Thursday, September 28, 2006

And so it begins...

小学校の英語「必修化の必要ない」 伊吹文科相

2006年09月27日22時06分 - 新学習指導要領の焦点の一つになっている小学校での英語必修化について、伊吹文部科学相は27日、「私は必修化する必要は全くないと思う。美しい日本語ができないのに、外国の言葉をやったってダメ」と話し、否定的な見解を示した。

[Interim translation] As regards the compulsory teaching of English in elementary schools--a point of contention in the new curriculum guidelines--Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ibuki Bunmei said on the 27th, "I don't believe it entirely necessary for it to be compulsory. If you cannot express yourself in beautiful Japanese, it is wrong to have done so in a foreign tongue." In saying this, he revealed his negative position.

Minister Ibuki,

As one who attended elementary and middle schools where half the classes were taught in English using American textbooks--and half were taught in French using French government-approved textbooks--and thank Dieu for it, for otherwise I would have never learned world history, geography or mathematics [the American math texts asked so little of our minds we referred to "English math" as "math for idiots"]--I can assure you that being made to learn a second language from an early age has not got one goddamned thing to do with the facility (I can see now I am going to be sick of the association of utsukushii with Nihon by November) with which one expresses oneself in one's mother tongue.


Oh, and by the way, if you are going to be railing against the use of loan words, perhaps you could sidle on over to the Kantei and tell the PM how goddamn ugly (and stupid) Takaichi Sanae's "inobēshon tantō daijin" title sounds.

Just a suggestion.



Jun Okumura said...

Wrong: "If you cannot express yourself in beautiful Japanese, it is wrong to have done so in a foreign tongue.""

Better: "If you cannot express yourself in beautiful Japanese, studying a foreign language won't do any good."

The premise of the new minister's argument is close to one that I've been making for a long time. I'm sometimes asked what is the best way to learn English. I say, study Japanese. What you cannot say in in your native togue, you will never be able to do in a second language.

No, that has nothing to do with whether ESL education should start early or not (depends on who and how you're doing the teaching). Mr. Ibuki is wrong to reject early ESL outright, but his premise, correctly translated, is quite sensible.

MTC said...

Then why the emphasis on "beautiful Japanese"? Aside from the appropriation of the title of Abe's book, why does the minister not talk about "proper" (tekito na) Japanese? Where does "beauty" enter into it?

I also cannot agree with your pedagological premise. Expressing one's thoughts eloquently in one's mother tongue and speaking a second language not only require a different skill set in each case but employ different parts of the brain.

One senses the difference in between the two actions when trying to carry out tasks in three languages at once--the two second languages start interfering with one another almost from outset.