I somehow believe learning should be less homogeneous and more adapted and customized. I think knowledge and curiosity are closely associated. For teachers, not understanding of English grammar and sounds matter most, it’s the learner’s background and language differences instead. Most of all, I deem great teachers can move mountains, and any student can be inspired.
Mastery of any languages must have the learner’s passion to learn plus the teacher’s passion to teach and the possibilities for innovation in education.
In the world of EFL/ESL online instruction, teaching English to Japanese people could be both fun and refreshing experience, and exigent as well. Japanese has been presumed with innovative skills in technology even before; and thus, upgrading their communication skills through adapting and embracing the English language in their lifestyle and culture isn’t unforeseen. However, learning English for non-native speakers like Japanese could be a wonder and a dare. Furthermore, the toll to improve the students’ ability to speak English and communicate effectively is being shared to the teacher – sometimes it is carried over their shoulders. In conclusion, learning English is a partnership – student and teacher working together for the same goal.
Learning all the communication skills in English can often be wearisome for ESL students, partly because they do not use English language in their daily lives. However, student’s peak interest to master the language and self-initiative to be part of an English video-class could be the best tool to motivate and materialize their goals. ESL teachers can apply drilling method, which can be very helpful for students who are in beginning stages of learning English. To help students incorporate their newly learned vocabulary, grammar skills, and pronunciation into their basic communication, teachers can ask students to practice through repetition and routines. As students reiterate the new learned word in their mind and in speaking, the teacher can ask students to apply it in the daily conversation and use it in various situations e.g. in class. This way, students will not feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
To both teacher and student of English, it’s somewhat necessary to acknowledge that there are very significant differences between Japanese and English (language and culture), particularly in sentence structure, which make it hard for most Japanese ESL students to acquire English at the same rate as, for example, their German or Swedish peers. Furthermore, many of the difficulties that Japanese learners have with English are not due to problems with the language itself but are more the result of cultural differences. Communication between any two people in Japan is heavily influenced by aspects such as age, sex, relationship and relative status. The Japanese generally have an aversion to assertiveness and seek to avoid embarrassment to themselves and their interlocutor. There is a respect for abstraction which is alien to many plain-speaking Westerners. All of this can cause Japanese learners to struggle to find the best way to express themselves and result in the production of English that native speakers may find excessively vague or tentative.
The task of setting up the learning environment could not be satisfactorily fulfilled by the teacher alone. Students should pre-study the lesson, practice the words learned from the class and keep on repeating words until he or she pronounces the word perfectly. It’s indeed true to say that teachers are responsible for motivating and stimulating student’s ability to learn. However, student must initiatively immerse himself or herself in an English speaking environment e.g. listening to English music more than Japanese songs. Cultural barrier could be bridged and ironed out through mutual effort of the teacher and the student – teacher’s strong background knowledge of Japanese culture combined with student’s awareness of Western culture and open-mindedness to adapt the foreign culture.
ESL specialist should bear in mind that when teaching English to Japanese students especially junior learners, as teachers we need to be aware of the differences in learning styles of our students so that we can incorporate all of these learning styles into our lessons. Being able to identify which types of learners our students are will help us to make sure they don’t get left out of learning effectively.
Finally, if you are able to identify the type of learners you have in your class you can adapt your lesson on the spot if you see some are having trouble understanding or losing interest. Having a wide variety of styles included in your lesson will really help your students understand, internalize and enjoy your lessons.