“Tadoku” Means Extensive Reading

TESOL professionals with training in communicative language teaching methods often complain about the state of foreign language teaching in Japan, where grammar-translation, usually called 訳読/yakudoku is still the dominant method. Yakudoku, though, is not the whole picture, even if it sometimes seems that way. In fact, various Japanese groups are working to supplement or replace this outdated way of teaching with more modern teaching approaches.

One technique that has active, passionate supporters in Japan is 多読/tadoku: extensive reading. Extensive reading is something I’ve been very interested in ever since I read Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading (2nd ed.). The research on extensive reading matches my experiences: reading a lot for fun increases your vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and writing skills in your first and subsequent languages. The key for second language learners is that they should read books that are easy to understand, so they can enjoy the story while painlessly acquiring language patterns.

This approach has caught on with many educators around the world. I was really pleased to discover that the Extensive Reading mailing list has several active members who are working in Japan, including both Japanese and non-Japanese educators. There are several good websites in English and in Japanese about ER in Japan, including this overview of ER in Japan by Furukawa Akio.

It was through one of the ER ML members that I found out about 英語多読完全ブックガイド [改訂第2版]/Eigo Tadoku Kanzen Bukkugaido Kaiteigai 2/Complete English Extensive Reading Book Guide. This book has about 12,000 book titles in it, organized in several different ways including level and genre. It’s an amazing resource, and I’m totally appalled that there is no equivalent resource published in English. I’m still learning Japanese, so I can’t take full advantage of this book. However, book titles are given in English, and the reading levels are listed numerically, so the most essential information is understandable. All you need to do is look up the level of a few books with which you’re familiar, check the ra and then you have a baseline for how their system works.

The books selected include Oxford graded readers, children’s classics (from Dahl to Rowling), nonfiction, and some adult fiction. There’s quite a variety represented in the 12,000 titles! Some even have short excerpts exactly as printed in their books, which is a great way to get a feel for a book. Don’t you wish we could get something like this in English? (Publishing companies, are you listening? A translation of this book or a whole new book along similar lines is something that countless English teachers would love to get their hands on!)

I do recommend this book, but with the obvious caveats. I had to buy this book through mail order from the Kinokuniya in San Jose, and it was only cheap by comparison to textbook prices. If you want to get a little more information about the book, let me know in a comment and I’ll try to scan a couple of pages to give you a better idea of what it’s like. I’m currently out of town, so it’ll be a while before I can do that.

(Please let me know if I’ve made any mistakes in the Japanese in this post. More later about how I’m trying to practice what I preach when it comes to my own learning of Japanese!)



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6 responses to ““Tadoku” Means Extensive Reading”

  1. Chris Cotter Avatar

    I completely agree that extensive reading is essential to build vocabulary and grammar, and promote better recognition of collocations, commonly used phrases, etc. I often require my students to read, and to read a lot. I’m curious to hear your opinion on the following: Given that Japanese have such poor fluency in general after years and years of grammar translation, do you think that extensive reading is enough to improve their communicative ability?

    Look forward to hearing your opinion.


  2. sachiko tamanaha Avatar

    Greetings all you Language Learning & Teaching fans! Check out this huge World CALL Directory and Virtual Encyclopedia of language learning and teaching links:
    http://www.CALL4ALL.us. Especially for Extensive Reading fans as well as those Intensive ones, see its R-Reading page at http://www.call4all.us///home/_all.php?fi=r. Much to be learned and shared here!

  3. […] A basic principle of any form of teaching is that a teacher should avoid asking students to do anything she wouldn’t do herself. Dr. Sarah Nielsen, the head of my MATESOL program, always put this into practice by joining us during in-class reflective essays. Most models for extensive reading programs similarly encourage the facilitator of the ER session to sit down and read too. With that in mind, and being fairly well convinced of ER’s claims, I set out to find some graded readers for my current target language, Japanese. (See my previous post on tadoku, or extensive reading, in Japan.) […]

  4. steve-o Avatar

    The advantage of listing children’s classics is twofold. Firstly, the language level is often simplified, but with the occasional esoteric word thrown in just often enough to make looking it up interesting.

    Secondly, it provides a _cultural_ immersion. Every second person in the English-speaking Western world knows the nursery rhymes and classics (fairy tales as well as recent fiction) they were introduced to while growing up. It provides a common ground, a semi-universal set of literary, character and narrative references.

    Likewise, there are Japanese cultural memes which nearly every native speaker can recognise. Some of those have started to drift into Western storytelling (especially kids’ TV shows) over the last decade or three, but there’s still a long way to go.

  5. […] is evidence in many places including the Tadoku (Japanese) or tadoku (English) program in Japan, that extensive reading and listening is the fastest way to improve […]

  6. […] is evidence in many places including the Tadoku (Japanese) or tadoku (English) program in Japan, that extensive reading and listening is the fastest way to improve […]

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