Essays on English in Japan

Systems not skills

Systems not skillsOne of the greatest failures of the English language industry in Japan is not addressing the complexity of language learning. Leaning too heavily on linguistic analysis, the ESL industry has offered gullible students and harried teachers quick, superficial fixes. What students need is a broader explanation of how to utilize the multiple skills, personal attitudes and ways of thinking that can really help them.

One conceptual framework that can make up for this lack is systems theory. Systems theory offers a new approach to learning English. Instead of just teaching one discrete skill after the next, pedagogy should help students construct a system where those skills function together by supplementing and supporting each other. If students have strong skills, but no system to organize those skills, they cannot do much. It is like a computer with no search function; what is needed can never be found, even if it’s in there somewhere.


Once upon a time

"Once upon a time…" is one of the greatest phrases ever. It signals the beginning of a story, a switch in thinking and feeling, and a chance for fun and learning. People love stories from the time they are born. Stories are one of the first things we hear as human beings, whether as a lullaby, a baby book, a mother's chatting, or the age-old "you're going to be president some day, " as Americans tell their babies. We learn to listen to stories before we can even walk.

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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.