THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE DIRECT METHODS IN JAPANESE TEACHING
Hiratsuka A. (Japan)
420021, 1/44 Mejlauk str., Kazan, Tatarstan Republic, Russia, Kazan State Pedagogical University
The methods of teaching languages have been developed by many of linguists with being led to the developments of the relevant fields (Structural Linguistics, Behaviourism, Cognitive psychology etc). Moreover, it is still under research therefore it is not appropriate to pick up one method as the best way of teaching a language. In this report, however, I would like to introduce one of the ways of teaching Japanese more likely upon my own experience with some examples.
1. Issues in teaching foreign languages (Case of Japanese system).
To acquire a language, especially as a second language, seems to be very difficult for learners. Here is an example of Japanese English education system. Japanese compulsory education starts at the age of 7 and six years at elementary school, 3 years at junior high school. English education starts from junior high school and Japanese people must study English at least three years. After these three years, most of Japanese people go to high school for three years again where English is a required subject. It means that most Japanese people often study English for six years; however, not many people can communicate with English speakers in English. Why? This is not because Japanese people are too lazy or do not like English, they usually study very hard, remembering many vocabularies and grammatical constructions. It comes from Japanese people’s way of perceiving and the way of teaching English at junior high school and high school. They have to pass many exams in each semester and exams for entrance universities. Learning English for Japanese people is a must-study subject. In addition, their usual basic method is Grammar-Translation method. Recent years, it has been being shifted to more ways that are communicative because of the reconsideration of results from previous methods. What we can think of here is that teaching or remembering a system of language does not mean to acquire the language. I would not say Grammar-Translation method is nothing worth but I would say that it might be dangerous to ignore what a language itself means to be. Learning language is not must-subject but a tool to communicate with people.
2. General Theories.
In the previous section, I raised the example of English teaching and problems of studying English in Japan. Although in not only English teaching but also Japanese teaching, communicative ways have been regarding highly these days. Not a few Japanese language schools had started setting communicative approaches. Learners of Japanese language in Japan differ from ones in outside of Japan. The former would have to use the language everyday to survive but the latter would not have to do that. Learners outside of Japan need high motivation and circumstances of frequency use of the language. As for the motivation, it depends how much learners can keep it high and how much teachers can support it. Circumstances have to rely on classroom activities and tasks and on home tasks that teachers can provide. Now, how can teachers give learners communicative ability successfully? How can learners acquire the language effectively? What does make it possible?
I would like to briefly overview general theories on effective language learning. Behaviourism and Cognitive psychology clarified what language learning is. Their basic idea is that the learning is the habit forming of the relationships among stimulus, responding, reinforcement, and is the relevance of learning topics with learners’ first language or their life experiences. Structural Linguistics also proposed that a language is a structure with pattern and contrast, and language acquisition is a process of habit forming. As for learners at university level of a foreign language (or else second language) are usually expectable to have the cognitive structures and that they can find out grammatical and vocabulary connections between their first language and second language with ease. Moreover, finding the relevant relationships help learners to adopt new information to their existing cognitive structures. And when learners succeed to construct the structure of learning language, their proficiency development will be expected.
Direct Method is a general term of some approaches, which do not use interlanguage applying the theories to practical teaching. For instance, teachers show vocabularies with its pictures to appeal to learners’ visions. Reid (1987) examined modality preferences referred to the general predisposition to use visual, auditory, or action approaches. He reported that 40 per cent of learners prefer visual input, 30 per cent auditory, and 30 per cent action. Showing pictures has two benefits for learners: to give visual stimulus and to help building up links between native language and learning language. Learners would be able to refer the new word to their own language information and built a new scheme with connection to their old scheme. Some might say it would take too much time and translating each word into native language would encourage faster and easier learning. If learners fit to the long-term curriculum, it would not be a big problem. Moreover, in the sense of giving learners stimulus, translating way cannot provide it effectively, and learners would tend to concentrate on simple work with dictionaries and grammar books. The pictures for introduction of vocabularies can be used in further lessons as teachers’ cues to request learners’ quick response and to recall their memory. Also in their real life, when they see things they learned, they can connect those things to learned words visually. This is effective for learners especially outside of Japan because they do not have chances to speak or hear Japanese once they get out of the classroom. In addition, this situation is very similar to Japanese example in above.
3. Teaching Japanese in Japanese.
I would like to introduce how I myself teach Japanese as a foreign language inside and outside of Japan. During lessons, language used is only Japanese, which is Direct Method-based approach. There are some reasons for that:
a) To be flexible to any kind of learners (various backgrounds and languages),
b) To provide frequent stimulus to learners,
c) To be familiar with the sound of learning language,
d) To keep learners concentrate on listening and understanding,
a) and b) are for teachers and c) and d) are for learners. Especially in Japan, there are various nationalities in one classroom, which means that teachers would not be able to use one particular language to teach because of variation of learners’ native languages. Comparing using learners’ native language, using learning language requires learners more concentration and it would be able to develop their listening and speaking skills quickly.
Of course, there are some defects. For instance, learning would be rather slow as teacher’s explanations would be long and sometimes would be difficult to convey an exact meaning of an abstract word or grammar. In case of teaching in Russia, for example, all learners have common native language: Russian, so that it would be better to choose blending method. It all depends which way to choose, where to teach, and to whom while setting the curriculum.
Although this is only personal example, I blend some approaches by my own experiences. For example, I use Japanese in the classroom and I give students handouts in Russian for vocabularies including what they do not study during lessons. I give them grammar explanation when each section finishes for reviewing. However, I do not give them those handouts in advance. The reason is very clear; to let students concentrate on the lessons and keep lessons active. If students had a vocabulary list during lessons, they would probably rely on it and would stop thinking or recalling their memories. For instance, one student brought a classroom a copy of grammar translation book in her native language. While other students were struggling with composing sentences, she finished the task very quickly. However, her sentence was obviously from the textbook. It happens and imitating sometimes helps language learning but in this case, it is hard to say that was language learning. On the other hand, students without handouts try to take notes what they understand. This process also helps them remembering and recalling. Moreover, when they cannot recall their memories from letters (Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji), they take some time though; topics they learned visually work as cues and stimulate their memories.
4. Construction of lessons
As for the one of examples, I would like to put my lesson construction here.
Introduction of new topics/vocabularies
Pattern Practice (grammar constructions/pronunciations)
Speech Practice (communication skill)
Introduction has already shown in above. Pattern practice is to remember topics (grammar/vocabularies), to get right pronunciations, to get familiar with grammatical pattern. This is also effective to construct the relationship between stimulus and response, and custom behaviour of language. Speech practice is consisted of role-play based task but not using too much text dialogues. The significant difference from using text dialogue is that learners can think and construct sentences with their real experiences or circumstances. Being in one role in the dialogue is nothing like realistic and learners tend to do these tasks as tasks they must do. It seems to be far from speaking or communication.
This report briefly overviewed general theories of language teaching method giving some examples of my lesson and, of course, it has many problems I have to keep trying to consider and solve. However, my aim of teaching is to try to improve my students’ communication skill based on speaking. Although this is only my own point of view, language is not a subject to study but a tool to communicate with people. In addition, what teachers can do in the classrooms is to help their procedures of language output. Teaching language has not only speaking and listening tasks but also reading and writing tasks. Some of these tasks can probably leave to students’ autonomy studies with some help from teachers; for instance, giving homework, encouraging students’ study motivation. However, Japanese uses three different characters; Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, and it brings learners high difficulties. I would like to discuss how we, Japanese teachers, could deal with this issue in the future report.