立教池袋中学校・高等学校

Native Speaker's Column

A Native speaker of English who teaches at our school writes this column about Japanese culture or their experiences in Japan and our school.
This is a good opportunity for you to read about their thoughts and experiences.

My name is Ian Hawgood and I am from England. I was born and grew up in Oxford but my family moved to London about 12 years ago. I first came to Japan when I was 18 to travel and fell in love with the older traditions, culture, and of course the food! I came back to Japan nearly three years ago when I started teaching at Rikkyo. Prior to that I worked at Victoria School in Chelsea (a British Council school), as well as teaching privately at the Japan Embassy.

What really struck me about Rikkyo when I joined the school three years ago was how important the English department is. It is a very close department with the foreign staff and Japanese staff working together seamlessly. The foreign staff has been handpicked and is very experienced indeed. They also come from different backgrounds and areas which no doubt benefits the students.

As the only British English teacher at the school, I feel it is important to teach as much about culture as I can in class. Cultural backgrounds can be taught or opened up to any level student, of any age and it is vital that students can get to understand English on many levels. One thing I had noticed prior to Rikkyo, was that most schools in Japan taught in a very non-relative, non-cultural way. It was simply a case of memorizing a text, conversation or piece of grammar. This does not develop language on a wider scale, but thankfully Rikkyo is a forward-thinking and modern school in this department. All the teachers are fully encouraged to use their experience and knowledge to teach in a variety of ways, and to teach real communication in an interesting and unique way.

In my experiences in Europe, teaching children and adults alike, it is worth noting how advanced English is in most other countries. Even in England, many of my students are shocked to learn that I had to study three other languages from the age of 11. By the age of 16, students across Europe are largely of a strong to fluent level in a second or even third language. It is perhaps fair to say that Japan is still a little way behind such countries in their English language development, however at Rikkyo the students are very lucky to have such excellent English teachers, including five native speakers. It gives the students the best possibility to develop natural English if they apply themselves. This marks Rikkyo out as different and ahead of most other schools in Japan in terms of English language development.

Personally, I have greatly enjoyed my time teaching at Rikkyo. I am able to teach the students solely in English, which means most of the students, are able to understand through simple explanation entirely. This development is important as you cannot always use a dictionary and simply translate. Language is far more nuanced than that. The students understand this and seeing them enjoy using new language in an intelligent and thoughtful way is key really. It is simply about communicating with others on a wider scale, and that the students are able to understand this and not just treat English classes as another exhausting chore in their busy schedules makes sure they develop their own language abilities quicker and more accurately. In this way, the Rikkyo students have the possibility to be far more ready to use English in the real world rather than just the classroom.

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立教池袋中学校・高等学校
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