Issues in EFL in Japan (Not currently being updated)

My name in James Hall and I teach an English Teaching Methodologies class for aspiring English teachers and advising 5 senior students (one is in the USA). This blog is will be used as a forum to discuss issued in EFL in Japan. This blog will also serve as a portal to the learners' blogs as I will periodically summarize the hot topics appearing in the learners' blogs. Please come join us!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Follow Up on the Translating Program Post

This is what I told my students in a freshmen university English class after over half of them used a translating program to write an essay for a homework assignment:

"The English that you write is much better than the English that a translating program can produce. Translating programs have the following problems:
1) It rarely translated the subject of a sentence correctly.
Example:"Since it was a long time, it was very glad to have me and her."
2) It uses a lot of verb tenses but most of their use is awkward or incorrect.
Example: "I slept all too soon, but, at late-night 2:00, have woken up."
3) It uses expressions that are very bizarre.
Example: ".... the same suitable person agreed at all and was going to but the tape!"

"I look forward to reading your essays no matter how good or bad you think your English is. Reading your essays is a good way to get to know you and also to learn your strong points and weak points in English. I actually like seeing mistakes because it gives me clues as to how I can help you. This time, I gave you all credit for your papers put next time I see a paper with English from a translating program I will tear it up and give you a 0. "

I just ran into Pinch Hitter in the hall and he recommended that I show students how a translation program translated English to Japanese so they can understand the imperfections of translating programs. Good advice!

I think the fact that so many students used a translating machine is a sad comment about English education. As most of you wrote in the previous post, the students had little experience writing and trying to express themselves in English. Many scholars of English education in Japan write that adoption of the communicative approach has lowered students grammatical ability in English and thus their English proficiency (for example, see Oka, H. et al., 2004). However, many of the students that I teach REALLY STRUGGLE to express themselves in English, because they have little experience doing so. Many of you said in the previous post that students are busy studying for their entrance examinations. If their ability in grammar is actually decreasing and many students' ability to communicate low, it makes me wonder what students are doing in their junior and senior high school English classes.

Oka, H. , Akaike, H., Sakai, S. (2004). eigo jugyouryoku kyouka manyuaru. Taishuukan.


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