[For the non-Japanese speaker: This is a tutorial on how to improve English reading skills using Internet resources to find content you’re actually interested in / can understand; it’s part of my Customised Interaction Approach]
It’s never too late and you’re never too proletarian to start learning
In some ways, what I’m about to do (which is to change the entire language education system) is extremely ambitious. I’m interested in improving the language learning concept and establishing a clear SOP (Standard Operating Procedure; yes, I’ve worked too long in a factory) with clear steps which can be followed by every potential learner.
I’ve started to think about it some 3 years ago and I came up with this method, which is now fairly developed, after I’ve adopted several kaizen (Changes-towards-Better). So far I’ve “converted” about 20-30 Japanese people; from all the students I had, only a couple didn’t get it.
That being said, my ambition is to reach all of Japan (and beyond); right now, this means that starting from this week I’m going to upload several tutorial videos about how you can learn English using my approach. So you’ll see some videos with screen recordings with me speaking in Japanese showing how to do this.
Why do I do this? Actually, this is because I’ve been asked to create these tutorials in my job in order to allow other company employees (who are not my students) to use the same method to interact with (written or spoken) texts in English. I worked quite hard (meaning, in my free time) so as to be able to make these tutorials available to the public at large for free (because I want to reach everybody).
So this might be a little strange, since I’m going to switch languages and speak in Japanese as my hope [yeah, “I have a dream”] is that more Japanese people give it a try as well and see if this method suits them.
Now, what is the method that I’m recommending? Let me give you the short version in English (you can watch the videos and ignore the sound if you don’t understand Japanese): I’m going to introduce you to what I call the “learner’s method”.
I don’t know how to teach and I don’t think I’ll ever know because I don’t believe anybody got fluent in any language just by absorbing the linguistic knowledge imparted to him/her by a teacher. I don’t think there is a proper way to teach other than explaining how one can learn.
One has to be interested in what he or she does, one has to have an interest in the material that he or she reads or listens to. This is why I will show you how to search (using the Internet) for material you might be interested in interacting with.
First of all, I will talk about what you may use as Reading material. For example, if you like some movie, I will show you how to find that movie’s script: The “book” with the movie lines whose meaning you’ve probably understood using (I assume) Japanese subtitles. I will recommend using this movie script as reading material, where you can read the lines of the people who were in the movie. [Credit for suggesting movie scripts goes to Mike Kulov, my good friend from Sankt Petersburg]
If you don’t like movies, then I will introduce various websites where you can find free e-books (in English). Now, some of these are really old, and some of these are actually really difficult, so it might require a lot of effort and time to find something you understand and like.
Which brings us to the first condition for Reading Input (cf. Stephen Krashen): It has to be comprehensible (as a rule of the thumb I tell my students “more than 50%”). The second condition is that it has to be interesting; that’s why you (=the learner) choose it. I’ll just show you where you can find it, and give you some examples, but you’ll have to search on your own because you’re in charge of your learning. Don’t (just) count on teachers; the teachers are not enough, okay?
Secondly, I want to introduce a Listening Input component; for this I will recommend YouTube, where you can watch scenes from the movie you like, video clips of the singer you like, video clips of the soccer match you like, or conversation situations in which you believe you will find yourself in the future when you will need to interact in English; alternatively, you could watch TED talks with subtitles, or some news programmes or whatever.
Thirdly, I will encourage people to practice Writing in English; the best way (I assume) is to write on a website where people will give you feedback. I will introduce one such website which you can use, or you can go ahead and find some website that works in a similar way (i.e., offering a free-of-charge service which guarantees that students will receive feedback for their written entries, hopefully from a native speaker).
Fourthly (and lastly), I will show you a way of practicing Speaking, which might sound a bit silly, as I’m going to ask people to shadow (=parrot) some native speaker whose voice you can listen to by playing audio files on various websites. The idea is to copy (=parrot) the intonation and the sounds until the learner can feel comfortable going forward on his/her own.
The goal of this method is to improve the 4 skills using material which you like, in general: Since you’re in charge of finding your own material, I hope that you spend enough time to find something which matches your preferences.
I will also suggest spending enough time (at least 1 hour) EVERY day. Why do I make such a “drastic” demand? Well, how many years would you like to devote to learning this language? 1 year, 2 years, 3 years? If you start with 1 hour a day, that will be a good start, although you might want to pick up the pace later. Of course it depends on who you are, and perhaps learning English is not the thing for you; if it’s not, don’t worry, give up. Do something else with your time, every day.
If you’ve tried to learn English with some material which you actually liked and at a level where you could understand and it still didn’t work, then no worries, you can try other methods. Maybe “the learner method” is not the thing for you; that’s okay, you can try other things, go to these language schools and let them teach you, if you think you can’t do it by yourself. [They’ll be more than happy to take your money and maybe you’re the kind that gets very motivated to work hard after spending a lot of money].
I tend to favor those who like to learn by themselves. Those who want to Change themselves into someone Better.
“It is long since I first trod the deck of this terrible ship, and the rays of my destiny are, I think gathering to a focus. Incomprehensible men! Wrapped up in meditations of a kind which I cannot divine, they pass me by unnoticed. Concealment is utter folly on my part, for the people will not see. It was but just now that I passed directly before the eyes of the mate; it was no long while ago that I ventured into the captain’s own private cabin, and took thence the materials with which I write, and have written. I shall from time to time continue this journal. It is true that I may not find an opportunity of transmitting it to the world, but I will not fail to make the endeavour. At the last moment I will enclose the MS. in a bottle, and cast it within the sea.”
Edgar Allan Poe MS. found in a Bottle
Note: I wrote the following 6 years ago, when I first got the idea of starting a blog. Since then I kept postponing because I didn’t seem to be able to sit down and write; in the meantime I realised I belong to the peripatetic (from Greek peripatetikos “given to walking about” (especially while teaching) from peri-patein “walk up and down, walk about”) school, so I started recording my thoughts – hence the peculiar format of this blog.
The ghost ship
For a long time I thought that writing a blog is a pretty narcissistic enterprise; now it turns out that I’m not that different after all.
Hey, look, look, I am this kind of person!
30 years ago people would write about themselves on a piece of paper, with the same motivation, but in that case it was for the purpose of leaving a record for those who come later, to say
”I was this kind of person.” Not “I am”.
For us moderns, whose sense of time is completely warped, topsy-turvy, we want to be read instantly. For the smartphone generation, there are many opportunities to feel that our existence is paper-thin superficial.
Have you noticed that whenever our eyes meet, we both seem to feel embarrassed. It’s not like we did something wrong, but for some reason we felt guilty.
Perhaps both of us felt that our True-Sounds have disappeared and we only have Masks remaining.