Note 2023: I wrote this at my peak “trying to be a responsible eikaiwa owner” phase, trying to introduce even the idea that eikaiwa can be an educational endeavor into the popular consciousness (as far as a JALT SIG newsletter can do so). Like the last post, it was originally part of the School Owners’ SIG newsletter, whose archives have disappeared. Hat tip again to Daniel Hooper for citing it here.The original citation was:
Makino, M. (2015). Principled eikaiwa. JALT School Owners SIG Newsletter, 1, 3-8. Makino, M. (2016). A taxonomy of eikaiwa schools. JALT School Owners SIG Newsletter, 3, 4-11.
Eikaiwa, or private English academies in Japan, are a nationwide industry. The industry has some characteristics that place it in a unique position in Japanese society and the EFL world, including a reputation for crass commercialism and the marketing of essentialized native speakers. This article outlines a series of points on which individual eikaiwa can hold themselves to a higher educational standard, ultimately with the aim of distinguishing the best examples of privately-run educational institutions from the worst examples of crudely marketed occidentalism.
Most of us would agree that to some extent, eikaiwa deserves its bad reputation. Everybody knows somebody in this industry who was just in it for the social scene, or for a gap year before their MBA starts, or because they needed an excuse to come to the land whence One Piece came. One may also read accounts like Kubota (2011a) or Bailey (2007) and come to the conclusion that eikaiwa is only slightly more serious an academic endeavor than coloring with rather than eating one’s crayons.
Although many would also agree that mandatory English education in Japan isn’t worth the paper it’s translated on, eikaiwa is the seen as somehow crasser because it is private enterprise, and appears to operate on an essentializing ideology that boils the world outside Japan down to first-world white men. While one could justifiably argue that mandatory English education lets down its captive population in a much more far-reaching and much more tragic way, even greenhorn JETs may feel superior to eikaiwa workers, who have been compared to professional male hosts (Kelsky, 2001) or fast food workers (Appleby, 2013).
Although I have just implied that English in mandatory education deserves far more scrutiny and criticism than eikaiwa, it is true that commercial concerns are a potential source of conflicts of interest at eikaiwa more than public milieus, as students (or their parents) are customers as well as learners. Eikaiwa, unlike most other providers of English education in Japan,cannot take student enrollment or attendance for granted, and must bend both their classroom practices and their views of their roles as teachers to the cultural climate and to principles of marketing or be faced with lost income.
What I would like to propose here is a set of values that can help redeem our industry, or at least separate those of us who wish to be separated from the worst examples of eikaiwa excess. In echo of Dörnyei’s (2009) principled CLT (Communicative Language Teaching), I will call this principled eikaiwa, and hope that it forms an outline of how we as eikaiwa teachers and owners can succeed in business while not surrendering our sense of responsibility as educators.
I should point out that I am not arguing from a place of particular strength here; my own school at which I am a teacher and owner certainly does not put all of these ideas into practice. I simply mean to establish a set of points that eikaiwa workers and owners can agree have some value in distinguishing the ideal form of the type of service we provide from what an eikaiwa unmoored entirely from educational objectives would look like. I will separate these points into two categories, advertising and pedagogy.
The websites of eikaiwa can sometimes read like catalogs of alternative medicine, where the house method or technique is presented as if its benefits were obvious, and scientific-sounding language is freely borrowed for its academic veneer. Hence the discussion of English and Japanese “wavelengths” in Seiha’s promotional materials (Seiha Network Co., Ltd., 2012), and the claim without any evidence that the ability to distinguish new sounds has its apex at birth and bottoms out at 12 years old (ibid). Numerous other eikaiwa websites make claims about the unique learning opportunities afforded by the infant brain and the irreplaceable benefits of learning from native speakers (NSs), or from their fellow Japanese as the case may be. Whether the owners of eikaiwa trulybelieve these things is beside the point; the question is whether it is justifiable including an unproven claim in an advertisement for language classes.
One of the most common of such claims in eikaiwa promotional materials, which will probably only become more so as elementary schools’ English classes encroach more on eikaiwa’s formerly monopolized demographic of young learners, is the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH). CPH has strong support when applied to L1 learners (Jones, 1995) and some support as well for people moving to L2-speaking societies (Patkowski, 1980). The aforementioned Seiha (Seiha Network Co., Ltd., n.d.), former goliath NOVA (n.d.) and Amity (Amity Corporation n.d., a, b) all have promoted themselves with reference to CPH, as have many smaller and individually-owned eikaiwa. The problem with using CPH to sell children’s classes is that young learners in eikaiwa are not feral children learning their L1 at a late age and are generally not immigrants to English-speaking societies. Everything about them aside from their ages is different from the subjects of research supporting CPH. I know of no studies done on age effects in L2 learners taking weekly one-hour classes, and until some intrepid academic manages to put that question in researchable terms, any age effects on eikaiwa students remain unproven.
Another issue on which it may behoove schools to avoid unsupportable claims is the benefit of having a teacher with any particular racial, cultural, or linguistic background; a common trope in eikaiwa large and small. Other clichés in eikaiwa advertising which are unproven or questionable include the career benefits of learning English (Kubota, 2011b) and to the power of “foreigner teachers” to reduce students’ xenophobia. Eikaiwa may also mislead customers if they present language learning only as a result of having weekly fun conversations. This downplaying of what may be termed “traditional” teaching has been seen in advertising (Bailey, 2006) and in the classroom (Kubota, 2011a), and is the topic of the following section.
In this section, I mean to highlight teaching practices in eikaiwa that may reflect prioritizing of factors other than education. I am also assuming for this section that increased English skill (however it is defined) is the primary educational goal of eikaiwa, not producing international citizens (Kubota and McKay, 2009) or building critical thinking skills in general. That assumption hides a further assumption, that the what eikaiwa provide is education rather than entertainment, or as Kubota calls it, “casual leisure” (2011a, p. 475). How to classify the type of service that eikaiwa furnish is at the heart of the problem; there are no educational recommendations to make if eikaiwa consider themselves something other than schools.
The most glaring compromise in educational quality made at eikaiwa is scheduling. The approach taken at some chains, whereby students choose their lesson times and teachers, seems to prioritize a cafeteria-like experience over consistency in lessons or teachers. I believe though, if we ignore standard practice in eikaiwa and instead look at the recommendations (or rather, the assumptions) made in SLA research, the problem of scheduling in eikaiwa begins to look like an industry-wide one. To take an extreme case first, many eikaiwa adopt breezy 30- or 40-minute-per-week schedules for young learners, a pace which has been criticized as unproductive or even demotivating (Lightbown and Spada, 2006). For adults as well, one lesson per week invites the perception that learning a language takes roughly as much dedication as watching an episode of SMAPxSMAP. The theoretical underpinnings for the most commonly embraced ELT methods heavily favor quantities of input (Krashen, 1982), interaction (Long, 1996), or abundant practice in skill-building approaches (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). While a conversation-based method is generally more supportable by SLA research than public schools’ yakudoku (grammar-translation) method (Hino, 1988), excessively light class schedules can render any method ineffective.
While the problem of lackadaisical scheduling is a profound one in the eikaiwa industry, it is also one whose most obvious solution would be a business disaster. Requiring students to attend classes at least three hours a week would conflict not only with students’ expectations but also likely their work, school, family, juku, bukatsu, zangyō, enkai or sābisuzangyō schedules, and result in their quitting. I propose however that at the very least students should have the same instructor every week and some continuity to lessons, and instructors should make clear that in order to improve students will need some additional study outside of the classroom. Assigned homework, shared messageboards, wikis or other social media, or a class library are all possible ways to achieve this well within the reach of eikaiwa schools. Weekly chats with no extracurricular (or indeed curricular) demands placed on the student are a type of service that eikaiwa should avoid if they want to provide education rather than simply entertainment.
Another seductive yet self-defeating practice is the avoidance of explicit teaching methods. Eikaiwa owners and teachers may justify eschewing more didactic approaches by pointing out that most English learners in Japan have had far too much of that kind of approach already in junior high school and high school (Guest, 2000) or university (Nagatomo, 2012). However, banishing grammatical explanation, translation, and explicit negative feedback from the classroom ultimately removes a slew of potentially useful activities and approaches from a teacher’s repertoire. Explicit teaching, nowadays often called focus on form (Long, 1991) has been rehabilitated in recent years after a long period of unfashionableness, as have both judicious use of translation (Folse, 2004) and negative feedback (Ellis, 2006) as part of a communicative approach. In using more explicit teaching methods than their namesake implies, eikaiwa can become complete English schools rather than just fillers of the gaps left by uncommunicative public school English classes.
There are numerous points of pedagogy that teachers can and do argue the efficacy of. There are some practices, though, that show the commercial side of this industry a bit too clearly. It may be worth identifying the places where eikaiwa compromise education in favor of saleability the most, and examining how we can lessen the friction between teaching well and making a living.
There is a tendency in this industry to justify practices by referring to other, worse examples of eikaiwa excess and saying, “at least we don’t do that”. NOVA used to be our point of reference; now GABA seems to hold that title (McCrostie, 2014). Readers of this article are presumably interested in being not only successful eikaiwa teachers, but successful teachers in every sense. If this article does its job, then the industry in which we work will be a bit closer to rehabilitation in the eyes of the public, other educators, and ourselves.
Appleby, R. (2013). Desire in Translation: White Masculinity and TESOL. TESOL Quarterly 47.1, 122-147.
Bailey, K. (2006). Marketing the eikaiwa wonderland: ideology, akogare, and gender alterity in English conversation school advertising in Japan. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24.1, 105-130.
Bailey, K. (2007). Akogare, Ideology, and ‘Charisma Man’ Mythology: Reflections on ethnographic research in English language schools in Japan. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 14.5, 585-608.
Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The Psychology of Second Language Acquisition [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from amazon.com.
Ellis, R. (2006). Current Issues in the Teaching of Grammar: An SLA Perspective. TESOL Quarterly 40.1, 83-107.
Folse, K. S. (2004). Vocabulary Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Guest, M. (2000). “But I have to teach grammar!”: An analysis of the role “Grammar” plays in Japanese university entrance examinations. The Language Teacher 24.11, 23-29.
Hino, N. (1988). Yakudoku: Japan’s Dominant Tradition in Foreign Language Learning. JALT Journal 10.1, 45-55.
Jones, P. E. (1995). Contradictions and unanswered questions in the Genie case: A fresh look at the linguistic evidence. Language and Communication 15.3, 261–280.
Kelsky, K. (2001). Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Kubota, R. (2011a). Learning a foreign language as leisure and consumption: enjoyment, desire, and the business of eikaiwa. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 14.4, 473-488.
Kubota, R. (2011b). Questioning linguistic instrumentalism: English, neoliberalism, and language tests in Japan. Linguistics and Education 22, 248–260.
Kubota, R. and McKay, S. (2009). Globalization and Language Learning in Rural Japan: The Role of English in the Local Linguistic Ecology. TESOL Quarterly 43.4, 593-609.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding Language Teaching: From Method to Postmethod [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
Lightbown, P. and Spada, N. (2006). How Languages Are Learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Long, M. H. (1991). Focus on form: a design feature in language teaching methodology. In K. de Bot, R. Ginsberg & C. Kramsch (Eds.) Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective (pp. 39–52). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. Handbook of second language acquisition 2, 413-468.
McConnell, D. L. (2000). Importing Diversity: Inside Japan’s JET Program [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from amazon.com.
Muñoz, C. and Singleton, D. (2011). A critical review of age-related research on L2 ultimate attainment. Language Teaching 44.1, 1-35.
NOVA. (n.d.) NOVAジュニアレッスンの特徴 NOVA junia ressun no tokuchō (NOVA junior lesson characteristics) [Online]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nova.co.jp/
Patkowski, M. (1980). The sensitive period for the acquisition of syntax in a second language. Language Learning 30.2, 449-468. Seiha Network Co., Ltd. (2012). ハロークラブコース harō kurabu kōsu (Hello Club Course) [Online]. Retrieved from http://www.seiha.com/school/english/hello_01.html.
Note 2023: This is an article that I wrote for the newsletter of the School Owners’ SIG in JALT, which has disappeared behind a paywall. Hat tip to Daniel Hooper for citing it (here and here) and therefore reminding me that it even existed. The original citation was:
Makino, M. (2016). A taxonomy of eikaiwa schools. JALT School Owners SIG Newsletter,3, 4-11.
Eikaiwa, private English language academies, despite their presence and influence in Japanese society, have not had their teaching practicing made the subject of much academic writing up to the present. In this article, in the interests of separating this gargantuan industry into bite-sized chunks, a tentative three-part classification scheme will be introduced.
The private English teaching industry known as eikaiwa forms a large and influential part of English education in Japan. Summarizing the practices of eikaiwa schools across Japan, however, is difficult as they are not subject to the regulatory power of MEXT or any other central authority. Further, the low status of the industry breeds a sort of affected contempt for it rather than interest: eikaiwa have been unflatteringly compared to fast food (Appleby, 2013), but in truth this analogy only makes them even more crucial to study. Just as one could not form a complete picture of the American Diet without taking into account Subway and McDonald’s, one cannot fully describe English education in Japan, or the educational backgrounds of many Japanese individuals, without considering the influence of eikaiwa. With that in mind, the following and perhaps not much else can be said with some confidence about the educational practices of the eikaiwa industry:
First, eikaiwa employ native speakers (NSs) in much greater numbers than other educational institutions, with great claims about the benefits of learning from NSs in advertising (Seargeant, 2009). NSs, typically portrayed as caucasian males, are also used to appeal to students’ romantic and globalist aspirations (Bailey, 2006; Kelsky, 2001; Kubota and McCay, 2009; Kubota, 2011). The role of NSs is perhaps the most widely acknowledged facet of eikaiwa, and no doubt plays a large part in its appeal to many demographics of learners.
Second, eikaiwa are often the only source of English classes for children under the age of 10 and adults not in higher education. Although the recent trend worldwide and in Japan is for elementary schools to offer English at younger and younger ages, many eikaiwa begin recruiting before children’s first birthdays, giving them almost a decade-long monopoly before elementary schools’ foreign language activities begin. Adults, in the absence of a community college system, are similarly restricted in their foreign language educational choices. These facts about the industry do not necessarily affect teaching practices, but do make clear the imperative to include eikaiwa in any full description of the English learning ecology in Japan.
Last, eikaiwa tend to avoid the grammar-translation approach seen in mandatory education in favor of some form of communicative language teaching (CLT). My own research indicates that eikaiwa do not entirely eschew explicit teaching methods (Makino, 2014), but published research (Bailey, 2007; Seargeant, 2009; Kubota, 2011; Appleby, 2013) indicates that free conversation is a very common and preferred class style. It may also be significant that eikaiwa websites seem to avoid terms such as “study” or “effort” in describing their classes, implying that eikaiwa prefer not to market their product as a serious or intellectual undertaking. There is evidence that commercial factors affect the operation of courses and lessons, for instance limiting class meetings to a breezy one hour a week and rotating teachers in and out of students’ schedules with little regard to continuity.
Non-educational factors at other institutions
What else is clear from the ELT literature on Japan is that eikaiwa schools are largely studied more as socio-cultural curiosities than places of learning, almost as if the company of foreigners and a hint of romance were the only products that they offer. While it may go without saying that the commercial interests of eikaiwa influence their classroom practices, there are influences from similarly non-educational sources on English classes in mandatory and tertiary education as well. Mandatory education, for our purposes including high school, has its priorities affected (some would say determined) by washbackfrom university and high school entrance examinations (Guest, 2000), which themselves are not reliable gauges of achievement in English study (Cook, 2013). While employment practices at eikaiwa may be justifiably criticized for emphasizing various factors over teaching experience, schooling at pre-tertiary levels suffers from similar problems; only a small percentage of high school English teachers have any training in ELT (Browne and Wada, 1998). The widespread practice of grammar-translation in junior high and high schools seems to be the result of historical factors rather than SLA theory of any kind (Hino, 1988). In short, there is no reason to treat eikaiwa as uniquely corrupted by non-academic concerns.
Eikaiwa are ripe for serious study of their pedagogical practices. However, at least two factors stand in the way of this, the first being the aforementioned lack of a curriculum-setting body such as MEXT. While junior high and high schools have been shown to roundly ignore at least some MEXT teaching guidelines as in the case of CLT (Nishino and Watanabe 2008), for the eikaiwa industry there simply are no guidelines to follow or to ignore. Eikaiwa schools are likely to differ from one another in many ways, and information on them is likely to be limited to how they wish to portray themselves via advertising. This brings us to the second factor standing in the way of serious study of eikaiwa, which is the priority that these private institutions place on keeping their practices secret as well as their lack of potential benefit from research on them. Eikaiwa have been shown to resist the attention of researchers (Kubota, 2011), and what research has been conducted has largely been participant research which may be difficult to generalize from. There is precious little we can say for certain that a past eikaiwa student is likely to have experienced.
To the eventual end of generating research examining the pedagogical content of eikaiwa, I would like to propose a preliminary scheme to use as a starting point when classifying eikaiwa schools. Note that I have intentionally included only physical eikaiwa in this list; online English classesmay be considered part of the eikaiwa landscape but they differ in significant ways, therefore I have opted not to include them here.
The big chains, e.g. NOVA, Aeon, Amity, and recently GABA seem responsible for most of the negative image that the industry as a whole now holds. From NOVA’s very high-profile bankruptcy to recent scandals involving sexual harassment at GABA (McCrostie, 2014), most news coverage of the eikaiwa industry stems from these relatively few companies. The employment practice of plucking unpracticed and untrained teachers from the BANA countries is quite likely to be limited to these companies (with the exception, of course, of the JET Programme) which are unique in having the resources to recruit internationally, sometimes from field offices in the BANA countries, as well as having the administrative manpower to sponsor visas.
Pedagogically, chains seem to offer more structured lessons complete with syllabi than other types of eikaiwa, and many feature or require proprietary materials to be purchased by students. In light of the fast food analogy introduced earlier, these could be seen as part of an effort by large companies to provide a more uniform lesson/cheeseburger across all its locations, at the expense of the personal touch provided by a particular teacher/deep fryer. Scheduling, which at some chains allows students to come to any lessons their schedules allow, may provide convenience at the expense of continuity of lesson plans or even teachers, again increasing the need to create standardization in other ways.
It should also be noted that a small number of regional chains exist which bridge the gap between the “cottage industry” eikaiwa to be outlined in the following section and the nationwide chains. It remains to be studied how these smaller chains see themselves and how their practices differ from the chains that are household names across Japan.
Cottage Industry Eikaiwa
This smaller, individually-owned type of eikaiwa has been featured recently in an article by Nagatomo (2013) in which she refers to eikaiwa run at home as a “cottage industry”. There are numerous schools of similar scale however which are not necessarily run from home or on a part-time basis. Some of these schools are no doubt meant to be the sole means of support for a family.
In terms of educational practices at these smaller eikaiwa, a few things can be said as a matter of probability. The first is that demographically, teachers hired by smaller eikaiwa are more likely to be long-term residents of Japan, due to visa sponsoring being unnecessary for those already with visas from other sources. With that may come greater levels of experience in language teaching, although not necessarily in a wide variety of contexts. I discovered in my Master’s thesis research (Makino, 2014) that a large number of eikaiwa teachers also hold advanced degrees in TESOL, meaning that a long career in eikaiwa sometimes includes qualifications that might enable one to work in other contexts. There may be differences in terms of binding schools policies as well; the English-only policies at chains like NOVA are well known, but Kubota (2011) found that smaller eikaiwa may conduct classes in Japanese as well. Last, smaller eikaiwa are less likely to publish their own coursebooks and other materials, limiting them to either commercially available textbooks or their own materials written on an amateur basis. This could be said to remove some control by the schools over their lesson planning, but also removes a frequently invasive commercial aspect of the eikaiwa industry.
A distinction between smaller eikaiwa which may prove salient is the owners’ intentions and the schools’ potentials for growth. There are some schools which never plan on growing beyond the one-teacher stage (mine, for example) and others which hire additional teachers as soon as they are able. Looking at the websites of eikaiwa across Japan there is a yawning chasm of seriousness of commercial intent evident in their web pages, some of which list their endowments and feature official school Twitter feeds, and others which are basically colorful frames for e-mail addresses. Another factor may be the L1 and background of the owner; a small minority of eikaiwa consist of single-location schools owned by Japanese, some of whom are teachers at their schools and some of which are not. Whether this reflects other differences is not clear, however it stands to reason that schools for which the owner is not a teacher may prioritize business for no other reason than the fact that it must pay a minimum of two people’s salaries.
Community centers, Missionary-affiliated schools, and other “amateur Eikaiwa”
Kubota’s (2011) study of eikaiwa in a mid-sized town included as subjects a “non-profit Christian Organization” and an informal group of housewives who rented space in a community center. Cost aside (fees at both were a fraction of the tuition at the franchised eikaiwa from the same town) there are good reasons to expect the operation of classes at these and other informal schools to differ from schools which have their own facilities and in particular from chains. First and most obvious is the student body; students who form their own classes are likely to be similar demographically and motivationally. They are also probably less likely to drop out and join up with as much frequency as those at schools where students are free to take classes at different times with different classmates. Students in Kubota’s (2011) study were highly motivated by the privileged place English holds as a symbol of internationalism and the world outside Japan. It seems likely but remains unknown whether students who are more motivated by specific job-related goals tend to join more recognized or established eikaiwa.
It is to be hoped that research on classroom practices in eikaiwa will continue as long as the schools continue to exert an effect on English education in Japan. One may not expect entirely good things when studying private-market education; in fact eikaiwa may be due for a book-length dissection along the lines of books written on fast food in recent years. It may also turn out that eikaiwa are a more reliable investment of educational resources than other private-market choices such as juku or even the current eight years of English in public education. If eikaiwa really is like fast food, let’s get some nutrition labels on it so we can know just what our students are putting in their brains.
Appleby, R. (2013). Desire in Translation: White Masculinity and TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 47(1), 122-147.
Bailey, K. (2006). Marketing the eikaiwa wonderland: ideology, akogare, and gender alterity in English conversation school advertising in Japan. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24(1), 105-130.
Bailey, K. (2007). Akogare, Ideology, and ‘Charisma Man’ Mythology: Reflections on ethnographic research in English language schools in Japan. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 14(5), 585-608.
Browne, C. M. and Wada, M. (1998). Current Issues in High School English Teaching in Japan: An Exploratory Survey. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 11(1), 97-112.
Cook, M. (2013). The multipurpose entrance examination: Beliefs of expatriate ELT faculty. The Language Teacher, 37(1), 9-14.
Guest, M. 2000. “But I have to teach grammar!”: An analysis of the role “Grammar” plays in Japanese university entrance examinations. The Language Teacher, 24(11), 23-29.
Hino, N. (1988). Yakudoku: Japan’s Dominant Tradition in Foreign Language Learning. JALT Journal, 10(1), 45-55.
Kelsky, K. (2001). Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
Kubota, R. (2011). Learning a foreign language as leisure and consumption: enjoyment, desire, and the business of eikaiwa. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(4), 473-488.
Kubota, R. and McKay, S. (2009). Globalization and Language Learning in Rural Japan: The Role of English in the Local Linguistic Ecology. TESOL Quarterly, 43(4), 593-609.
Makino, M. (2014). Explicit or Implicit Teaching Methods as Determined by Native-speaker Status at Japan’s Eikaiwa Schools (Unpublished MA Dissertation). University of Leicester.
Nishino, T. and Watanabe, M. (2008). Communication-oriented Policies Versus Classroom Realities in Japan. TESOL Quarterly, 42(1), 133-138.Seargeant, P. 2009. The Idea of English in Japan. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters.
Note from 2023: This is my MA thesis, written in 2014. My main thoughts reading this today are “wow, eikaiwa really consumed my life” and “why can’t I write organized paragraphs”. Still, this was enough to get an A and lead me into a totally new, unrelated-to-eikaiwa phase of my career. Enjoy, if you can!
Eikaiwa (private-market English academies) are an unofficial but widespread and influential component of Japan’s educational culture. Most research to date on the eikaiwa industry has been sociopolitical in nature, and leaves the question of what eikaiwa actually do in their roles as schools unposed. This thesis partially fills that gap by studying the classroom practices of eikaiwa teachers across Japan.
In doing so, this thesis draws on knowledge from two areas of SLA research: Native-speakerism, which has strong racial and political components in Japan; and linguistic evidence, in the technical sense of material for the building or revising of interlanguage hypotheses. A pattern exists in public and tertiary education in Japan of explicit evidence being presented by Japanese teachers, with implicit evidence left to be provided by native speaker teachers. This thesis attempts to find a similar pattern among eikaiwa teachers.
Quantitative and qualitative surveys are conducted on eikaiwa teachers working in a variety of contexts and locations across Japan. The results do not support the existence of a strong binary division of native-speaking and non-native-speaking teachers in eikaiwa as seen in other contexts in Japan. Rather, eikaiwa teachers, whether native-speaking or not, seem to implement a broadly communicative method with a component of explicit instruction, in line with the recommendations of much current SLA writing.
The thesis concludes with discussions on why eikaiwa teachers may feel disinclined to follow the patterns established in other milieus in Japanese education, and why those other milieus seem more hesitant than eikaiwa to embrace methods supported by SLA research.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1. Native-speakerism and the Idea of English in Japan
2.1.1. Examination English versus Authentic English
2.1.2. English in Mandatory and Tertiary Education
2.2. Feedback and Evidence
2.2.1. Relevant Theories of SLA
2.2.2. Explicit and Implicit Knowledge and Teaching
Chapter 3: Survey Methods
3.1. Quantitative Methods
3.2. Qualitative Methods
Chapter 4: Results
4.1. Quantitative Results
4.2. Qualitative Results
Chapter 5: Implications and Suggestions for Further Research
Chapter 6: Conclusions p. 73
Appendix A: Survey Consent Form and Questions
Appendix B: E-mail Request for Participation
Appendix C: Qualitative Survey Questions
List of graphs and tables
Table 1: Years of experience teaching English and ages
Table 2: Responses with t-values for NS and NNS samples
Table 3: Correlations among items measuring explicit stances using linear regression analysis
Table 4: Correlations among items measuring implicit stances using linear regression analysis
Table 5: Mean responses for types of evidence with t-values for NS and NNS participants
Table 6: Mean responses for types of evidence with t-values for explicit and implicit stances
Table 7: Qualitative research participants with nationalities and ages
List of Acronyms
ALTassistant language teacher
BANABritain, Australia, North America
CLTcommunicative language teaching
ELT English language teaching
L1/L2 first/second language
MEXTMinistry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology
PPP present, practice, produce
SLA second language acquisition
TL target language
TOEIC Test of English for International Communication
Chapter 1: Introduction
English conversation schools, or eikaiwa, are an integral part of Japan’s educational culture. There exists substantial research on Japanese learners of English in other contexts, whether in public education (e.g. Sakui 2004) or higher education (McVeigh 2002; 2006). There is also plentiful research on Japanese education and beliefs on learning in general (Peak 1998; Russel 1998; Cowie 2006), as well as on the socio-political aspects of eikaiwa (Kelsky 2001; Bailey 2007). However, there is yet very little pedagogical research on eikaiwa in its educational role as a complement to the main sources of education in Japan. This thesis represents an attempt to start filling that gap in the literature.
For those not living in Japan, it can be hard to illustrate just how commonplace eikaiwa are. The private foreign language industry as a whole made more than 120 billion yen (approximately 1.3 billion US Dollars) in 2010 (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry 2012), down from a peak of 375 billion yen just from eikaiwa in 2003 (Clarke 2007). Numbers differ (Seargeant 2009; Smart 2010), but all sources indicate that the industry has shrunk over the past decade but remains massive. The city of roughly 130,000 (Fujinomiya City Office n.d.) that I reside in has at least seven eikaiwa including the one which I own and teach at; a metropolis like Tokyo or Osaka will have hundreds. A simple but not very flattering comparison for the industry’s ubiquitousness is “the McDonalds of English teaching” (Appleby 2013, p. 142). Indeed, trying to describe the state of English teaching in Japan while ignoring eikaiwa would be like trying to describe the state of nutrition in the United States without considering fast food. Good or bad, its influence demands attention.
The eikaiwa industry is also set in a society with very particular expectations of language teachers. In many teaching contexts in Japan, expectations of the methods to be practised are delineated by the perceived native speaker (NS) or non-native speaker (NNS) status of the teacher, which is conflated with both national identity and race. That is, specific ELT classroom practices, including use of the students’ L1, translation, and test preparation are broadly seen as the domain of Japanese teachers, while non-Japanese teachers are expected to teach content captured under the nebulous term communication (Geluso 2013). These differing expectations are codified in different job titles and responsibilities at every level of education, from primary school to university (Nagatomo 2012). The main purpose of this thesis is to examine whether this pattern of NS status determining the degree of explicitness in approach carries over to eikaiwa, which enjoy autonomy from government educational policies and employ teachers from a greater variety of educational and national backgrounds than regular schools.
To determine the degree to which eikaiwa teachers’ methods resemble those practised by teachers in public (state-run) and tertiary education, an analysis of how teachers employ linguistic evidence will be conducted. Evidence may be defined as any material used by learners or presented to learners for the generation or revision of hypotheses about the L2 (Carroll 2001), the current state of the hypotheses composing the learners’ interlanguage (Selinker 1972). This concept will be further divided into explicit and implicit (conscious or unconscious) as well as positive and negative (hypothesis confirming or refuting) types of evidence. The default method of language teaching practised by Japanese teachers in Japanese public and tertiary education is grammar-translation, under which teachers work through a given English text and translate it into Japanese word by word, with no production or interaction demanded of students (Hino 1988). This method, which constitutes an extreme reliance on explicit, conscious knowledge and processing, is respected in Japanese society for its appearance of academic seriousness, while methods which favour implicit evidence such as Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) are disdained as too frivolous for real academics (Nagatomo 2012).
To gauge the patterns of deployment of evidence by eikaiwa teachers, a two-part survey will be conducted of eikaiwa teachers nationwide. The quantitative portion of the survey will measure levels of agreement with various propositions, most having to do with whether respondents practise certain explicit or implicit teaching methods. The qualitative portion of the survey will be conducted with the aim of shedding light on some of the issues affecting the use of particular types of evidence that may not be apparent from the quantitative data. The primary aims of the survey are first, to discover if the NS/NNS status of eikaiwa teachers correlates with different approaches to the use of evidencein the classroom; and second, to determine whether these differences if they exist correspond to the observed differences between NS and NNS teachers in other contexts in Japan. If the responses to the evidence-related survey questions are clearly delineated by the NS status of the speaker, then eikaiwa teachers can be said to follow a similar categorisation scheme to that found in public and tertiary education. This would speak to a deep ideological reason for this split, as eikaiwa are not subject to the curriculum-setting authority of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) as public and tertiary institutions are. If, on the other hand, the same explicit/implicit division correlated with NS status is not found, then the division seen in other educational contexts in Japan must be seen as particular to those institutions and not necessarily a characteristic of Japanese ELT as a whole.
Dichotomous categorisation of NSs and NNSs as language teachers is a controversial topic (Holliday 2006), and care must be taken to understand the circumstances under which it occurs and how it is justified by those who seek to impose it. In the past, native-speakerism has been analysed primarily as a phenomenon benefitting the NS (e.g. Holliday 2013). Japan’s division between Japanese and non-Japanese English teachers represents a twist on this concept, however, as the essential categories remain intact but it is often non-Japanese NSs of English who are disadvantaged by it. Further, little research has been done on how native-speakerism affects the classroom practices of teachers working in contexts with this kind of ideological background. It is hoped that the research accomplished for this paper will shed some light on the practical effects of native-speakerism and similar essentialising ideas.
This thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter 2 will feature a review of relevant literature, particularly of the NS concept and its impact on English teaching in Japan and also on explicit and implicit knowledge and language teaching. Chapter 3 will introduce the survey conducted for this thesis with both its quantitative and qualitative components. In Chapter 4, the results of this survey will be introduced and discussed. The greater implications of the survey and suggestions for further research will be given in Chapter 5, before concluding with Chapter 6. First, I will review relevant literature on the importance of NS/NNS status in Japan as well as the types of evidence outlined above.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
While abundant literature exists on the subjects of evidence and feedback in ELT, little exists on the roles teachers’ identities or prescribed social roles play in deciding how they employ evidence and feedback in their classrooms. A fundamental social role or identity for this thesis is that of the NS, and the role that it plays in delineating teaching roles and responsibilities in Japanese education will be key to understanding how teachers choose to utilise linguistic evidence in lessons. First, the concepts of English and NSs within Japanese society will be explored.
2.1. Native-speakerism and the idea of English in Japan
Three parallel juxtapositions found in Japanese society are crucial to understanding how educational institutions in Japan treat ELT:
Japan versus the world/international society,
Japanese people versus foreigners, and
The Japanese language versus English.
I have elected to call these parallel juxtapositions because in popular discourse, Japan is portrayed as a monoethnic, monolingual nation composed of Japanese people who speak Japanese (Befu 2001; Stanlaw 2004; Lummis et al 2009). Conversely, the world is portrayed as full of foreigners who speak English (Toh 2013; Tsuneyoshi 2013). Official policies on foreign language education have tended to reflect a view of the outside world as English-speaking, perceiving English alternately as a tool for advancing Japan’s interests globally, as a symbol of international status, and as a competitor with Japanese in the nation’s educational priorities (Law 1995; Kawai 2009; Tsuneyoshi 2013). English is not merely a subject or a language, but a powerful symbol of both modernity and the outside world.It is also one which Japan has conspicuously failed to master, being the subject of frequent and ostentatious efforts at educational reform (Nishino and Watanabe 2008), public dissatisfaction (Riley 2009; Seageant 2009) and the site of poor rankings on international tests (Educational Testing Service 2006; 2011), a blot on Japanese education’s otherwise strong reputation.
A particular brand of native-speakerism is part of this ideologically complicated picture as well. While similar to Holliday’s (2006) description of native-speakerism in that “An underlying theme is the ‘othering’ of students and colleagues from outside the English-speaking West” (p. 385), the othered party in the case of Japan is the NS of English, held to be the categorical opposite of the majority Japanese. The notion of the NS as a fount of cultural wisdom and authentic linguistic practices remains true, but these qualities do not translate into universally preferential treatment for NSs. Rather, NSs and NNSs are made into similarly essentialised and discrete groups and given different responsibilities, jobs, and working conditions, without universal preferential treatment for either. These groups are seen to be composed of inner circle (Kachru 1992) white English speakers and ethnically Japanese native Japanese speakers respectively, with intermediates, for instance expanding circle (Kachru 1992) English users, either subsumed into one of the two groups or ignored. This version of native-speakerism is influenced by discourse within Japanese society on the meaning of Japan and Japaneseness, as well as the common folk concept of languages being passed down through blood (Befu 2001). As Seargeant (2013) writes, “the concept of the native speaker while partially shaped by physiological and psycholinguistic facts about human development, is also a product of cultural beliefs about the nature of language” (heading “Introduction”, para. 2). The beliefs on what makes a NS in Japan heavily influence the working environments of English teachers around the nation.
Writing in SLA has tended to take a different view of the NS concept. Recent research has called into question the distinction between NSs and NNSs, not only as teachers but in general (Cook 1999). Rather than seeing them as overarching and non-overlapping categories, authors on SLA have broken down the NS concept into discrete subconcepts which may vary from speaker to speaker (Gass 1998; Doerr 2009; Kramsch 2014). One influential article by Rampton (1990) separates the NS notion into components of expertise, inheritance, and affiliation, distinguishing between the loyalty speakers feel towards a particular language or linguistic culture from their mastery of it as a form of communication. Thus, the scientifically and pedagogically problematic NS concept as deconstructed in applied linguistics writing differs sharply from the NS in the popular imagination.
Although Rampton (1990) meant affiliation as being for a language or community, the language community, ethnicity, and national citizenry may be held to be coterminous by some, as in Japan’s case. One may be a child of immigrants raised in Japan, or conversely, ethnically Japanese but not raised in Japan (Clavel 2014), and have one’s NS status determined by ethnicity rather than language aptitude. A child from an ethnic minority group may, for example, be placed in remedial Japanese language classes despite having been born and raised in Japan and even being a Japanese citizen (Okubo 2009). Views on what constitutes a NS may be projected from Japanese culture onto other cultures (Doerr 2009). As a society with a fairly narrow definition of a NS in its official language (Seargeant 2013), where Rampton’s (1990) expertise, inheritance, and affiliation are not only undifferentiated but extrapolated to ethnicity, race, and national origin, Japanese society may project this definition onto speakers of other languages as well, resulting in essentialist definitions or stereotypes of NSs of a variety of languages, including English.
As targets of this stereotyping, NSs of English are recipients of both favourable and unfavourable discrimination in the hiring process for teaching jobs (Kubota 2009). Speaking of the conflation of the terms native English speaker and white Westerner, Geluso (2013) states:
While this perception may open opportunities for NESTs [native English speaker teachers], the positions made available are often peripheral and serve to marginalize the teacher in relation to the larger learning community or school. (heading “Reception and Role Allocation of NESTs”, para. 1)
Within certain contexts, in Kubota’s (2009) example competing for a job at a public school in the United States, being a NS of the language to be taught may actually work against a teacher, inasmuch as being a NS of a language other than the majority language constitutes being perceived as an outsider. The same may be said for full-time jobs in Japanese public schools. The NS concept does not always work in NSs’ favour, but a valuable point of research on native-speakerism is that in very few contexts are the supposed differences between NSs and NNSs considered irrelevant.
Within Japan, cases between or sharing qualities of both the NS and NNS of English categories are either ignored or subsumed into one of the monolithic categories of foreign or Japanese, with all their cultural and linguistic connotations. As a result, in most contexts, there is no concept of the non-Japanese NNS English teacher. Being a NNS of English as well as non-Japanese therefore constitutes a major disadvantage in the hiring process, in both the private (Bailey 2006) and public sectors (Hayes 2013). Similar problems have been reported for Japanese-American teachers, who share phenotypical characteristics with Japanese but linguistic and cultural background with NSs (Kubota and Fujimoto 2013). I, a descendant of Japanese immigrants to the United States, have been asked to write my Japanese family name in katakana rather than the Chinese ideographs that names are normally written in, katakana being the syllabary used for loan words and foreign names. Additionally, a Japanese-American coworker of mine at an eikaiwa was asked to change his Japanese first name completely to a more stereotypically American-sounding one. The categories of NS/NNS sometimes bend reality to their demands for clear duality.
There exists a school of thought that for the apparent illiberalism and illogic of the NS/NNS dichotomy, it may be a force for good in ELT overall. For one, Hayes (2013) suggests that without categorically different teaching roles for NSs in Japan, i.e. if NSs competed with NNSs for the same jobs, the conservative boards of education and university hiring departments would simply hire Japanese for every job, leaving NSs unemployed. This begs the question of whether this would be a positive development or not for Japanese English education, but surely most NSs would interpret it as an unwelcome possibility. There is clear evidence of discrimination against non-Japanese in other fields with international workforces, such as professional sports (Yoder 2011), which may be mitigated by the existence of categorical separation of Japanese and non-Japanese workers.
Others suggest that the NS/NNS distinction can have a positive effect on teaching, provided that teaching contexts provide ways in which NSs and NNSs can apply their different strengths (Medgyes 1992). There is a view that NNSs can make up for non-native levels of language proficiency in other ways, such as empathy with students and proficiency in the students’ L1, which is an assumption widely made in Japan with regard to people sharing Japanese ethnicity (Befu 2001; Nagatomo 2012; Hayes 2013). The common suggestion that NSs and NNSs should not be mutually exclusive categories of employment (e.g., Holliday 2006; Geluso 2013) would find little sympathy in cultures such as Japan’s which mainly demand unadulterated, authenticembodiments of the TL and its culture from the former and grammatical exposition and analysis from the latter.
Japan is not alone in this positioning of English as either a subject for examinations or the pure domain of white Western NSs. Similar phenomena have been reported for Korea (Park 2009), China (Guo and Beckett 2012) and other Asian countries (Sung 2012). The issues that come to light as a result of study of the strict categorisation of NSs and NNSs in teaching in Japan is likely to have applications elsewhere in the world as well.
Authenticand utilitarian uses of English are at the heart of two prominent ways of viewing the English language within Japanese culture. These will be discussed in the following section.
2.1.1. Examination English versus Authentic English
Within Japanese culture, the concept of English can have different significances in different contexts. The most common approach to English in Japan is English as a subject of study, also called Japan-appropriated English or examination English (McVeigh 2002, p. 41). This is a dissected and highly rationalised version of the English language, taught by junior high school and high school teachers nationwide for the purposes of the monumentally important college entrance examinations. Unlike the English used worldwide as a means of communication, this examinationEnglish is pruned of most of its communicative content and is deployed purely as a means of sorting students by examination score. This means that in the interest of classifying students by their ability to absorb decontextualised information, less productive language items are given priority over more productive ones, and grammatical correctness is valued over comprehensibility (Law 1995; McVeigh 2002).
The effect that entrance examinations have on teaching and learning can hardly be overstated. Examinations have been called the entire point of education in Japan, everything else being subordinate to their influence (McVeigh 2002; 2006; Yoneyama 2007). Having students do well on tests in order to gain entrance to high-name-value universities is the openly stated goal of students, parents, and teachers alike (McVeigh 2002; Nagatomo 2012), meaning washback from these tests, which is blamed for the persistence of non-communicative grammar-translation methods in schooling (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004), is not only a foregone conclusion but a welcome one in the eyes of many. Still, many students express regret over the lack of practical skills in English gained during their mandatory educations (Abe 2013). Unfortunately for them, communicative language skills are simply not the point of examination English.
The other view of English and English learning falls on the international side of the juxtapositions outlined in the previous section, and as such I will call it authentic English, although I mean authentic as Widdowson (1979) uses the term as a counterpart to genuine, authenticity unlike genuineness being simply in the eye of the beholder, potentially more a projection of stereotypes than a reflection of reality. McVeigh (2002, p.168) calls this type of English “fantasy English”, illustrating how wide the gap can be between the authentic and genuine. Unlike examination English, in which English is dismembered and rebuilt to fit pre-existing ideologies of education by examination, authentic English represents a pure experience of the foreign untainted by association with Japanese institutions, similar to Holliday’s native-speakerism (2006) but applied to a wide range of cultural practices.
Authentic English, unlike examination English, is the domain of NSs. The term native speaker itself is symbolic of the phenomenon: In Japanese when referring to inner circle (Kachru 1992) English speakers it is commonly rendered ネーティブスピーカー nētibu supīkā rather than the native Japanese term 母語話者 bogowasha. In this way not only the speakers themselves but the terms describing them are kept isolated from one another (Hashimoto 2013). Women and non-white English speakers do not necessarily share in the fantasy-like essentialising of NSs (Russell 1991; Hayes 2013; Kubota and Fujimoto 2013; Toh 2013), as they may be appraised as less native-like than teachers from the groups designated as the ideal (Seargeant 2013), namely white males who are valued for their presumptive authority in addition to their occidental features (Kelsky 2001). The authentic approach to English and English learning is embodied most obviously in eikaiwa due to its heavy marketing of NSs, but makes appearances wherever NSs can be found teaching, from university foreign language departments to extracurricular communication classes at public schools (Geluso 2013).
Authenticity is responsible for the fantasy-like appearance that English and other ostentatiously foreign items sometimes take on in Japanese society. The slogan of the widespread eikaiwa chain NOVA, “ekimae ryūgaku” or “study abroad in front of the station” (NOVA Holdings Co. Ltd. 2014a), demarcates the English study space as not just a place to learn about another country but another country itself, echoing the parallel dichotomies outlined earlier. The phenomenon of foreign country theme parks, in which exaggerated versions of the appearance and atmosphere of other countries are recreated for Japanese tourists within Japan, along with the curious phenomena of token white wedding officiators, “foreign talent” panelists on television talk shows, and the stock Western visitors to Japan who populate Japanese English textbooks (Matsuda 2002; Seargeant 2005; 2009; Toh 2013), can be laid at the feet of the concept of authenticity when applied to internationalism. What is foreign (genuine or not) in the public arena must be ostentatiously marked to preserve the sanctity of that which is Japanese (Heimlich 2013; Toh 2013). This practice resulting from the premium placed on authentic foreigners and foreign culture may border on comical when applied to objects, but it extends to people as well, resulting in anachronisms such as racial caricatures and non-Japanese being viewed as interchangeable, temporary parts of society (Hashimoto 2013). It also leads to the sidelining of actualopportunities for international exchange within Japan.
English may be valued for its symbolic internationalism even as genuine opportunities for international exchange are ignored. The semi-mystical power attributed to English is made apparent in its described unique ability to let children “soar into the world” (Kubota and McKay 2009, p. 605). This ability is not attributed to the languages of Japan’s closest neighbours, nor the first languages of its largest immigrant groups, which are predominantly from South America or other parts of Asia (Tsuneyoshi 2013). Also, while English from NSs is prized, students have shown antipathy toward Japanese-accented English (Abe 2013; McKenzie 2013), the kind of English Japanese learners are most likely to attain. Books on how to explain Japanese culture to foreigners in English are perennial bestsellers (e.g., Amazon.com Inc. 2014), despite the fact that more tourists to Japan come from other Asian countries than majority English-speaking ones (Japan National Tourism Association 2013). It is apparent that Japan’s own mythical linguistic homogeneity may be projected onto other societies as an assumption of homogeneous English use, even for societies where English is not an official language to start with (Kubota 2011c). Authentic interaction with foreigners and the most likely genuine interaction seem at odds, a fact which may lead to prejudicial expectations of NS or NNS language teachers from students or superiors.
The demand for linguistically pure foreign environments for Japanese to learn authentic English from NSs can be seen to drive the demand for English-only policies in effect in a variety of contexts, from eikaiwa to university. As a NS, having and displaying knowledge of Japanese can in fact be a liability in ELT in Japan, in the senses of both violating the terms of one’s employment contract and of disappointing students who expect interaction with an authentic foreigner (Breckenridge and Erling 2011; Yphantides 2013). A NS English teacher in Japan may find Thornbury’s (2013) advice that “Referencing the learners’ L1 validates their linguistic and cultural identity” (chapter 4, para. 5) likely to backfire, taken as a transgression on rather than a validation of the students’ Japanese identity. Viewpoints on the pedagogical value of English-only policies vary (Ford 2009) but it is likely the sought-after atmosphere of authenticity that accompanies NSs rather than any strictly educational concern that drives their implementation in Japan.
Saliently for this thesis, examination English features a very heavy emphasis on explicit, declarative knowledge of English, and as stated previously, is largely taught through translation into Japanese. The ideology of authenticity cannot be called an educational policy per se, but it clearly has effects on classroom practices, by demanding that English NSs do anything but replicate the practices of their NNS counterparts, in order to maintain the crucial NS/NNS (i.e. foreign/Japanese) distinction. It may be justified therefore to call the effects of the ideology of authenticity de facto promotion of implicit approaches to teaching from NSs. Whether NS and NNS teachers in private markets also feel pressure to conform to examination/authentic English roles as defined in public education is one question the research conducted for this thesis seeks to address.
Examination English has its most enduring role as a tested subject in junior high and high school, as well as a required subject in university, each of which has a small role for authentic English as well. These milieus will be discussed in the following section.
2.1.2. English in Mandatory and Tertiary Education
As discussed in the previous section, the presence of caucasians denotes authentic English, while their absence by default denotes examination English. The categorisation of English type by phenotype is duplicated across a wide variety of learning milieus in Japan, and plays a special role in Japan’s public education system.
English is a required subject for every student in junior high and high school. As stated earlier, the Japanese English teachers at these levels overwhelmingly prefer grammar-translation methods based on the methods used to interpret classical Chinese texts (Hino 1988; Law 1995; Gorsuch 2001) for the purpose of test preparation, placing the mandatory English education squarely on the examination English side of the dichotomy introduced in the last section. There is an element of ritualism in the continued use of this method, in that the focus on manipulating syntactic form and translating discrete vocabulary items is not actually necessitated by the entrance examinations themselves, on which purely form-related or translation questions are unusual (Guest 2000). The disconnect between the exams and the methods used to study them suggest an alternative reason for those methods’ continued use, such as the known lack of ELT training for public school teachers (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004) or a need to maintain teacher control of the class, which modern methods such as CLT might be seen to challenge (Nolasco and Arthur 1986; Holliday 1994). The examinations have also been criticised as poorly designed and useless for both assessment and meaningful sorting (Murphey 2001; Cook 2013), but this has apparently not lessened students’ and teachers’ singleminded drive to succeed at them.
NSs of English within mandatory education are typically assistant language teachers (ALTs), who play a tertiary role both in the classroom and in Japanese education as a whole. Although in this case NSs can often be found working alongside Japanese NNS English teachers, in the case of the ALT position NSs are simply categorised into different and inferior jobs from the NNSs that they work with. ALTs are forbidden to conduct classes on their own, and may visit particular groups of students only a few times per year, severely limiting their effectiveness as educators (Breckenridge and Erling 2011). The constraints of the ALT position sometimes result in claims of racial discrimination (Falout 2013; Kubota and Fujimoto 2013; Masden 2013). Conflicts frequently arise between Japanese English teachers and ALTs due to their perceived and actual differences in duties, with the ALTs most frequently in the disadvantaged position (Hiratsuka 2013). ALTs areoften hired as part of the government-run JET Programme, which recruits mostly from BANA countries with no requirement for training in SLA or teaching (Breckenridge and Erling 2011; Geluso 2013; Hashimoto 2013), again emphasising the importance of authenticity rather than other qualities when dealing with NSs (Matsuda 2003). ALT positions are often limited to a set number of contract renewals (Geluso 2013), formalising NSs’ transient status in Japanese education. Because the ALT system is a part of mandatory education, it can be assumed to have a large effect on the perspective most Japanese citizens have on the allocation of duties between NSs and NNSs.
The same pattern of sidelining of NSs can be observed at universities, where NSs are often given ornamental positions or communication classes not taken seriously by the faculty as a whole (McVeigh 2002; Nagatomo 2012; Houghton 2013; Tsuneyoshi 2013). NS university English teachers are also often excluded from consideration for tenured positions (Masden 2013; Rivers 2013b) instead being limited to a few years’ contract renewals before automatic dismissal (Heimlich 2013; Rivers 2013a; 2013b), a state of affairs decried as academic apartheid (Hall 1998). The use of interchangeable foreign lecturers for international ambience as opposed to serious academic work has been described by McVeigh (2002; 2006) as appearing even at top-tier universities; while at less esteemed institutions hiring practices from the commercial sector have taken root, practices which prioritise personal and marketing-related factors over academic qualifications (Hayes 2013; Hicks 2013; Rivers 2013a). As in junior high and high schools, English NSs and NNSs at universities have their supposed different strengths formalised with different job titles and duties, with NNSs focusing on receptive skills and test preparation done in the students’ L1 (Nagatomo 2012). Not only administrators but also students evaluate their NS and NNS instructors differently and using different criteria (Tanabe and Mori 2013), meaning that the pressure on both groups to conform to their respective roles comes from both above and below.
Teachers and learners who try to bridge the NS/NNS categorisations may experience conflict. English grammar and communication, analogous to the different categories of teacher who teach them, are widely presumed to be separate skills (Law 1995; Matsuura et al 2001). The teaching of both of these, in the domains of examination and authentic English respectively, has been described by Japanese English teachers as wearing “two pairs of shoes” (Sakui 2004, p. 158). Teachers are said to express interest in communicative teaching methods but are not sure of their ultimate utility in examinations (Gorsuch 2001; Sato and Kleinsasser 2004). Although CLT is officially mandated by MEXT for junior high and high schools, it has not found wide acceptance in high school classrooms (Browne and Wada 1998; Gorsuch 2001), particularly those of students aspiring to take university entrance examinations (Guest 2000). Even in the private market world of eikaiwa, while studying for examinations is certainly not banned, several chains do effectively prohibit the grammar-translation method so common in public schools by enacting English-only policies (Yphantides 2013), although at least some appear to do this for both NS and NNS teachers (Aeon Corporation n.d. b). The divide in responsibilities between NSs and NNSs can prove daunting for teachers to attempt to bridge.
Of clear significance also is the aforementioned line that appears to be drawn between grammar and communication, as if one could not be of use for the other. It seems clear that grammar in many teachers’ and students’ minds is equated with the explicitly statable knowledge of grammatical rules that is so valued within examination English (Guest 2000), but whether communication can be assumed to be taught implicitly is unknown. What is clear is that communication, however it is defined,is often left to NS teachers, with the expectation that it will be taught in some way other than that practised most often by their NNS colleagues.
Because unlike mandatory education the eikaiwa industry lies in the private market and is thus more directly affected by consumer demand, eikaiwa schools would seem to be a likely site of many of the practices most influenced by native-speakerism and other ideas surrounding English in Japan. This industry is the topic of the next section.
The eikaiwa industry’s position as a private-market, extracurricular provider of English education means that its practices have some characteristics that set it apart from other institutions. Unfortunately, that same position makes its practices hard to summarise, as there is no equivalent to MEXT regulating it and setting a common curriculum or set of standards. Nonetheless, some generalities can be made from looking at what research exists, as well as the materials made publicly available by eikaiwa schools.
The first generality is that eikaiwa employ large numbers of NSs of English, and not a small number of owners, particularly of non-chain eikaiwa, are NSs as well. The hiring of NS teachers is for ostensibly pedagogical but most likely also business reasons (Kubota and McKay 2009; Kubota 2011b). Eikaiwa make extensive claims for the benefits of learning from NSs, usually called gaikokujin kyoushi (foreigner teachers), in their advertising (Appleby 2013), although this rather parochial denotation is found throughout Japanese education (Houghton 2013). The eikaiwa industry does not have exclusive claim on native-speakerism in Japan, but its advertising makes the most consistent use of that particular ideology (Bailey 2007). Some researchers have noted gendered and romantic components to the marketing of NSs in eikaiwa as well (Bailey 2006), with female or non-white teachers underrepresented or made invisible in schools’ promotional materials. Whatever the reason, more prominent use of NSs in teaching and marketing is one area in which eikaiwa clearly differentiate themselves from state-run and higher educational institutions.
Second, eikaiwa are available to all ages. For obvious reasons, English teaching which falls under the purview of MEXT is limited to young people, with mandatory English education covering ages roughly 10 to 18 (Fennelly and Luxton 2011). Eikaiwa, by contrast, recruit cradle-to-grave in a nearly literal way: Some major chains offer classes to babies before their first birthdays (Amity Corporation n.d.; Seiha Network Co., Ltd. 2012a). The lack of a community college tradition (McVeigh 2002) also means that adults looking to pursue English for business or personal reasons are confined mostly to private market choices. The significance of this is that eikaiwa have a near-monopoly on most demographics of English learners in Japan.
Third, eikaiwa typically embrace some form of CLT, although under a variety of different names (Seargeant 2009), and often claim benefits for their methods in pseudo-scientific terms (Seargeant 2005). This differentiates eikaiwa from public schools and to an extent universities, where teacher-fronted grammar-translation teaching continues to dominate (Matsuura et al 2001; Nishino and Watanabe 2008; Nagatomo 2012). Free conversation with four to seven familiar classmates is not an unusual format for a full class period at eikaiwa (Bailey 2007; Kubota 2011b; Appleby 2013), and promotional materials eschew mention of arduous-sounding “grammar” or “study” (Aeon Corporation n.d. a). If public schools teach about English, eikaiwa embrace the ideal of learning by using English. Indeed, a literal translation of the term eikaiwa is “English conversation”, not “English school”.
The eikaiwa industry has meaning in Japanese society beyond simply language learning. Researchers range in their description of it from a type of consumptive hobby (Kubota 2011b) to “edutainment” (Rivers 2013a), “lifestyle fantasy” (Seargeant 2005), or a quasi-dating service (Bailey 2006). Although eikaiwa usually refer to themselves as schools, it is apparent that many factors have precedence over education. Image and personality often supersede professional qualifications and experience in hiring (Appleby 2013), and scheduling is sometimes designed to get students in the door rather than provide any consistency in curriculum or the teachers that students see (Kubota 2011b). One of the most salient characteristics of the eikaiwa industry however is the commodification of the supposedly English-speaking Western or world culture, usually transmitted through an idealised Western male teacher (Kubota and McKay 2009). Since as has been discussed in the previous section the West and the world are often conflated with each other as the opposite of Japan, commodification of the West in eikaiwa can also be viewed as a type of tourist experience, as well as romantic escapism and globalism. Each of these perspectives will be discussed in turn.
The physical positioning of eikaiwa speaks to their status as sellers of a type of commodified participatory practice. National eikaiwa chain NOVA’s slogan “study abroad in front of the station” (NOVA Holdings Co. Ltd. 2014a), referring to Japan’s public train stops, associates English study with other types of commuter-friendly convenience shopping. This consumptive facet of eikaiwa is described by Kubota (2011b, p. 475), who divides those attending eikaiwa into two categories: Those seeking cultural capital, in this case the ability to communicate in a new language, and those seeking a form of leisure. She suggests that pursuers of casual(i.e., non-skill-building) leisurecomprise a large part of the eikaiwa student body. The fact that participation in eikaiwa is an act of consumption is almost tautological given its status as a business, but the idea that it may have more in common with renting movies than with attending community college classes seems novel. Many eikaiwa students seem to regard it as more a hobby than a serious pursuit, and their lack of consistent attendance and quick abandonment of it (Kubota 2011b) are testimony to this.
Much more has been written about the hint of sexuality that is a part of eikaiwa. According to multiple authors, eikaiwa target young women’s akogare (longing) for white Western men and all that they represent (Kelsky 2001; Bailey 2006; 2007; Kubota and McKay 2009; Seargeant 2009; Kubota 2011b; Appleby 2013), and this focus is apparent in eikaiwa marketing, hiring, and educational practices. It is overwhelmingly white men and not non-whites or women who appear in eikaiwa advertisements, often in the company of an adult female Japanese student as part of a prototypical eikaiwa teacher-student dyad (Bailey 2006). Female teachers and non-white NSs are disadvantaged by this positioning of the white male as the ideal NS (Kelsky 2001; Bailey 2006; Seargeant 2009), eikaiwa owners having been known to explicitly state their required phenotypical traits for prospective employees (Bailey 2007).
The romantic facets of eikaiwa are closely related to the globalist aspirations they often appeal to. Kubota (2011b) asserts that students participate in eikaiwa to become part of an “imagined community” (Anderson 2006) of English speakers. Eikaiwa make frequent appeals to vague concepts of internationalisation and globalism, particularly among women (Seargeant 2009). Clearly, the appeal of internationalism is not limited to women, but within the world of eikaiwa international society is portrayed as the opposite of Japan’s still heavily patriarchal society, a place where women can use their language skills to advance their careers in ways that would not be possible in a typical Japanese working environment (Kelsky 2001; Bailey 2006; Bailey 2007; Kubota 2011a).
A weakness of much of the research on eikaiwa, particularly on the advertising of it, is that many eikaiwa are in fact too small to advertise, and are in a sense swept up in the ideological trends set by the major chains. If eikaiwa chains may be compared to McDonald’s (Appleby 2013), smaller eikaiwa would be akin to family-run hamburger restaurants, who as a “cottage industry” lack recognition despite a relatively large market share (Nagatomo 2013). Smaller eikaiwa may differ from chains in many ways. For example, Kubota (2011b) found that many NS teachers in her study of smaller eikaiwa spoke Japanese during classes, a practice proudly prohibited by national chain NOVA (Seargeant 2005; NOVA Holdings Co. Ltd. 2014b). Small eikaiwa are numerous, and as many have only one full-time teacher, are hard to find a place for in big-picture descriptions of the industry.
As has been shown, the social roles that eikaiwa teachers and students play have been the subject of copious research. While this research may have implications for teaching practices, very little (none, in fact, that this researcher could find) has been accomplished specifically on teaching practices within the eikaiwa industry. One may assume that an industry which appeals to the aspirational and integrationist sides of language learning would dissuade its teachers from traditional teacher-fronted structural approaches, but this is a mere supposition, not an assertion based on evidence. This thesis will attempt to fill this gap in the literature by analysing eikaiwa teachers’ practices through the lens of the concept of evidence, which is the topic of the following section.
2.2. Feedback and Evidence
The question of how teachers choose to use evidence in the classroom is closely tied to theories and assumptions about how languages are learned. As will be shown, in many contexts in Japan these theories and assumptions reflect economic or sociological traits of the milieus in which English is being taught rather than anyone’s idea of best practices in ELT. Still, both the grammar-translation methods found in public and tertiary education and the brand of CLT promoted in eikaiwa have historical precedent and ties to current and former prominent theories of SLA. Before addressing evidence directly, these theories which contextualise evidence in the language learning process will be discussed.
2.2.1. Relevant Theories of SLA
The concept of evidence is central to the formation of theories of SLA. Evidence is defined as material for analysis of the language system (Carroll 2001). So defined, it may take any number of forms, for instance an example written on the blackboard by the teacher, a request for clarification by another learner during conversation, or a richly diagrammed metalinguistic exposition. A similar concept is input (Krashen 1982), also called stimulus (Carroll 2001), which represents instances of TL use available in some form to the learner. Evidence unlike input may take non-TL forms, such as a confused glance in response to a problematic utterance or an exegesis on a particular TL grammar point written in the learner’s L1 rather than the TL (N. C. Ellis 2005). Feedback is a subset of evidence which takes place after learner output, such as an explicit correction or request for clarification (Leeman 2007). Both evidence and feedback may be further classified as positive (hypothesis-confirming) or negative (hypothesis-refuting) (Carroll 2001). Finally, intake is input which has been processed by or incorporated into the students‘ interlanguage (Schmidt 1993; Skehan 1998; Carroll 2001; N. C. Ellis 2005). Each of these is used to varying degrees to construct theories of SLA.
Positive evidence is given pride of place in Krashen’s (1982) influential input hypothesis. Under Krashen’s theory positive evidence is raw material for language acquisition, an unconscious process, which he differentiates from learning, a conscious one. However, Krashen’s theory emphasises implicit learning by exposure to repeated input in the TL rather than simply evidence of the correctness of certain forms; a grammar-translation curriculum full of richly diagrammed example sentences finds little support under his theory (Krashen 1982, p. 128), particularly given that he also proposes that explicit, metalinguistic explanation of grammar does not lead to its acquisition. Krashen’s theory was instrumental in promulgating the now widely accepted division between conscious and unconscious learning, and his input hypothesis remains an often-cited endorsement of implicit teaching methods (Richards and Rodgers 2001).
Starting in the 1970s, a slew of student-centred methods has become predominant in ELT research and writing. Foremost among these is CLT, which has at its heart the widely acknowledged notion that some kind of meaningful interaction is necessary for SLA (Richards and Rodgers 2001). This approach is viewed positively by students in Japan, naturally for eikaiwa but also at the university level to an extent (Sakui and Gaies 1999; Matsuura et al 2001), although its practice is sporadic (Nagatomo 2012). Much like purely structural syllabi have long since fallen out of favour (R. Ellis 1993), a purely communicative methodology, with no explicit component at all, has been increasingly portrayed as outmoded in recent years, with researchers favouring what Dörnyei (2009) calls principled CLT and Long (1991) calls focus on form, which includes explicit treatment of language items. As Widdowson (1990, p. 98) argues, “A communicative approach, properly conceived, does not involve the rejection of grammar.” Whether teachers practising CLT in eikaiwa take this advice and bridge what in Japan are the grammar domain of NNSs to the communication domain of NSs is one issue the survey conducted for this thesis hopes to address.
Feedback and evidence are given a more nuanced role in Long’s (1996) interaction hypothesis. Specifically, modified input as a benefit of interaction aimed at achieving mutual comprehension is posited as an essential ingredient in SLA (Lightbown and Spada 2006). Long (1996) and other authors have proposed a productive role in acquisition for learners’ output as well as input (Swain 1985), a position which Krashen (1998) rejects. Nonetheless, interaction is at the heart of many methods practised within eikaiwa, although this may reflect social impetus rather than reflection upon SLA theory. It is also mostly absent from public school English classes (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004; Nishino 2011), which means that students’ first eikaiwa class may be the first time they are called upon to actually use English as a method of learning it, as opposed to translating it from and into Japanese.
Indeed, it can be difficult to find a place for grammar-translation in ELT given the prominent roles of inputand interaction in modern SLA theories. In fact, the grammar-translation method cannot confidently be described as representative of any theory of SLA at all but rather an artefact of educational and cultural history (Hino 1988), as it was never intended to teach anything but grammatical competence in the written language and has virtually no support among SLA theorists (Richards and Rodgers 2001; Dörnyei 2009). This interpretation of grammar-translation makes sense in light of Japan’s examination-oriented educational culture, in which as McVeigh (2002) writes, testability and measurement of pure effort are prioritised over real-world utility of the skills being tested. The availability of input in a grammar-translation class is greatly hindered by the emphasis on the translated product rather than the TL material (Krashen 1982; Hino 1988), and the evidence available is often limited to L1 lectures about the TL rather than in it (Nagatomo 2012). Both positive and negative evidence may be said to exist in grammar-translation, but of a very indirect nature. Grammar-translation may be best seen as what fills the gap in teaching methodology in the absence of any theory of SLA, as hinted at by grammar-translation teachers’ utter confusion when asked how students actually learn English (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004).
Popular concepts of effective language teaching often differ from what holds sway in SLA journals and academic discussions. Likewise, prevalent methods of language teaching, as discussed earlier, may simply be the most marketable rather than the most effective. As has been shown, the most prevalent teaching methodology in Japan is not based on any SLA research at all, but rather historical and social factors. In the next section, the concepts explicit or implicit knowledge and teaching, which helped to differentiate and define the theories of SLA discussed here, will be explored in greater detail.
2.2.2. Explicit and Implicit Knowledge and Teaching
Unlike the terms NS and NNS, which are heavy with sociocultural meaning but hard to pin down scientifically, the difference between explicit and implicit knowledge is widely considered in SLA literature to be supported by contemporary neuroscience (R. Ellis 2004; N. C. Ellis 2005). However, defining the terms implicit and explicit is complicated by a number of competing definitions for the same words as well as similar concepts. First, the terms explicit and implicit themselves have been described as inconsistently defined (DeKeyser 1994; Schmidt 1994; N. C. Ellis 2005). Parallel or overlapping terms for identical concepts may be used, such as conscious/unconscious,declarative/procedural, or didactic/communicative for explicit and implicit respectively, with some subtle differences (R. Ellis 1993; Van Patten 1994; R. Ellis and Sheen 2006). Further, explicit and implicit teaching methods must be considered as separate concepts from explicit and implicit knowledge; as what is taught explicitly is not necessarily stored as explicit and verbalisable knowledge; and likewise the hypotheses generated from implicit evidence may be formulated explicitly rather than left unformulated (i.e. implicit) within students’ minds. Presentation and storage must be considered separately. In this section, explicit and implicit knowledge will be discussed before explicit and implicit teaching methods.
Explicit knowledge is likely the easier of the two concepts to grasp, since by definition knowledge stored explicitly is available for conscious reflection. SLA researchers have called it knowledge “that” as opposed to knowledge “how” (Anderson 1989, cited in Skehan 1998), or that which is verbalisable or reportable (Schmidt 1994). Explicit knowledge of language often takes the form of statable rules, frequent examples from Japanese English education being metalinguistic terms such as 第１文型 dai-ichi bunkei (“sentence form 1”) or 第２文型 dai-ni bunkei (“sentence form 2”) used to refer to the subject-verb and subject-verb-complement sentence orders. Because explicit knowledge must be available for conscious reflection, use of metalanguage reflects explicit rather than implicit knowledge (R. Ellis 2004). As grammar-translation classes rely heavily on metalanguage, a bias towards explicit knowledge of English can be clearly seen within Japanese education.
Implicit knowledge, conversely, is that which is not conscious or available for reflection or analysis. Studies on the implicit learnability of abstract patterns have proved that such patterns can be recognised without explicit instruction; however SLA researchers debate the applicability of these studies to their field (DeKeyser 1994). That being said, SLA researchers do not generally doubt the existence or importance of implicit, unconscious and unanalysed learning or knowledge. Children, for instance, are held to have no explicit knowledge of language until after 5 years old, meaning that children before this age use only implicit knowledge to achieve fluent and grammatical speech (N. C. Ellis 2005). Most theorists agree that the bulk of what we call competence in language is made up of implicit knowledge (N.C. Ellis 2002). Thus, the de-emphasis observed in Japanese public schools on implicit knowledge may be equated with a de-emphasis on most forms of linguistic competence in favour of explicitly formulated, and therefore more easily testable, knowledge.
Theorists disagree on what mechanisms may exist to turn explicit knowledge to implicit. The gradient positions on the availability of explicit knowledge for the creation of implicit knowledge are termed the non-interface, weak interface, and strong interface positions (R. Ellis 2006). Krashen’s non-interface position, in which explicit knowledge is held to have no role in the formation of implicit knowledge, is refuted by more recent research (e.g. N. C. Ellis 2005; R. Ellis 2006), and criticised as being poorly defined and circular (Skehan 1998). R. Ellis (1993) embraces the weak interface position, claiming that explicit teaching may assist in the intake of later input, while other theorists advocate that practice is sufficient to turn explicit knowledge into implicit, which is called the strong interface position (Sharwood Smith 1981). Note that all threepositions require practice or copious inputfor the formation of implicit knowledge; none suggest explicit knowledge alone can account for linguistic competence.
As for teaching methods, as with explicit linguistic knowledge, recent research has appeared to redeem explicit language teaching after a long period of disfavour. This has not come at the expense of implicit methods as a whole but rather purely implicit methods, as researchers largely maintain the central role of meaningful interaction in successful SLA (R. Ellis 1993; 2006). Explicit instruction has been said to make grammatical features more noticeable and apt to be acquired (N. Ellis 1994), increasing the efficiency of implicit methods, a process R. Ellis (1993) calls intake facilitation and Sharwood Smith (1993) calls input enhancement. Some researchers maintain that the supposed superiority of implicit methods has always been a myth, for vocabulary (Folse 2004), grammar (Dekeyser 1994) and even for young learners (Harley 1994).
Somewhat ironically, explicit instruction is sometimes held to be even more valuable in classes with an overall communicative or content-oriented thrust, such as CLT or content learning in language (CLIL) (Spada 1997, cited in Spada 2011) to allow for greater intake facilitation (R. Ellis 1993) of the copious amounts of input that those methods present. A key point is that explicit instruction has been suggested to be a valuable supplement but not a replacement for input and meaningful practice. Student access to sufficient quantities of input after explicit instruction is not guaranteed. Even when tasked with teaching a long reading passage instructors may essentially convert it into a de facto structural syllabus to be translated rather than read as Nagatomo (2012) observed in a university English class. Explicit instruction may have value in increasing the efficiency of sufficient input or practice, but not as a replacement for them.
The effectiveness of implicit or explicit teaching styles may depend on a number of variables, one of them being the particular point to be taught (DeKeyser 1994; Mackey 2007). Rules that would be hard to infer strictly from positive evidence are said to be candidates for explicit treatment, as are L1 transfer errors and errors stemming from over-application of a rule (Inagaki 2002; N.C. Ellis 2005). A canonical example is the placement of adverbs. Because allowable placements of adverbs in English form a subset of the allowable placements in French, it can be difficult for French learners of English to notice that one placement (between the verb and object, as in he drank quickly milk) is disallowed in English. Researchers have found an advantage for explicit teaching of this rule (White 1991; cited in DeKeyser 1994). The importance of explicit instruction seems tied to the difficulty learners have in noticing (Schmidt 1993) points on their own; thus researchers see advantages in explicitly teaching the areas of grammatical competence that would not be salient in natural input.
Infrequency and inconsistency of input has been cited as a limiting factor on the efficacy of purely implicit methods, as language classes may meet as little as an hour a week. Infrequent class meetings clearly limit the ability of the teacher to provide redundant presentation of target forms and impart salience to particular language items through repetition (N. C. Ellis and Sagarra 2010). This is a problem for teachers in a variety of milieus, and constitutes another potential weakness to a purely implicit teaching style: That which is introduced explicitly may be more likely to be available for reflection outside the classroom, a phenomenon by which explicit knowledge has been said to provide “hooks” (Lightbown 1985). Purely implicit teaching styles may therefore be especially unsuited for eikaiwa because of their leisurely, sporadic class schedules (Kubota 2011b). Teachers who see their students daily, e.g. public school teachers, could feasibly see more positive results from implicit teaching styles than teachers whose class meetings are more limited.
Turning from teaching styles back to evidence itself, there also exist conflicting views on the availability of positive (hypothesis-confirming) and negative (hypothesis-refuting) evidence for improving implicit knowledge of the L2. While many researchers reject the utility of negative evidence for building fluency in a L1 (e.g. Pinker 1989), processes and contexts for learning a L2 and L1 are known to differ, rendering the applicability of this finding to SLA questionable (Widdowson 1990). Theories that suggest a role for negative evidence in SLA sometimes liken it to skill-building in other fields (Leeman 2007), in that positive and negative reinforcement along with copious practice is seen as leading to automatisation. Indeed, along with explicit teaching, research has supported the role of negative evidence as improving grammatical accuracy (R. Ellis 2006) and in discouraging negative transfer from the students’ L1 (Inagaki 2002).
The literature on linguistic evidence seems to imply that neither implicit nor explicit, positive nor negative evidence should be used exclusively. Most modern theories on SLA see a large role for positive, implicit evidence in the form of input for the formation of implicit knowledge, but some see explicit teaching and explicit knowledge as assisting the formation of that knowledge to varying degrees. At the risk of belabouring a point, the focus on explicit knowledge at the expense of all else found in examination English squares with no modern theory of SLA. Complete avoidance of the methods practised in examination English, however, also seems less than ideal given the acknowledged role that explicit knowledge and explicit teaching have in skill-building theories of language learning. That is, if teachers rely on their authentic conversational presence to carry entire classes, as has been observed in eikaiwa (Kubota 2011b), their students may benefit less than if those teachers stepped into the role of pedagogue and included some explicit grammatical teaching as well. To what extent eikaiwa teachers rely on explicit or implicit instruction in their classes will be measured by the research portion of this thesis, the methods for conducting which will be discussed in the following chapter.
Chapter 3: Survey Methods
The primary questions that this thesis seeks to answer are:
First, does the NS/NNS status of eikaiwa teachers correlate with different approaches to the use of evidencein the classroom?
Second, do the differences which arise between NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers correspond to the known differences between NS and NNS English teachers in other contexts in Japan?
Naturally, the second depends upon the first; if no differences are observed then the second question becomes moot. Given how rigidly the NS and NNS categories are maintained in other contexts, a finding of no differences would be perhaps the most surprising. Obtaining answers to these questions, however, depends on the participation of eikaiwa workers, which in the past has proved difficult to secure.
As privately-owned institutions, eikaiwa are spread across Japan, and their owners may have an incentive to maintain secrecy on matters of classroom practices at their schools, which means that finding subjects for research on eikaiwa and gaining their cooperation can present a challenge. As such, a degree of flexibility was necessary to ensure that the responses to the survey would constitute a reasonably representative sample of the eikaiwa teaching community. The form of the questionnaire and its methods of distribution were implemented in such a way as to overcome the reluctance of eikaiwa workers to participate in academic research as has been documented by Kubota (2011b). The implementation of the quantitative portion of the research will be discussed first.
3.1. Quantitative methods
The quantitative portion of the survey comprises 22 five-point Likert-style questions, eight intended to measure teachers’ valuations of explicit and implicit knowledge and teaching, and a further eight questions specifically covering positive and negative types of explicit and implicit evidence. The remaining questions are on other aspects of their teaching environments which cannot be clearly called explicit or implicit, such as teachers’ perceptions of their students’ goals or sociocultural aspects of eikaiwa. The Likert scale was chosen for its familiarity in assessing attitudes towards positively-stated propositions (Dörnyei and Taguchi 2010). The full questionnaire can be seen in Appendix A.
As discussed in section 2.1.3, eikaiwa employ large numbers of NS teachers. However, NNS teachers within eikaiwa constitute at least a sizeable minority. It has been noted that even when surveying English teachers, a purely English monolingual questionnaire may dissuade NNS subjects from responding (Browne and Wada 1998). Because both English NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers were to be polled in order to form a comparison with the teaching practices of NS and NNS teachers in other venues, questions were given in Japanese as well as English. These were translated first by the researcher, and then checked by a Japanese native-speaking colleague. The survey was pilot tested on English and Japanese native-speaking acquaintances of the researcher who were either currently working in eikaiwa or had done so recently, and feedback was incorporated into the questions in both content and phrasing.
The pilot testing revealed several issues of interest. First, because the eikaiwa industry employs teachers of widely varying backgrounds, some questions had to be modified to remove or clarify technical language such as input (item 9) and recast (item 5), while maintaining a standard of brevity, as Dörnyei and Taguchi (2010) recommend. Some revision was necessary to find sufficiently simple phrasing which would accurately describe the teaching practice in question, particularly for the Japanese translation. A further problem that arose during the translation process was describing the teaching practices in question without appearing to either condemn or endorse them implicitly. Certain verb endings and adverbials in Japanese had negative connotations where the English versions did not; for instance the first draft of item 22 included the verb ending 〜しまう ~shimau which implies negative consequences, making it unlikely that anyone would have responded positively to the action described. As a result of the process of excising unintended connotations, some questions are very differently worded in the Japanese and English versions of the survey.
Questions were uploaded to Survey Monkey, an Internet survey service, and the hyperlink to the survey was sent via e-mail with an attached explanation (see Appendix B) to eikaiwa schools across the country, after searching for candidates on the Internet by entering “(city name) eikaiwa” in Japaneseas search criteria. As the results show, this method yielded hundreds of survey candidates, but also produced a few potential sources of bias. First, links were not able to be sent to eikaiwa whose e-mail addresses were not available, either because they did not have a website or their website allowed contact only through a pre-designed form exclusively for student inquiries. Generally, only non-chain eikaiwa listed e-mail addresses, while chains almost exclusively used forms for inquiries. This presents a potential form of bias because single-location eikaiwa are often owned by their head teachers, making them markedly dissimilar to the transient teacher/vacationer who supposedly represents the industry (Currie-Robson 2014). Large, chain eikaiwa not only actively recruit new teachers overseas but have the resources to sponsor their visas as well, making the pool of potential employees much larger and more likely to include people inexperienced in both ELT and living in Japan. In short, the methods employed for gathering respondents likely biased the results towards Nagatomo’s (2013) “cottage industry” eikaiwa rather than chains.
A smaller but intended source of selection bias was that e-mails were not sent to schools within the researcher’s area of residence, eastern Shizuoka prefecture. As the researcher is also an eikaiwa teacher and that fact was made clear in the request for participation, this was to eliminate the possibility or suspicion of possible use of the survey for competitive advantage. Still, one reply to the introductory e-mail was received asking for further proof of the academic as opposed to commercial nature of the research, and there is no way to be certain how many potential respondents were dissuaded from answering due to a suspicion of industrial espionage.
A final source of bias springs from other resources which were used to recruit survey subjects. These included postings on the several Internet message boards for English teachers in Japan. Teachers proactive enough to be motivated to discuss ELT issues over the Internet may differ in significant ways from those who do not, making this method of recruitment another possible source of bias. Because methods of gaining survey responses included these postings, it can be hard to determine the exact rate of response to solicitations to participate in the survey. 263 e-mails were sent, and 49 responses were eventually tallied (n = 49), comprising 38 from NSs and 11 from Japanese NNS English teachers. I estimate based on the timing of the responses that response rate for the e-mailed survey links may have been as low as 10%. The patterns observed in the collection of data bear out Kubota’s (2011b) observed difficulty in conducting research on commercial eikaiwa, particularly in the case of large chains.
3.2. Qualitative methods
The qualitative portion of the survey, for which 12 survey participants volunteered their e-mail addresses, was returned by eight, including five NSs of English and three Japanese respondents. The questions were posed in English and in Japanese, and instructions made it clear that responses could be made in either language. Still, only one respondent elected to answer in Japanese, which will be presented as translated by the researcher. The qualitative questions can be seen in Appendix C.
The reasons for choosing e-mail as opposed to another, possibly more informative form of qualitative research such as observation (e.g. Bailey 2007; Kubota 2011b) were primarily to limit the appearance of one eikaiwa teacher and owner spying on others. As implied by the low response rate to the initial quantitative questionnaire, eikaiwa teachers were not as a rule highly motivated and proactive research participants; adding observation of classes to the methods used for this thesis would have likely reduced the participation rate further. Note also that the previous cases of participant observation of eikaiwa were done by a university professor (Kubota 2011b) and a full-time worker at the eikaiwa being studied (Bailey 2007), not a worker at another unrelated eikaiwa, as I am. Also of importance is the effect that another NS teacher would have on the classes being observed. In an industry which places such semiotic importance on the visibly foreign, it is unlikely that I would have been able to observe NNS-taught classes as the proverbial fly on the classroom wall. The decision to use an open-ended e-mail questionnaire rather than classroom observation meant that data was gathered less directly but ensured that at least some useful data would in fact be gathered.
Even given the possibility that the results may have been biased by the factors described in this chapter, the research yielded some surprising findings. Results of the survey and subsequent open-ended e-mail questionnaires will be given in the following chapter.
Chapter 4: Results
Survey results show that NS and NNS teachers share many classroom practices and beliefs. Differences arise in a few areas but do not approach the levels of difference expected if NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers were replicating the roles given to those groups in mandatory or higher education.
As noted in the previous section, the methods used to gather participants may have biased results towards more reflective or more enthusiastic ELT professionals. Indeed, the average (arithmetic mean) length of the teaching careers of the participants was nearly 10 years, and the sample included eight holders of relevant Master’s degrees, six CELTA holders, and ten holders of other ELT certifications. Less than half of the total number of participants held no relevant degree or certificate, including those who declined to state their qualifications. The safest conclusion to draw from this fact is that eikaiwa teachers vary widely in their official qualifications, and that being a nominal eikaiwa teacher is certainly no guarantee of lack of qualifications or transient work status. Average lengths of English teaching careers and ages are given in Table 1, as well as the sexes of the participants. English teaching in Japan among NNSs has been described as a highly gendered activity (Kubota 2011b; Nagatomo 2012), a finding which this research supports, with NS teachers mostly male and NNS teachers overwhelmingly female. Because precedents exist of Europeans being grouped with NSs despite being from non-English-speaking countries and as detailed in section 2.1 little concept exists of non-Japanese NNS, a lone Swedish respondent was grouped under NS rather than NNS. All other respondents listed their nationalities as one of the BANA countries, New Zealand or Japan.
Mean years of experience
Table 1: Years of experience teaching English and ages
The following section gives results from the quantitative portion of the survey.
4.1. Quantitative results
Arithmetic mean scores for each of the 22 principal questions are given in Table 2, first for all respondents, then for only NS respondents and Japanese respondents, with the t-value computed for the two groups. Responses start from number two because due to limitations in the Survey Monkey format, item number one was occupied by the declaration of informed consent. Throughout this section, repeated reference will be made to grammar-translation teachers in public and tertiary education, compiled from descriptions of grammar-translation in Japanese education by Hino (1988), Sato and Kleinsasser (2004), Nishino (2011) and Nagatomo (2012). This represents not an actual respondent but a point of comparison created by the researcher.
I bring attention to examples of successful English use by students.
Japanese English students expect different teaching styles from native and non-native teachers.
It’s best for students to pick grammar up from natural language use.
I often recast or restate problematic student comments for clarification.
When students make errors in speech, I call attention to the mistakes at some point during the class.
I expect my students to be able to describe rules of usage, not just apply them.
The style of teaching that I practise is one that most Japanese people are accustomed to.
Natural speech, including my own, is important “learning material” for my students.
I try to avoid explicit grammatical explanations.
My lessons have a clear distinction between English learning and English practice.
I negotiate for meaning with students in English when the meaning of what they say is not clear.
My students come to my classes mainly to improve their English skills.
I use metalinguistic terms (noun, clause, participle, etc.) when I talk about correct usage.
I usually point out the grammatical form of the English in class materials.
I point out examples of incorrect English for students to avoid.
When I react to unsuccessful English use, I do so within the flow of conversation.
My students expect me to use some Japanese in class.
I often give explicitly grammar-focused explanations.
I rely on natural English use rather than explicit grammar and vocabulary teaching.
Native speakers and non-native speakers should teach using different methods.
Students should produce language without pausing to think for long periods.
Students come to my classes for an intercultural or international experience.
Table 2: Responses with t-values for NS and NNS samples (**significant at p<0.01, *significant at p<0.05)
As shown in the table, items 8 and 19 garnered the lowest average levels of agreement. The stated unfamiliarity on the part of students with respondents’ teaching methods coupled with an avoidance of explicit grammatical explanation seem sufficient to say that practices within eikaiwa differ substantially from those within mandatory education. Item 8’s low level of agreement indicates that practices within eikaiwa are relatively unfamiliar to most incoming students, which one would expect if eikaiwa included any components different from the six years of grammar-translation students have already experienced in their schooling. Disagreement with item 19, indicating a rejection of explicit grammar teaching, should not be taken as a clear embrace of implicit teaching methods, however; it is still compatible with other teacher-fronted methods, and evident agreement with other items (6 and 14) is clearly compatible with explicit stances toward teaching. It is clear nonetheless that eikaiwa teachers strongly differ from grammar-translation teachers, who would likely have answered clearly in the affirmative to items 19 and 14 and negatively to item 6, simply because there is so little student-teacher interaction in grammar-translation classes with the exception of content-related questions posed and answered in Japanese (Nagatomo 2012).
Japanese respondents were significantly more likely to agree with items 7 and 15, both of which are compatible with explicit stances toward teaching. Note however that item 7, though representing the most statistically significant difference between the responses of the NS and NNS samples, nonetheless has a mean level of agreement just slightly higher than “Neither agree nor disagree” for Japanese respondents. Clearly, this represents a rather large break from the precedents established in mandatory education, where explicit explanation of grammar is the unquestioned default (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004).
Item 23’s high level of agreement among NSs would seem to confirm other authors’ (e.g. Bailey 2006; Kubota and McCay 2009) views of eikaiwa teachers as commodified cultural representatives. However, in the data presented here Japanese eikaiwa teachers appear to feel that they are seen the same way by students, meaning again that the NS/NNS dichotomy is not applied as strongly to eikaiwa teachers. It is worth noting that public school teachers have been shown to spend some amount of class time lecturing on cultural content as well, albeit in Japanese (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004), meaning that item 23 may have had an affirmative response from grammar-translation teachers as well.
Perhaps the most significant finding from the data is the fact that NS and NNS respond significantly differently on only three items, casting item 3’s high level of agreement in a somewhat different light. Even differences which would seem obvious or natural in junior high or high schools, such as the expectation for the students’ L1 to be used (item 18) yield no significant differences among NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers. Eikaiwa teachers seem to believe that students expect them to be more different than they actually are. This is supported by item 21’s low average level of agreement. It seems that teachers do not embrace the NS/NNS teacher dichotomy found so frequently in mandatory schooling, although they believe that their students do.
Although NS teachers responded with significantly higher levels of agreement to item 12, compatible with implicit negative feedback, whether the data gathered indicate a tendency towards either explicit or implicit instruction overall for NSs or NNSs is questionable. As shown in Tables 3 and 4, the items chosen to represent explicit and implicit stances towards teaching have relatively weak (though mostly positive) relationships with each other. It seems that teachers vary in their applications of explicit or implicit approaches to teaching, for instance tending to negotiate for meaning while also using metalanguage at some points, or highlighting positive models of grammar but not correcting errors explicitly. It is certainly feasible that a teacher might give grammar-focused lectures while demanding that students answer questions promptly, although lectures may be seen as clearly favouring explicit knowledge, and time pressure in other contexts is associated with tests of implicit knowledge (R. Ellis 2005). It is clear however that these patterns are not the same ones found in public education, where negotiation for meaning is almost unheard of and metalinguistic explanation is an integral part of grammar teaching (Hino 1988; Nishino and Watanabe 2008).
As shown, use of metalanguage (item 14) is strongly positively correlated with two other measures of explicit approaches to teaching (items 16 and 19), but has almost no relation with two others (items 7 and 11). The lack of relationship between items 7 and 14 is especially surprising given the presumably central role metalanguage would play in students’ being able to verbalise rules of usage. Likewise, item 10’s strong correlation with item 20 is expected, given that the wording of the questions makes one nearly a condition of the other. However, item 10 has slightly negative correlations with other measures of implicit teaching; indicating that a stated avoidance of grammatical explanation does not automatically result in an approach that includes learning-by-doing (item 4) recasts (item 5) or negotiation for meaning (item 12). The wording of the questions may have played a role in this; respondents may have had an easier time picturing what was being asked of them for items 10 and 20 because explicit grammar teaching is such a common practice in language classrooms worldwide (Richards and Rodgers 2001), than for other items which describe less well-known or easily identifiable practices.
Table 3: Correlations among items measuring explicit stances using linear regression analysis. “+” denotes questions on positive evidence and “-” negative. Values exceeding 0.35 are boldfaced.
Table 4: Correlations among items measuring implicit stances using linear regression analysis. “+” denotes questions on positive evidence and “-” negative. Values exceeding 0.35 are boldfaced.
Arithmetic mean values for multiple items measuring presentation of explicit positive evidence, explicit negative evidence, and explicit evidence overall; as well as the corresponding values for implicit evidence can be seen in Table 5. Table 6 shows the same data, with t values computed for differences between items measuring explicit and implicit stances rather than for differences between NS and NNS respondents.
Positive explicit (items 2 and 15)
Negative explicit(items 6 and 16)
Other explicit(items 7, 11, 14, and 19)
Positive implicit(items 9 and 20)
Negative implicit(items 5 and 17)
Other implicit(items 4, 10, 12, and 22)
Table 5: Mean responses for types of evidence with t-values for NS and NNS participants (*significant at p<0.05)
Table 6: Mean responses for types of evidence with t-values for explicit and implicit stances (**significant at p<0.01)
Both NS and NNS respondents on average appear to favour implicit teaching approaches significantly more than explicit, although neither group disagrees strongly with any of the items measuring explicitness. The patterns of use of explicit and implicit evidence seen in mandatory education, in which NNS instructors focus almost exclusively on the explicit, seem entirely absent among eikaiwa teachers.
The data gathered for this survey seem to support the conclusion that rather than being divided according to their use of explicit or implicit evidence, NS and NNS teachers in eikaiwa are rather more reliably delineated by their reliance on positive or negative evidence. Use of positive evidence seems to be higher than use of negative evidence for both NS and NNS teachers, but significantly more so for the latter. For comparison, grammar-translation teachers have been shown to rely almost exclusively on positive evidence (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004; Nagatomo 2012), although it is feasible in principle for grammar-translation teachers to provide examples of incorrect translation, which would constitute negative evidence. The observed differences in the use of positive and negative evidence, while statistically significant, do not approach those that would be observed if eikaiwa teachers resembled public school English teachers.
Finally, one strong correlation was observed among the items which did not measure explicit or implicit approaches to teaching, which was between students’ expectations on the teacher to use their L1 in class (item 18) and the division between language learning and practice (item 11). While no item measuring teachers’ actual use of the L1 in class was included in the survey, it stands to reason that students would expect greater L1 use in classes which divide presentation of language from practice or production, as in the widely-known PPP (present, practice, produce) approach. In mandatory education, by contrast, breaks from the teacher-led lecture style of teaching were observed only in the presence of a native-speaking ALT (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004), meaning that the essential division between learning and practice was kept intact, but practice was limited to once per week or less. In the sense of maintaining a distinction between the first P and the second and third Ps in PPP, eikaiwa teachers’ methods may be said to resemble public school teachers’, but as the responses to the other survey items shows the proportion of presentation to practice or performance is much more heavily tilted toward the latter two in eikaiwa.
The second, qualitative and open-ended portion of the survey was returned by eight respondents, and yielded various views of eikaiwa as a whole as well as individual practices within eikaiwa. These will be presented in the following section.
4.2. Qualitative Results
The qualitative portion of the research conducted for this thesis consisted of seven open-ended questions, which were distributed by e-mail to the respondents who chose to enter their e-mail addresses at the end of the initial quantitative survey. The full list of questions can be seen in Appendix C. The respondents (with pseudonyms) were:
Table 7: Qualitative research participants with nationalities and ages
Answers to question 1, on the purposes of eikaiwa, yielded quite disparate views on the purpose of eikaiwa: Keith sums it up in a single word: “Profit”, while Eli agrees, stating:
I think the primary purpose of eikaiwa is to make money and the secondary purpose is to teach English (or other languages).
Two Japanese respondents cite purposes that correspond to Seargeant’s (2005) “lifestyle fantasy”, Kiki “to facilitate communications between people in different countries” and Chihiro “to listen/see the people in [the world] as much as possible”. Two NS correspondents liken eikaiwa to other parts of Japan’s private education industry, namely “soroban [abacus], juku [cram schools], piano, etc.” (Wallace) and “Hobby for students who like English…just another juku type school for kids” (Logan). Mei explicitly links the purpose of eikaiwa to the oft-cited akogare (longing) seen in other research on eikaiwa (e.g., Bailey 2007), calling the purpose of eikaiwa to fulfil many Japanese’ long-held akogare to “come to speak English fluently”. Duncan echoes this sentiment, linking eikaiwa to the spoken language and to pragmatic as opposed to grammatical competence.
Respondents felt that many extracurricular factors affected classroom practices, as seen in their answers to question 2. By far the most-cited factor was profit, described by three of the five NS respondents as an important or the single most important consideration when running an eikaiwa: “if you can’t make money, no point in having an eikaiwa” (Logan). The preponderance of this factor may be a result of the high number of teacher-owners among the respondents. An element of salesmanship seems to be part of the classroom experience. As Keith puts it, teachers need to:
manage the student’s expectations, and to make the student feel that those expectations are being fulfilled, so that the student will come back for more.
Duncan likewise implies that the profit motive sometimes hinders the smooth running of the class, stating that “I would remove some students from group classes if I had my way.” Eli cites the status of students as customers necessitating:
keeping people happy so they return, which can lead to lower standards of teaching, trying to avoid challenging students too much…
The Japanese respondents, on the other hand, did not cite business or profit in their answers. Kiki and Chihiro both describe the aspirational aspects of eikaiwa as being facilitative of the academic aspects, in Kiki’s case by motivating them to study to express themselves to a wider demographic of people, which seems to demonstrate integrative motivation (Gardner and Lambert 1972) with respect to an imagined community (Anderson 2006; Kubota 2011b) of international English speakers. Instrumental goals play a role as well according to Mei, who cites students with specific career-related goals (e.g. TOEIC) as a need brought into eikaiwa that successful teachers must address.
Respondents agreed that students have very different and possibly non-overlapping expectations from NS and NNS instructors in answer to question 3. Five out of eight respondents listed either “grammar” or “describing the English language” as an expectation of Japanese instructors, which another also seems to imply by stating that Japanese instructors handle the “boring parts of English” (Duncan), while expectations of NS teachers included “pronunciation” (all three Japanese respondents), and teaching the target culture (Chihiro, Wallace and Eli). Two respondents explicitly mention factors corresponding to “leisure” aspects of eikaiwa as outlined by Kubota (2011b), Logan citing the job of the NS teacher as seen by students as holding conversations on topics “that many Japanese don’t discuss on a normal basis”, while Keith gives a concise summary which mirrors Japanese and NS teachers’ roles in other contexts:
They expect a non-native speaker to describe the English language, in Japanese.They expect a native speaker to provide entertaining activities, in English.
Mei also includes the concept, well-known from Japanese nationalist literature (Befu 2001) of the difficulty of “getting used to foreigners”, as a frequent issue that students come to NS teachers specifically to overcome. A common thread in the sometimes cynical view respondents have of the differing expectations on the part of students with respect to NS and NNS teachers is that only NNSs have something resembling a traditional teaching role, a perspective found among ALTs as well (Geluso 2013).
Respondents reacted with either dispassionate acceptance or wholehearted endorsement to the dichotomisation of NS/NNS teachers in Japanese education, as posed in question 4. Two of the NSs and one NNS who answered the question explicitly linked dividing NS and NNS teachers to meeting demand from students. Keith sums it up succinctly:
Customers have different expectations of native and non-native speakers. Schools can only exist if they give the customer what they want so, from a business perspective, the difference is entirely justifiable.
Kiki also links the division between NS and NNS teachers to the raison d’etre of the industry itself, stating that NNS teachers’ role is to assist students in the attainment of their ultimate goal of communication with NS teachers. The remaining two Japanese respondents seemed to consider differing job titles and contents for NS and NNS teachers simply a part of rational allocation of tasks according to the skills of the employee. No respondents called into question the validity of the categories themselves, nor did any discuss cases which fall outside of the categories mentioned; e.g. NS teachers capable of fielding questions in Japanese or Japanese teachers with English fluency on par with NSs.
A similar level of acceptance for stereotypical roles of NS and NNS teachers was found in the answers to question 5, which concerned the disadvantages of learning from NSs. The common thread in six of the eight responses was that NS teachers might lack sufficient Japanese ability to explain themselves when communication in English fails. This was either simply assumed to be true of NSs (Kiki, Mei), or of inexperienced NS teachers (Chihiro, Keith, Eli) or was described as not being demanded of them (Wallace, Eli). Two respondents cite the inability to identify transfer errors as a weakness of NSs (Mei, Keith) and two a possible lack of ability to “explain grammar properly” (Logan, Eli). Notably, these summations of NS and NNS characteristics contradict the findings from the initial survey: Recall that NSs reported using metalanguage and focusing on grammatical form (items 14 and 15), and that NNSs reported favouring natural speech as opposed to grammatical explanation as a means of teaching (item 20). On the subject of the use of Japanese in class, Eli considers the prohibition of use of the students’ L1 problematic:
…sometimes students cannot understand something in English and the teacher is unable, due to not speaking Japanese or not being allowed to, to give a simple explanation in Japanese so that the lesson can progress.
Wallace also cites the expectation that NS teachers will not speak Japanese as a barrier to “building a genuine rapport”. Thus teachers do not seem opposed to the use of Japanese in class for pedagogical reasons, but rather for an ostensible lack of ability on the part of NS teachers or simply because the rules forbid it. Respondents as a whole seem wary of uneducated or untrained NS teachers, echoing frequent criticisms of the eikaiwa industry (Currie-Robson 2014).
Attitudes towards explicit teaching were generally positive, with seven of the eight clearly endorsing its role in effective pedagogy in their answers to question 6. Logan, the lone dissenter, downplays the importance of explicit instruction because “especially in Japan, they learn more about grammar than I will ever know, or care to know”, notably not refuting the value of explicit grammatical knowledge overall but simply its role in teaching graduates of Japan’s education system. Mei cites poverty of input in EFL contexts including Japan as a factor necessitating some degree of form-focused instruction, similarly to N. C. Ellis and Sagarra (2010). Three respondents, Mei, Keith, and Duncan, also go out of their way to point out that a purely form-focused approach, such as that practised in mandatory schooling, is a recipe for failure. Keith does so by way of an analogy from sports:
You don’t learn how to swing a baseball bat through instruction. You pick up the bat and swing it, and you learn from your mistakes. Your coach gives you models to copy, guides your practice, and points out weaknesses you may not be aware off, but you always learn by doing. Teaching grammar should be just the same.
In this analogy, the coach pointing out weaknesses is the point most resembling explicit instruction in a language class, but the context surrounding that point makes it clear that in Keith’s view implicit knowledge and implicit teaching are of prime importance. The coach stepping in to provide correction on a point unnoticed by the player has a resemblance to reactive focus on form (Long 1991), in which an instructor provides feedback in response to rather than in anticipation of learner mistakes (Thornbury 2013). Keith also mentioned that he was unfamiliar with the meanings of the terms implicit and explicit as applied to teaching, but his answer makes it clear that he sees a role for both in the eikaiwa classroom.
In their answers to the final question, respondents have overwhelmingly negative impressions of the influence of having passed through mandatory education on Japanese adults’ abilities to learn English. Respondents roundly criticise what they see as Japanese education’s overemphasis on correctness and rote memorisation of decontextualised rules and vocabulary items. In Keith’s view, students’ approaches to learning are deleteriously affected by their long experience with grammar-translation, leading to adult students who either ritualistically apply those same methods expecting their increased effort to pay off or “shy away from anything that looks like grammar or vocabulary, and just want ‘conversation practice’”. Note that these extremes parallel the examination English/authentic English division introduced in section 2.1.1. The influence of examinations is highlighted by several respondents, with Wallace pointing out the superfluousness of ALTs brought in to teach speaking when speaking is not a part of most examinations. Kiki and Logan both mention the possible positive effects of meeting ALTs, although in Kiki’s case the effects are noticeable in their absence:
We didn’t have many classes with native speaking teachers, so the classes weren’t enough for me to be able to communicate smoothly with native speakers.
It seems that while respondents saw some benefits for explicit teaching in their answers to the previous question, they have very little regard for the extreme emphasis on explicit knowledge found in public education. Perhaps it is due to the characteristics of the teachers themselves (as Logan puts it, “Japanese teachers are generally boring”) or the specifics of how explicit knowledge is measured (Mei: “You keep getting Xs on your tests for even small mistakes”), but the eikaiwa teachers clearly see the eight years of mandatory English education as more hindrance than help.
Issues discovered in both the quantitative and qualitative portions of the research conducted for this thesis will be discussed in greater detail in the following section.
Eikaiwa teachers do not appear to adhere very strongly in their approaches to explicit or implicit knowledge or explicit or implicit teaching to precedents set in other educational contexts in Japan. This is to a degree unexpected and also ironic given what the teachers themselves say about how students see them. Responses to both the quantitative and qualitative portions of the survey indicate that eikaiwa teachers feel as if students expect pedantic and demotivating Japanese teachers along with energetic but vacant NS teachers, a caricature of the often observed roles of the public school NNS English teacher and ALT. However, responses to questions on classroom practice indicate that eikaiwa teachers do not play those roles, and responses to the qualitative survey show that both NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers share a disdain for classroom practices reminiscent of examination English and authentic English. Rather, if students really do expect assignment of roles similar to that of public schools, then NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers’ practices must prove disappointing, as they do not appear to diverge from each other very much.
A mystery we are left with after the realisation that many teachers in the private market accept and practise modern ELT methods is why most in public schools do not, particularly given that the government has been officially endorsing CLT since the 1980s (Nishino and Watanabe 2008). Teachers in eikaiwa indicate that they are faced with preconceived student notions of them and their jobs: NSs as entertainers and providers of authentic content, NNSs as explainers and knowledgeable survivors of the examination regime. These would seem similar to expectations of NS and NNS teachers elsewhere in Japan.
Items 3 and 8 from the questionnaire as well as the responses to the qualitative portion of the survey add further contradictions to this riddle. NSs and NNSs in eikaiwa both indicated agreement with the idea that students expect them to do different things because of their NS/NNS status (item 3), and neither of the groups agreed that students are accustomed to their way of teaching (item 8). NNSs agreed slightly more than NSs that NS and NNS teachers should teach differently (item 21) but this belief does not seem to find much expression in their actual teaching practices. Something about eikaiwa seems to allow its teachers to better ignore these expectations than NS and NNS teachers working in mandatory and tertiary education.
The issue may be the relative status of the teachers’ jobs, as well as teachers’ status within the classroom. Public school teachers may not have greater levels of training than eikaiwa teachers, but they do have professional pride as those officially charged with educating Japan’s youth. As Holliday (1994) writes, teachers in cultures with a “collectivist tradition” (p. 88) have been shown to balk at methodologies which threaten their place in the class as the transmitter of hard-won knowledge, a pattern observed very clearly in Japanese higher education (Nagatomo 2012). As teachers in mandatory education are at the centre of educational culture, there may be greater incentive for them to play the role of what their culture defines as a “real teacher”. This pressure can come from external sources as well, including society and students. An analogous situation is outlined in Holliday (1994, p. 86) in which the more respected a teacher was (in this case by having a more advanced degree), the more students wanted that teacher to play a traditional didactic role. This difference in status has been seen as explaining a similar difference in practices between Japanese high school teachers in low-status technical high schools and more prestigious preparatory schools (Browne and Wada 1998). It is also possibly relevant that when one speaks of student expectations, public school teachers have the eyes of 40 or so students at once on them (Nishino and Watanabe 2008), whereas for eikaiwa teachers the number is usually less than ten (Seargeant 2005). For teachers in tertiary education this gap could be even more pronounced. Student expectations and personal expectations are magnified by the status and classroom realities of teachers within mandatory and higher education as compared to those within the private market.
A further reason for the lack of strong differences between NS and NNS eikaiwa teachers could be that teaching practices converge with greater levels of training, meaning that a data set that whose teachers had fewer credentials and less experience might show more divergence in approaches to ELT. Recall from section 2.1.2 that the typical ALT is hired right out of university (Breckenridge and Erling 2011) while the typical Japanese English teacher in mandatory or higher education also has no formal SLA training, even when charged with training other English teachers (Gorsuch 2001; Sato and Kleinsasser 2004; Nagatomo 2012), and that these public institutions are sites of particularly divergent job descriptions for NSs and NNSs. Public school teachers have been shown to be strongly in favour of CLT in name while applying very little of it in classes (Sato and Kleinsasser 2004; Nishino 2011), implying that training and confidence in communicative methods may be missing more than agreement in the value of CLT. More than half of the teachers in this dataset had at least some formal training in ELT, giving them a possible greater degree of comfort in implementing CLT than their public school counterparts. This comparatively high average level of training also implies that contrary to what the image of the industry might be, the average eikaiwa worker may be more qualified for the work of language teaching than the average junior high or high school English teacher in Japan, NS or not.
Indeed, one may wonder at the justice of complaining about the qualifications of private-market language teachers when those in mandatory education, who may be assumed to have greater influence over students’ eventual development, are even less qualified to do their work. A resolution to the conundrum of why the public seems to settle for less subject expertise from public school teachers may be that public school teachers in Japan are seen as not only conveyors of academic information but also moral role models and in situ parental figures (LeTendre 1998). This view of teachers manifests itself in very long working hours, including a slew of counsellor-like responsibilities aimed at developing the students’ character and ability to live in adult society (Fukuzawa 1998). Given the wider scope of public school teachers’ responsibilities it may be inevitable that mastery of the actual content to be taught and the methods by which to teach it fall behind their private-market contemporaries, including eikaiwa, juku [cram schools] and other sources of supplementary education which specialise in subject-specific instruction.
Given the depth of the ideologically-driven divide between NSs and NNSs in Japan described in sections 2.1 and 2.1.1, teachers in eikaiwa refusing to pigeonhole themselves into archaic and pedagogically unsound entertainer/transmitter roles may seem worthy of applause, but it also presents problems. One such problem is exactly the fact that eikaiwa teachers are not matching their students’ expectations, however unreasonable or objectionable those expectations are. Several qualitative correspondents mentioned the positive motivational effects of meeting NSs. The mental image one has of the target language community and culture may be incorrect, but its correctness or incorrectness is not necessarily related to its value to the student. As recent writing on integrative motivation (Dörnyei 2001) and “ideal selves” (Dörnyei and Csizér 2002; Dörnyei 2009) reflects, imagining oneself in a kind of foreign situation or community can have real positive effects on learners even if the community in the student’s mind is different from that community in reality. To some extent it may demotivate students when teachers defy stereotype.
Even when it means a degree of distortion of reality, there is an important sense in which authenticity may be more important to sustaining learner motivation than genuineness. Teachers are not always their genuine selves inside the classroom, and there is much artifice in the L2 classroom which is unavoidable, even in less didactic, ostensibly student-centred methods (Swan 1984). While one need not become a caricature in the classroom, there is real pedagogical usefulness to providing a model students will be familiar and comfortable with, whether from the TL culture or the learner’s own culture (Dörnyei 2001). The same is true for class materials, which as Lee (1995) writes, can be completely genuine while being of no authentic use to learners.
Defying student expectation also demonstrably lessens the effectiveness of certain teaching strategies. As described in section 2.2.2, learner variables can influence the effectiveness of different strategies with regard to the use of linguistic evidence. Learning styles that students are accustomed to, whether as part of the educational culture of that nation or simply the way their last teacher taught (Horwitz 1999; Gorsuch 2001), need to be taken into consideration when reflecting on or choosing classroom practices. To give a concrete example, feedback (evidence given in response to output) has been described as sensitive to learner expectations for its effectiveness. Feedback may be misconstrued by learners as being on an issue other than what the teacher intended (Mackey et al 2000; Ammar and Spada 2006). Teachers may intend feedback to address grammatical form, although learners may attend first to meaning, interpreting feedback as focused on semantic issues rather than grammatical (Skehan 1998). Learners expecting meaning-focused conversation and getting form-focused feedback may be less able or inclined to notice form (Schmidt 1993), leading to less opportunity for intake. The converse may also occur, with students interpreting negotiation for meaning as strictly grammatical correction. The exchange of utterances combined with feedback has been cited as a potential source of improvement in the interlanguage system (Swain 1985; Long 1996; Mackey et al 2000; Mackey 2007), but the effectiveness of feedback may be reduced by a gap in expectations on the parts of the giver and recipient of it.
Thus, there are downsides to teachers acting in defiance of student expectations, even when those expectations are unreasonable and are based on precedents that have been acknowledged as failures, such as grammar-translation in English education in Japan. Therefore, it seems rather more reasonable that students and teachers should critically examine the rationales behind the roles that they are given, as is frequently recommended with regard to the NS teacher paradigm (Holliday 2006; Holliday 2013). In the pursuit of a greater mutual understanding of classroom roles between teachers and students, eikaiwa teachers are actually in an enviable position due to the possibility that they will be able to set policy themselves if they are also the owners of their schools, as is frequently the case (Nagatomo 2013). They have the advantage of having self-selecting students who, having proved some level of motivation and flexibility by seeking out and attending eikaiwa, are presumably more open to trying new ways of learning. Learners have been shown to be flexible in their attitudes towards learning when teachers make their expectations known (Riley 2009).
In this aim, eikaiwa teachers can analogise and compare teacher/student roles within eikaiwa with those roles in other teaching contexts within Japan. For instance, although teaching in Japan for any language often takes the form of teacher-led lectures (Cowie 2006), teachers are known to avoid explicit and deductive methods in the traditional arts (Hare 1998) and sports (LeTendre 1998). In fact, the types of sports practice most Japanese are likely to be familiar with, after-school clubs, often have no instructors at all, with older students guiding less experienced ones (LeTendre 1998). Ideas common in the CLT-like approaches that seem to be prevalent in eikaiwa have analogous counterparts in other disciplines in Japan which may prove useful for critical examination of common practices in the language classroom.
There is one point on which eikaiwa clearly have a pedagogical disadvantage compared to public schools which is not related to classroom practices or the NS concept per se. Eikaiwa classes tend to meet too infrequently for almost any method to be optimally effective for language learning. Time restraints on the effectiveness of implicit teaching methods were mentioned in section 2.2.2, but there is little reason to expect explicit methods to have the desired effect either when classes meet only an hour per week (Lightbown and Spada 2006). This limitation seems to be the point at which the business aspects of eikaiwa seem to have the most detrimental effect on their pedagogy, and lends support to Kubota’s (2011b)’s assessment of eikaiwa as more a pastime than an intellectual pursuit. It can be difficult to reconcile the high qualifications and long experience of some eikaiwa teachers with the lack of clear pedagogical thinking with which lesson schedules seem to be made. If the research done for this thesis had found eikaiwa teachers to be universally unqualified then this practice would be of about as much concern as the poor quality of a particular television programme; because eikaiwa teachers generally are qualified to teach this instead seems like a large waste of expertise.
With the contradictions between student and teacher expectations in mind, there are a few areas which seem ripe for further research. These will be discussed in the following chapter.
Chapter 5: Implications and Suggestions for Further Research
The data gathered for this thesis do not support the idea that NS/NNS teachers in eikaiwa reproduce the roles that are typically assigned to those groups in other educational contexts in Japan. Rather, eikaiwa teachers are found to on average favour a CLT-like teaching method slightly weighted towards implicit linguistic evidence and the formation of implicit knowledge, but without a clear rejection of explicit teaching or explicit knowledge, which seems in line with modern recommended approaches to communicative classes (e.g. Dörnyei 2009). Teachers range widely in their experience and qualifications, but because being in the private market eikaiwa allows for consumer choice, this arguably presents less of a problem than public school English teachers and ALTs being almost universally untrained in SLA. Still, practices differ widely within eikaiwa, meaning there is ample opportunity for further research on this industry.
One area of likely great interest to Japanese consumers is the role of eikaiwa in examination culture. Eikaiwa teachers appear to align themselves more closely to experiential authentic English than examination English, yet this does not rule out a role for eikaiwa in preparation for examinations. Recall that practice for TOEIC, a test with a strong discrete item and orthodox grammatical focus (Chapman 2003) similar to Japanese college entrance examinations, was cited as one respondent to the qualitative survey as an area of demand from students. To what extent eikaiwa teachers see themselves as contributing and to what extent they actually do contribute to their students’ academic success within the test-centric Japanese education system remains to be studied.
In hindsight, not having included the size of the eikaiwa schools that survey respondents work at in the biographical questions seems a glaring omission. Although to my knowledge this distinction has not been the subject of research itself, it may in fact form one of the most important distinctions, even more than NS/NNS status, between individual schools and teachers in the eikaiwa industry. As stated in Chapter 3, chain eikaiwa have the resources to recruit teachers directly from overseas, while non-franchised eikaiwa seem to be limited to teachers already holding visas to work in Japan, who are likely to have at least some prior experience. Further research should definitely include some reference to the size of the institutions being studied. The same is true for children’s eikaiwa, another massive industry intentionally left out of this thesis, and the site of its own host of ideological issues, strict NS/NNS division among them (Seiha Network Co., Ltd. 2012b). Researchers looking into the world of eikaiwa will have to bear in mind the likely differences between large and small schools, as well as schools that teach children and those that teach adults.
A more technical subject salient to the topic of this thesis is the interplay between learner expectations and the effectiveness of various methodologies. It is entirely possible, for example, that a NNS eikaiwa teacher might find greater success teaching grammatical form with recasts than a NS teacher using the same recasting techniques, simply because students may expect NNS teacher’s classes to be form-focused while they expect the NS teacher’s classes to be meaning-focused. Research has been done which compares students’ beliefs on what the teacher was trying to accomplish versus what the teacher believed he/she was trying to accomplish (e.g. Mackey et al 2000) but to my knowledge this has never been done on the subject of native-speakerism and stereotyping of teachers. It is a delicate subject but given that stereotyping of teachers according to perceived NS/NNS status is reportedly common across multiple ELT milieus (Holliday 2006), and certainly in eikaiwa as well (Bailey 2006), much valuable knowledge could be gained from research on it.
The students who choose to attend eikaiwa schools would also seem a natural choice for a subject of study; it would be valuable to learn to what extent the teachers’ statements in the research conducted for this thesis that students expect NSs and NNSs to teach differently are accurate. Also, because the brief defence of the eikaiwa industry in comparison with mandatory education presented in the previous section depends on the idea that consumers can forego eikaiwa with transient, inexperienced teachers in favour of schools with more qualified ones (while they cannot do this with their junior high or high schools), it is certainly worth knowing if these are indeed the criteria consumers use when choosing a school. Given the success of chains which prioritise native-speakerism and pseudoscience in advertising, at least some students seem to be choosing schools based on factors not likely to be conducive to effective learning. As with the qualifications of the teachers themselves, this may also be delineated by the size and advertising power of the schools in question.
The findings of the research conducted for this thesis have opened up several new questions ripe for further research on this large and influential industry. Some concluding remarks on the ground covered for this thesis will be given in the following chapter.
Chapter 6: Conclusions
One could be forgiven for having low expectations of the education offered at eikaiwa given the way they are frequently presented, both in news media and in SLA literature. Concerned parties seem to have low opinions of the industry as a whole, which materialises in the qualitative data gathered for this thesis as frequent warnings from teachers about other unqualified teachers, as well as academic studies which treat it as more a socio-cultural curiosity than a site of learning. Perhaps the relative status of language teaching in the private market and public schools should be re-evaluated, as there is a widespread perception that eikaiwa have low standards that does not square with reality, while public schools enforce policies guaranteeing even lower standards for the teachers in the best position to raise the level of English education in Japan.
Eikaiwa teachers and owners can do their part to claim the esteem that seems lost in their industry by prioritising practices that promote learning over commercial and ideological interests. By setting itself apart from the bad reputation some of its largest chains have created, the industry may be able to gain the respect it deserves commensurate to the dedication of its teachers.
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Appendix A: Survey Consent Form and Questions
[Note: Because of the format required by Survey Monkey, the consent form was included in the questions as question 1]
This survey is being conducted in order to better understand the way private market English teachers working with adult learners see their roles in the classroom. It will not be used for commercial purposes.
All survey answers will be kept confidential. No names of individuals or businesses participating in this survey will be recorded for mention in any publication or presentation which includes this material. If you agree to participate now, you may still withdraw at any point during the course of the survey.
If you agree to participate in this research, please check the box below and continue to the first page of the survey.
I give permission for my answers to the following questions to be recorded, and for them to be used for research purposes. I understand that my answers will be treated as confidential, and I can withdraw my consent at any time.
If available for further interviews by email, please enter email address:
Appendix B: E-mail Request for Participation
Dear Teachers at (name) English School,
My name is Mark Makino, and I am a student in the University of Leicester’s MA Programme in Applied Linguistics. For my thesis I am writing about private market English schools, AKA eikaiwa, to understand how teachers see their responsibilities teaching English to adults.
Eikaiwa is a relatively unexplored topic in academic writing on language teaching. Since practices at individual schools are likely to vary widely, it’s crucial that the data I use come from many different sources. I’m seeking respondents to a survey on teachers of adult eikaiwa, of any background or nationality, from schools small and large. The survey has 23 multiple choice questions and should take about 5 minutes, and can be completed in either English or Japanese.
Also, although I am an eikaiwa teacher as well, I am specifically avoiding surveying schools in my area (eastern Shizuoka Prefecture) and will absolutely not use the data gathered here for any commercial purpose.
The link to the survey is at the bottom of this email. Thanks very much for your time.
Thank you very much for taking my initial survey. You have received this e-mail because you entered your e-mail address indicating your willingness to participate in further open-ended questions. The questions are written below. As before, questions may be answered in English or Japanese, and any or all questions may be skipped at your discretion. Please provide no identifying details of students or other parties when answering. Feel free to take as much time as you need in answering if you choose to do so.
I’ve done a few projects that require me to visit professors in their offices (projects like this one), and I’ve been part of many conversations with them on academic rigor, whether for the project or just incidentally. One things many of the faculty I’ve talked to have told me is that they are more lax than most other professors, and many of the standards they do adhere to are more because they don’t want their students to be disadvantaged when they encounter those professors in the future.
I’ve heard this from more professors than I’ve heard the opposite from. Maybe one or two have told me that they have higher standards than others, but the story from most is that they sometimes regretfully have to overprepare their students for everyone else’s unforgiving standards (often characterized as “the real world”).
It occurred to me that lack of regular communication between professors has led them to have somewhat paranoid impressions of each other. If you hear from a majority of professors that every other professor is strict, perhaps none of them are, or at least not nearly as many as we think. Instead, each professor is cornered into certain standards of academic rigor by the impression that they alone value evidence of thought and creativity, while everyone else values proofreading and document format. And yes, it is exactly the lower-order skills of spelling, style (singular “they”, dangling participles and all that), and timeliness that professors have professed a unilateral and lonely leniency toward.
I’m not sure what the right metaphor for this situation is – perhaps the fog of war (except that the fog obscures allies rather than enemies), perhaps a panopticon (except that everyone views each other through a skewed lens instead of everyone being observed by guards), or some more obscure literary allusion.
I’m also of two minds about whether this phenomenon is as unhealthy as I’ve made it sound. If each professor demands certain standards because they think each other professor demands the same or higher, the net result is a certain standard across the university, whatever the reason. The these standards may have an unhealthy fixation on lower-order or cosmetic issues, but lower order issues are part of the impression that a university graduate makes in interviews for jobs or grad school admissions in the future. As long as students aren’t failing out because their psychology papers confused “their” and “they’re”, some paranoia-induced standards probably don’t hurt. On the other hand, the spread of forward-thinking grading practices like ungrading or growth-oriented grading is probably also hurt by professors’ desire to be seen as more rigorous by their colleagues, a desire not to be seen as the weak link in the chain of reinforcement of academic rigor. I think if professors just talked to each other more, they might come to some kind of agreement on best practices that wasn’t enforced by [metaphor TBD].
My mom mentioned recently that her opinion of Rachel Maddow had recently dropped a bit because she heard her substitute of “ran” for “run” in the past perfect, in a sentence like “if Mitt had not ran for President,…”.
Naturally, my response was to run to COCA and exhaust my daily allowance of free searches in order to answer two questions:
Is substitution of past tenses for past participles (according to the broadcast standard/General American English) more common in the past perfect (“I had seen/saw”) than in the present perfect (“I have seen/saw”)?
Is the same substitution more common with irregular verbs whose past participles are the same as their present tense/base forms?
The first came to mind because while Rachel Maddow is more educated than either me or my mom, and has lived in two different versions of academic English (neither of which has “ran” as a standard past participle for “run”), she apparently produced a non-standard form, and I am curious why. One hypothesis is that the past-ness of the past perfect is more salient than that of the present perfect, and more likely to trigger a past tense.
The second occurred because “run-ran-run” is part of a small group of irregular English verbs whose past participles are identical to their present tense/infinitive forms, which may make the temptation to use a past tense instead stronger. I can’t really articulate this “temptation” well except to say that the past perfect feels like it needs a special verb form, and it is (again, for lack of a better word) slightly disappointing to use one that looks and sounds exactly like the version that is in the dictionary.
I did COCA searches for a small sample of irregular verbs from different categories, which I’ll let you figure out yourselves. I almost exhausted my limit of free searches, which feels good to say on a vacation day.
Hat tip to Catherine Whitsett, my coworker at Cypress College who first gave me a big list of irregular verbs sorted by the type of change they undergo for their past tenses and past participles.
Below is the data that I found on COCA. (You can tell this is a true blog post and not a repurposed academic article because say “data is” rather than “data are”.)
The rows in yellow are key. The numbers in the yellow rows are the ratios of past tenses to past participles in the present perfect (“have did” vs. “have done” or “has did” vs. “has done”) and in the past perfect (“had did” vs. “had done”). The last yellow row is also present perfect, but only “has did/done”.
The reason for differentiating “has did/done” from “have did/done” rather than just lumping them all together is that “have did/done” potentially includes non-present perfect verb forms, such as to-infinitives (“I want to have done a TED Talk”), bare infinitives (“I might have done it”) or imperatives (“Just have done it before you clock out”). I didn’t want to do all the work of calculating all of these usages separately (again, blog post, not rejected academic article) and then subtracting them from the “have” scores, so you just have to accept that the “have” scores all have quite a lot of non-present perfect usages included. The “has” scores don’t have this problem – they are all present tenses (and of course the “had”s are all past tenses – there were no “have had done”s).
As you can see, substitution of the past tense for the past participle in the past perfect (“had did”) is not much more common than in the present perfect (“has/have did”). However, if we include only “has” as our representative for the present perfect, then the past perfect wins. This is not just because there are more “have”s in the corpus than “has”s – what we’re measuring is the ratio of past tense uses vs. past participle uses, not the number of samples. As you can see, the ratios of PTs to PPs are very similar if we include “have” as a representative of the present perfect, but if we don’t, the ratio of PTs to PPs is close to double for the past perfect than for the present perfect (0.0083 vs. 0.0047 on average)
In short, people are more like to use a past tense rather than a past participle in the past perfect than in the present perfect, at least in COCA. Next step is to scan their brains to confirm my suspicion than it’s the saliency of the pastness. Need to look up “neural correlates to saliency of pastness” on Wikipedia and then rent an fMRI machine.
people are not more likely to use the past tense instead of the past participle regardless of tense (present perfect or past perfect) when the verb is from the group whose past participles and present tenses are the same. Also,
people aren’t especially likely to use the past tense instead of the past participle in the past perfect when the past participle and present tense look the same.
The plain numbers for PT-PP substitution are not the lowest for the “come-came-come” group, but again not as high as “go” and “do”, which have wacky and idiosyncratic past tenses and past participles. The “drink” group (whose past tenses and past participles undergo a vowel change) and the “speak” group (whose past tenses and past participles are differentiated by “-en”) have much higher rates of substitution. This comports with my recollections – should auld acquaintance be forgot, indeed.
As you can see in the red row at the bottom, the numbers of PTs/PPs in the present perfect and past perfect are more similar for the groups of irregular verbs whose PTs and PPs are differentiated by a vowel (“begin-began-begun”) or whose PPs are just the PPs plus “-en” (“forget-forgot-forgotten”). The verbs whose past participles are the same as their present tenses are right in the middle. The verbs most likely to have PT-PP substitution in the past perfect over the present perfect are the wacky irregulars like “go-went-been/gone” or “do-did-done”. Not sure what this means, but when the fMRI rental comes through I’ll be able to make much more elaborate hypotheses.
COCA data is always imperfect – I’m sure there are at least a few instances of “have woke friends” hiding in the “have [wake]” search results, not to mention negations and other forms of present or past perfect I just didn’t search for at all. Feel free to improve on this research, write it in an article, have that article rejected because you cited a blog, and then post the article on your own blog.
I’ve taught an online 1st year writing course for the last 3 semesters, and I’m prepared to make overarching claims about online pedagogy overall.
The 10% missed-assignment threshold is now a 5% missed-assignment threshold
I’m only half kidding. I am mostly interested in seeing how closely these purely online and remote courses reproduce the patterns that I’ve observed in my in-person or hybrid IEP courses. But along the way I’ve found a pattern in Canvas New Analytics that probably holds true for many other online courses.
The short answer to the first question is yes, and to an extreme degree. Students who miss more than 10% of assignments have dramatically lower grades than those who miss fewer than 10%. The cutoff seems to be even higher in purely online courses – the students who missed fewer than 5% of assignments in all 3 semesters had average grades of ~85%, while those who missed more than 5% of assignments had average grades of ~40%. The precise numbers were within 10% of each other across all 3 semesters. In simpler language, students who missed at least a few assignments tended to miss a great many assignments, and this caused them (much more than doing poorly on completed assignment) to fail the course.
Page views = success
I also found something interesting while playing with Canvas’ New Analytics. Canvas, in addition to final grades, lets you see WordPress-like statistics on engagement, including logins, page views, and “participations” (which consists almost entirely of assignment submissions). This seems to be intended for teachers to see who checks the class Canvas page the most often as an online equivalent for taking attendance, and is ripe for some basic analysis with Google Sheet/Excel’s CORREL function.
To pick the lowest-hanging fruit first, page views are positively correlated with final grades at 0.76. Page views are positive correlated with #s of perfect scores, and negatively correlated with numbers of 0s. In plain English, students who check Canvas more often are more likely to get perfect scores on assignments and less likely to fail to turn them in (the most common reason for a score of 0). The correlation scores average to 0.65 in all three semesters for the former and -0.69 for the latter.
To pick even lower-hanging fruit than the one I just described as the lowest-hanging, participations (which, again, on Canvas are mostly assignment submissions), also correlate positively with final grades (0.81), positively with #s of perfect scores (0.67), and negatively with numbers of 0s (-0.87).
Interestingly, the ratio of participations to page views also correlates with final grades – negatively (-0.40 on average for the 3 semesters). The ratio of participations to page views is basically the likelihood that a page view will result in an assignment being submitted. Some students browse the module materials for hours before turning something in, and others open a page once and submit the assignment described without clicking around much. It’s not obvious why students in the latter situation would tend to do worse than the former, but students who were more likely to submit assignments after small numbers of page views tended to get lower final grades. I can think of two reasons that this could be true:
Students who have lower grades tend to do more assignments at the beginning of the class than the end, usually dropping off between weeks 3 and 10. More assignments in the early weeks of class can be completed with little or no revision of class materials (which would result in more page views) than at the end. The assignments that require more review (and hence more page views) tend to come later in the course, and are less likely to be completed.
Students who have lower grades tend not to review module materials before turning in assignments. In the class that I teach, where there are rotating topics from week to week, some 0s are for writing on the wrong topic (for which students have the chance to resubmit the assignment, but many don’t).
There’s a chicken-and-egg question with the page views – is it that more page views cause students to focus more on completing assignments, or that students who are focused on completing assignments tend to view more pages (or are both caused by a third thing, such as not having a TikTok account)? Are page views more like practice hours on a musical instrument, in that even an unmotivated student will gain something from simply increasing that number, or are they more like volunteer hours, in that successful students are likely to have many of them, but increasing their number doesn’t make one more successful?
I have a feeling that they’re the former – in the attention ecosystem of a teenager’s mind, more views will lead reliably to more participation, and I need to get eyes on my pages any way I can. I might see greater engagement with my courses if my Canvas pages sent reminders with as much salience as Instagram or WhatsApp instead of being relegated to the black hole of their .edu email addresses. Perhaps I should do what Denise Maduli-Williams does and make an IG account just for teaching. Or include more BTS content in my course materials.
This blog is way for me to make sense of complexities of teaching and learning English as a Foreign Language. My aim is to research areas of interest to inform my teaching and increase the impact of my teaching.