English as a universal language, a new teaching paradigm?

In this article in the Asahi Shimbun, a leading Japanese expert on English teaching, Kumiko Torikai, explains that a new paradigm is needed in English teaching. Since English is the universal language, it needs to be taught, not as the natives speak it, but according to some unidentified “core”, to reflect the fact that non-native speakers outnumber native speakers. So there is no need to use articles, and if Japanese people get the “l” and “r” wrong, that is just fine.

The article also discusses the degate between grammar based English teaching in Japan, and conversation English based teaching.

I do not understand this discussion. In learning any language, we need a model. The learner can choose whether to learn from a native speaker, and which style of native speaker, or a non-native speaker. The choice should be with the learner. I doubt that many would deliberately choose to model themselves on a non-native speaker.?? Whether we achieve this goal is another question. Of course, we need to be tolerant of ourselves and others when we make mistakes. But whether its English, the universal language or any other language, I really don’t see the difference.

As to whether English teaching in Japan is too grammar oriented or too conversation oriented, let’s get serious. Japan, the country with the greatest TOEIC habit in the world, achieves excellence in neither. One has only to go to a book store and see the rows and rows of books dedicated to test-taking to understand the reason for this lack of success.

But then there are oodles of books on learning other languages too, and there areas of the book stores are very busy. You would think that the Japanese were among the world’s leading polyglots. More on this in the next post.

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