For many years the Japanese Ministry of Education MEXT and English language teachers have tried to increase the English proficiency of Japanese students. Different methods of teaching and new curriculums have been tried with limited success. Recently EF Education First Japan Ltd announced that Japan ranked 24th out of 60 countries on the English Proficiency Index (Japan Today, 2014). I would like to present an alternative solution, that the number of hours spent learning English is more important than just changing teaching styles. In his book Outliers (2008) Malcolm Gladwell wrote that it took 10,000 hours to become a specialist at anything, from chess to computer programing. Students in Japan receive far less than 10,000 hours of English study. Most children in public Junior and Senior High School study English for about three hours a week, which adds up to 720 hours over 6 years. They may double this with homework and other activities, but it is still far short of the 10,000 hours that Gladwell (2008) states is necessary to become proficient at any skill. How can we transform students into independent learners, and instill the motivation to put in the hours needed to become proficient in English? I would like to suggest various ways, which I have used with my students, in which teachers can increase the number of hours of English practice students receive in order to gain English proficiency. Quality teaching is really important, but quantity of learning is also vital to proficiency.
Frances Shiobara, Kobe Shoin Women's University, Japan
Stream: Challenges and transformation in times of change
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