Oct 30, 2011


Many of feverish tadoku articles have already prevailed all over English learning magazine in Japan, some magazine seem to given up on tadoku as its bait, and now new bait looks like to take its place: shadowing method, to be exact. It's not nothing new but long used method among professional/want-to-be professional interpreters I think.

I myself do some kind of shadowing/mumbling sometimes while I take a walk when I really feel like doing it, and it's super effective to make yourself comfortable to spake English. I think it works for the muscle around your mouth and enables you to move your mouth appropriately to speak English with ease. Speaking English requires to move your tongue or mouth more actively than speaking Japanese, so some kind of training habit, it doesn't necessarily be tough tough, is crucial to make your English sound natural. 

However, when I encounter those teachers who emphasize the importance of mastering English pronunciation from shadowing or other methods, I can't help wondering what English they're talking about to master. Is there any standard English pronunciation somewhere in the world? What kind of materials are they going to use, British English like Harry Potter or New York English like White Collar??

For many learners of English, studying English itself is a tremendously daunting job and we have to spare large part of our life for that purpose only. Once you reach to a certain level, it won't be such a bother to study since we can enjoy lots of things while learning English, from watching movies to reading books, but we have to keep learning forever to be a fluent and good user of English. 

Then isn't it to much burden for adult learners to master beautiful pronunciation? If the learner don't feel comfortable after certain amount of pronunciation practice, then isn't it practical to take different tactics and encourage them to nurture their own style of English speaking? For me, imitating certain  kind of English pronunciation and trying to fit in the frame of its English excessively means nothing but 魂を売る。It might sound overreacting, but I wonder if you think I'm talking absurd and nonsense, after reading the article below. You may not get upset if you agree with the idea that over weighted people shouldn't be allowed to go up a carrier ladder because being over weighted is a sign of their lack of managing their physical health. But if you don't agree with this, then you might as well see similar problematic issues about learning English pronunciation.    

"Subtle bias can lead to substantial economic impact. In particular, having an accent can lead to perceptions of poor communication skills or lack of leadership ability, reducing the chance for advancement. The end result, as multiple studies have shown, is that even fully fluent individuals for whom English is a second language may experience decreased earnings of up to 12% over the course of their careers." from 
The Wall Street Journal http://on.wsj.com/uTEMfe

BTW, below is also a quote from the article and I'd love to present this to all the Japanese English teachers in Japan.
"Learning English isn’t the same as knowing English, and knowing English isn’t the same as being able to speak good, or even intelligible English."


Whiskers said...

Outrageous! Probably because of this kind of absurd discrimination, some non-American originated elites are leaving the states where they know they have a glass ceiling.

Shadowing sure is a good method to acquire good rhythm and good listening skills. I myself spent a few months practicing shadowing intensively and I enjoyed it. However, if it works for everyone, I'm not sure.
At the same time, as you pointed out, we have to be careful about the material to shadow. If you are practicing by yourself, it's up to you, but using it as a model, the teacher must be very careful, I agree.

Maybe it sounds a little bit off the point, but I want to point out the obedient tendency of Japanese people. I know I have mentioned this already. Some people are so dilligent and obedient that they try whatever their teacher tell them to. Some of those students actually make progress, which makes the teacher famous. That's how a teacher becomes a charisma.
I never liked to be told what to do as a student, and when I found out this tendency among my students, I was really dismayed. You know how much junior high students admire their baseball, basketball, soccer or whatever sport coaches. The coaches know what they are aiming for and sure about how they will make it.
I guess language learners want to find this kind of coach.
That's why there have been lots of fads about English learning. I hope tadoku won't end up as one of them which we would talk about with nostalgic feelings in the future.

Once you start to look for ways to improve your English, probably it's the start of your remarkable progress. You must be independent and try hard, I say.

Whiskers said...

G' morning, emmie-san.
One correction. Make the second last sentence → Once you start to look for ways to improve your English for yourself, ...

Have a nice day!

Mrs. Malone said...

Hi Whiskers-san,

You mentioned the obedient attitude of your students and that's what one of my tadoker teachers I admire was talking about with her blog post. She wrote her students were always waiting to be directed to do something and wouldn't do anything without her advice.
Teachers are there to let their students to become an independent and autonomous learner, so they should rather be worried if their students don't start to doubt and counter your advice, right? Something should be definitely wrong if students begin to admire you without any counterarguments and follow all the advice you make. It's a sign that you've failed to grow the important attitude of independence among your students and encouraged them to be more like a robot...
oooh, somebody please stop us, or we're about to spill out all the rotten truth of education in Japan...

you know, maybe because I'm not a full-time teacher nor belonging to any organizations, tadoker teachers seem to let their guards down and be open when they talk with me and fill me up with unbelievably malicious stories of English education, especially in Tokyo. I heard that teachers are required to take a few lectures every year to learn new technologies or other things to make their classes interesting and productive. Lecturers are sent off from some private companies.
Here, I have a strong doubt that if those private companies really reliable a suitable for public education? I'm even wondering some company could be supported by a much bigger organization which has a strong tie with religious groups...
Oh, well, better to shut my mouth now, I'm afraid.^^;;;

Talk to you again!

Whiskers said...

I really appreciate your newest post, but before writing my comment on it I have something I want to share with you.

The other day my co-worker teachers and I were talking about the result of STEP(infamous Eiken haha) 1st stage. There were several students who couldn't make it by a few points. An American coworker said that those students should visit foreign teachers' offices for a short chat everyday. She meant that listening to CDs or watching dramas are 'passive listening,' but if you want to keep up the conversation, you have to 'actively' listen. Well, probably everybody knows it that practicing conversation is good to improve your listening skills, but hearing it from passive or active point of view, it was eye-opening for me!

Now, back to your latest entry.
Isn't it the 多読的ライティング that Mr. S always wanted to write the difinition of?
Well, whatever the name is, we are relaxed and enjoying writing English, which counts!

Mrs. Malone said...


So, about the passive and active listening, that's the reason I sometimes lose confidence in my learning English and almost give up on expecting any progress with my English competence. I know from my experience that when you hear some English actively in the real life talking with native speakers, the words/phrases they use are easily absorbed in you mind, and you can learn lots more effectively than listening to CD or DVD. Nothing is better than to mingle yourself with native speakers.
But it's simply impossible for me to have such a chance. I'm going to have an online chat again today, but it's not as much efficient as your talking with native speakers face to face...

Thus,I sometime think that a communicative approach?, such as having a conversation with Japanese classmates during English lessons at junior high, is just a waste of time. You don't have to practice speaking English a lot unless you've already read or listened to affluent amount of English because you've got to struggle and you'll be worn out even to have small talk in the end. You'll naturally start to speak English once you're put in the situation you have to speak, provided that you have enough natural English ready in yourself.

(Anyway, I think I do need to improve my pronunciation if read aloud as an English teacher, so I'll do whatever I can, and for a while, I'll see if I can find a good partner through an online conversation school.)

Sorry... getting long...

Next, let me tell you a bit? about 多読的ライティング。I don't believe you can define it properly and adequately with just some words. It's not simply how you read, but the most important thing about tasho is the process itself; first you come to notice that your English writing is slightly off, then you struggle to look for why and its answer, and finally you'll understand what's missing in your tadoku for becoming a good writer.

Like you can't let others understand tadoku well unless they actually do tadoku, they won't understand what read to write is really like or how pleasant and tireless such reading is than studying English writing from textbooks.

The last, but not the least,(GOSH! I've long been wanting to use this phrase, but didn't have a chance.) I have to tell every English teacher interested in tadoku that your words wouldn't have enough credibility or strength to reach to people's mind no matter how hard you try to explain tadoku or tasho, unless you DO tadoku tasho. I feel like being made fun of when I see some people explain tadoku without actually being a tadoker. Also I sometimes get upset to know some people encourage other tadokers to "unlearn" when they are not at all willing to let go of what they've learned from dictionaries or textbooks. It's terribly scary to unlearn what you've already learned, but do they really know what it's like?

Well, I know what I'm saying here won't sound comfortable to some people, but I'm gladly to be a villain for the future of tadoku. ^^