To avoid bullying, many returnee students will hide their English ability. While it might not always be strong bullying, even some simple comments, a student who speaks English better than their peers will be talked about. Without guidance, understanding and confidence that this is something to be proud of, a student may hide their English. What do I mean by hide English? Speak entirely using a katakana Japanese accent. If this student continues down this path of hiding, feeling ashamed or trying to avoid attention, the student may start to lose their English ability altogether.
When schools offer international courses or returnee courses this type of problem is far less likely to be a problem. However, almost no elementary schools offer this type of program. Junior high schools may also advertise "advanced" courses, but attitudes within these classes vary, and students who are "more advanced" may still not want to "show off".
In reality, a student with the ability to speak better English than their peers is going to be talked about. Other students will notice. It is up to the parents, the schools, the after school programs and courses such as the returnee and bilingual course at Lexis that will motivate students to feel proud of their abilities.
How can students feel motivated? First of all, they will see other children, their own age speaking and communicating well. They will hear stories from classmates that are fun, exciting and very different than what they might hear at school because of the international nature of returnee and bilingual students. Through good communication and a sense of pride, returnee students will grow proud of their ability and learn to use it as a tool rather than to hide it.
Coming back to Japan but not remembering English
Some students come back to Japan and forget English. Junior high school and high school can be tough. Some returnees come back from living abroad at young ages, then focus all their efforts on entrance tests or the Japanese language. These students may spend 3, 5, even 7 years without using their English again depending on what age they came back. So these returnee students may have learned how to pronounce English perfectly, but not truly understand English very well at all. When these students stand up to speak English in a junior high school or high school classroom, they would rather speak katakana English than try to explain the whole situation to their peers. I can understand their situation honestly. Despite this, I hope to motivate these students to speak in their natural English voice and enjoy the feeling of being good at something
Another problem for these older students is they may have almost given up. They know they missed a chance when they were younger, and feel anxiety about this when they are older. We cannot let these students feel ashamed, disappointed or down on themselves for not being excellent speakers. We need to continue to instill confidence and provide plenty of opportunities for these students to continue to use the English ability they earned when abroad. But not just use it, create the motivation to expand upon it. Make students feel proud and take advantage of their skills.
The key to avoid bullying is to create confidence. When a weaker English speaker makes a comment about a returnee's English ability, the returnee must learn how to enjoy the situation. Taking pride in being good at something sometimes means that others will be jealous or confused. But by talking with our students at Lexis, by parents communicating well with their children, and most importantly, by letting students see that they may be a little different, but they are "normal" and should be proud of their abilities.