Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Japan's 2020 push to English: A suggestion to the "panel of experts"

Sent to the Japan Times, Dec. 31, 2013.

Experts have criticized Japan's reform plan for English for not including enough hours of English instruction to accomplish its goals and have also noted the lack of resources and staffing ("English to get 2020 push but teachers not on the same page," Dec. 31, 2013).

There is an easy way to help solve both of these problems and ensure that growth in English will continue after students finish school: Invest in libraries and promote recreational reading. 
Study after study shows that self-selected pleasure reading results in profound gains in vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and writing style in first and second languages.  Also, reading can be so pleasant that students are often eager to do it on their own. Many of these studies have been done with those acquiring English as a second language in Japan, and they have been published in scholarly journals all over the world. 

I hope that the panel of experts about to be created by the Ministry will study the work of some of the prominent scholars in Japan who have done quality research in this area, including Beniko Mason, David Beglar, and Atsuko Takase.  Prof. Mason has reported that older English acquirers who develop a reading habit in English make impressive gains on the TOEIC, even without any extra English classes.  (One of her subjects was in his 70's!)

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

Mason, B. (2011). Impressive gains on the TOEIC after one year of comprehensible input, with no output or grammar study. The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 7(1). Available at
Mason, B. (2013). Substantial gains in listening and reading ability in English as a second language from voluntary listening and reading in a 75 year old student. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 8(1). Available at

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