The Birth of Matty's School of English and its Development as a Pioneer of English for Japanese Children
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.

In 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 schoolgMatty'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 school.

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 enjoyment.

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.

In 1980 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 speech contest.

Mirano Kamioka was selected as Annie in the musical "Annie".

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 growing.

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.

Recently, English has been introduced in some elementary schools experimentally. Many language schools have started to teach English to children.

Many 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 Matty's.
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 conversation fluently.

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 at Matty's.

In Praise of Mattyfs Direct Method
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.
What is 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 childhood.

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 joy.

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 !