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"On Teaching English in Japan"

Thoughts on the Implications of Teaching English Visually

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On November 25th, I received the following email:

Hello Steven,

My name is Jerry D******* and I teach English to Japanese in northern Japan.

I just read your, "Teaching Children to Read: Picturing the Two Ways," and enjoyed what you had to say.

I would like to use the images in a paper and wanted to ask you if I could have permission to do so? Japanese are, I think, visual and haptic learners and yet, in English, they are taught to memorize everything.

This does not make sense to me but this is their history.

May I have permission to quote your web site and use your illustrations?

Thank you for your kind consideration.


On November 25th, I wrote the following in response to Jerry' request:

Hello Jerry,

Thanks so much for writing and for asking for permission. Being quite culturally Italian, I so appreciate genuine acts of respect.

As for my permission, of course, yes, you have it. And although I would prefer some reference to the work's origin, I am more focused on the possibility that my work might benefit someone.

Perhaps, if and when you do use it, you could then write back and let me know how it went. And perhaps after that, I could then have your permission to post to my site what you and I have written. Maybe then, between the two of us, we might help even more people to fall in love with learning to read. I, for one, would love that.

In addition, should you find you'd like some variations of the images, or some further extensions into other letters or pronunciations, please do ask me, as I'd love to help you in whatever way I can.

And again, thanks so much for writing,


And this as well...

Hi Jerry,

One final thought.

Your comments about Japanese being visual learners made me wonder how much their visual orientation to language and learning in general contribute to their somewhat higher degree of every day consciousness compared to most Western people?

Just a thought.


On November 27th, Jerry wrote:

Nice to hear from you. First thank you for your kindness and permission to use the graphs. I am writing my dissertation in education and I'm arguing that Japanese students who are lower level language students can benefit greatly when visuals are incorporated into their lessons.

Word recognition is dependent on building vocabulary, and the reading process is influenced in part by the number of words recognized and the mental recall of the corresponding meanings. But as you know, the middle two sections are skipped and so, the reading is superficial and meaning is not processed deeply enough to be integrated with one's personal schema.

So I want to integrate the visualizing and the text so one becomes more aware, reflective, conscious of what is being introduced, and aware of the filters or images, values, and beliefs that resonate with personal identity and those images that are rejected.

That is a mouthful, but essentially, I find the Japanese have a wider visual scan than Westerners, but language can bind them into a word system that represents life in an abstract way. It is a matter of the experiential right brain being dominated by the analytical left brain.

This plays into the awareness question of yours. The Japanese are more conscious of the world around them, while Americans can be locked into fighting over the definitions of words and not see the whole picture.

By the way. I was lucky enough to go to a conference just a week ago in Venice. Fell in love with the place, though I did not have as much time there.

You web page was very interesting to me to because you have so many interests combined there. By training I am a counselor, and here I am teaching research in computer science school in Japan. Like you, I combine my interests.

Can I ask you Steven how you came across the idea of visual and mental reading in the first place?

Again thanks for the permission. Nice chatting with you.


On November 29th, I wrote back:

Hi Jerry,

Just to let you know I've corrected a typo or two in the drawings.

As for the visual vs. mental reading, it's simply one outgrowth of my studies on human consciousness. And as you've noted, I've many interests on my site.

More specifically though, in 1996 I had a very personal and very profound experience during a meditation. Since then, I have simply built on what emerged in me that day.

What emerged in me that day?

In a way, I could say it was the essence of human "unconsciousness" or in other words, the true nature of what a wound to human consciousness actually is. Since then, I've felt a blamelessness toward most wrongdoing and have come to see "not knowing the good" as BLocked abilities to picture beauty on the screen of the mind, rather than as deliberately chosen avoidance of the good or outright wrong doing.

From here, it was only one step forward to include 'unstudied" or previously unknown material in this blameless "not knowing." Thus, this blamelessness opened the door to a whole new sense of how people heal, learn, love, and grow, as well as to understanding childhood in general.

I have also had a number of teachers come and study Emergence with me. One, an English teacher, has taken the principles of Emergence and has created a conscious reading program with which he teaches his students to read and write.

He calls his work Eventful Emergence, and it has changed the lives of many of his students. In essence, all he does is, he asks his students to read and while reading, to consciously notice when they stop picturing the words. He adds to this that at the same time, they keep a page of tally marks, one tally line for each lost picture.

From here, he has them do the same for writing. Eventually then, the idea of seeing what you read and write becomes a normal, natural part of what happens in his classroom.

What is important to see here is, what happens in his classroom far exceeds his conscious reading goals. To wit, because the learning process becomes a mutual, visual experience, his students and he become so consciously connected that the student - teacher relationship far exceeds what is normally possible as well. This and the fact that he, too, aspires to blamelessness means his students get to experience a teacher who, by his very nature, embodies a conscious being.

Certainly this style of teaching could make a difference in many children's lives. And in this teacher's case, it already does.

Now a question for you. What does the learning process look like in your classroom? And how, in your opinion, do Japanese students differ as learners.

Nice chatting with you too.


I wanted to ask again if I could use parts of our conversations on my site, anonymously, of course. The possibility that something we exchange may spark more in others is one of the things that motivates me the most.

More over, people should know about your work as, like the work of the teacher I've mentioned here, it holds great possibilities.