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It’s game on for English in Japan

Of 37 OECD nations, Japan ranked the lowest among those who took the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam in 2019. This is despite the fact that, for most Japanese students, if they wish to progress to university in their country, they will need to pass the English segment of the Common Test (previously known as the National Centre Test).

Last year the test was amended to reflect more common English usage, such as being able to text or fill in online forms, rather than whether the candidate can translate a sentence or understand grammar. However, the test still doesn’t cover speaking levels.

For some time, Japanese students’ low levels of proficiency in English was attributed to an emphasis on translating and parsing sentences, rather than, say, conversation in classes. However, when speaking and listening were brought to the fore, it was felt that students’ reading and written skills then flagged.

In a further effort to boost English skills, since 2009 all English classes In state high schools were directed to be taught in English, though few of the teachers were native speakers and it’s debatable whether this mandate has paid off.

However, it seems that the prevalence of English on the internet may yet be the saviour of Japan’s English acquisition: perhaps unsurprisingly, in 2020 the top trending search word in Tokyo was ‘Olympics’.

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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