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Sunday, May 25, 2003

CONFIDENCE LACKING: EDUCATION EXPERT

Teachers of English told to talk more


Staff writer

Japanese teachers of English should improve their language skills and teaching methods by taking every opportunity to practice the language and using it to communicate, according to an education expert from Australia currently visiting Japan.

News photo
Seamus Fagan

Seamus Fagan, director of the English Language and Foundation Studies Center of the University of Newcastle in Australia, has taught a number of Japanese, including teachers of English, over the past 15 years. He has come to realize that many of them consider themselves unable to speak fluent English.

One of the problems he has noticed when speaking with Japanese teachers is that they "don't have confidence to practice the language in a real situation," he said, adding that it is important for them to overcome this lack of confidence.

Fagan is in Japan to attend the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Teacher Training and Education Course Fair, organized by the Australian Embassy. The two-day event was in Tokyo on Saturday and in Osaka on Sunday.

The event is in line with the Education Ministry's action plan announced in March, which recommends that Japanese teachers of English acquire proficiency equal to a TOEFL score of 550 or a TOEIC level of 730.

Fagan said universities and colleges in Australia have tried-and-tested experience in training English teachers because they often teach immigrants and foreign students.

For Japanese teachers of English, a monthlong crash course provided by a number of Australian institutions would be helpful in brushing up their skills, Fagan said.

As part of the program, students develop their linguistic skills and also learn teaching methodologies while staying at the homes of local residents.

"The advantage of doing it in Australia is that they will be immersed in the language and staying at homes, which means they have to speak and use the language in real situations," Fagan said.

Emphasizing the fact that a number of English language instructors in Australia have experience teaching here, Fagan said Japanese teachers have an advantage in studying with their Aussie counterparts, who know what Japanese classrooms are like -- monolingual with a large number of students per class.

"They know the environment that teachers come from and therefore can develop the programs to suit the needs of Japanese teachers, which I think is very important," he said.



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