Some words from Yoko Matsuka/Profile: Yoko Matsuka| mpi

Some words from Yoko Matsuka
Some words from Yoko Matsuka
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Profile: Yoko Matsuka
Succeeding in elementary-school English
English education is for the future of our children

  A teacher from an elementary school told me,“We keep talking about `English, English', but one doesn't meet foreigners in the street does one? there's not much call for English, is there?”
But education is for our children's future. Nearly everywhere in the world, foreign languages are taught from elementary school but there are few in which they are taught for use on a daily basis. They are taught for the children to use in the future. We can't just think that, because there are no foreigners on the streets where we live, there's no need to learn English, can we?
It's clear that around the world in future English will become even more necessary. To prepare for this future, to give our children's future the spark it needs, our English teachers have work to do.

The aim of elementary school English:
Exposing children to the richness and depth of the English language.

  When I am asked, “What is the aim of English in elementary school?” I always reply,“To let kids experience the richness and depth of English.” In elementary schools where English activities don't go so well, it's often because the language is passed on in meager fashion. For instance,“Today we're doing a shopping scene? let's memorize this and this. OK, now let's repeat them”- just isn't fun or useful. Elementary school students' can take in English from the whole context, without having to read and memorize each shopping phrase one-by-one.

The curriculum, teaching methods and materials are what make elementary school English work

  The administration in elementary school English departments seems to think that simply hiring foreign ALTs will make it happen, but I have learned from a history of difficult experiences that it doesn't work out like that. It's important to have a firmly grounded curriculum, teaching method and materials.

The Mission for elementary school English

  Recently, several cities and towns have shown a trend towards using teaching books from the first year of junior high school to teach English in elementary school. From criticism that years of English activities in elementary school produce no visible results, a single response seems to have emerged. I see this as a dangerous trend, which may take English activities in elementary schools in an unthinkable direction.
Elementary school English activity has various missions: To raise people's interest in interactions between people, to foster a proactive attitude towards the use of English, to form the most basic elements of language (rhythm, pitch, tempo, stress, voice quality), to practice the 70% of human communication that is made up of non-verbal elements, to build up a vocabulary base, to prioritize Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS), and to enjoy word-plays and jokes which include the cultural context.
If elementary school English can comprise all of these things, once the high-school English material is begun, it will make English education in high school shine.

Elementary school students: Focus on listening and speaking

  Compulsory education is for basic skills in Japanese and arithmetic. Even in high school English, it's not necessary to learn the most difficult grammar: the four basic elements of reading, writing, listening and speaking are enough. But reading, writing, listening and speaking cannot all be fully mastered in junior high school. To achieve this, they need to first master listening and speaking at elementary school, which is best suited to teaching these skills.