Are you one of those people who wonder why English is so hard for the Japanese? Do you ever wonder why it is considered one of the hardest languages for the Japanese to learn?
Learning a new language is a challenging task for anyone, regardless of their intelligence or academic background. The main reason why English is so hard for the Japanese to learn is due to several reasons. However, it’s important to note that seeking help and implementing effective language learning strategies can greatly improve the learning experience for Japanese students.
In this article, we will delve deeper and explore why English is so hard for the Japanese to learn and how we can help them overcome these challenges.
Top Reasons Why English is so Hard For Japanese Students
Japanese students spend almost six years learning English in school. Compared to the average American student that usually takes a language course for about two years, you spend more than double that amount of time learning English.
But just because you spend a longer period of time learning it, that doesn’t mean you were learning it correctly. There are multiple factors that play into the incorrect teaching of English in Japanese schools. The first few reasons are because of the languages themselves.
There are many differences between English and Japanese that are challenging to learn. These differences include:
- Sentence Structure
- Vowel Sounds
When you add these difficulties to learning an entirely new vocabulary and culture, it can be overwhelming. The way it’s taught to students in traditional Japanese schools doesn’t help much either. The main problems with how Japanese teachers teach English are:
- Teachers focus too much on grammar, rather than on conversation
- Instructors teach their students how to memorize material for tests rather than for actual-world use
- Inadequate teachers that were trained incorrectly
- Students are afraid of making mistakes
- It’s usually only taught because it looks good on resumes
1. Grammar Rather Than Conversation
In the Japanese education system, grammar rules tend to take precedence over conversation practice when it comes to English language learning. Essentially, this means they are learning how to pass tests in English, rather than speak English. Things like grammar are easier for teachers to teach. This approach has its advantages, as it provides teachers with a clear framework for creating test materials and worksheets that can help students achieve higher grades. However, it is important to note that language learning is not just about mastering grammar rules. While understanding the grammatical structure of a language is a crucial component, it is not the only aspect of language learning that matters.
2. No Real World Practice
Chances are, the only time a student has been exposed to English is when they are in their English classroom. Outside of that, it’s not heard often.
Teachers probably do not let students listen to and speak the language. Repeating after the teacher isn’t the same as speaking it; You’re only just repeating what is said, rather than responding to it. Because of the lack of practice outside the classroom, they’ll have trouble speaking in an actual conversation.
The difference in environments doesn’t help much either. A classroom is different from the real world. It is somewhere that is:
- Dedicated to learning English for a specific amount of time
But when you’re in a natural, conversational situation in the real world, no amount of written tests can really prepare you. With tests, you can know ahead of time what you should study and see what you need to focus on. But in the real world, it’s on the spot and you can’t prepare ahead of time.
3. Inadequate Teachers
Japanese teachers usually teach the grammar of English in Japanese. They also see if their students can follow the textbook by translating English into Japanese. Of course, this probably does not help in learning the language.
It also probably doesn’t help that the teachers who are teaching English this way were also taught English in this way. It creates this cycle of students not receiving adequate teachers, and nothing constructive is really taught.
4. Students Being Afraid of Making Mistakes
Japanese cultural norms instill fear of speaking up about having questions or making a mistake in students. Because of this, Japanese students feel they must speak perfect English and not make any errors. In a way, they impose silence on themselves out of fear of messing up.
Of course, this is not very constructive, nor is it realistic. Learning a new language requires you to change the way you:
It is fairly close to a lifestyle change. It takes time and effort to improve and refine that skill. It’s almost expected of you to make mistakes along the way, and that’s totally ok.
Making mistakes is how you learn, so you should never be afraid to make mistakes. As long as you learn something from them, and use that lesson to build your skills.
5. It’s Usually Only Taught Because it Looks Good on Resumes
Using English in daily Japanese life tends to be more for “decorative” purposes. That is, you may just be learning English to include it as a skill on your future resume. There’s nothing wrong with that, and you can use your education how you want, of course. The issue comes into play when teachers are teaching you English only for these purposes.
Teaching students things so they can add them as extra skills on resumes is the main focus of the Japanese education system. This is primarily to prepare students for finding a higher paying and more successful job. This isn’t a bad thing in theory, but in practice, it can make learning feel forced.
How English Teachers Can Help
Learning English from a native speaker can help you improve significantly. There are a few things a good English teacher should do in order to make an impact.
- They should familiarize themselves with your language
- Facilitating communicative activities for communication and practice
- Establishing a good relationship to improve your experience
- Using Japanese/English-Related Examples
1. Familiarizing Themselves With Your Language
A teacher is usually not expected to speak Japanese fluently. But when you are interacting with each other, they should be able to understand some of what you are saying.
It would be impossible for you to speak English for an hour straight. You are just learning, and that is asking way too much of you. You should also feel comfortable with speaking a language you know well in their classroom, and by extension asking them questions and communicating with your peers.
Teachers will also be able to formulate their lessons better if they know some basic Japanese. If you aren’t able to understand them, it would be much more difficult for them to teach you. The whole purpose of you being there to learn and enrich your mind would be defeated.
2. Facilitating Communicative Activities
As stated before, you might be having trouble with learning English because of the lack of opportunities you have to practice what you’ve learned. A good English teacher should be able to help you with that.
It may be uncomfortable and a bit awkward at first but practicing as much as possible will help you build your confidence in speaking the language. But your teacher should attempt to make the communicative activities as natural as possible.
Communicative activities can be:
- Interviewing each other
- Playing interactive games to help prepare for tests
- Imagining different scenarios and acting them out in English
Or anything else your teacher creates to help you build your confidence in the English language.
3. Establishing a Good Relationship
The dynamic between a student and a teacher can make or break the experience for both of them. If you do feel not confident enough to participate actively or express your ideas, a good teacher can bring you out of your shell.
It will be a big cultural difference, but it will help strengthen the relationship between you and your teacher. A strong teacher-student relationship can help in the future with questions you may have and struggles with your lessons, and overall make the experience more enjoyable. Learning should be enriching, not just something you do for a letter grade.
4. Using Japanese/English-Related Examples
One of the cool things about learning a new language is that you get to learn about another culture as well. If your teacher integrates cultural aspects from their homeland with your lessons, take it as an opportunity to broaden your mind and increase your knowledge of the world. It could also help you win a trivia question or two.
However, the lessons shouldn’t be too one-sided. Your teacher should also use Japanese examples while teaching, such as:
- Japanese Media they enjoy
- Travel Spots
- Cultural Traditions
- Traditional Dishes
- Japanese Fashion
This can help bridge the gap between English and Japanese, making it easier for you to learn and easier for your teacher to teach.
Why English is So Hard For the Japanese to Learn: Key Takeaways
English is considered one of the most challenging languages for Japanese students to learn due to various reasons, such as differences in sentence structure, alphabet(s), vowel sounds, and intonations. Japanese teachers focus more on teaching grammar rules rather than conversation practice, which makes it difficult for students to speak English in real-world situations. Lack of practice outside the classroom, inadequate teachers, cultural norms that instill a fear of making mistakes, and teaching English for decorative purposes are some other reasons why Japanese students find it hard to learn English.
However, the fact you are learning a new language, whether of your own accord or because your education system requires it, is impressive and admirable. It’s just important that we seek the right assistance when needed, whether through a teacher, tutor, or language exchange partner. And as we continue to explore why English is so hard to learn for the Japanese, let’s also focus on finding solutions that can help them succeed.