Essays on English in Japan

Two and a half year colleges

Two and a half year colleges

“I’m sorry I can’t come to class next week. I have a job fair.”
“Sensei, I have job hunting next Friday.”
“I missed class because I got a job interview.”
“Can I send my homework by email because I have to go to a company explanation meeting that day?”

Students start dishing out excuses like these fast and furious once they hit the second semester of their third year. Over the course of the third year, students change from being just students to becoming their own secretarial/organizational/managerial entourage. The shift is dramatic. They dress more conservatively, take out their extra pierces, get big calendar books, blacken back their hair, and sit with serious faces and faraway, worried minds.


S-l-o-w R-e-a-d-i-n-g


“Read faster!” are the marching orders from the world of entrance exams, multiple-choice tests, textbooks and ESL industry in Japan. It’s the same pressure people receive from the daily onslaught of email, text messages, Internet sites and memos. If you don’t read faster enough, you’ll fall behind!

The demand to constantly read faster has invaded classrooms, especially in Japan. That demand puts pressure on students that can hold them back. Reading comprehension exams are as much tests of reading speed as tests of comprehension. Fail to read fast enough and you’re evaluated as being bad at English, not just slower at English.

But is faster reading better? Perhaps not. For one thing, speed reading diminishes individual differences and needs. To suggest that all students are supposed to finish reading a passage in a set amount of time imposes an arbitrary and meaningless limit. Students learn and work at different paces. Slower reading may be deeper, better, and more genuine reading.

John Miedema in a marvelous and less than a hundred page work, Slow Reading, argues that the fast-paced digital age forces us to read too fast. He notes that although we are reading more with the Internet, we may not be reading better. His argument takes off from the slow food movement, which decries fast food and promotes a return to eating slowly, with local products, together with friends and families. In the digital age, Miedema suggests, slow reading acts as a counterbalance to the corporate, institutional, and consumer pressure for more and more speed.

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「Essays on English in Japan」へ、ようこそ。名前のとおり、英語のエッセーについて日本で語ろうという場所です。このサイトは僕の著書『僕、ニッポンの味方です アメリカ人大学教授が見た「日本人の英語」』をきっかけに誕生しました。まだ始まったばかりですが、新しいエッセーを随時更新します。今のところ、掲載されているエッセーの大半は『僕、ニッポンの味方です』に収録されている日本語のエッセーの英文ですが、あらゆる話題の新しいエッセーを紹介していくのでお見逃しなく。あなたのお気に入りのサイトになりますように。読むことと考えることを楽しみましょう!


Welcome to this site!

Welcome to Essays on English in Japan. This site is just what it says: essays about English in Japan. This website goes together with my book, 僕は、ニッポンの味方です! An Anti-Grammar Manifesto—The Other Side of English, released by Media Factory Publishers in March 2009. Though this website is just starting, it will have new essays all the time. For now, most of the essays are English versions of the Japanese essays in that book, but keep checking back to find new essays on all kinds of topics. Hope you like it! Happy reading and thinking!
March 20, 2009

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Michael is currently teaching at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan, in the American Literature section of the English Department. More information in the About Me page.