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Native English Speakers in Demand as Japanese Teachers Hone their Language Skills for New Curricula

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KYODO – More and more elementary school teachers in Japan are turning to English language schools with native speakers, as they seek to gain confidence in teaching the language before it is formally added to their curricula in the academic year starting April 2020.

Many teachers admit to lacking confidence in their English, in areas from vocabulary to grammar, expressiveness and pronunciation. Elementary school teachers, such as Yuko Shigematsu, say they are afraid of teaching their students “the wrong thing.”

Now the ministry of education is providing a road map to foster more competent English teachers, and a growing number of local boards of education are expanding their teacher training programs through outreach to foreign language institutes.

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“It is a heart,” 34-year-old Shigematsu said while trying to describe the shape of a necklace at her English conversation school in the city of Oita. “Heart-shaped,” corrected her teacher, a woman from Britain.

Shigematsu has been practicing English conversation while taking lessons on grammar and pronunciation for the past two years, partly because in 2011 Japan made English compulsory for fifth- and sixth-graders as part of their extra-curricular “foreign language activities.”

Last year the guidelines were further revised to start English education from the third grade as part of foreign language teaching, and make English a formal subject from fifth grade, starting in 2020, in an effort to enhance the nation’s global competitiveness.

The education ministry has also called for the number of English teachers to be increased, while hiring 20,000 native speakers and Japanese fluent in English as assistant language teachers by fiscal 2020 … (read more)

via The Japan Times

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