I think that this is one of books English learners should read. This website GEN also provides English version, so as the person in charge, I am still an English learner. The book's first edition was published in 1988. I thought that I once understood the content but I forget gradually, so I should reread sometimes and want to imprint it on my memory. The author Mark Petersen came to Japan in 1980 as a foreign student. Since then, he has studied Japanese literature and now teaches British and American literature and comparative literature as a university professor.
When I first read the book, the part about article was startling. Because I was able to sense its notion directly for the first time. Following are excerpts from the part.
[ 'a' is not an accessory for nouns]
-The difference between Japanese without article and English that article is the basis of a logical process-
For example, there is a sentence as an opening line as follows.
"Once upon a time, there were an old man and an old woman. The old man…."
In English, they never say, "Once upon a time, there were [the] old man and [the] old woman…" In Japanese, we use "ga" or "wa" as particle that plays the same role as article. When native English speakers speak and write English, noun doesn't give a category of meaning in advance, but presence or absence of article does.
Come to think of it, sometimes I see native English speakers say like, "I ate a…a…a rice ball." In other words, article comes first and they recall nouns come next.
As Mr. Petersen wrote in the book, I also feel that English-language education in Japan has not taught the essence of article even though I don't know the current situation. It isn't a bad thing to focus on English conversation and good pronunciation, but I keenly feel the need to learn such a fundamental sense of English first. (H.S)