With the recent emphasis on the importance of studying English from a young age, Ministry of Education in Japan has lowered the age requirement for English studies in Japanese schools.
English language study in Japanese elementary school currently starts at the 5th grade however they expect to start from the 3rd grade in the future.
Let me introduce some of the issues with English language study in elementary schools in Japan.
English language lessons in elementary school currently last for 1 hour per week.
It is obvious that it will be difficult for children to pick up English in such a little amount of time.
However, English language study in elementary school has been introduced to give children a brief introduction to the language rather than to have them walk away speaking English.
Therefore, the study of English grammar and reading will be left to the junior high school and high school teachers.
English study in elementary school has been introduced to show children what English is and encourage them to study the language so they can speak English in the future.
Nowadays, many Japanese children are introduced to English before they enter elementary school but for some children elementary school English is their first experience with the language.
For children who are first experiencing the language, it is important that they have the opportunity to hear English spoken by a native speaker.
Our first experience with Japanese is listening to our families and friends speak the language. We do not start by studying the written language.
This is how language should be taught no matter what the language.
As it is, 1 hour a week is way too short, this time should be focused on listening to native English speakers.
n order to give children the opportunity to hear native speakers of English, it is important to have an ALT in each school.
ALTs speak English as their mother language so children who are first experiencing the language are given the opportunity to hear them speak live.
Some specialists argue that since many ALTs do not have experience teaching they should not be Japanese children’s first exposure to the English language.
However, the goal of studying English in elementary school is to be introduced to the language and its sounds.
Considering this goal, listening to the “live” English of ALTs is a very important educational material.
However, not all elementary schools in Japan have an ALT. Therefore, it is important to expose our children to native English from a young age and not rely on the schools to do it for us.