Apr 24

Japanese Education Ministry OK’s textbook written by American

Thanks to JET alums Melissa Chan and Eroll Packard for alerting me to this via Facebook posts:

Ministry OK’s textbook written by American


Sachiko Asakuno / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

An English textbook written by an American teacher in Japan has passed a screening by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

Although it is rare to see the publication of a school textbook that was authored by an individual in a core subject, the textbook “Atlantis” is the third such volume Steven Mitchell, 40, has authored since his first was published three years ago.

His previous two textbooks have been adopted by 34 high schools in Miyagi Prefecture.

Mitchell studied Japanese at a U.S. university and came to Japan in 2000. He now teaches English conversation in Sendai.

Hearing that one of his students regretted not being able to answer questions about his research at an international conference, Mitchell decided to write a textbook.

Initially, he was confused by the ministry’s textbook screening system. For instance, he presented the typical exchange “How are you?” “I’m fine, thank you.” He then added, “This is not a natural English conversation.”

The ministry asked him to modify this wording.

Mitchell learned the patterns the ministry likes, but he says he will continue striving to write new textbooks. “English is a living language. Textbooks should present new, natural conversational expressions,” he said.

He thinks many high school students are not good at English because textbooks are often slanted toward such grand themes as environmental problems. His textbook uses such familiar topics as traveling abroad, intended to present situations where students would ask many questions.

Mitchell also experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake last year and was deeply impressed by teachers and students’ efforts to recover from the disaster.

“I’d like to continue writing English textbooks that can continue to give new power to Japan,” he said.

(Apr. 24, 2012)

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