How do we Get Students Chasing After English Again?

I’ve been thinking about how English is something that sort of happens “to” a lot of Japanese students… What I mean is that instead of our students pursuing knowledge of English for personal fulfillment or sheer interest, the English language is actually pursing them.

Tests, vocabulary drills, grammar explanations, cultural intrusions — English is bombarding our students every day.

But are they actually willing participants in the exchange?

It’s hard to make a judgement about every student, but some are clearly running from English. And still even more are hiding from it.

With grammar and vocabulary to learn, classrooms can easily turn into a battle ground, where teachers are trying to force something upon unwilling students. But when all the tests are over and the red ink has run dry, what do we have to show for it? Students who are timid, unable to speak to foreigners, and who lack any passion for what they have learned. Some results, huh?

Moreover, we teachers lose our important role of presenting knowledge for students to explore for themselves, and turn into the Ogres and Grendels of language learning.

So, how do we change this dynamic? What little things can we change in our daily interactions with students and our presentations in English class, so students are once again (?) chasing after English — instead of it chasing after them. Tell me your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.


  1. One possible way to interest Japanese students in English might be to make them talk or write (in English of course) about their favorite hangout places, be it restaurants, cafes, parks, beaches, you name it, and ask them to share their insider tips with other people, especially foreigners coming to the Yamagata area. They could contribute to blogs or websites in English, for example,, where the editors would check over the English and the students could interact publicly with English speakers about their posts.

  2. I agree that an “us versus them” mentality just won’t help in the classroom, whether the sentiment is shared by the students OR by the teachers. What happens, though, when a student just doesn’t care about English? I think a big part of the problem is the same problem that has plagued students for generations: there is no real REASON stated for learning English except to pass entrance exams. And if a student isn’t going to an academic high school, or can cram and pass a test easily, then there probably won’t be a lot of passion there. In many parts of Japan, the chances of meeting an actual English-speaking foreigner are very low. And if there is no realistic goal for studying English, why put in the effort? So I think, to reach those students who see no point in it, it is important to make English class at least interesting enough for them to give half a care, if not about the English, then at least about the knowledge or ideas presented.

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