The Birth of Matty's School of English and its Development as a Pioneer
of English for Japanese Children
In Praise of Mattyfs Direct Method
By Mitsuo Kyokuta, President of Matty's School of English
Thirty years have passed since Matty's School of English was born as the
pioneer of English Education for Japanese children. Matty's has been growing
in our local area with the help and cooperation of many people. We would
like to share the joy of this accomplishment with those people who have
helped Matty's grow.
According to a Japanese proverb, "Time flies like an arrow." And
they say,gTime and tide wait for no man." When I look back, 30 years of Matty's
have flown by in a second.
In 1957, I was lucky enough to be selected
among several thousand students who wished to study abroad. I was in utter
bewilderment in a class at the university in Virginia, as I was unable to
understand what the professor was saying. It was at that time that I started
wondering about English education in Japan. Although I had a hard time, I was
able to graduate from two American universities and return to Japan.
the Fall of 1971, in a small room in my home, my sons, Takufumi, who was in the
1st grade and Kazufumi, who was 4 years old, were studying English with Mrs.
Donna Ross. I didn't want my sons to be the victims of the inefficient teaching
methods of the schools in those days. Through my own experience of learning
English, I created a teaching method which puts emphasis on listening and
speaking. I believe this best fits children starting to learn English. It was
Donna who came from the American naval base in Yokosuka at my request to teach
my children with this new teaching method that I had created. When I look back,
this was the birth of Matty's School of English. A school that seeks the ideal
English instruction with Matty's Direct Teaching Method.
In those days in
Japan, as far as I know, English conversation schools for children, taught by
native speakers, did not exist in this area. I never intended to open an English
school, but the neighborhood children joined and with the help of Donna and her
kindness and intelligence, the number of our students exceeded 100 within the
first year. Donna's friends joined Matty's as teachers. The number of homes that
offered their rooms for Matty's also increased.
This was the challenge of
Matty's as a pioneer. We were determined to do good work. Thus, I named this
schoolgMatty's School of English.hA few years later, equested that my English
teacher, the late Matsuo Inamura, Professor Emeritus of Gakushuin University to
be the Matty's first Advisor. I was working for a British trading company and
one day I said to my wife, "Why don't you be the leader of Matty's and do what
you can to achieve more power for women ?" With Noriko Kyokuta as the Director
of Matty's, this school was operated only by women until I retired from the
trading company for which I worked.
Matty's has been very unique from the
beginning in many ways. Children learned English through play and fun activities
and mastered English through instinct. We taught English as a communication
method, a direct teaching method with no translation. All teachers were women
and were native English speakers. Teachers lived in Japanese homes. The classes
were held at students' homes.
Matty's being a pioneer created yet another
challenge. Because there weren't any other English conversation schools for
children, naturally there were no text books for children. Certainly there were
no books that were appropriate for Matty's direct teaching method. Therefore, we
had to make our own text books, song books and tapes. Also we made many
interesting games and props. Today this is one of the great assets of our
Matty's presented its technique to many parents. Those students
whose parents agreed with the direct method of teaching English were accepted
into our school. I felt reading, writing and English grammar could be learned in
junior and senior high schools and it was not necessary to duplicate those
lessons. Instead, Matty's emphasized listening, speaking and memorization of
daily conversational phrases which I believed were the appropriate skills for
young children learning a new language.
Although I had strong confidence
in our teaching method, within the first few years there were a considerable
number of students who left Matty's. The parents were saying that they only saw
an improvement in their children's pronunciation, otherwise they couldn't see
any results. I said to them "Please continue, then they will be able to speak
English." Studying at Matty's for 12 years would be equivalent to only 3 years
of English study in a junior high school. I wondered if only 40 to 60 minutes at
Matty's could bring good results. I increased the lessons to twice a week, but
the majority of students were unable to come. Therefore, I introduced taped
assignments so that students could study English at home. In order to keep
students coming to Matty's, I thought the most important thing was to give them
motivation to study. They must learn the pleasure of learning English and the
necessity of English for their future. I requested our teachers, first of all
make their lessons interesting within the frame of Matty's direct teaching
method. In addition, I requested the administration staff to think of various
events so that the students could continue learning at Matty's with
The blue card was introduced to encourage English study at home.
Day camps and summer camps were held although they were new challenges for us
and we were uncertain of everything they would entail. From the beginning
Matty's understood the importance of exposure to new cultures. To this end we
held Easter, Halloween and Christmas parties. In 1974 the Matty's First Annual
Speech Contest was held. This was to give students a target and to train
students to speak in front of a large audience.
Since 1976, we invited
Dorothy Britton to be the chief judge for the speech contest and also help us as
one of Matty's advisors. The speech contest became an important goal for many
students. Each year, students' English skills improved. The students who won
medals at the speech contest spoke beautiful English in front of a large
audience without hesitation. I wonder if university English majors could deliver
a speech with such distinction. Matty's 27th Annual Speech Contest was completed
last month. Thanks to the hard work of the teachers and staff, the number of
classes held at Matty's has increased. Eight years later we are hearing
encouraging feedback from our students and parents. I was encouraged when I
heard these voices. I have said over the years that in Japan the study of
English at juku and schools in general do not help to master practical English.
This has been proven through many years and you have witnessed this yourself.
Therefore, please continue your children's education at Matty's.
I sent my 1st son to the St. Joseph High School in Indiana, USA. Unlike my case
he didn't have much trouble adjusting. He easily caught up on his course work in
his second semester. Later he went to Indiana University. He got all A's in his
first year and obtained two scholarships. I was strongly convinced that Matty's
Direct Teaching Method works.
Matty's American Homestay Program and
American High School Program were begun with the help of Dr. & Mrs. Dean
Strycker. The American Homestay Program is appreciated by the all participants
without exception. This year we are planning the 22nd American Homestay Program,
but I'm worried whether there are any students will go to America in light of
the New York terrorism incident.
During the 1980's the number of
long-term students increased. In the Summer of 1991, a new Matty's office was
built at 1-32-25 Shonantakatori, Yokosuka, Japan. We celebrated Matty's 20th
Anniversary with a special Christmas party and issued "Encounter", an
Anniversary booklet. Enrollment reached almost 1200. Despite a declining
economy, this year was a very happy year for all of us. It was also a time to
hear good news from our students. For example:
Reiko Tajiri received The
Education Minister's Prize for 3rd class Eiken (Nationwide Standardized
Practical English Test) and also a Prize from The Ambassador of the American
Embassy for Eiken, 1st class.
Yohko Tanaka placed 1st in her high school
Mirano Kamioka was selected as Annie in the musical
Masako Toda graduated from the Medical Dept. of Tokyo University
with a PhD and now she is working at London University.
Best of all, I
received a telephone call from a lady. She said "I was a Matty's student and my
child is now 2 years old. Do you accept 2 year olds ?" I was surprised and happy
to know that some of our old students are now parents and they are starting to
send their children to Matty's. I am happy to announce Matty's is now serving
its second generation of students. In this way Matty's is certainly
In 1993, as a result of the faltering economy and the sharp
decrease in the number of children, many kindergartens closed. It was at this
time that the Japanese Education Ministry started thinking about introducing
English study at elementary school level.
After the Second World War,
Professor Matsuo Inamura was the foremost expert in the field of English
education in Japan. He dedicated 7 pages of his last book, "From Jack &
Betty to The Twenty-First Century" to Matty's and gave us high praise as the
pioneer in Japan of early childhood English education by native English
speakers. Matty's was already practicing the teaching technique recommended by
Professor Inamura at the end of his distinguished career.
English has been introduced in some elementary schools experimentally. Many
language schools have started to teach English to children.
universities in America, as well as in Europe, now carry English as a
Second/Foreign Language. This was unheard of when I was a student in America.
Two years ago, one of our teachers told me that the training she received in
England was quite helpful as it was very similar to Matty's Direct Teaching
Method. I asked her "Which method did you study?" She answered that it was the
Cambridge method that was introduced some 15 years ago and recently became
popular in Japan.
Eastern Mennonite University offers credit toward a
Masters degree in their Education Department for work performed at
It is evident from these facts that techniques only recently adapted
by others have long been in practice at Matty's.
Matty's teaching concept
and method have been adapted by many English schools for children, but they have
only a few years experience. Naturally they haven't seen results because they
are still in the experimental stage that we went through in the past. I would
like to recommend to our students that you should continue your English study at
Matty's, with its time-proven teaching method, until you can speak daily English
The number of students at Matty's is increasing
again this year. We would like to do our best to keep Matty's as the best
English school in Japan. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone
who has been helping Matty's in many ways, including our students, their
parents, teachers, Matty's staff, and the Japanese and American homestay
families. At the same time, I hope you will continue to support and counsel us
By Yoshio Arai,
Professor of English Literature at Komazawa University
Congratulations on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the founding of Matty's
Schoolof English !
Mr. and Mrs. Kyokuta, you have continued your project for
thirty years without interruption, with effort and patience. The result is a
remarkable success ! You have become the pioneers of the direct method of
teaching English to children by native speakers. To say something is one thing
but to do it is another. Government officials, professors and specialists of
English education have spoken much about theories and teaching methods so far.
But the results are very poor. Japanese office workers are struggling with
learning English conversation in the face of globalization in the fields of
business and industry. They did not have any chances for learning English from
the very beginning through native speakers when they were children.
the secret of effective ways of learning English ? There is no secret about it.
It is just to start learning English from native speakers in your
Mr. and Mrs. Kyokuta, you have practiced this simple method with a
firm belief and enthusiasm for thirty years. You have given children dreams,
aspirations, and above all, various chances of learning English with hope and
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great can be achieved without
enthusiasm." I once again congratulate both of you on your success in your
wonderful project !