English learners who always look for study tips

For the last couple of days I have been working on the first proof. As is often the case with publishing, there is not too much time given to an unknown author (me!), so it is a tough task to complete. Now I have just press the send button to get the first proof back to the publisher.

By the way, this new book, which will come out in April or May, will be of great use for novice TOEFL learners. The book contains lots of materials similar to those seen in the actual TOEFL test. Obviously, I was asked to write this one within the context of the recently proposed introduction of the TOEFL test to the entrance exam to university. I am sure that you will see lots of TOEFL prep books in the Japanese bookshops this spring. I hope learners can find what’s appropriate for them. Regardless of this new policy (of adding the TOEFL to the exams), we need more books in Japan. Learners are just reduced to relying on foreign books, which are a bit overwhelming (Look how thick they are!), and may consequently give up on the entire plan to study abroad.

In this setting, however, learners flock to the bookshop to get books. You may wonder what books, now that you know there are not enough books for the TOEFL in the first place. Instead of studying material, decorating rows of shelves are books on study tips. “How to prepare for the TOEFL” “How to brush up speaking skills” “How I learned English” “How people should acquire a foreign language” and the list goes on and on. Some of them are selling very well.

Well, I am determined NEVER to write a book of that sort. I do not criticize anyone for choosing one of those books, because I did it very often when I was in college. However, after all the effort, I now know that reading or getting study tips in Japanese works as anesthesia or amphetamine. As you read study tips, you gradually feel numb and think that you have learned many things. On the contrary, so long as you are reading Japanese books, you are NOT learning anything about English. If learning English is your goal, learn English. Probably that should be the best policy.

Therefore, I find it hard to understand why Japanese learners prefer to read study advice written in Japanese. It seems to me that they are reading books on how to go on a diet successfully while munching on a slice of pizza. Dieting itself is not bad. Advice for dieting is worth reading. However, before foraging for advice, isn’t it better to stop munching pizza?

When I see people reading advice for learning English written in Japanese, I always remember this analogy. If they have time to read a Japanese book on English, they should read an English book on anything.

But the publishers are not about to stop this trend. Looks like this country is producing millions of English learning critics who don’t speak English themselves.


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