji, a kyogen actor who performs in Japanese and English (pictured). Oscar-nominated animator Koji Yamamura has created two characters for the show named "Ahh" and "Zee" who feature in animations scripted by poet Arthur Binard.

By March 2012 the broadcaster plans to develop a TV version of its Kiso Eigo radio programs and create a database for learners featuring content from its past English-learning programs. NHK also plans to improve its cross-media approach by allowing related material to be used through the Internet or on mobile devices.

Audiences for NHK English programs are estimated to be in the millions.

See Also:
Koji Yamamura on NHK
NHK Pre-Kiso Eigo (Japanese)
Common European Framework of References for Language (CEFR)
• Source: Daily Yomiuri (subscription required)

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A1 is the lowest? I wonder how long it took them to decide on that piece of intuitive labeling... It doesn't immediately instill confidence in their ability to get the rest right...

I mean A1... is it just me or does that not strongly connote excellence and a top ranking?


A and 1 were chosen because they represent starting points. If you think of it that way, then it's perfectly intuitive.

CEFR bands have nothing to do with academic excellence anyway; they represent (reasonably) objective descriptions of what people should be able to achieve with language at various levels of proficiency. For example, according to the CEFR, one isn't really concerned with how excellent a student might be at telling their address over the telephone, but rather with whether they "can do" it at all.

It therefore becomes almost meaningless to say that one is a "good" student at a particular CEFR level, since anyone who "can do" enough of, say, the B2 items is automatically bumped up to the next level, C1.

Well, "intuitive" means that you don't have to "think" about it to understand it. Clearly, if you do think about it, as you have done, you can see the rationale. But that's not intuitive.

I guess it must be because I got all those A grades at school :-) that I associate A with the highest rank (of whatever is being ranked) and I think many others do.

If you asked a group of British people who knew nothing about it which was the highest rank, A1 or C2, I'd be happy to bet that you'd get a big difference of opinion. So it's not a ranking system that can be intuited correctly and consistently, which is what we mean when we say something is "intuitive". Must be one of those extremely rare examples of a big government organization making a less-than-perfect decision...

Your comments on CEFR itself are interesting: if what you say is true, doesn't this make the correlation with CEFR that most publishers provide for their coursebooks (which are usally beginner to advanced) rather problematic?

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