Nobuyuki Hino


Nobuyuki Hino is a professor at the Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University, Japan. He has also served as a visiting fellow at the East-West Center in the United States. He became a pioneer in EIL education in Japan with his lectures on the nationwide radio ELT program English for Millions from 1989 to 1990, in which he hosted his “EIL talk shows” with non-native speakers of English from various countries. He has published numerous articles and books in English and Japanese, including articles in AILA Review, World Englishes, and Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics, and chapters in Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language (Multilingual Matters) edited by Aya Matsuda, English as an International Language in Asia (Springer) edited by Andy Kirkpatrick and Roland Sussex, and Current Perspectives on Pedagogy for English as a Lingua Franca (De Gruyter Mouton) edited by Yasemin Bayyurt and Sumru Akcan.  E-mail address:

1. Could you tell us about your educational and professional background? What were your experiences as a young middle and high school student learning English in Japan? When did you decide that you wanted to pursue the field of English language teaching as a career? What led you to want to become a professor of English? How did you become interested in WE and EIL? 

  First of all, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. I feel most honored.

   Now,  question #1. Well, this can be a really long story. In fact, I even wrote one full book dedicated to this question 28 years ago (Hino, 1987), because of a request by a Japanese publisher. Here, please excuse me for making it rather brief, because otherwise I will never be able to get to the second question in the foreseeable future if I start elaborating on this first question.

   I obtained a B.A. in law at Osaka University, Japan, an M.A. in ESL at the University of Hawaii, and a Ph.D. in language and culture at Osaka University.

   I knew no English till I entered junior high school at the age of 12. I had my first chance to speak English for communication only after I entered the university.

  Through the six years of junior and senior high schools, I spent many hours reading English textbooks aloud over and over again. Though it sounds archaic, this was a method recommended in a book written by a Japanese “guru” of English for my generation, Masao Kunihiro (1970). I often got out of my house at night so that my reading out loud would not disturb my older brother, and read my English textbooks aloud in a park nearby. Well, I enjoyed it very much.

  As far as I see, this practice of reading aloud is rooted in traditional Japanese culture, with its strong emphasis on basic habit-formation drills combined with spiritual values of self-discipline. For example, a daily practice for Japanese baseball players, including everyone from elementary school Little League kids to professional baseball batters, is to swing their bats in the air innumerable times, just as Japanese samurai do with their swords.

  My interest in ELT (English Language Teaching) goes to back to those junior and senior high school days. I was actually disappointed with the fact that all my English teachers always forced me to translate all English sentences into Japanese, giving me no chance of understanding them directly in the original.

Later, after I became an ELT researcher, I analyzed the historical and linguacultural background of this indigenous approach to foreign languages, known as yakudoku (Hino, 1988), and came to the conclusion that it had its own value as a locally-appropriate pedagogy compatible with Japanese culture (Hino, 1992, 2012c) However, in my high school days I felt that yakudoku was merely counter-productive.

  When I applied to a university after high school, despite my strong interest in ELT, I did not choose a career as an ELT teacher. In my observation as a student in junior and senior high school, there seemed to be no room for pursuing my educational ideals for ELT. The teachers seemed to be restricted by many factors such as the Ministry of Education textbooks, entrance exams, traditional norms, and peer pressure. I thought that I would just be forced to reproduce the same old yakudoku practice if I chose ELT as my job.

  Though this may be paradoxical, I avoided majoring in English exactly because I was extremely interested in learning English. Being disillusioned with ELT in Japan, when I applied to a university, I felt that I would rather study English in my own ways.

  The subject that interested me besides English was law, which I decided to major in. However, after I was admitted to the law department of Osaka University, I soon began to doubt my decision. After graduating from senior high school, incoming university students had a few weeks of recess before the university classes started, during which time I came across several books written by ELT researchers at a big bookstore in Osaka. It was 1976, and professional ELT literature was rather limited in those days compared with today, but there were some. And I found those books extremely exciting!

Until then, I did not know that there were scholars who professionally and critically looked into issues of ELT, but there they were.

  I began to ask around how I might become an ELT researcher in future, and I soon learnt that I had to major in English. And I was just going to start my four years as a law major. I was confused.

  University classes began, and I was really surprised to find that instructors for undergraduate EFL classes used any teaching method that they believed in and also freely chose or developed their own teaching materials. In junior and senior high school I saw that teachers did not have much freedom in selecting materials and methodologies, but I discovered that it was quite possible at the university level for professors to put their own educational ideals into realization through their classroom practice.

  I thought, “This is it! This should be my future.” I envisaged myself teaching EFL to undergraduate students while also conducting research on ELT as a teacher-scholar at the university level. A crucial problem, however, was that my position as a first-year law student then seemed like the furthest thing away from my dream of becoming an ELT professor.

  If you are from a country like the U.S., you might say, “It should be no problem. Why don’t you just change your major?” However, in those days, students were rarely allowed to change their majors at national universities in Japan.

  So, I studied law for four years as an undergraduate. I also attempted to “lose my interest” in ELT all through the first three years. However, after all this, I still found it impossible for me to give up my dream of becoming an ELT professor.

  Well, it looks as if I will go on forever in answering question #1. Indeed, if I may borrow a phrase from American singer Roberta Flack, this is really like “telling my whole life.” Let me shorten the rest of my story, as I am certainly not a celebrity whose life history would interest many others.

  I took the TOEFL exam in 1978, in the infancy of the TOEFL exam, when I was in my third year of university. I received 650, which attracted some media attention in Japan partly because I had never been abroad and also because I was a non-English major. For me, this achievement gave me confidence in my own approach to the learning of English.

  When I was in my fourth year of university – By the way, my use of “third year” and “fourth year” instead of “junior” and “senior” is based on my model of Japanese English – Anyway, one day when I was in my final year of college, I heard a Japanese song about a lover that a lady is trying to forget and cannot forget. Then I felt that it must be a divine message for me! The “lover” for me was my desire for ELT. As each of us perhaps only lives once, I thought that I should at least make an attempt to make my dream of becoming an ELT professor come true.

  Unlike today, it was not easy to find a place where I could specialize in ELT. I went around to various libraries including the American Center in Osaka, and finally came up with an idea that an M.A program in ESL at the University of Hawaii seemed to be the best choice. It offered a rare program with pedagogical rather than linguistic emphasis, which was my interest area, including the history of language teaching by Professor Kenneth L. Jackson. I also found out that I might have a chance in Hawaii to study with Larry E. Smith, a researcher at the East-West Center, who was becoming famous as an expert in EIL (English as an International Language). However, some American and Japanese professors advised me that it would be difficult for me to be accepted in M.A. ESL (TESL/TEFL/TESOL/Applied Linguistics) programs because of my undergraduate major, which was law when non-native English speaking applicants were generally expected to have majored in English.

  Anyway, I was determined to go on. I applied for a grant for studying abroad sponsored by major economic organization in Japan, Keidanren, and to my surprise, I got it. If there is a decisive moment in life, it was the interview for this scholarship, facing eight world-famous scholars as examiners including a future Nobel laureate. I really “sang my heart out,” so to speak, in explaining my study plan at this interview. This grant allowed me to pursue my MA in ESL at the University of Hawaii, when I did not have money even for one-way ticket to Hawaii.

   As for my interest in EIL, after I entered the university, I came to think, “We always talk about American English and British English. Why not Japanese English?” I felt it was only fair. However, that was certainly not my original idea. When I was a junior high school student, I read Kunihiro’s book as mentioned earlier. Besides his proposal for reading aloud, he also talked about the “de-Anglo-Americanization of English.” In my senior high school days, I also read Suzuki Takao’s book, published in 1975, in which he proposed a concept that he called “Englic,” or English for international communication that was distinguished from Anglo-American English. I realized the significance of their arguments only after I entered college, that is, after I gained some opportunities to actually express myself in English.

  By the way, it was very difficult in my student days in Japan to have chances to be exposed to authentic English. It was the 1970s. I strolled around town, searching for authentic English, being hungry like a wolf. I envy today’s kids who can get authentic English on the Internet anytime they want.

  Well, back to EIL. Smith and Rafiqzad (1979), published in TESOL Quarterly, was a great inspiration for me. I was still a law major, but studied ELT on my own. This was the first paper that showed that non-native phonology was no less intelligible than native speakers’ pronunciation in international communication involving a diversity of non-native speakers of English. I was visiting a library in Tokyo, and picked up the journal. “Eureka!” It was another decisive moment of my career.

  When I was at the University of Hawaii, Larry E. Smith offered a graduate course entitled “English as an International Language.” It was 1981. His EIL theory was still in the making then. Professor Smith always kindly said that he benefitted a lot from his discussions with us students. Imagine being allowed to participate in the very formation process of a new academic theory! It was extremely exciting.

  At the University of Hawaii, I also had the privilege of serving as a research assistant for Professor Jack C. Richards. I had the honor of helping him with the first edition of Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics. My first major publication was also Richards and Hino (1983), which signaled the beginning of Professor Richards’ series of high-profile study on teacher training. University of Hawaii professors really had a great impact on me.

  Well, I guess it is time for me to go on to question Question#2. But before that, I would like to offer a prayer for the souls of Professor Masao Kunihiro and Professor Larry E. Smith, two EIL giants from Japan and the U.S. respectively, both of whom passed away toward the end of last year (2014).

2. In your chapter entitled “Endonormative models of EIL for the expanding circle” in Aya Matsuda’s (2012) book “Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language” you discuss the need for endonormative pedagogical models of English in expanding circle countries such as Japan. You describe your Model of Japanese English (MJE) as one such model of EIL. Could you briefly describe MJE and discuss your rationale for developing this model? 

I believe that each teacher could come up with his or her own model of Japanese English. In this sense, it may be “Models of Japanese English” rather than a singular model. Anyway, the problem with the American English model traditionally employed in ELT in Japan is that it is tailored to communication between American people. It is not the most appropriate means of expressing Japanese values. It is not the most intelligible type of English either, when it comes to international communication involving non-native speakers.

For example, in my learning of English, I was taught to ignore seniority in siblings, and to say things like “My brother is….” I felt that such imposition was a kind of “linguistic mind-control.” In my understanding of Japanese culture, there is no such person as “brother” or “sister.” They have got to be either an “older brother” “younger brother” “older sister” or “younger sister.” After all, Japan has a culture where it is normal for parents even to call their elder children like oniichan (older brother) and oneechan (older sister). It would be useful to represent this value in the kind of English used by Japanese for international communication. In my model of Japanese English, the words “brother” and “sister” basically come with “older” or “younger.”

Another example of my models of Japanese English concerns argument construction. I suggest that there should be some use of the indigenous argumentative construction that has been developed in Japan, known as “ki-sho-ten-ketsu,” by which arguments are arranged  as “introduction” ”development” ”reflecting on the other side” and “conclusion.” This is a kind of organization that makes American people say “What’s your point?” However, in my view, this “ki-sho-ten-ketsu” construction embodies a traditional East-Asian belief in the “middle-of-the-road” moderation, or balance and harmony. At the third stage, “reflecting on the other side,” you can ensure a balanced argument.

This “ki-sho-ten-ketsu” organization is an adaptation from the construction of classical Chinese poetry. As such, it may not be very appropriate in contexts such as business communication, but has major advantages when a balanced argument rather than a quick conclusion is sought.


3. Could you also briefly describe how you distinguish WE and EIL and how this distinction is important for your idea that MJE is a “pedagogical creation”? What are some challenges in teaching your MJE model and how have you responded to these challenges?

  The limitation of the concept of WE (World Englishes) when it comes to Englishes from the Expanding Circle is that the WE theory was originally developed for the Outer Circle, or postcolonial Englishes such as Indian English and Nigerian English, with special attention to their intra-national or domestic use. From this perspective, there is some tendency among WE scholars to simply regard English used by Japanese as an immature variety. The WE paradigm has made a highly significant contribution to the elimination of discrimination between Englishes in the Inner Circle (i.e. native speaker varieties) and the Outer Circle, but has ironically created a new discrimination between the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle.

  On the other hand, EIL does not make a distinction between the Outer Circle and the Expanding Circle in this respect, which is in a way natural because all varieties can be regarded as equal in international communication no matter what their intra-national environments may be.

  WE scholars tend to assume that a “model” is about describing an existing variety. From such a viewpoint, there is little room for original models for Englishes from the Expanding Circle. However, in my position, models of Englishes from the Expanding Circle may be created or designed for ELT.

  Many supporters of EIL actually say that we may just provide the students with native speaker models and tell them that it is OK not to be able to achieve those targets. However, I do not believe that is what education should be. What would it mean to give your students a model while telling them not to be very serious about it? In fact, students simply take such message to mean “You don’t have to work hard.” Besides, it would be too optimistic for us to presume that we can overcome native-speakerism while we still hold on to native speaker models.

4. From my (admittedly limited) reading on the topic, I have seen a lot of discussion on the phonological features of EIL; in particular Jennifer Jenkins in her seminal book “The Phonology of English as an International Language” (Jenkins, 2000) describes in great detail all the features of EIL as well as giving her reasons for choosing these features based on her substantial research. My first question is whether you feel that the features that Jenkins are pretty much the same as the phonological features in your MJE. Did you make use of the features that Jenkins described in choosing the phonological features of MJE? 

Yes, Jenkins’ Lingua Franca Core has been one of the sources for my MJE. Though ELF scholars, including Jenkins herself, do not make much of Lingua Franca Core any more, it is still a valuable reference for developing models of English. Non-core features, rather than core features that most researchers have been paying attention to, are particularly significant, as they provide useful clues to how we could express our identities while ensuring international intelligibility at the same time.

5. My next question is about grammatical, lexical, discourse, and sociolinguistic features. You begin your discussion of grammatical features with the following sentence: “Rules of grammar are a difficult issue for any attempt to set up an endonormative model.” (Hino, 2012, p. 34) You discuss three grammar points, namely, the definite article “the”, the distinction between “will” and “going to”, and the use of “you had better…” in terms of how these points should be taught in the MJE. How extensive is your endonormative model in terms of describing these four other linguistic features? Could you point our readers to sources where we could learn more about all the five features of MJE? 

I am sorry that my description of MJE is scattered around my various publications. I suppose I should try to compile a more comprehensive list in near future.

6. I recently talked to a young MA TESOL student from China who is searching for a topic to write her MA thesis on. She said that she was very interested in the teaching of phrasal verbs. But in the same conversation I also introduced her to NNEST and EIL issues and to our NNEST of the Month blog, and she was so interested that she volunteered to join and become a local coordinator of the NNLEI (nonnative language educators issues) interest group of CATESOL (California TESOL) whose members focus on NNEST and EIL issues. So I suggested that she combine these two interests and do research on teaching phrasal verbs in an EIL context. The trouble is I couldn’t recommend any studies on the lexical features of EIL, phrasal verbs in particular. Can you recommend any sources to her? Have you described how to teach phrasal verbs in your MJE? 

I do not mean to be discourteous, but if I may say this, the use of phrasal verbs is generally not really recommendable for EIL. Indeed, phrasal verbs are characteristic of native speaker English, and often problematic in terms of international intelligibility. For many non-native speakers, “Extinguish the fire!” is much clearer in meaning than “Put out the fire!” They may get burnt in mistakenly trying to take out the fire.

7. Some learners of English (such as prospective non-native English teachers) would like to and perhaps need to learn to speak and write the English of an inner circle country. After all, in this imperfect world, there are still many people such as parents, employers, and journal editors who insist on the use of standard inner circle English. What do you  say to such learners of English? Do you feel that such learners of English in Japan should learn both MJE and a standard inner circle variety of English?

  Well, for receptive purposes, even EIL users need to learn Inner circle varieties of English in the first place. Also for productive aspects, yes, for the time being, there is still a need to learn such “standard” English. However, I perceive a gradual change nowadays. For example, in the field of ELT, some publishers do not seem to require any more that manuscripts authored by non-native speakers be proofread by native speakers before submission.

8. In another chapter you published in Aya Matsuda’s book entitled “Participating in the community of EIL users through real-time news: Integrated practice in teaching English as an international language (IPTEIL)”, you describe your IPTEIL, which you use with undergraduate English classes in your university in Osaka . You state that the objectives of this course among others are to “acquire identity as EIL users” and to “become familiar with linguistic and cultural diversity of EIL”. Your materials include authentic TV news programs which you watch early every morning and make questions on for your students later in the day (I’m so impressed by your hard work in the early morning!!!) and also electronic newspapers from various countries in Asia. Could you briefly discuss the success of this program for teaching your students EIL and any problems and challenges you have faced? Do you have anything to add to the description of this course since the publication of this chapter in Aya Matsuda’s book? 

Thank you for mentioning IPTEIL. Although I had the honor of receiving an educational award for this method of teaching, I always feel that IPTEIL still has several shortcomings that I should work on, such as the lack of opportunities for student-to-student interactions in this class. As authenticity is a key concept for IPTEIL, it would not make much sense to have the Japanese students talk to each other in English, which is a major dilemma. I sincerely wish that there were more international students in IPTEIL classes, so that peer interactions could serve as a real-life experience in authentic EIL communication.

Recently, in addition to IPTEIL for my undergraduate classes, I am trying to develop a new approach that I call CELFIL (Hino, in press), or Content and ELF Integrated Learning (ELF = English as a Lingua Franca), drawing on the concept of CLIL. Please forgive me for making up another six-word acronym. I teach my graduate class in foreign language pedagogy as an EMI (English-Medium Instruction) course, and EMI classes are where international students gather, the majority of whom are non-native speakers of English. I am hoping to devise a method by which we can make use of this authentic EFL/EIL environment for helping students to acquire ELF/EIL skills in an integrated manner with the learning of the content.

9. To change the subject somewhat, I would like to ask you about learning Japanese. Do you think it is appropriate to talk about a kind of JIL (Japanese as an international language)? Do you think that the linguistic features that a foreign learner of Japanese (like me) needs to learn are different from the features traditionally taught in Japanese classes? For example, do you think that it is necessary and appropriate for foreign learners of English to learn the complicated system of keigo (polite, respectful, and humble language) especially of Japanese verbs? The reason I am asking this is because I think that many learners of English, Japanese, or any language have limited time and effort to spend on learning a language and should therefore concentrate on the most important features of the language they are studying. Also, in the case of an English/Irish American learner of Japanese like me, when I speak to people in Japan, they don’t expect me to be able to use all the complicated keigo forms anyway, though if I happen to use any of them correctly they are very impressed. Would learners of Japanese like me be better off studying more vocabulary, for example? 

Thank you for bringing up this topic. Yes, in my position, the “E” of EIL can be replaced by any language, including Japanese. I do not believe that global spread of a language should be viewed as a prerequisite for liberating the learners from native speaker norms of the language. In fact, in a radio ELT program in Japan for which I served as the host and the lecturer, I once featured Professor David G. Goodman, an American author who was known for using Japanese not as a vehicle of Japanese culture but as a means of expressing his own values. That was 1990. In the 1980s, I saw a famous Japanese teacher of Japanese as a foreign language teach her students not to shake hands but to bow, which I felt to be an imposition of native speaker norms.

As for keigo or honorifics that you mentioned, from my EIL or JIL perspectives, I suggest that you come up with a keigo system of your own that suits your feelings. I think that I express my feelings of respect, politeness, and courtesy in a kind of English that is somewhat different from American English, in accordance with my own values.

10. To change the subject to something more personal, I always like to ask interviewees a question about how experiences in their earlier years have affected decisions in their professional career. Do you remember any particular experience that influenced your decision to become a professor of English and in particular which influenced your decision to focus your work on EIL and MJE? 

As for my starting point in ELT, let me quote from one of my essays that I wrote years ago:

Around the end of my first year in junior high school, I had a dramatic experience which greatly influenced me in my attitude toward the study of English. A friend of mine jokingly asked me in English, “Do you play baseball every day?” This certainly is a very simple question, but I couldn’t answer it immediately. It took me more than ten seconds before I said “No, I don’t.” I wondered, “Why couldn’t I answer such an easy question right away?” After a while, I found the reason. When my friend spoke to me in English, I tried to translate it into Japanese. It takes a lot of time to put English into Japanese. That’s why I wasn’t able to answer my friend’s question quickly.

  I thought, “Something must be wrong with the way I have been studying English.” In English classes in my junior high school, the students were always required to translate every English sentence into Japanese. As a result, the students, including myself, unconsciously believed that they must always put English into Japanese. (Hino, 1989, pp.9-10)

This experience of mine, in 1970, was the first incident that made me aware of the enigma of yakudoku or translation tradition in Japan. This experience eventually set the course of my career, as I described in my answer to Question#1.

 Regarding EIL specifically, even after I went to the University of Hawaii with much interest in the study of EIL, I did not seem to really understand what EIL was all about. My conversion experience came with an encounter with my Chinese Malaysian classmates in the MA program. At first, I found it very difficult to understand their English especially in terms of phonology. It sounded more Chinese than English to me at that time. I must confess that I was a bit irritated to see that they did not seem to be interested in approximating their pronunciation to that of native speakers. But, then I realized that this was indeed EIL that I came here for. I recognized that I should make efforts to understand varieties of English.

11. I like to end each interview with a question about how interviewees spend their time away from their teaching, lesson preparation, and research. I know that you are incredibly busy having published so many books, article, and chapters and getting up early every morning to prepare authentic lessons for your students, (I read that you get up early to watch news reports and are under time pressure to create lessons you teach the very same day.) Anyway, how do you spend your free time … if you have any… and how do you unwind and relax? 

I listen to classic rock music from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Putting aside my belief in de-Anglo-Americanization of English, I like American and British rock music a lot. I also enjoy playing the guitar, though I am certainly a lousy player (Lousy, but at least not noisy, because I usually play an “unplugged electric guitar” which is barely audible, so that it will not disturb anyone).

Thank you very much for taking time from your very busy schedule to provide your very interesting, engaging, and inspirational answers to our questions. 


Hino, N. (1987). TOEFL de 650-ten: Watashi no eigoshugyo [650 on the TOEFL: My experiences in learning English]. Tokyo: Nan’undo.

Hino, N. (1988). Yakudoku: Japan’s dominant tradition in foreign language learning. JALT Journal, 10(1&2), 45-55.

Hino, N. (1989). Take a chance: 650 on the TOEFL. Tokyo: Nan’undo.

Hino, N. (1992). The yakudoku tradition of foreign language literacy in Japan. In F. Dubin & N. A. Kuhlman (Eds.) Cross-cultural literacy: Global perspectives on reading and writing (pp.99-111). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Regents/Prentice Hall.

Hino, N. (2012a). Endonormative models of EIL for the Expanding Circle. In A. Matsuda (Ed.) Principles and practices of teaching English as an international language (pp.28-43). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Hino, N. (2012b). Participating in the community of EIL users through real-time news: Integrated Practice in Teaching English as an International Language (IPTEIL). In A. Matsuda (Ed.) Principles and practices of teaching English as an international language (pp.183-200). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Hino, N. (2012c). Negotiating indigenous values with Anglo-American cultures in ELT in Japan: A case of EIL Philosophy in the Expanding Circle. In A. Kirkpatrick & R. Sussex (Eds.) English as an international language in Asia: Implications for language education (pp.157-173). Dordrecht: Springer.

Hino, N. (in press). Toward the development of CELFIL (Content and ELF Integrated Learning) for EMI classes in higher education in Japan. In K. Murata (Ed.) Waseda Working Papers in ELF, 4.

Kunihiro, M. (1970). Eigo no hanashikata [English works for you]. Tokyo: Simul Press.

Smith, L. E. & Rafiqzad, K. (1979). English for cross-cultural communication: The question of intelligibility. TESOL Quarterly, 13(3), 371-380. Also in L. E. Smith (Ed.) (1983). Readings in English as an international language (pp.49-58). Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Suzuki, T. (1975). Tozasareta gengo, nihongo no sekai [A closed language: The world of Japanese]. Tokyo: Shinchosha.

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About Terry Michael Grayling

I was an ESL teacher at City College of San Francisco for 34 years. Now I live near the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene where I read a lot, am working a book on EIL issues for specifically for new MA TESOL students, and work on the NNEST of the month blog and other activities related to NNEST and EIL issues, and enjoy exercising and taking walks.

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