Our teacher, Dr. Shizuka gets angry every time he sees an English lesson in which the students try to speak in English but the teachers never correct their students' English. He always says to us, "Why don't English teachers do their own jobs?"
I always feel sorry to hear that because I also have given such kinds of English lessons as an English teacher so far. I have tried to give my students many opportunities to use English by themselves because I believe such an experience brings them confidence and skill on commanding English.
But now my opinion has changed. Such an experience is just a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition. Students need to be guaranteed their proficiency of English through the English lessons. They are our responsibility as Dr. Shizuka mentioned. So now I think we need to give them opportunities to use English freely and also to know what is wrong with their English.
Now I've found one good way to solve that problem. To get IC recorders into our English classes will make our English classes much better. Now we seldom have an LL room in our schools. But IC recorders are getting much cheaper than they were before. The cheapest one costs only about 3,000 yen. We can get about 40 recorders in our school and let our students use them. Moreover, is it impossible for each student to get his/her own IC recorder? Actually, they are a little more expensive than the CDs which include the sound of the textbook for students self learning. But if we make better use of them in our classes, they could be worth more than 3,000 yen to us.
Then, how can we change our English lessons with IC recorders? Students can record many types of sound with them. For example, students can record the sound of teacher's model reading in a class and bring it back home. And they can practice with that recording over and over at home. Of course, they can stop it whenever they make mistakes and listen to it again and again. They can also practice singing English songs with IC recorders at home.
But I think that's just added value of them. Rather, I would like to use them to record the voices of our students. That's what the CDs can't do for students. Listening to our own voices lets us notice our problems. Once students understand their own problems, they must try to overcome them. IC recorders show students their own goals explicitly.
One day, I visited an English class in Shizuoka. The first graders of junior high school tried to introduce their imaginary foreigner friend to their partners in English there. As they were not proficient in English yet, they made many mistakes on their grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. I liked that task but I was afraid that their mistakes might have been neglected.
Surprisingly however, they recorded their own English speeches on IC recorders! Though those recorders were not theirs but school equipments, they had to listen to their own speeches and transcribe what they really had said as an assignment. As they were not allowed to bring it back home, they had to do that at school. And of course, since those scripts must include many mistakes, they would try to revise them carefully later.
That's one of the good examples that I would like to show everyone. Correcting student's English explicitly sometimes, particularly when they are speaking, interrupts and confuses them. On the other hand, we need to tell them their problems to solve as a good coach. At that time, I was sure that IC recorders can be good assistant coaches for us.
With IC recorders, we can conduct the English lessons in which we can stress sound rather than letters. But now we are just at a gateway to our higher goal. Once students start to mind the sound of English more, we English teachers must treat it much more carefully than ever before. Of course, we must keep developing our English pronunciation in case IC recorders should bring our poor English out of the classroom.