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‘Communicative Classes and Self-training’


As with any language, it is important to practice hearing, speaking, reading, and writing English regularly in order to maintain or improve confidence and ability when communicating. This is true of everyone, regardless of their level of English proficiency. 


The best way to improve your English is to study abroad. However, this is often not possible. So if you cannot go abroad to study English, then you could always bring the country to you!


The following are some suggestions that Japanese teachers can easily use in order to establish regular exposure to English, right here in Japan. These suggestions are specifically for JTE's to employ for the sake of their OWN English exposure. However, most of these ideas can also be used in the classroom!



1.  Listen to English-Language Radio


You can listen to these broadcasts in your free time, in the car, or even use them in your classroom on a regular basis. Some examples of English-language broadcasts are:


the BBC World Service


2. Watch Movies in English


This can be a fun way to practice listening to naturally-spoken English. If possible, try watching a movie without Japanese subtitles, and see how much of the story you can understand in English and through body language. A big part of communicating in English is watching body language and gestures. Therefore, watching movies provides even more natural exposure to real-life English language communication.



3. Read an English Language Newspaper or Magazine


Subscribe to an English language newspaper and find interesting articles to bring into your classroom. Most publishers will send you a sample edition if you ask for it. Some now even offer reduced subscription rates for schools. 


· The Japan Times, Asahi Evening News, The Daily Yomiuri are just a few of the English language papers readily-available in Japan.


Any international center is an excellent source for reading newspapers in English. Most have a large selection of magazines and books, as well. Your local library may also be a good place to find foreign language materials. If you live near Gifu City the Gifu Prefectural Library has a good selection of books, magazines and newspapers in English. 


You can also read newspapers online:


The Guardian Online (the best online internet newspaper)·

 USA Today - 

· Time Daily - 

· CNN Interactive - 

· Newsweek - 

· BBC Homepage - 

· World Wide Newspage - 

· The Washington Post 

The New York Times


4. Record Your Own Voice


In order to memorize important words and sentences, write them down in your notebook and / or record them on tape. Listen to the tape in your car on the way to school. Don't underestimate imitation. It is the beginning of everything in language learning!



5. Write in English


Find time to write in English. For example, while you are listening to a speech or sitting in a meeting (conducted in Japanese), why not take notes or translate the main points into English? 



6. Participate in (or initiate) a Pen-Pal Program

Regular correspondence with a native English speaker is an ideal way to practice reading and writing in true, communicative English. This is good practice for people of all ages: students and teachers, alike. 


See the Pen Pal section of this manual for more on Pen Pal programs. You can also ask your ALT or an exchange student if his or her school at home would like to do a pen-pal exchange.



7. Keep a Diary in English


You don't have to write every day, but set aside time on a regular basis to write about what you feel or about an interesting experience. Writing in English is excellent practice, because you learn immediately what grammatical points you have the most trouble with. Foreign language diaries also provide you with a greater personal motivation to learn new vocabulary and new ways of expressing information.

For example:


Monday 26th February, 2002
  This morning I woke up at around 7:30 am and had breakfast. After showering, I drove to school in my car. On the way, I listened to my favorite Kinki Kids MD. When I got to school, I had lots of preparation to do for the 1st grade class.

During the class, the ALT taught me a new phrase:
"Beating around the bush" means to hint around the subject (but not actually say it, to be vague or indirect.)


8. Take tests such as TOEFL, TOEIC, STEP, etc.


Try to get a guide license, or a UN Official English Test. If you pass the tests, you can be more confident of your English ability. If you don't pass, but your score increases the next time, you can still see how much your English is improving. Don't give up!



9. Speak ONLY English in your class


It seems obvious that you should speak English in your class most of the time. If you speak English from the start with a new class, they will become more used to listening to and responding in English.


This can be done through Non-verbal Communicative Teaching. For more information on the benefits of teaching English using Non-verbal Communicative Teaching, please see that subject in the Teaching Approaches and Methodology section of this website.


10. Attend Seminars for English Teachers


There are a lot of good seminars available during the summer vacation. Some are even held abroad. Seminars are provided here at the Education Center, as well. Learning any foreign language is a life-long process. Keep at it - you will see the results.



11. Explore the Internet


Access to personal computers and the internet is steadily increasing in Japanese schools. The internet is a great source of information, and the best part (at least for English teachers) is that most of the information is in English. There are literally thousands of home pages on nearly every subject imaginable for you to enjoy. The added benefit is that you English will be improving at the same time. 


There are many search engines available to help you find the information you want to search only in Japanese. These sites have a lot of information on education-related topics. If you have more time, wander around the internet sites and take them wherever they lead. You may start looking for one thing and wind up finding something altogether different and more interesting!


If you don't have much time, but want to get a small sampling of what is available, try checking out these English-language web sites to start with:


Also, you may want to try the online newspapers listed above!


12. Socialize with Native English Speakers


A particularly good example is your ALT! Whenever there is an ALT working at your school, try to socialize with him or her in the teachers' room on a regular basis. Converse about topics unrelated to lesson planning or specific classes. Make sure to foster the sense that this is a social conversation, not a work-related discussion session. This is extremely valuable authentic experience with English communication. 


In addition, the ALT will probably greatly appreciate your interest in forging a bond through communication. Many ALTs, particularly 'one-shots' who only attend your school for 3 weeks or less, often feel alone and outside of the group. They may have very limited Japanese ability, and they don't know anyone at your school. Therefore they may be reluctant to begin socializing with other teachers. These ALTs will be relieved and many times excited to speak with you!   



English Dictionaries

It is necessary for a teacher of English to have a real English dictionary which defines words in English. There are many problems when attempting to translate words into Japanese. It is quite common to make a mistake and apply the wrong meaning to a word. For example, an English-Japanese dictionary will translate the word "bill" into "請求書","ビラ","目録","紙幣", "議案", and "くちばし". It is therefore difficult to know which translation is best. An English0English dictionary will define the word in easy English for each of its meanings. This is also very helpful when teaching new words using alternatives to translation.


English  English dictionaries also help with expressions and phrases. The expression "break-neck speed", for example, is defined as "dangerously fast". Without the use of an English  English dictionary, it is difficult to understand and use these types of expressions.


In addition to English dictionaries, there are "thesauri". A thesaurus gives similar and opposite words for each entry. These books are commonly used for crossword puzzles and for people who want to increase their vocabulary. These types of dictionaries are also excellent for defining words in different English for vocabulary tests!


There are many different dictionaries available, all for different purposes. "College" dictionaries are probably the most practical and useful for English teachers. Regular use of English  English dictionaries will further your understanding of English, and help improve your vocabulary. It is also a great aid towards avoiding translation in your classes. However, be careful which dictionary you choose as spelling varies between British-English and American-English.



Best web-based bilingual dictionary

Full resource including translation software


Suggested Reading (in Japanese) for Drama and Listening


· Professor Makoto Ohmi (of Nanzan University), Oral Interpretation Nyumon, Taishukan Publishing Co.


· Professor Masayuki Sano (of Yamagata University).


This section has provided plenty of suggestions, but that doesn't mean that you have to do or try all or any of them. Continuous learning is the key to improving and maintaining you current level of English. Good luck!




Things to Consider Regarding the ALT