A child’s dream to speak with people from around the world in English

2022.09.15

The Mitsumura Book Publishing Co. released the results of its “Survey of Children’s and Parents’ Attitudes toward English” in July 2022. The survey was created to investigate the status of English language learning at home and how much Japanese parents are aware of the importance of learning English. In this article, we will cover the causes of the change from “like” to “dislike” of English among Japanese children and how it will affect English learning in the future.

叶えてあげたい「英語でいろんな国の人と話したい」という子どもの夢

What dream to you want your child to achieve using English?

Based on the results to the following question “What would you like to do if you could use English freely?”:

1st Choice (37.8%) …….. [I want to talk with people from various countries in English]
2nd Choice (31%) ……….. [I want to watch English movies, dramas and animation without subtitles]
3rd Choice (28.2%) ……… [I want to sing English songs], [I want to communicate in English when I go abroad]

These results show us that more than one out of three children want to be able to communicate with people overseas in English. We can also see that a focus on listening and speaking English is required to achieve all the first 3 choices.

What makes it hard for Japanese children to learn English?

When Japanese children were asked about their dislike of English in the survey, 6.8% said they “like or are good at English,” while 6.6% of elementary school students and 12.2% of junior high school students said they were “very poor” at English. This is compared to the 20.4% of parents who answered that they were “very poor” at English when they were in junior high school.
  The largest proportion of those who answered that they were “poor at English” chose “first year of junior high school” as the time when they began to feel poor at English, indicating that many of them became poor at English when they began to learn it seriously in school. Most students cited “no opportunity to use English” as the reason for their dislike of English. These results indicate that many students who are not given opportunities to use English and then move on to more serious studies such as grammar lose their motivation to learn English and feel that they are not very good at it.

What do Japanese children need to learn English properly?

In the same survey, “As a parent or guardian, the most important thing I want my child to learn English for” was No. 1 (37.8%): “To develop a love of English”
No. 2 (27.8%): “Not to be afraid of English”
Third (18.2%): “To be able to communicate with English speakers, even if it is not perfect”
The most important motivation for learning English was No. 1 (30.4%): “Interest and curiosity in other cultures”
No. 2 (19.4%): “Not being afraid of making mistakes”
3rd (19.0%): “Having a challenging spirit”
However, 48.4% of parents and guardians surveyed chose “paper textbooks” as the most important teaching material or tool for their children to learn English at home. 54% of elementary school students and 68.5% of junior high school students use paper or digital textbooks at home and at school. Since this type of English learning does not include any speaking or listening opportunities, it is important that children are exposed to spoken English before they enter elementary school and have an opportunity to use English is daily life.

English is a language that is essentially “acquired” through communication rather than “learned”. An international school for young children is the best place to provide opportunities for daily communication in English, and to nurture an interest in other cultures from an early age. Through interaction with children of various nationalities, they will naturally experience the importance and fun of communicating in English.

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