While Barack Obama’s popularity is falling in the United States, it is strong enough globally to have an impact on how people learn English. English through Obama is particularly strong in Japan. According to an article in the New York Times, a CD and accompanying book of the President’s inaugural address was released by Asahi Press in January and has become quite popular:
The speech CD and its accompanying book have been a resounding success, selling 200,000 copies since its release in January. A compilation of President Barack Obama’s speeches has done even better, selling half a million copies since November, solidifying his role as Japan’s English teacher.
Publishers have since flooded the market with over a dozen language-learning titles, including “Speech Training: Learning to Deliver English Speech, Obama Style”; “Learn English Grammar From Obama”; and “Yes, I Can With Obama: 40 Magical English Phrases From Presidential E-mails.”
According to the New York times article, Communications specialist Professor Tadaharu Nikaido believes Obama is popular among EFL learners because of his clear pronunciation.
And this may be one reason why Obama is prominently featured on the home page of englishcentral.com, a language learning site that at the moment is concentrating on targeting the Asian market. I guess it is for this reason that I found the following blog entry (talking about englishcentral.com) from a Japanese learner interesting:
When I used youtube, I found this advertise. So, I heard balak Obama’s speech… There’re many kinds of video’s. You can select level and category. And, it’s……………………………………………………………. fleeee site!! I like Flee~.ww
It is great that Obama is helping to redeem America’s image globally to the extent where he is even motivating in the context of learning the English language. What struck me, however, is the persistence of the problem with the “l” and “r” distinction, even in the spelling of Barack Obama’s name. I have always found it fascinating that this pronunciation problem is so great that it makes its way even into the writing of Japanese learners. I guess there were unrealistic expectations of Obama politically; linguistically, it is fantastic that he is helping to motivate a lot of English language learners, though unavoidably some problems will persist.
Posted by Nicole