Why Aren’t Japanese People Good at English? Part 2 of 5









アクションプランは僕のEnglish 2.0 Podcast のPronunciation Point ビデオで話す練習してください。まだ使っていない口と舌のマッスルを絶対に使いますので口と舌が疲れるはずです。だけどちゃんと出来たらリワードはきれいな発音と自然的な英語です!頑張ってください!

***Read Part 1–>
***Read Part 3–>
***Read Part 4–>

これは英語の上達方法です。これはEnglish 2.0です。英語のOSをアップグレードしましょう!






In Part 1, we talked about “Shy Personality” as the first reason why Japanese people aren’t good at English. In Part 2, I’m going to introduce the second reason, which is “Physical Challenges.”

So what do I mean by “Physical Challenges”? Basically, I’m talking about the physical movements your mouth and tongue need to make in order to produce English sounds and words.

What’s the difference between Japanese and other languages?

We can measure this difference by counting the number of phonemes (the most basic sounds that form pronunciation). According to an article by language master Tim Ferriss, the number of phonemes in Japanese is 112 (the number of sounds, not written characters). English, on the other hand, has over 10,000!

What does this mean?

It means that the average Japanese speaker’s mouth has been “formatted” with only 112 sounds when many more are needed for English. In other words, to speak English well requires a “reformat” of the mouth and tongue muscles.

How can I overcome these physical challenges?

Your Action Step is to practice speaking with my Pronunciation Point videos on the English 2.0 Podcast. Keep in mind that you WILL be working new muscles you’ve never used before and have new feelings your mouth hasn’t felt before. Your mouth WILL BE TIRED but the reward will be GREAT PRONUNCIATION and NATURAL-SOUNDING English!

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4 Responses to Why Aren’t Japanese People Good at English? Part 2 of 5

  1. saori at #

    Hi AL sensei,

    I’m really interested in reading your blog every time. I read this blog as soon as you posted, but it’s late to reply. It’s first time to hear “Phonemes” in my life. Does this word relate “Phonics”? Actually I’ve learned how to teach English to Children, and “Phonics” is including that way. Anyway, I was so surprised English has over 10,000 phonemes!

    I also think it’s so important for the Japanese English learners to study “syllables.” When I studied it at first time in Canada, the scales fell from my eyes! And I though why Japanse schools didn’t teach us! (I don’t know the present English curriculum, though.) Even someone’s English pronunciation skill isn’t good, it would sound like English if he knows syllables, I think. Do you know what I mean? Sorry, my English writing skill isn’t good enough.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading next one! Have a nice day!

    • ALsensei at #

      Hi saori,

      Yes, “Phoneme” is a very technical term from linguistics so it’s understandable why few people know it. “Phoneme” and “Phonics” are related in that they are both dealing with aspects of language and sound. Perhaps “Phoneme” is the basic building block of sounds whereas “Phonics” is a method of teaching pronunciation.

      Regarding syllables, yes, I agree it would be helpful in terms of getting someone away from the Japanese/Katakana mindset. To know the real syllables for English rather than the Katakana version is a MUST! But of course the other important thing is to really develop or reformat the mouth muscles so that English can be spoken more naturally.

      Thanks for your comment! Also I have a question. Do you think it’s helpful for me to write the Japanese version of the article? Or is only the English version enough?

  2. saori at #

    Hi ALsensei,

    Thank you for your reply and I’m so sorry for the late reply.
    I also appreciate your explanation of “phonics” and the way you think of “syllables.”

    Regarding your question, I think it’s really helpful for beginners to read the Japanese version of the article. Actually I read Japanese first, and read English later:))) I’m not good at reading, so it’s really helpful. On the other hand, I guess it takes a long time to write the articles, I mean you should write 2 versions of the article. Is it okay to answer the question?

    BTW, your Japanese is great! I’d like to know how you study Japanese. I’d like to use English like you speak/ write Japanese!

    • ALsensei at #

      Hi saori,

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I really appreciate it.

      Yes, it does take me more time of course to write the Japanese version but if I know it can help you, I will continue to do it.

      Also, thank you for your kind words. I think your English is great too! I studied Japanese (mostly reading/writing) from high school through college. Since coming to Japan about 11 years ago, I’ve been working on my speaking and listening skills. My methods are what I teach my current students and what I hope to share with everyone here on my website.

      Simply put, raising your level involves a Mindset Shift from the way we were taught language in school. We must go from “Constructing”(building word to word) to more of an “Observation” method(listening and noting what native speakers really say in phrases rather than words). I am in the middle of creating a step-by-step system that students can follow so I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s ready to go!

      Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to me here. Have a great day!