No Japanese in Class

In our hour long after school English lessons, we have a no Japanese policy.     Why do we want English only lessons?




  • Japanese in class is the number 1 reason students quit.   We get a lot of students from other schools because of this.    (If you’re a school near us—ignore the no Japanese advice.)


  • Once kids start speaking Japanese, it’s hard to get them to stop.   One or two words will become non stop chatter.


  • If kids are speaking Japanese, they can’t hear the English.  Which is why we prefer silence to Japanese. 


  • It leads to discipline issues.   Kids are comfortable in Japanese (of course).     They can be rude, bully, make fun of the teacher….  and many teachers have no idea.  The teacher is not in control, the students are.  Class discipline breaks down.


  • Teachers often use Japanese to:


  1. Show off:  Literally, look how much Japanese I know.  The kids don’t care.  They just want to have a good English lesson.


  1.   Inappropriately:    Teachers holding a picture of an apple and saying ringo.   (I HAVE seen this).  The kids can SEE it's an apple.    Why is the teacher saying the obvious.   


  • Perhaps most importantly, students develop confidence to understand and respond in  English only classes.   If there is constant Japanese translation, the student will not TRY.    We handicap the children.   


They will not have a personal translator when they take English tests or go abroad.  The sooner they get used to thinking and responding in English only environments, the better.




The How: 


  1. Students learn at their level.   The vocabulary, questions and answers begin easy and slowly get more difficult.   



When is Japanese OK?


  1. We use Japanese for brief translations.   And then back to English.    Before we speak any Japanese, we’ll see if one of the students understands and can say the Japanese.   If no-one does, then we will do a quick translation and then back to English.


  • Kindergarten and basic elementary lessons rarely need any Japanese.    Because the grammar and vocabulary at that level is basic.    


  • Higher level elementary and Jr. High School and High School-more often just to make sure they understand.  


For example, students on My English Book and Me 6 will encounter:   Have you ever ________ ?      The first time students read a Have you ever question,   I will ask,  Do you understand?   or What is Have you ever ________ in Japanese?     


I don’t want to speak Japanese.   I want them to quickly speak it just to make sure they understand.    If no-one knows, then I will say Have you ever is  nani nani ga yatta koto ga arimasu ka?     They understand and we can continue in English. 


The main point is, Japanese is allowed briefly for comprehension and then back to English.   


How about your lessons?


Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Amy (Friday, 05 July 2019 12:11)

    As a footnote: we also ask Jr High School students to explain new grammar in Japanese. For example, I will have a sentence with present simple: I usually walk to school. and present continuous: But today I'm taking the train to school. And ask the children to explain the difference between the 2 sentences in Japanese and when each type of verb is used.

  • #2

    Julian Whitney (Tuesday, 09 July 2019 13:00)

    Yes, we agree. At lower levels, no Japanese is necessary from the teacher regarding the Target Language. Being monolingual classes, translation can be a time-saving comprehension check at higher levels.

    Procecedurely, we don't mind our learners confirming that they have understood how to do a task. We usually affirm or correct by reformulating in English.

    Regarding outside of class; clear communication in whatever language is important for the smooth running of our school and community relations in general.

  • #3

    Nadine in Japan (Monday, 22 July 2019 19:09)

    I agree, English only environments help students to listen to the English & really try to understand what's being said.
    I've noticed in high school classes, if they know the Japanese is coming straight after from a Japanese teacher, they won't even listen to the English at all, they just wait for the translation.
    We need to take away the safety net for them to step out and listen to and use English.

    Of course, that being said, my students know I can speak and understand Japanese so if there is an emergency or difficult situation (someone is sick, needs to use the bathroom and can't remember the English, etc, they know they are in a safe environment and will be ok). I also allow them to ask about a difficult grammar point in Japanese if they are doing their own writing activity (writing a speech for example.) They can ask "how do I say (Japanese phrase) in English? and we might use Japanese to clarify exactly what they are wanting to say or the differences in their English idea of the phrase and what they actually mean. (e.g. I ate my mom and hamburgers was clarified in Japanese recently in my class... (they wanted to say watashi wa okaasan to hanbaga wo tabemashita) haha We clarified in English & Japanese (did you eat your mother?) and then followed up with how we say it in English (and that 'to' is more like 'with' than 'and' in this situation). That's an important one to get right!

    All in all though, English is the best way! (as long as you have sufficient examples, e.g. the apple prop card) to support the learning so the children understand the vocabulary!