Japanese people study English for at least six years, it may be difficult
for them to produce even a simple conversational sentence. This is because in the past, the emphasis had been
mainly on memorizing vocabulary and grammar. Students had very little opportunity to use the
English they had studied in a communicative context.
situation has changed. In most JHS classes,
students regularly speak English and do communicative activities. Classes at SHS have been slow to change, but
gradually teachers are beginning to adopt communication-based lessons. The introduction of AETs has created a real need for
students to learn how to converse in English. The AET is proof that English is a 'living language'
to be used, not just studied academically.
drills typically make up a large part of the speaking activities in the
classroom. These types of activities can be useful
for learning some skills (such as pronunciation), but should not be
considered communicative activities.
Students need to
practice using the English they have learned. For this, they need situations that provide a real
need to use English. Producing original
thoughts in English is a much better test of competence than simply
reciting a memorized phrase.
Students should aim
towards being able to have a simple conversation with a native speaker of
English. To achieve this, they need regular
practice at exchanging ideas and information with each other in a relaxed
classroom environment. Communication
activities should be a regular feature of your classes. As students improve, make the activities more
pronunciation in English is not easy. In Japanese, there
is a standard alphabet where pronunciation is always the same. The difficulty with English is that pronunciation
does not always follow a set pattern. Also, English uses
many sounds that do not exist in Japanese; however, it is important to
remember that it is quite possible for Japanese speakers of English to
achieve good pronunciation.
These days, there
are a lot of audio-tapes and CD's available that give model pronunciation
of teaching materials. By listening to the
correct sound and mimicking what is heard, students can quickly improve the
way they speak. This should in no
way be the only form of pronunciation practice a student gets, but it can
help. Please keep in mind that English is not
Japanese, so it follows that Katakana pronunciation of English is not
Help eliminate the use of ‘Katakana English’!
Problems with Using
- It gives
students the wrong pronunciation of English
- It is
Japanese, NOT English
- Not all
English sounds are available in Katakana
- Students will
rely on Katakana and not be able to recognize even easy words.
- Students won't
get used to reading real English.
- Students won't
be able to properly 'sound out' unfamiliar words.
- Many native speakers
would not understand Katakana pronunciation.
a) My name is Clare. I am from England.
b) マイ ネム イズ クレア。 アイ アム フロム
c) Mai nemu izu kurea. Ai amu furomu Ingurando.
Advice On Teaching
- Tell your
students that they CAN say all the English sounds (all people have the
- Teach students
to SOUND OUT a word they don't recognize. This is the way native speakers
learn to read.
- DON’T add Katakana
to handouts or textbooks (students won't read the English)
- DON'T let
students answer questions in Katakana, or use it in bingo games.
- Teach new
words IN English, NOT Katakana.
- DON’T let
students say English words that are used in Japanese with the Japanese
pronunciation (e.g., say "ice cream", not
- Show them the
differences between Katakana English and real English pronunciation.
Intonation can only
be learned my mimicking the sounds of others. It is one of the most important parts of verbal
communication, but students are given very little guidance about it. In any language, the tone you use can change the
whole meaning of a word or sentence. Therefore,
non-native speakers need to be careful.
By giving students
lots of exposure to natural English, they too will learn natural
intonation. Textbooks provide little guidance as to
correct intonation. It is essential for
students to listen to, and imitate, the voice of a native speaker.
Look at the
following list of noun-verb pairs. When the stress is on the first
syllable, the word is a noun; on the second syllable it is a verb.
compress REFuse reFUSE
compound PROject proJECT
CONtract conTRACT COMbine comBINE OBject object
Increase inCREASE DEcrease deCREASE REject reJECT
are some words similar to the above that have no stress shift, e.g.
CONtact, DIScount, FInance, INterest; also conSENT, conTROL, disGUISE,
diVORCE. Note that each word does, nonetheless, have stress.]
Look at how the
meaning of the following sentence changes when different words are
"I don't like James Bond."
a b c d
When the stress is
a) The stress is on
"I". The meaning is that
everyone else likes James Bond, but the speaker doesn't.
b) The stress is on
"don't". Everyone thinks
that the speaker likes James bond, but that is not the case. The feeling of dislike is very strong.
c) The stress is on
"like". The speaker implies
that she doesn't merely like James Bond, but loves him,
instead. Her feelings are stronger. Maybe she is answering, "I don't like James
Bond, I LOVE him!"
d) The stress is on
"James Bond". The speaker implies
that she likes everyone except James Bond.
As you can see, by
stressing different words, you can change the meaning of a sentence. Many times students will not even try to express any
kind of emotion or feeling when they speak English. As a result, English often sounds dead and boring
when they speak. By using teachers'
manuals and native speakers to give you advice about the intonation of a
passage, you can make English come alive for your students.
Students to Speak More in Class
Most junior and
senior high school students are not confident when speaking English. Teachers often say that their students are
"shy", but most often the reason is because students have little
practice speaking communicative—NOT MEMORIZED—English. With practice and a positive
attitude, every student can improve their speaking ability. The following are some suggestions
for encouraging your students to speak:
- Use English as
often as possible and don't respond to their Japanese.
posters of key classroom expressions: "Please Repeat that",
"What's the English word for . . .", "I don't
understand", etc. Put these posters at the front of the room. Teach the students these
expressions and make them use them rather than Japanese. This is a very important first step
that involves real communication.
- Vary your
classroom English and greetings. Avoid chorus responses like
"How's the weather today . . . fine." Here are some ideas:
ü Ask several
students, individually, how they feel. Teach them several different ways of
responding. Every student, every day, is not
ü Ask students about
their activities. Find out what they
did during their vacation, free time, or weekends.
ü Give your students
a minute or two at the beginning of the lesson in order to have a
conversation in pairs. The topic can be
In Team-Teaching classes, spend several minutes
talking with the AET at the beginning of class. After the conversation, ask students
some questions about the contents. Let students ask
any questions that they may have.
Encourage students to speak to the AET directly. DON’T translate for them, but DO help them clarify
their own expressions.
Make interesting and fun communication activities
that give students a REASON for speaking English. Make classes student-centered (students do the
activities on their own) so that they are active.
are some ideas:
ü Pair Work: dialogues with their partner,
information gap activities,
ü Group Work: quizzes
and contests, writing and performing
skits, group presentations, summarizing
news articles into their own words,
word games, discussing their opinions
about a topic.
ü Class Work: scramble activities, interviews and
question and answer.
ü Ask your students
"Why" questions. This makes them
think more and form short sentences. When a student
struggles with an answer to a "why" question, NEVER translate the
question into Japanese, or they will never try to understand the English. Just ask the question in a slightly easier way.
ü Make students
answer multiple-choice by reading the whole sentence (especially for Oral
Communication at SHS). Ask them a
follow-up question to check their understanding.
ü Try to avoid
correcting your students when they are speaking. Natural communication is not possible if the speaker
becomes self-conscious of making mistakes. Correct students after they have finished speaking,
or point out the common mistakes of several speakers.
ü Make student
speeches a part of every class. Draw up a schedule,
and have one or two students each lesson give a presentation about an
assigned topic. “Show and Tell”
is a simple way to get students talking about something they’re interested
in. Also, encourage your
students to take part in speech contests. Ask the AET for help.
ü Assign students to
make vocabulary tests or quizzes. Let them be the teacher. Choose a student to ask the comprehension questions
or read a listening exercise.
ü Try discussion and
debate. Use controversial topics where each
student will have an opinion.