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Problems for Learners in japanWith the expanding use on english as a global language, Japan has been one of the most enthusiastic nations to jump onto the english-learning bandwagon. However, the scores of japanese students on international exams are some of the worst in the world ("New York Times"). Experts attribute this phenomenon to the japanese language, education system and culture. One obstacle japanese learners face when embarking on their english-learning journey is the numerous differences between english and japanese. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the difference in modes of writing. japanese uses a combination of chinese symbols (kanji) and two phonetic alphabets, one for japanese words (hiragana) and one for words of foreign borrowing (katakana). Roman lettering is known as romaji and is used more for artistic purposes than actual communication. Therefore, the japanese must learn to use a new writing system before they can communicate and learn effectively. Grammatically, english is very different as well. english uses no particles to denote words’ function in the sentence to the extent that japanese does. english also puts the verb right after the subject, in the middle of the sentence, whereas japanese puts the verb at the end. Finally, there are far more sounds in english than in japanese and furthermore, in the japanese writing system, all consonants are paired with vowels with the exception of ‘N’. As a result, a simple word like ‘sad’ is mindboggling to the japanese english learner, because to end a word with ‘D’ is supposedly impossible. Students must break every language rule they ever learned if they hope to master english (Kaufmann). Japan’s language isn’t the only rigid system in the country. english speakers in Japan say “that english is taught and studied like math and science rather than language” under the japanese education system ("New York Times"). Grammar and translation are the primary if not the sole, focus of english lessons. japanese teachers of english drill students endlessly on obscure grammar rules. Unfortunately, this structure causes great dissatisfaction with the learning process among the students. In fact, 70% of japanese students dislike studying english (Elosm Lafaye, and Tsuda). While most foreign teachers do conversation-based lessons that help japanese students in a real-world communication setting, this does little good for students wanting to pass the english portion of their college entrance exams (Jannuzi). These exams are the main reason most japanese students want to learn english (Elosm Lafaye, and Tsuda). However, college entrance exams do not test actual language ability but abstract knowledge of rules. An english professor and the University of tokyo, Yoshiaki Sato, said of the entrance exams, “’ University entrance examinations have been the root of all evil…And these tests are designed by english professors who have little or no command of spoken english’” ("New York Times"). Thus, the japanese education system does not teach english in a way that makes students functional english speakers. The japanese language and education system are not completely to blame for the difficulties japanese students have in learning english. Professor Ikuo Koike of Keio University blames the japanese history of cultural isolation and its inwardly turned mentality for the difficulties as well ("New York Times"). Even in today’s global atmosphere, Japan remains “culturally self-sufficient”. They have no pressing need to learn english for communication and little opportunity to use and practice it in everyday life (Jannuzi). japanese students are also very fearful of speaking up in class because they see every question as a pop quiz ("New York Times"). While this may not be true in a class with a foreign teacher, it often is with japanese teachers and making a mistake would certainly cause the student to lose face in the eyes of classmates as mistakes are considered a personal fault in japanese culture and not as a learning opportunity. This makes functional language acquisition extremely difficult, as mistakes are essential to the process. Despite the strong emphasis on learning english in Japan, japanese students often never attain functional fluency in english. This is due to the japanese language, culture and even the education system that claims to value it so highly. All of these sources of difficulty are long-standing and deep-seated in Japan, but it is more important than ever that Japan overcomes them because the world is having a conversation, and it’s in english. Bibliography: "Difficult Lesson: Learning english." New York Times 04 08 1996, n. pag. Web. 19 Nov. 2011. . Elosm Lafaye, Beverly, and Sanae Tsuda. "Attitudes towards english Language Learning in Higher Education in Japan, and the Place of english in japanese Society." uri.edu. University of Rhode Island, 2002. Web. 19 Nov 2011. . Jannuzi, Charles. "TEFL forum: then reasons why english learning in japan fails." Japan higher education outlook. N.p., 09 Dec 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2011. . Kaufmann, Steve. "??????????Why is english difficult for japanese speakers?." Tha Linguast on Language. N.p., 04 Jan 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. .