Experiences in English
Sorry, I made a mistake when I posted the last message.
What I mean is that a post by Steve in his blog makes me think that it would interesting to share our experiences in English classes that we took at school
Here me experiences:
I took compulsory English classes for about 10 years in school. It was 2 hours a week. The most vivid image I remember is the textbook. Every year was different. New colors, new photos…but if you went and take a look at the index, 70-80% of grammar was a repetition of the year before. So we repeated again and again the same basic aspects of grammar (present tense, past tense, conditionals, …).
There was no listening. Well, to be honest, maybe one day a month we listened to some English (10-20 minutes). It consisted in an old cassette and it was difficult to understand, not because it was English, but the audio quality was very poor.
Regarding to reading, it wasn’t a priority. At first we rarely read something that wasn’t the textbook. in the last courses, we had to read a very basic book in home (usually an adapted version, maybe 20-30 pages).
Regarding to writing, sometimes we had to write a letter or something like that. But normally there was a guide (how to start, how to end, …).
So the result of that is after 10 years, I wasn’t able to speak English and it was hard for me to read basic English.
The English education that I took as a student was probably quite good compared to that of other people of my age.
(our school had a native speaker as a tutor, which was rare in Japan at that time.
we even had some exchange students from America, too).
However, I still have to say that it was too much grammar oriented.
Reading was regarded as the main source of input, and listening was almost ignored (or not available).
Now the situation has a little changed, and there is no university entrance exam missing the listening part.
But I am not sure the change is drastic enough to make the Japanese more fluent in English.
(I hope it is!)
There ARE some university entrance exams missing the listening part.
I mean, there is no public high-school exam missing the listening part.
I would like to believe this is because people are becoming aware of the importance of listening
not only as a source of input, but also as a communication skill.
I heard that in Japan the average English skills are not very good, but I am not sure if this is true for the other Asian countries.
Regarding to have or not an English native teacher, In my view it doesn’t matter too much, because finally the important thing is to get independent learners. I mean, the student should be able to choose his/her own stuff in order to read and listen.
Regarding to universities, do you mean that it’s not necessary the listening part to pass the exam?
As you mentioned, to be motivated on our own is key to success in language learning.
Now matter how good educational environment you have, you could not be a good speaker of any language
if you are not motivated at all.
It’s just my feeling, but the number of fluent English speakers in Japan has increased, compared to a decade ago.
We have benefitted a lot from the sites on the Internet like LingQ.
But still (maybe ) the English level of ours is not so high as other countries,
especially European countries, whose languages usually have the same origin as English.
As for university exams, if you would like to enter one of the public universities in Japan, the listening test is mandatory.
But some private universities have many different patterns of exams. You could skip the listening part.