English ability of the next generation


How do you think Japan's English ability will improve with English becoming compulsory for children in 5th and 6th year of elementary school? graph of japanese statisticsWith Japanese primary schools about to start compulsory English lessons, this survey from iShare took a look at people’s English ability and children’s English lessons. As it’s rather a long survey and lends itself into splitting into two, I’ll do just that.


Over the 17th and 18th of January 2011 1,722 members of the CLUB BBQ free email forwarding service in full-time employment completed a private internet-based survey. 579 people had children of primary school age or younger, 62.0% of the sample were male, 52.2% in their thirties, and 47.8% in their forties.

I recently saw a program where they sent a guy to join an elementary school English class to see how he’d fare. It did seem rather useless, with a native English teacher leading the class in songs and roleplay but a Japanese teacher on hand to command the class. The roleplay feature was that essential skill for life, ordering fast food, with the opening line being a stereotypically Japanese pronunciation of “Harro!”; the kids however seemed to enjoy it and had a relatively good command of the rest of the script.

Research results

Q6: Did you know that from this coming school year (2011) children in 5th and 6th year of elementary school will be required to have one class per week on “Foreign language activities”, making English compulsory? (Sample size=1,722)


Q7: How do you think Japan’s English ability will improve with English becoming compulsory for children in 5th and 6th year of elementary school? (Sample size=1,722)

Improve a lot1.9%2.5%0.9%
Improve a little49.0%49.6%48.1%
Not improve49.1%47.9%51.0%

Q8: With children in 5th and 6th year of elementary school learning English, do you think that English study outside of school will also be needed? (Sample size=1,722)

Needed a lot (to SQ)31.6%33.1%29.2%
Needed a little (to SQ)45.2%43.1%48.7%
Not at all needed23.2%23.8%22.1%

Q8SQ: What kinds of study outside of school will be necessary? (Sample size=1,323, multiple answer)

Short-term study abroad, homestay52.8%51.0%55.5%
English cram school, conversation classes43.2%42.9%43.7%
Watching DVDs, other video28.0%25.2%32.4%
Studying through games, computer software21.8%20.4%23.9%
Listening to CDs, other audio21.5%18.1%26.9%
Studying through internet18.6%18.7%18.4%
Being taught by parents at home9.8%10.2%9.2%

The next question was for those with children in elementary school or younger.

Q9: Is your child studying English outside of school? (Sample size=579)

Yes (to SQs)28.2%28.0%29.0%

Q9SQ1: How is your child studying English outside of school? (Sample size=163, multiple answer)

English cram school, conversation classes49.1%52.9%29.6%
Watching DVDs, other video33.7%30.1%51.9%
Listening to CDs, other audio24.5%25.7%18.5%
Studying through games, computer software23.9%22.8%29.6%
Being taught by parents at home20.9%21.3%18.5%
Studying through internet8.6%8.8%7.4%
Being taught by a friend who can speak English3.1%3.7%0.0%
Short-term study abroad, homestay1.8%2.2%0.0%

Q9SQ2: How is your child’s attitude towards studying English outside of school? (Sample size=163)

Very positive16.6%16.9%14.8%
Somewhat positive59.5%59.6%59.3%
Not positive at all23.9%23.5%25.9%

Q9SQ3: Do you see any improvements from your child’s studying English outside of school? (Sample size=163)

Very much so10.4%10.3%11.1%
A little74.2%75.7%66.7%
Not at all15.3%14.0%22.2%

Q10: How many people around you are good at teaching English? (Sample size=1,722)

One person12.4%11.9%13.1%
Two people7.4%6.5%8.9%
Three people2.6%2.2%3.2%
Four people0.2%0.1%0.3%
Five or more people7.1%7.9%6.0%

Q11: Do you think there are currently enough English teachers in elementary schools? (Sample size=1,722)

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  1. rockiestone said,
    February 6, 2011 @ 02:25

    People`s English skills here are just beyond horrific…it`s just sad
    Seems the current generation is not as bright as their ancestors and definitely a lot more lazy!
    But education, yes, is the key for sure!

  2. rockiestone said,
    February 6, 2011 @ 02:26

    And the low birthrate is just making it much much worse!!
    This is a very serious problem that people are sadly ignoring and don`t seem to care about!

  3. Charltzy said,
    February 9, 2011 @ 20:00

    So the Native English speaker said “Harro” on that TV show you saw??!

    That is awful if true. He’s clearly been in Japan too long….

  4. Hagoromo said,
    February 10, 2011 @ 10:32

    It is a published fact (I’m afraid I don’t have the source handy), that Japan is the 2nd worse country in Asia for acquiring foreign languages with only North Korea being worse.

    • rockiestone said,
      February 10, 2011 @ 20:17

      And another fault of the education system here is the absolute failure to teach the English language from a young age!
      That has to occur, because this is when the human brain is rapidly developing!
      They say the best age is I think between 1-6 years!

      Just like an outdated PC, the education system is that same thing!
      The education system, so far, creates people geared for the manufacturing area but majorly fails to to create people for other
      areas such as the Einsteins, the geniuses, PHDs, Da Vinci`s, Mozart`s etc… The Monbusho is not being smart about it lately and
      I blame their laziness, not spending the money where it should and just acting with neglect.

  5. rockiestone said,
    February 10, 2011 @ 12:00

    See the very bad part is the education system is a big FAIL, it only focuses mostly on reading and writing! Which causes most to have so much trouble speaking and listening! It`s the Education Ministries fault who seems to be majorly slacking off about spending on education!
    Then there are those who can`t even speak their own opinions properly, even in Japanese! Sad dude!

    Thing is they hit the studies quite diligently in high school,then college becomes nothing but a party and being all lazy. Another FAIL!

  6. Hotaru said,
    February 16, 2011 @ 16:46

    I don’t think starting at a young age will help all that much. They need to completely reconsider the curriculum and the teaching methods. Just trying to make them learn the language with the same ineffective techniques will have little impact on the situation as a whole.

  7. rockiestone said,
    February 28, 2011 @ 22:33

    According studies say that at a young age is best to learn a language
    This is when the human mind is developing and at this time should learning a new language begin before the brain hardens Duh!

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