TOEIC – One reason why Japanese struggle with English – they don’t read in English.

TOEIC publishes regular reports on the performance of their test-takers by country, age, professional occupation etc. It is interesting to note that Japan, Korea and France are by far the largest users of this test. In 2005, Japan accounted for 65% of test-takers, Korea 12% and France 8%. Japan has the lowest scores in Asia,?? and to some extent that is because so many people take the test there, and take it often, well before they are at a level where they can get a good score. I personally find that counter-productive. It means they are studying for a test before they have learned the language. They would be better to learn the language first and then take the test.

But what is really interesting is that the Japanese test takers do relatively worse on the reading portion, than on the listening portion. I often hear Japanese people tell me that Japanese people can read English well, but have trouble understanding English when spoken. It would appear that the reverse is true. Whenever I hear someone tell me that they read English well, but cannot speak, I ask them when was the last time they read a novel in English, or read English for pleasure. The answer is usually “never”. Reading is a powerful way to improve in a language.

2 thoughts on “TOEIC – One reason why Japanese struggle with English – they don’t read in English.

  1. My brother has been teaching English in Japan for about 4 years now and he’s said the same thing. Additionally, he’s found that they accept very little input regarding how natives speak, even from natives. It’s almost as if they’re developing their own form of English that’s evaluated by Japanese standards.

  2. Megan, thanks for commenting. I read your reply to the four questions. If you agree we could do a skype interview in English and Spanish about language learning and I would post it as a podcast. Let me know. My skypename is lingosteve.

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