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What is LET?
The Japan Association for Language Education and Technology (LET) is a nonprofit professional organization dedicated to the enhancement of foreign language teaching in Japan and the development of media and information technologies in education. With a 50-year history, LET has strongly encouraged the development, improvement and exchange of ideas and resources amongst not only educators, but individuals of all backgrounds who share an interest in this field. Our vision is to create a vast community of individuals interested in developing and sharing a rich abundance of resources and information.
The organization now known as LET was established as the Language Laboratory Association of Japan (LLA) on July 15, 1961 when its first conference was held at Tokyo University of Education. It was a time when criticism of an excessive and exclusive focus upon English reading and translation was on the rise in foreign language education circles, and with the growing influence of American education, there was a strong surge in employing language laboratories with institutions such as Nanzan University, International Christian University, and Tsuda College among the first to do so.
The first president of the LLA, Fumio NAKAJIMA, then the dean of the Faculty of Literature at Tokyo University, wrote in the first issue of the Language Laboratory, "As long as the most primary form of language is the spoken word, it is natural that the oral approach to foreign language learning has come to the forefront, and, therefore, that language laboratories have come into use as a means to improve listening skills as well as pronunciation."
The original 30 founders got together to exchange ideas on setting up such an organization after The International Conference of Phonetics Association held in 1960 in Tokyo. The aim of the association as stated in the regulations of the association at that time was as follows: "the Association aims to study the theory and the actual use of audio-visual educational materials represented by the language laboratory in foreign language education, and to promote exchange of information among the members."
While the LLA Founding Committee was established, there was, coincidently, a similar movement underway in the Kansai (greater Osaka regions) area. In Kansai, study groups had already met a few times when at the convention held at Kobe University of Foreign Studies in November 1960, a move towards initiating the LLA became a central topic of discussion. Consequently, the LLA was established jointly by the Kanto (greater Tokyo regions) Chapter and Kansai Chapter as one organization consisting of two chapters.
In 1970, the Kyushu (South-west part of Japan) Chapter (later to become the Kyushu and Okinawa Chapter in 2002) was established; and in 1971, the Chubu (greater Nagoya region) was also organized.
Past presidents of LET are as follows:
1962 - 1976 Fumio NAKAJIMA (Tokyo University)
1976 - 1983 Takashi KURODA (Tokyo University of Education)
1983 - 1986 Kazuo AMANO (Chiba University)
1986 - 1988 Sutesaburo KOMOTO (Meiji Gakuin University)
1988 - 1994 Yoshinobu NIWA (Nagoya University)
1994 - 1998 Hiroyoshi HATORI (Tokyo Gakugei University)
1998 - 2002 Hiroshi ASANO (University of Tsukuba)
2002 - 2004 Takeo KUNIYOSHI (Chiba University)
2004 - 2006 Hiroto OHYAGI (Takushoku University)
2006 - 2010 Masayoshi KINOSHITA (Fukuoka International University)
In the early days of the LLA, the grammar/translation method was the standard foreign language methodology in Japan. From the beginning, however, the educators who founded the LLA recognized the importance of oral/aural communication skills in foreign language learning. Thus, these pioneers encouraged scholars from a variety of related fields to come together to share and exchange knowledge and information on research and practice
According to research conducted in 1962, language laboratories were installed in more than 100 schools, and over 400 participants gathered together at the second LLA national conference held at Tenri University. From the open-reel tape recorder of those days, to cassette players and language laboratories of the late 20th century, to the digital media in use today, LLA/LET has always encouraged effective utilization of the latest technological advances in language classrooms, and in so doing has promoted research along with practical applications in the fields of foreign language, applied linguistics and language acquisition, achieving high recognition as an academic association.
In the 1960s, the main topic was the role of the language lab in foreign language education, the effective usage of the facilities and their association with phonetics. In the 70s, research expanded to include topics such as linguistic theory and LL; LL teaching materials; LL evaluation, incorporating language labs into larger language programs, target setting of LL education and studies into LL classes. At the same time, independent creation of LL teaching materials flourished and their usage in junior highs and high schools increased.
On the other hand, the problems and limits of language labs began to be discussed. In the late 70s and the 80s, interest started to spread to research regarding language cognition and the use of visual teaching materials. The use of videos as teaching materials increased, but even newer technology was looming just in the early 80s, growing interest in the use of computers in applications such as CAI and CALL was rising. Moreover, the development of new LL equipment had become so sophisticated to the point where many felt left behind in the steady stream of new technological advancement. This in turn increased the motivation of new LL staff.
From the late 80s to the 90s, what came to the scene was a backlash against some of the fundamentals of LL as well as surge towards globalization, computerization, and especially the increasing interest in using language labs as a tool to improve communication skills. Also, the need for audio-visual equipment in children's education was drawing more and more attention.
The themes of the annual national conferences reflect the academic trends of the time; "The Changing Environment of Education and Foreign Language Education - How to Adapt to the Internationalization and Computerization" in 1996, "The Relationship between Foreign Language Education and the Media - Towards the 21st Century" in 1997, and "Foreign Language Education in the Age of IT - the Diversification of Students and the Use of Media" in 2002. A clear shift can be detected towards the use of multimedia in foreign language education, particularly towards the use of computers.