英会話について。。。

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Ah, the 英会話 (Eikaiwa = English Conversation School). Their bright neon signs decorate buildings from the major centers of Shinjyuku and Ikebukuro to the smallest countryside town. The ubiquitous English language school has served as the entry point into Japan for foreigners innumerable. Sometimes loved, sometimes detested by those in their employ, the Eikaiwa must be commended for opening Japan to foreigners and helping the Japanese to integrate more with the world. The English language is infact an intangible commodity that the Japanese purchase in order to use when traveling abroad. The #1 reason that I’ve received about why they learn English is, “So we can communicate with foreigners!”

The Eikaiwa’s detractors would say that it’s just a business as their images of a proper school (as we know in the West) are quickly dashed with each 45 minute lesson and sterile teaching format. However, this business mentality has helped the companies spread from 北海道 to 九州 and given the masses greater access to the English lesson. What other idea has made it so easy for foreigners to come explore and fufill their adventurous desires in a country that otherwise might seem inaccessible. The Eikaiwa has served as a springboard into other careers in Japan as well as an opportunity to study the language, martial arts and even find a suitable husband or wife for many Japan enthusiasts.

We also cannot forget that these schools are a major source of employment for thousands of young Japanese who wish to use their English skills in their first job. If you consider how many of us study foreign languages on a global scale, how many of us actually get to use these langauges in the professional realm? If there had been a Spanish language school modeled after the Eikaiwa in the USA, I might have taken my first job there to increase my contact with native Spanish speakers. Many of the best English speaking Japanese I know either studied abroad, or worked/studied at an Eikaiwa.

As one who loves languages and suffered through many language classes at a ‘traditional’ school, I really wish that there had been this type of business in my town back home. After all my attention span only lasts about 45 minutes and I despise tests in the learning of language. Cheers to the Eikaiwa.

2 Comments so far

  1. Dan T (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

    Yea boy. I done wished I had been able to learn at a NOVA/GABA/Berlitz too. Many of the best English speakers I know did not learn at either of these places, though at Berlitz you’ll learn to say “great” every other word.

    It is a business, an entertainment business. They have similar scam schools in the US in New York where they are out for your money and will fill you full of any nonsense just to string you along.

    You can learn at these things, but it is an expensive and ineffiecient way to learn a foreign language.

    I have never understood, why, when Temple and other TOkyo area universities offers evening EFL course for much less, taught by professionally educated instructors using modern SLA research as a basis, people go to these silly things—well except for the entertainment value, and the hope of finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. Of course, someone may actually believe that the absurd nonsense that these places call their special “method” will be the answer to learning without studying or effort.

    I think the best of the group was a school called “Tower of Babble” about 10-15 years ago.

    But it is true, where else could an uneducated, untrained, maybe (or maybe not)college graduate—not required at Berlitz anyway, and I understand some of the others will make a diploma for you if needed—get a job that pays above minimum wage. Then again, were other jobs really open, who would really be “teaching” English at an eikaiwa?


  2. Aces (unregistered) on February 15th, 2006 @ 11:37 am

    I think you do understand why they choose those schools. You said it yourself – they get across the impression that no studying is needed, no effort on the student’s part. And from what I’ve heard, in some of these schools that’s partially correct in the sense that you automatically (ostensibly it’s based on ability…) get moved up to higher levels every certain period or so. The rationale is that if you don’t make the person think they’re getting farther, they’ll stop spending money at your place and go somewhere else. You see this idea in many services, of course, not just English schools.

    Unfortunately it avoids the real issue, which is that you need to motivate the students to work hard and study instead of making them think they’ve accomplished something just by figuratively jogging in place. I don’t think the trend will reverse soon, because these companies make a boatload of money, and the first company to do this and have qualified teachers will have a couple hard years in the beginning.

    Hehe, it seems we have different objections to the schools though. You mention the untrained teachers, I mention the unmotivated students. I think we’re both correct.



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