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Native English teachers who have worked in Korea or Japan have developed very strong opinions about the systematic approach each country takes when teaching English. Here at RocketNews24, we’ve previously talked about how all the focus is on test scores and how native English speakers are used as glorified tape-recorders. We’ve also mentioned that there are Japanese English teachers with limited ability to speak (let alone teach) the subject, textbooks that bore the students into a coma and students who are too afraid to try because they don’t want to make any mistakes.

We could go on and on about the issues plaguing the system, but in the end, it is just advice coming from outsiders. Perhaps the ones we need to hear more from are the students themselves. What better source of feedback is there than the people who have experienced the process first-hand and now live with the fruits of their studies, or lack thereof?

Do those people identify similar problems in the current system? Has the presence of foreign English teachers in class actually had an impact on their studies? Let’s find out, when Korean and Japanese who are living overseas are asked about their English education.

Our video today comes from the YouTube channel Asian Boss, the same “bosses” who brought us a unique view of the kabe-don earlier this week. However, this time their video attacks a much more serious topic: English education in Japan and Korea. The purpose of the video is to answer, “Why Korean and Japanese students can’t speak English“.

The video begins by establishing about how long the individuals had studied English in their home countries.

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But even with all those years of English education, it didn’t seem like it prepared them for using it in real life. One person commented that when he so much as hears English being spoken, he starts to get anxious. Hardly a good sign!

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With the bona-fide credentials of the former students out of the way, each person was then asked the following questions.

How do you study English in high school? Was it fun?

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Predominantly, people responded that it was just like any other subject in school, such as math or science. The classes focused on learning grammar and memorizing it for the tests. These tests didn’t even evaluate language ability; rather they focused on academic progress. A lot of the time they forgot what they studied right after the exam. This obviously resulted in classes not being very fun or rewarding. However, many felt that lessons were markedly more interesting when a foreign English teacher was present. Despite not really being able to understand the native teacher, they usually played games as a method of learning, something that was much more enjoyable (and secretly gets them using, rather than just thinking about, the target language).

Would you be able to have a conversation in English with the English you have learnt in high school?

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Probably not. One of the people interviewed wondered how could they be expected to have an English conversation when most of the time at school they were just checking grammar on worksheets and remembering lists of words. In the end, most people won’t leave school being able to communicate in English.

Why do you think Koreans are particularly bad at English?

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While this question was asked to a few people, many of them had a common answer: being afraid to make mistakes. In South Korea, students often feel ashamed to make mistakes, and other people – including the teacher – would be dismissive when they gave incorrect answers. One woman who had studied English as her major said that she is always unnecessarily harsh on herself. She’s spent so much time studying all these grammar rules, so why can’t she speak proper English?

Many also claimed that because Korean people are shy, they wouldn’t approach foreign people they didn’t know, thus missing opportunities to practice and use their English. (Although not mentioned, many Japanese claim to be just as shy, and point to this as one of their main reasons for not breaking out their English more often.)

How do you think the English education system could be improved in Japan?

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During school there is a great imbalance between the amount of language material they have to learn and the amount of practice they get speaking it. One person commented that in class they have to absorb a lot of grammar, but then don’t use what they were taught. So, not only do they not understand when someone speaks to them in English, they don’t know how to respond either. If the teachers gave students more chances to speak and apply their knowledge, they wouldn’t panic when having to apply their skills in a real life situation.

Finally, the interviewees were asked if they had any other things they wanted to add.

A few people said that English, like all languages, isn’t static and therefore shouldn’t be taught like a math problem to solve. They believe that if the teachers took a more practical perspective, students would learn better. Additionally, if early education of English was more fun and continued like that throughout high school, it would be a big improvement.

What punctuates this video even more is the fact that the interviewees are speaking in their native languages. There might be no more damning evidence than these people NOT using English in the video. That might have been a conscious decision by the Asian Bosses, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless.

Do you disagree with any of the comments made here? Let us know in the comments section below.

Source & Images: YouTube (Asian Boss)