“Would you recommend teaching in Japan?”
Japan offers a unique destination for English teachers. The combination of the eager-to-learn nature of Japanese students and the country’s rich culture makes teaching English in Japan an attractive prospect. Yes, English teachers’ wages have dipped over the last two decades, but the appeal of teaching in Japan is far from just the paycheck. Here’s what makes it an extraordinary experience:
A Shift in English Education
The traditional education system in Japan has emphasized getting things right for exams, which has led to a worry about making errors in English. But things are changing. English education in Japan has gradually moved to earlier grades, with a growing focus on practical use of English for communication. This shift aims to encourage students to view English as a tool for communication, rather than just a subject to ace in exams.
Committed and Disciplined Students
Japanese students are a joy to teach. Their dedication and discipline are unique, with a thirst for knowledge reflected in the country’s impressive literacy rate exceeding 98.5%. However, many students, despite their keenness to learn, often hold back from using English freely due to a fear of making mistakes. This shows up most often by a lack of questions or students identifying when they have trouble understanding something the teacher is trying to explain. This is because there is not only a sense of shame to say that they don’t understand, but that a question to a teacher implicitly indicates that the teacher themselves were unclear. The best way I’ve found to overcome this is to assign asking questions as a task. That isn’t to say that students don’t have opinions or questions on a variety of topics … they do certainly, but you need to structure (scaffold) a lesson that allows the students to feel safe to speak out.
A Blend of Tradition and Innovation
Japan’s rich cultural heritage adds a layer of intrigue to the teaching experience. From ancient temples and traditional art forms to ultra-modern cities and technology, Japan offers a world of fascinating contrasts. Teaching English here turns into a cultural exchange, where you absorb and learn from Japanese traditions while imparting English language skills.
The journey of teaching English in Japan goes beyond the job itself – it’s about cultural understanding and personal growth. That’s the real allure of teaching in Japan.
Eric Altman holds a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Ottawa, and a DELTA. He is a certified Cambridge and Oxford examiner. He has over 25 years of experience as an English teacher in Japan. Currently, Eric is the owner of Alterra Education, which offers language and business communication training to corporate clients, and consulting for the education industry. Prior to this, he was HR manager for the Kansai regional office of Berlitz Phoenix and Education Manager at GG Co. Ltd where he established the first Cambridge CELTA center in the Philippines. Eric is an adviser to Pearson English and serves as the International Relations Officer to English Philippines Association. He is also the founder of Jobs in Kansai and five additional regional employment-related social media communities.