sarasvati: A picture of a cabbage with the words, "Cabbages, cabbages, barely even human" across it. (cabbages)
I just read an article written by somebody who believes that the JET program should be scrapped. Not because they think that the job is being done poorly because of Japan's educational system, or because most people doing the JET program aren't qualified language teachers, or even because of generalized xenophobia. No, the reason they think it should be scrapped is because they believe a person can't properly learn a language without being immersed in the culture of the language you're trying to learn.

... *facepalm* Guess I should just give up learning Japanese right now, then, because I don't live in Japan.

The article advised people to go to English-speaking countries and communicate with the people there in order to get good English skills. I want to ask them if they plan on paying for all these overseas trips.

It's one thing to sit back and say that the only way to get real language experience is to go abroad, but it's quite another to even consider the realities behind such a statement. Children in Japan start learning English when, in junior high? Sometimes earlier, depending on their school and their parents and what other classes they may be enrolled in outside of school? And they get education on English pretty much until the end of high school? That's a lot of time to study the language. Granted, the system used isn't the best, and from what I hear, often leads to students who have memorized Shakespeare's sonnets but can't order a burger at McDonald's, but, well...

Isn't it cheaper to pay for one teacher per class to come and teach for a year, than it is to send all of those students abroad for "real language experience?" And wouldn't it be best if those who go abroad anyway have at least some basic knowledge of the language that will surround them?

I don't know... that article just struck me as foolish and ill-considered. There was a good point made in that people often do learn a language better when they're surrounded by it and have to use it on a daily basis. That's why here, there's the French Immersion program. It's not just one class a day of speaking French and learning vocabulary words and verb conjugations. It's all but a couple of classes a day speaking French. You learn math in French. You learn history in French. You learn the sciences in French. You really sink or swim, and plenty of students drop out because it's a hard thing to do, learning new concepts in a language that isn't your native one. But it can work.

I don't say it always works. I was in the French Immersion program until the end of high school. Got my bilingual certificate and everything. But I can't speak much French. I can read it decently, understand it less, and go mute when I have to speak it. But that's not the fault of the program. That was actually the fault of overbearing teachers who intimidated the hell out of me, combined with apathy and depression.

My point is that the article has a point, and that immersion is a solid way to teach language. But it's not always the most efficient way, and it certainly isn't the most cost-effective way. I could learn Japanese by going to Japan right now, and I bet you I'd muddle through long enough to get a good grasp on the language within the year. But I can't afford immersion. The people who can afford to do things that way are uncommon. More power to them if they can, but that shouldn't be expected of everybody.

Besides, scrapping the JET program without giving an overhaul to the way English classes are taught in general won't fix the problem. From what I hear, people who do the JET program spend their class time focusing on conversational English rather than rote memorization, and even if it doesn't make perfect the language abilities of the students, it helps them actually use what they're learning. Get rid of that, and you'll just have more students who can recite Shakespeare but who have no idea what it means. Pretty words don't mean much when there's no meaning.
sarasvati: Greyscale picture of Kido Jou, studying at his desk (study)
Caught up on sleep last night, despite being woken up a few times by insistant cats. Over all I got about 10 hours, and possibly could have dozed for a few more if I hadn't felt like I ought to be actually doing something instead of just lying around in bed.

I started reading Jones & Wilson's An Incomplete Education, more out of curiosity over what the American school system does and doesn't teach than for any academic purpose. It seems like it will alternate between fascinating and dull, so I'll have to persevere in order to finish the whole book.

I dug out my old 11th grade math book the other day and am contemplating doing all the problems in it. The majority of it is too advanced for me to make much use of on a daily basis (quadratic equations rarely have a place in my life), but it will keep me amused and occupied for a while.

I also have Spanish, Italian, and Latin textbooks around here somewhere, in addition to my Japanese workbooks. I think I may have a German textbook, too, and I'm not sure where my Ancient Greek textbook is at the moment. Sometimes I get great amusement in taking stock of all the language-learning tools at my disposal, and that's all before I factor in language lessons available online. It was thanks to a website a few years ago that I started trying to learn Punjabi and Korean, and had I kept at it, I'd probably remember a lot more than the structure of written Korean and how to say "gold grandmother world" in Punjabi.

I wonder how many languages I'd have a decent grasp of if I'd stuck to learning them instead of learning for a little while and then moving on to something else.

My tax return had better go into my bank account soon. I have rent and debt to pay, and I'd like to get a new sketchbook and some inking pens. I still have a good stock of Ticonderoga pencils, so I don't need more of those. I also need a new bus pass for next month, or else I'll have a hard time getting to interviews or jobs.


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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