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Balancing the Triangle with English for Japan (Part 1)2012.05.22

    This interview was conducted with Robert Habbick, Asia Digital Marketing Manager for Cambridge University Press, the world’s oldest and most respected publisher specializing in English learning materials.


    What is your background, current role, and mission regarding Cambridge University Press and English-language resources for Asia?


    I have worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer, editor, marketer, and sales person in my 28 years in Japan. In my current role at Cambridge as Asia Digital Marketing Manager, I assist Cambridge University Press Consultants across Asia, as well as travel to different countries in the region to provide “on the ground help” when needed. Cambridge University Press itself has a history of over 425 years of publishing excellence and is the world’s oldest publisher. My personal mission is to raise the level of English across Asia by having teachers and students use the excellent materials Cambridge publishes, to produce superior results and success. Visit and you’ll be surprised by the tools available in most subject areas. There is also a bi-lingual Japan website at:


    What is your impression on the differences between the Japanese approach to teaching and learning English as a foreign language, and what you see in other Asian countries?


    Truthfully speaking, from a bird’s eye point of view―Nothing. What makes the difference of success is what I call “The Teaching Triangle.” The triangle has three points connected to each other: the teacher, the student, and the materials. It is by varying the sides of the triangle that balance is achieved. If the teacher likes the materials, but the materials are too difficult for the students, the side of the triangle between the materials and teacher is short, but between students and materials is long, that is unbalanced. This can be applied to methodology, teaching style, students’ ability, etc. Cambridge University Press has offices in most countries in Asia and we try to influence this balance to optimum success, and get paid for our services if our materials are the right ones for the balance. We have a high rate of success helping to balance the triangle. Professional teachers should check out our online learning site for teachers:


    While it may seem obvious, please list what you feel are the advantages for a Japanese person to be able to communicate well in English?


    Simple survival―of my adopted nation and our home. Like you Will, I am a Japan immigrant. I have spent over half of my life in Japan and plan to spend more time here. I have 7 children and 3 grandchildren. They were all born and live in Japan. My wife Mayuka Habbick―a very special woman―is working 7 days a week to improve education for the children of Japan. My oldest daughter is a nurse taking care of people. I am working for Cambridge University Press to improve the English level, and you are tirelessly working to provide skills through your upcoming Tokyo World Class Speaking Academy. We are all doing our part to help our nation, for people who want to be helped. We all need Japan to not only survive in the global economy, but to prosper. English is one of the necessary tools, not the end game, for achieving that end. For all of our children’s sake, and the sake of the nation, Japan must get better at speaking and communicating in English. It is not a NICE to do, it is a NEED to do! Japan needs tourists. The tourism industry is huge, and Japan is missing a huge chance to increase revenue because of poor English.


    What are graded readers, and which do you recommend for learning a foreign language?


    Graded readers concentrate various types of grammar and vocabulary, integrating them into interesting stories through which people can step up their skills in a foreign language. My favorite resource for learning Japanese is also a good resource for Japanese to learn English. It is a Japanese graded reader series, with several levels available, by Ask Shuppan in Tokyo, the only one of its kind for Japanese, which also includes audio CDs recorded by professionals. It is available on Amazon at: Of course the graded readers (often called “learner literature”) by Cambridge University Press, and their professionally recorded audio is a world phenomenon, the highest ranked of any publisher by many students of English in Japan.


    What are some of the resources that Cambridge University Press provides, particularly for smart phone and independent study of English?


    Cambridge has all kinds of Apps for studying. You will find them in the Apple Apps Store by searching the word “Cambridge.” Cambridge also publishes self-study online courses like Touchstone and Let’s Talk Online that are very inexpensive. My father wrote the seminal thesis on using hypnosis in Psychology and has taught at Harvard. Two of his favorite sayings that I will never forget, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” and “If you want to see what a person values, look at where they spend their time and money.” What it takes to succeed is commitment, making a plan, and sticking to it. Aren’t all things in life like that? That is what solidly successful people have always done.


    [These are Robert's personal views, not those of Cambridge University Press.]



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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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