A Practical Guide for Teachers of Elementary Japaneseby Mutsuko Endo Simon

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  • A Practical Guide for Teachers of Elementary Japanese by Mutsuko Endo SimonReview by: Shigeru MiyagawaThe Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Nov., 1984 - Nov.,1985), pp. 272-277Published by: American Association of Teachers of JapaneseStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/489075 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 09:22

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  • 272 Vol. 19, No. 2

    A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR TEACHERS OF ELEMENTARY JAPANESE, by Mutsuko Endo Simon. Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 1984. Pp. xvi + 111. $8.00.

    Reviewed by Shigeru Miyagawa

    This is a useful and a timely work. It is useful because it provides "specific and practical information" for "new teachers of elementary Japanese at the college level" (p. xiii). It is timely because more and more teachers with little or no Japanese teaching experience are entering the field as a result of increased enroll- ment. Simon wrote this handbook to "help [the new instructor] feel more at ease at teaching Japanese... and [be] better informed about the available resources" (ibid.), but more broadly, we can view it as an attempt by one experienced teacher of Japanese to maintain quality in the face of rapidly expanding enrollment.

    Simon is well qualified for documenting basic information for new teachers. She received her under- graduate degree in teaching Japanese as a foreign language from the International Christian University in 1973; she has since taught in the U.S., first at

    Depauw University, then at the University of Michigan where she also trains new teachers and teaching assist- ants. Despite her training at ICU, in the beginning she often found herself "at a loss when problems arose since there was no one to consult" (ibid.). The

    present work, with its emphasis on practical informa- tion, is designed to lessen the insecurity that all new teachers invariably experience. True to form, it is a nuts-and-bolts, how-to approach to teaching Japanese. Chapter 1, "What to do Before the Term Starts," primarily concerns textbook selection. The author discusses in particular three textbooks, Beginning Japanese by Jorden, Introduction to Moder

    Japanese by Mizutani, and Intensive Course in Japanese

    Journal of the

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  • Association of Teachers of Japanese

    by the Japanese Language Promotion Center. Simon chose the first two because they are widely used, while IMJ is a "relatively recent publication that has received much attention" and the one she uses at Michigan (p. 9). BJ and 1MJ are suggested for a program that emphasizes spoken skills while ICJ is characterized as good for training reading skills. The textbooks are also evalu- ated in terms of the naturalness and length of the

    dialogues (BJ and IMJ are natural and practical), grammar explanation (IMJ and ICJ need supplementary material), taped drills (IMJ's drills need to be sup- plemented), and the introduction of native orthography (ICJ uses kana from the beginning, IMJ has both native orthography and romanization, BJ is exclusively in romanization but has the accompanying Reading Japanese for reading and writing). This chapter also gives the author's general schedule for a lesson--grammar on the first day, drills and exercises on the second, third, and part of the fourth day, reading and writing on the fourth day--as well as a sample daily schedule for fall and spring terms. Chapter 2, "Preparing for

    Class," gives helpful hints on constructing or locat-

    ing teaching aids ranging from flash cards to video cassettes. Chapter 3, "In the Classroom," comprises almost half of the book. Here we find the author's

    approaches to teaching pronunciation, the writing sys- tem, reading, composition, listening comprehension, speaking, and grammar, with sample handouts she actu-

    ally uses in her teaching. We also find specific suggestions for what to cover on the first day: goals of the course, grading criteria, brief explanation of grammar, etc. Chapters 4 and 5 cover basic points to keep in mind for homework assignments and testing while Chapter 6 presents specific and general sugges- tions for the review procedure. Experienced as well as new teachers will find useful the Appendix, "Sources for Films and Videotapes," and Selected Bibliography at the back of the handbook.

    Experienced teachers may find some of the discus- sions in this handbook trivial or mundane (how to make a ditto master, for example), but it is no fault of


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  • 274 Vol. 19, No. 2

    the handbook. Teachers forget all too soon that first week on the job, when the ditto machine was an uncooper- ative and unfathomable piece of sophisticated machinery, and the students no more cooperative or fathomable. The author explains the mundane and the not-so-mundane aspects of teaching Japanese with patience and clarity.

    Teachers seeking innovative techniques will not find them in this handbook. The approaches presented for teaching the various skills are generally familiar to experienced teachers. What is valuable is that the author has documented these known techniques and made them accessible to new teachers. The handbook also does not address problems in pedagogical theory. The author makes the disclaimer in the beginning that this is "not a book on theories of teaching methods" (p. xiii); indeed, she sometimes appears to go out of her way to avoid promoting any one pedagogical stance. The author never makes explicit her own methodological orientation, though she clearly bases her ideas on well-founded assumptions. Her approach to teaching speaking reveals that she espouses both the auto-

    maticity stressed by the audio-lingual method and creativity championed by the more recent "cognitive" approaches. She suggests that students work through a sequenced set of activities from mechanical and automatic drills to less constrained and creative communicative exercises (pp. 57-63). The author

    appears less attracted to the grammar-translation method as evidenced by her approach to reading: get students to read Japanese with minimal translation into their native language (p. 43), though we do find that translation has a small role in her program. This eclectic approach is reasonable, and, in fact, a sound way to teach a foreign language. At present there is no one method that clearly stands out, but many have useful ideas. The teacher must find the elements from different methods that best fit his/her

    language program.

    Journal of the

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  • Association of Teachers of Japanese

    In writing this handbook, the author intends to give strictly practical information about teaching techniques and available resources for the new teacher. To that extent, the handbook is successful. An inexper- ienced teacher without supervision will benefit a great deal--and his/her students even more--by following the author's program either in part or in whole. At the same time, we cannot dismiss the need for new teachers to deal with the ideas behind the techniques. At the base of any coherent language program are ideas about second language acquisition, and it is from these that relevant techniques are born. Moreover, a sound

    language program is never static; rather, it continues to evolve each year as the teacher develops ideas and

    adopts or formulates new techniques to execute them.

    We cannot expect the new teacher quickly to become familiar with the huge mass of literature on second language acquisition. But a new teacher will begin to develop sound ideas without knowledge of this rich field of research if he/she maintains a certain orientation. This is the orientation that always focuses on the learner. A language program should be

    designed for the learner, not for the teacher; any decisions made about the program should always lead to a more efficient and effective program for the learner. This is an obvious point, but it is easier said than done. Too often a teacher focuses on the teacher, not the learner. A simple but true-life example is to reject any use of romanization in favor of native

    orthography because the teacher cannot easily read romanization. This decision clearly ignores the learner at the benefit of the teacher. If a teacher opts to use the native orthography from the beginning, this must be justified on the basis of the learner. Rea- sons such as "I cannot read romanization" and

    "Japanese don't use it" are irrelevant because they are teacher-oriented and not learner-oriented.

    Simon does not explicitly discuss the need always to focus on the learner, but we find passages that imply it. She begins the handbook with nine general


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  • 276 Vol. 19, No. 2

    points every new teacher should keep in mind. The first eight of these can easily be interpreted (though some trivially) as concerns for the learner. The nine points (without the accompanying explanations) are: (1) teach Japanese, not just about Japanese; (2) make learning Japanese enjoyable; (3) show your concern for the students; (4) be patient; (5) be encouraging; (6) limit and control the focus; (7) make the most of your class time; (8) be organized; (9) keep abreast of what other teachers are doing (pp. 1-5). The following is much more to the point:

    "Remember to refrain from talking too much, in either Japanese or English. Your job is simply to make the class go smoothly by providing cues and correcting mistakes" (p. 57).

    Aside from the various teaching techniques, this is the most important point the author makes. A common mis- take made by new teachers is that they feel compelled to perform in front of a class, that is, to carry out a teacher-oriented class. The real job of the teacher is rather to get the students to perform in the target language. This mistake is made because the inexperi- enced teacher brings to class the traditional role of the teacher who stands in frontof the class lecturing and otherwise taking up virtually all class time. Also, it is easier to perform than to get students to per- form in an organized and productive fashion. Each learner is there to acquire Japanese, and the role of the teacher is to assist them by designing a program compatible with their learning patterns, giving ample opportunity in class to use the language, and monitor- ing and making corrections on their performance.

    Most of the techniques the author suggests are compatible with the learner-oriented program. However, there is one technique which appears to go against it. This is the common method of introducing new material through comparison. The author utilizes this technique for kana recognition (comparing similarly shaped kana,

    Journal of the

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  • Association of Teachers of Japanese

    p. 20), pronunciation (e.g., byooin/biyooin, p. 29), and grammar (-te iru/-te aru, pp. 66-75). Comparison of two similar or related items is meaningful only when the student already knows both. To illustrate the point using grammar, the two constructions the author takes up, intransitive verb -te iru and transitive verb -te aru, are difficult to learn individually, yet they are introduced in pairs for comparison. The student is facing both constructions for the first time; hence, comparison simply puts an added burden on the student to learn each of the new patterns and at the same time decide which to use. Such a burden often leads to a failure to learn even the most basic information. This type of comparison is compatible with a program that teaches about Japanese, not one that teaches Japanese. For the latter, such a comparison is better left for later, when students have already mastered the two constructions, as a way to reinforce and expand what they have learned.

    The quality of reproduction for sample handouts tends to be inconsistent, though they are all quite legible. Otherwise, this is an attractively produced handbook with only a few errors. I will simply note two such errors. On p. 33, reference is made to "sec- tion 11.2.5," but this should be "section 11.1.5"; on p. 65, "passive-causative construction" should instead be "causative-passive construction."

    Simon has made an important contribution to the field of teaching Japanese. New teachers (and their students) will benefit from the concise and practical explanation on teaching elementary Japanese. New teachers will find sufficient information in this hand- book to get started in the right direction. But they should keep in mind that there are implicit but important assumptions underlying this and other pro- grams, and should seek them out or formulate their own with the learner always in focus. Japanese language teaching can be intellectually exciting if we go beyond just techniques and deal actively with the ideas that give rise to these techniques.


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    Article Contentsp. 272p. 273p. 274p. 275p. 276p. 277

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Nov., 1984 - Nov., 1985), pp. 175-341Front Matter [pp. 175-182]Sentential Predicates in Japanese [pp. 183-221]Tra...


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