I received my MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Southern Illinois University in 1976. Before coming to Japan I taught English in Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and to foreign university students in the United States. I have lived in Japan for many years with my wife and two children.
I have taught in many different situations to students with different needs and abilities and each situation and every class is in some way unique and requires special attention. But generally, I believe that learning a language means learning to do an activity like driving, swimming or riding a bicycle. Theory has its place, but in the end, the student learns best from doing the activity. An old language-teaching maxim says, “Teach the language. Don’t teach about the language.” I believe this is good advice for teachers.
My classes are not lectures. For me, the language classroom is more like a swimming pool or a dance studio. It is a place where students come to do English; to practice and to speak. I set up situations and the students use their English. They speak every day. For some students this can be frightening at first but there is no need to worry. Japanese students have studied English for several years and the first step is to get them to use what they already know. When they discover they can actually say something, they are often surprised. My job is not to point out errors or make difficult questions, but rather to help students use English to the best of their ability.