Sunday, December 27, 2009

I wish I could read English as fast as Japanese

I have been studying for US CPA(Certified Public Accountant) exam for one month. It would take a several months before I pass all the four subjects(FAR, BEC, REG and AUD). I use Wiley textbooks. The four textbooks have more than 3,000 pages. Each page is printed in a very small font, which makes my eyes very tired.

The content is difficult. But a bigger problem is my reading speed. It takes too much time to finish reading one chapter in a textbook. I have been studying English for many years but I can't read English very fast. It is not quite comfortable to read long complicated English sentences.

This is a depressing fact. My native tongue is Japanese and it is only hindrance to master English. This is a situation very different from when a Dutch person tries to learn English, for instance. Since Dutch is a close relative of English linguistically, the fact of being a native Dutch speaker does help to have proficiency in English. Being a native Japanese speaker does not. The ways of thinking are so distant between English and Japanese. That precisely explains why so many Japanese people are still struggling with improving their English skills after a tremendous amount of effort to learn it has been made.

As economic globalization penetrates across the world, the influence of English language is significantly increasing. No matter how you hate it, you can't avoid using English in the international business context. Japanese people incurs a great disadvantage in this situation because their lack of proficiency in English is inherently caused by the influence of their native language, Japanese.


Ei "Ray" Murakami said...

Maybe we need to invent a measure to read English text as Japanese one - just like we did in Chinese text ;-)

Andy M. said...

>Maybe we need to invent a measure to read English text as Japanese one - just like we did in Chinese text ;-)

I think that Japanese school version of English to pass exams (“juken eigo”) is close to your idea. :-)

Ei "Ray" Murakami said...

Hi Andy, your comment remind me a very important thing!

Emphasis on Grammar in English education in Japan is not that so bad as many Japanese think. Yes, Kundoku Chinese text reading method is actually also Grammar-focused.

I understand Japanese are shy of talking to native English speakers but there is no reason to justify not reading internet materials written in English. Japanese School English comes to help here.

The point is that spoken English and written English are quite different. Listening to internet broadcast of news talk radios and reading online newspaper or magazine would be one of the best ways to learn both within Japan.

Andy M. said...

Hello Ray,
I agree with you. Speaking in English is quite different from leading and writing.
From my experience, the best practice is to talk and find out things that native English speakers have a hard time understanding. I talked in English a lot in America and went through speech therapy sessions. Afterwards I realized that how hard it was for Americans to understand me when I was fresh off the plane. I wouldn’t recommend the approach to fix the pronunciation perfectly and then start to talk. Actually that (keep silence till you become fluent) is one of the major obstacles for Japanese people to learn how to speak in English.
Having said that, I don’t really agree with some people who argue that Japanese English (“Katakana Eigo”) is OK. Japanese English is OK as long as their speeches are understood. The biggest problem of Japanese English is that it is really hard for native speakers to understand. It is not a matter of good pronunciation vs. content of the speech. It doesn’t really matter how good the content is if the speech is unintelligible.

Andy M.

Ei "Ray" Murakami said...

Hi Andy, I also have a thought on Katakana Eigo. It has actually damaging effect in vocal communication.

The problem with Katakana Eigo is that it is based on spelling not pronunciation. Have you heard of John Manjiro, a Japanese fisherman in Edo era cast away and picked up by an American whaling boat? He used an unique notation of English words with Kana characters based on how he heard them. It was proved far better representations of real pronunciation and even effective today.

Also, New Zealand's indigenous people, Maori whose language have very similar pronunciations as Japanese (You can read like Japanese and you would be heard as a fluent speaker!) loaned many words from English into their own language and their representations are quite different from Katakana English.

So we need to believe in our ears rather than our eyes when we pronounce English words or phrases in many cases.