Can you draw a picture? By a picture, I do not mean a bus or a fish, but a person whose girlfriend had a car accident and is hurrying to the hospital where she is on the operating table. I could not imagine myself drawing such a complicated facial expression on the blackboard while I give my students a circumstance in which the man was placed.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if language teachers could draw pictures to express complicated situations or abstract ideas?

Ever since I started to teach English conversation more than 20 years ago, I have been dreaming of this dream. (Too bad I haven’t even started to practice drawing! I know I do not have a strong will power.)

In Japan, the government, together with intelligent business people and professors, has been discussing teaching high school students English in English. I understand that many teachers feel overwhelmed to think that they will be required to teach a reading material on “carbon dating” in English. So probably, the new policy of teaching English in English will be reduced to choosing to teach in English whenever possible. That is, at the moment, where people concerned will be able to compromise, which means that there will be little improvement.

But what if teachers could all draw pictures? I would say that the situation would be totally different. With the help of visual aids, students will be able to see that the teacher is talking about a fossil, and that carbon14 can be used to measure how old this fossil is, and depending on the element, its half-life differs, and that this specific feature is of great help in determining the fossil’s age.

These abstract ideas will be expressed on the blackboard in a very concrete manner. Together with the verbal explanation made by the teacher, the students can understand what’s going on in class.

This is just an optimistic assumption or a day dream. It’s just that I would personally like to learn how to draw, and use that skill in class.

By the way, that is the response that I usually make to the speaking question: What skill would you like to have?

How does that sound?


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