<<January 5, 2001>>
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Dr. David Levy <AXEL@conted.lan.mcgill.ca>

Dear David:

(1) Many thanks for your msg (ATTACHMENT I) with very interesting information
about the movement of making English as the official language of Japanese
and Japanese government (ATTACHMENT II).

(2) Previous distributions related with this matter are;

(a) Final report of Web-based Education Commission - December 30, 2000

(b) DVD-ROM and Electronic Books for ESL plan - December 21, 2000

(c) ESL program for Japanese business people - December 19, 2000

(d) English as a Second Language e-Learning course proposal - December 16, 2000

(e) English for Japan in the 21st Century - November 20, 2000

All of the above can be retrieved at


(3) Your various info in ATTACHMENT II affirms what I have been advocating for many years.

Since Japanese government now also start considering to make English as
an official second language, your project should have tremendous need in Japan.

(4) Referring to your Item (ii), yes, I plan to do so as you suggested while
I will be in Japan around the end of coming April, i.e., contact Japanese
firms on their need -- namely start making a market survey for your service.

To do so, I will need a brief executive summary of your project -- as
mentioned in my previous msg to you.

I would greatly appreciate it if you can kindly start drafting this ASAP
so that we can refine it in the coming months.

Best, Tak

From: "David Levy" <axel@conted.lan.mcgill.ca>
To: utsumi@columbia.edu
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 2000 14:11:44 -0500

tak -

i) re the request in your last e-mail (NOTE by T. Utsumi -- see ATTACHMENT II):

(ii) re a project outline - why don't we contact a corporation with offices in
japan and america/canada, such as the sony corporation...ask them to fund
a study of the english language proficiency shortcomings of their
executive staff in japan re communication with staff abroad...based on
the findings, we could readily design a program to correct for the
deficiency using internet technology... that program would serve as a
model for other corporations and business organizations because it
precisely answers the who, what, how questions...david

Date sent: Fri, 04 Feb 2000 08:31:59 -0500
From: Kasey Oyama <<oyama@sympatico.ca>
Subject: Report on Eng. lang. from Japan. ko
To: "Dr. David Levy" <<axel@conted.lan.mcgill.ca>

Feb. 4, 2000

Attn. Prof. David Levy
From Kasey Oyama (a colleague very interested in our project):

Following items are from copies of the Japan Times that I received
by Int'l Post yesterday. I am impressed particularly by the
understanding of Japan's problem in teaching English. But I
disagree with him on several points. However I think he has the
broadest understanding of Japan's language problem. I look forward
to discussing the matter this p.m. The clippings follow:

To produce more Japanese who can communicate effectively in the
international community in the 21st century, the Education Ministry
set an Wednesday to map out recommendations on better ways of teaching English.

Japan times. Ja.27 advisory panel

At the panel's first meeting, Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said
learning English is essential in the age of the Internet because much of the
information is in that language.

"While we have spent so much time studying English, we often hear that the
teaching is not producing good results," Nakasone said.

"I ask the members to discuss appropriate and effective ways of teaching
English and I would like the outcome of the discussions to be reflected in our
education policy," he said.

The panel was set up at the minister's request, before the ministry's new
teaching guidelines take effect in 2002 at elementary and junior high schools
and in 2003 in high schools.

The new guidelines emphasize verbal communication in English studies -- a
shift from Japan's long-standing focus on reading and studying grammar.

Elementary schools will also be able to teach English as part of comprehensive
studies," a new curriculum under the guidelines.

The 22-member panel will discuss how to improve teaching methods at schools,
better ways of selecting and training English teachers, reforms of the English
portion of entrance exams and ways to effectively use native speakers.

Gregory Clark, a panel member and president of Tama University, said the
entrance examination is the source of problems in English education in Japan .

It is "impossible" to understand the reading-comprehension test of upper-level
university exams by studying English just three hours a week in schools, Clark said.

"The Japanese are trying too hard," he said. "They should relax more ... and
should learn difficult English after entering university."

On English education at the elementary school level, Aiko Okawara, president
of JC Foods Co., said the Japanese should begin studying English before they are 10.

Children should start with hearing lessons, and they need to do it every day,
Okawara said. For example, 30 minutes of daily English listening lessons in
elementary school would be effective, she said.

Mineo Nakajima, president of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and the
chairman of the panel, said setting up one clear direction in English
education from the elementary level through to university will be essential in
the coming panel The members need to discuss whether Japan should focus on
teaching correct English, or usable-even-if-broken English, as well as the
pros and cons of English education at an early age and what to do about
entrance exams, Nakajima said.

The panel will hold meetings about once a month until December before making
its recommendations.


Panel discusses improving English teaching in schools
Yomiuri Shimbun Jan 27

An advisory panel to Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, established to
examine ways of improving English education in schools, met for the first time Wednesday.

Nakasone set up the private advisory panel to investigate why Japanese, who
study English in middle school, high school and at university--10 years in
all--but still cannot communicate well in the language.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Prof. Mineo Nakajima was chosen to chair
the panel of 22 specialists.

The panel plans to meet once a month and draw up suggestions by December.

Topics to be discussed include:

-- Ways to improve English lessons and teaching methods.
-- Methods of hiring and training English teachers.
-- Improving high school and university entrance examinations.
-- Ways to give students more opportunities to listen to and speak English.

The panel is expected to focus on ways to improve practical English
communication skills through classroom instruction and how to modify current
entrance examinations, which mainly consist of written tests, to test spoken
ability instead.

A report on goals for Japan to achieve in the 21st century, released last week
by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's private advisory council, suggested that
Japanese become proficient in speaking English before starting their careers,
and that it is time to consider making English the official second language country's.


English at top of class
Asahi Shimbun jan.26

Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone inaugurated an advisory group today to
consider how to reform the way English is taught in this country.

Even though most Japanese study English in school for 10 years, many still
cannot communicate effectively.

The group will explore methods that would give students practical English ability.

Nakasone told panel members this morning ``It is hoped that every working
person will have a command of English in the near future.''

Later this year, the panel will issue a set of proposals.

It will tackle English education, employment and training of teachers,
entrance examinations for high schools and universities, and the ``practical
use'' of foreign assistants.

The panel is headed by Mineo Nakajima, president of Tokyo University of
Foreign Studies and all 22 participants are specialists in English education.

The panel's proposals are intended to take effect from fiscal 2002 in junior
high school and the following year in high schools.

The bottom line: Communication in a foreign language takes priority.

Elementary school pupils will receive English conversation lessons as part of
``general study'' programs.


Jan.25 (typed)
Ministry to review fundamental law on education

It's time to update the nation's law on education, the Education Ministry says.
Asahi Shimbun

The Education Ministry will review the law that underpins the nation's
educational system, ministry sources said Monday.

While the current education system helped usher in Japan's stunning period of
rapid economic growth, it is now showing its age, ministry sources said.

The review will focus on whether the Fundamental Law of Education is able to
adequately address the nation's future educational needs, the sources said.

This will be the first review of the law. Enacted in 1947, the law has been
seen, along with the Constitution, as an icon of the nation's post-war democracy.

The law was enacted to replace the Imperial Rescript on Education, a symbol of
the nation's prewar education system.

The education minister will refer the matter to the Central Council for
Education in February at the earliest, the sources said.

It is not known whether the review will actually lead to a revision of the
law. Some council members are reluctant to change and opinions are divided
among the ruling coalition parties, the sources said.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has repeatedly said he wants the law reviewed,
saying that it does not sufficiently address lifelong and home education.

Also supporting the review are Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and
Parliamentary Vice Minister Takeo Kawamura. Kawamura previously headed the
Liberal Democratic Party's study group on the Fundamental Law of Education.

Despite this backing, the review faces serious problems if a certain element
within the LDP is able to force its conservative ideology on the review committee.

This group says that any revised law should incorporate provisions that
promote patriotism and a respect for tradition.

If this viewpoint prevails, strong opposition from the public and educators
can be expected.


Public urged to consider English as second language
Japan times Jan.18

Tlo. Pros. Levi An advisory panel to the prime minister on Tuesday
issued a report in which it suggests the country begin debating such major
reforms as adopting English as an official second language, encouraging
immigration and directly electing prime ministers.

In its final report titled "The Frontier Within: Individual Empowerment and
Better Governance in the New Millennium," the 16-member panel underlined the
need to reform education and encourage diversity in society as keys to Japan's
future prosperity.

Specifically, the panel urged the government to reinforce English language
education, noting that all Japanese people should be able to use the language
as a tool to communicate in the international community.

In the long term, it called for holding a national debate on whether to make
English an official second language.

To allow greater diversity, the panel said the government should re-examine
its immigration policy and take steps to encourage foreigners to live and work in Japan.

Tuesday's recommendation is in response to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's
request in March that the panel consider what kind of nation Japan should
become in the next century and what Japanese people need to do to pursue the goal.

The panel, headed by Hayao Kawai, director general of the International
Research Center for Japanese Studies, comprised representatives from various
circles such as academic, business, art, science and mass media.

Their discussions covered a wide range of issues including education, social
security and diplomatic policy.

Obuchi plans to incorporate the panel's recommendation into his policy speech
before the Diet on Jan. 28. But it remains uncertain to what extent the
panel's proposals will actually be implemented.

"I want to take an initiative to further discuss the recommendations, and also
I hope the public will vigorously debate (the final report)," Obuchi said
Tuesday after receiving the report at his official residence.

Concerning primary and secondary education, the report proposed to conduct
drastic reforms in curriculum.

For example, it called for adopting a five-day school week and allocating
three days for compulsory education and two for extracurricular subjects or
activities that students choose based on their interests.

Social systems such as employment, social security and education, should be
designed so they can tolerate and make use of diversified values and
lifestyles, the report recommended.

On immigration policy, the report says, "We should set up an explicit
immigration and permanent-residence system to encourage foreigners who can be
expected to contribute to the development of Japanese society to move and
possibly take up permanent residence here."

To promote more vigorous participation in politics by young people, the panel
proposed that the voting age be lowered from the current 20 to 18, a measure
that would add about 3.5 million eligible voters.

The report also said Japan should debate the merits of conducting a direct
election of the prime minister -- a move that would require a revision of the Constitution.

On national security, the report said, Japan should encourage public debate
concerning such issues as exercising the right of collective self-defense.

In diplomacy, the panel urged the nation to deepen ties with neighboring
countries through grassroots exchanges to reinforce the framework of regional cooperation.

The report said the recommendations were based on the need for a fundamental
change of perception to facilitate a stronger relationship between the
individual and the public domain.

"Our report is not necessarily the only answer (to the question about Japan's
goal in the next century,)" Kawai, the chairman of the panel, said.

"I hope very much that these proposals will provoke public debate," he said.


Survey: Japanese language being 'corrupted'
Yomiuri Shimbun

Television and radio are corrupting the Japanese language, with the overuse of
incomprehensible "katakana words" compounding the problem. That is the feeling
of a majority of those polled in a recent nationwide survey conducted by The
Yomiuri Shimbun. The survey also revealed a widespread desire among
individuals to improve their use of keigo (polite Japanese) and to learn to
communicate more effectively.

The survey found that 81 percent of respondents felt the Japanese language is
being "corrupted," the largest portion of whom (71 percent) cited television
and radio as the main culprits. Meanwhile, 60 percent agreed that "children
are not adequately disciplined to use language correctly at home," while 50
percent said that "society as a whole no longer attaches importance to the
proper use of the Japanese language."

Ninety percent of pollees expressed anxiety of one sort or another regarding
the current state of the Japanese language.

The most common answer, given by 55.8 percent of those polled, to the question
"Do you have any particular concern about the Japanese language as it is used
now?" was There are too many incomprehensible buzzwords or 'in' words." With
"Young people use too many incomprehensible expressions in conversation"
notching 48.1 percent and "There are too many (borrowed) katakana words"
scoring 38.3 percent, neologisms seem to be a major cause of concern for many
pollees, who are apparently having trouble keeping up with the pace at which
new words are flooding into Japanese.

The same section of the survey also revealed that a large portion of pollees
was concerned over declining language skills, with 45.5 percent, or the third-
largest portion, answering "Keigo is not being used correctly." Among the
other answers: There has been an increase in the number of people with poor
vocabulary" (25.5 percent); "People frequently use words in the wrong sense"
(20.5 percent); and "Too many people have trouble reading or writing kanji
correctly" (20.1 percent).

One of the survey's most illuminating sections inquired about "katakana
words," or words borrowed from other languages that are conventionally written
in the katakana script. Many of these words come from Western languages,
particularly English.

Katakana terms are apparently the bane of the older generations, many of whom
have trouble keeping up with the rate at which younger generations introduce
them into Japanese as trendy new words.

According to the survey, 78 percent of pollees "have trouble understanding"
katakana words in varying degrees.

Those who answered they "do not have trouble" with katakana words accounted
for 21.7 percent of pollees. Seen along the age division, pollees in their 20s
had the least trouble with katakana words, with 35 percent of them giving this answer.

As for individual words that are causing problems, "masutaa-puran" (master
plan), a term sometimes used in local governments' policy announcements, and
"hai-risuku-hai-ritaan" (high risk, high return), frequently used in an
economic context, showed the lowest recognition-levels, with only 23.3 percent
and 35.9 percent, respectively, answering they had come across them in newspapers.

Reflecting growing concerns over care for the elderly, 84 percent of pollees
claimed to be aware of "homu-herupaa" (home helper), and 49.3 percent said
they had heard of "dei-kea" (day care). Other results in the medical care and
welfare category included "baria-furii" (barrier free), familiar to 42.3
percent, and infomudo-konsento" (informed consent), known by 28.8 percent.

Predictably, "mireniamu" (millennium) fared well, with 51.1 percent knowing
what it meant, thanks to the media's use of the word over the year-end.
"Ribenji" (revenge) was also a favorite, with a 50.4-percent recognition rate.
The word was pounced on by the media after Seibu Lions' pitching phenomenon
Daisuke Matsuzaka pledged to take revenge on his opponents last spring after
losing an exhibition game.

The poll revealed that a majority of respondents were eager to improve their
language skills, a result consistent with the recent popularity of self-help
books on the use of the Japanese language and a rise in the number of
applicants for kanji grade examinations.

Chosen by 46 percent, "To learn proper keigo skills" ranked first in a section
asking pollees how in particular they would like to improve their language
skills, followed by "To be consistent in speech" (44.5 percent) and "To
improve writing skills" (33.6 percent). Other notable responses were "To
increase vocabulary for writing and speaking" and "To learn more kanji for
writing and reading," given by 24 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively.

The survey was conducted Dec. 18 and 19 on 3,000 adults nationwide, with 1,930
responding. Male pollees comprised 46 percent and females 54 percent. Fifteen
percent were in their 20s; 16 percent, 30s; 19 percent, 40s; 21 percent, 50s;
18 percent, 60s; and 11 percent, 70s and older.


Education key to maintaining language standards By Yasuto Kikuchi

Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun Buzzwords, newly coined terms, "in" words used
by young people and borrowed katakana words--all have been worming their way
recently into the Japanese language. It is understandable that these words are
causing concern--a natural, healthy reaction, I believe--but they are hardly a
threat to the language, since such faddish expressions tend to have relatively
short life spans, and are therefore unlikely to do much damage.

However, though individual words may have little impact, the apparent overuse
of borrowed words, chiefly katakana words, may give reason to worry.

It is perfectly natural that when a new concept is introduced, the need to
express it arises, which in turn necessitates the introduction of a new word
into the language. But instead of simply pilfering the label already attached
to the imported concept, we should try to coin a more suitable term for it
within our own language. That way we could minimize confusion.

As a language expert, I do feel that these days, keigo is often used in the
wrong way. So it was heartening to learn that in this survey nearly half of
those polled were unhappy about the misuse of polite Japanese. The survey also
revealed that about 70 percent of pollees were making efforts to improve their
use of keigo, and about 80 percent considered it to be a necessary part of the
language. Apparently, there is good reason to emphasize the instruction of
keigo at school.

But more than any of the above, two problems strike me as being particularly
worrisome. First, an increasing number of people are unable to read and write
kanji properly and, as a result, are unable to construct proper sentences to
clearly convey what they mean. This I see as an enormous threat to our native language.

Secondly, we are seeing a rise in vulgar language--language that is lacking in
grace and widely used without restraint. Children, for example, these days
seem to have no qualms about cursing each other, saying "shine" (die). When I
was young, I never heard children say such things. It seems parents and
teachers have a lot to think about, as do those working in broadcasting and
publishing, if we are to remedy this situation.

(Kikuchi is an assistant professor of linguistics at Tokyo University. This is
an excerpted translation of his article commenting on the result of the survey.)


English recommended as official language
Asahi Shimbun

An advisory panel to Prime minister Keizo Obuchi on Tuesday issued its final
report, recommending drastic reform in education, immigration, electoral and
security policies.

The report, ``Japan's goals for the 21st century,'' urged the government to
adopt a three-day week for compulsory education and two days for
extracurricular subjects or activities.

The panel, headed by Hayao Kawai, director-general of the International
Research Center for Japanese Studies, also called for bolstering English
language education. The report urges government publications be written in
both Japanese and English.

It also calls for holding a national debate on whether to make English an
official second language.

On immigration policy, the report called for efforts to encourage foreign
students studying in Japan to take up permanent residence here.

To promote greater participation in politics by young people, the panel
proposed the voting age be lowered from 20 to 18. The report also said Japan
should consider direct elections for prime minister.

The report said Japan's national security should be based on stability,
maintenance, and use of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements. Furthermore, the
report says Japan should promote legal reform and encourage public debate
concerning such issues as exercising the right of collective self-defense.

The panel said it is concerned that Japan will decline if distrust in politics
and the administration of government grows. The report said these problems
could be ameliorated by empowering individuals.

``These are middle- and long-term goals,'' Obuchi said.


K.O. Notes:

Shows problem of teaching English in Japan and to Japanse in Canada.

Gregory Clark, originally from Asutralia and married, I believe, to a Japanese
woman was original teaching at Sophia University, and not too long ago shifted
to Tama University (I am not familiar with this university)

Clark has an exceptional grasp of the problems of teaching English in Japan.

No discussion, no questions, hesitate to speak English before others, but will
more readily speak one on one with any Japanese onlooker. (shame, or pride,
but one of Japanese character traits) Probably will not take to reading
English aloud before others.

Clark seems to have an axe to grind. He seems to believe he has a good
approach to teach English and an unconscious wish to stake out the
univsrsity level for himself as a teacher of English.

His assumption is questionable THAT THE Japanese could speak
[English] as fluently as any other [nationality - Edited by Steve McCarty].

List of Distribution

Dr. David Levy
Centre for Continuing Education (CCE)
McGill University
680 Sherbrooke Street West, Suite 1184
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
H3A 3R1
Fax: 514-398-2650

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