Travel & Teach - Japan
In the land of the rising sun, the demand for English hasn’t set and Japan generally represents the more lucrative end of the market for TESOL teachers.
Demand is high, salaries large and the prospects for even the novice teacher are good. Japanese EFL vacancies are well represented in the UK national press and on the Internet. Indeed many of the larger organisations offer very favourable conditions for newly qualified teachers, including 1-year renewable contracts, holidays, flights, insurance and help with accommodation. Securing these lucrative positions from abroad is often the preferred step. However, it is also possible to travel to the country first and arrange work once you get there. Should you decide to try and obtain work from inside Japan however, you may need deep pockets. Because although you may secure a better contract for yourself, in the short term you will need a fair amount of money to tide you over.
This is because the cost of living is very high, particularly in the main cities. That said, many EFL teachers comment on good quality of life they enjoy on their salaries. It is possible to live quite well, enjoy a social life and travel to within Asia on the generally minimum EFL wage (around 250,000 Y per month). Added to this, Japan appeals because it is considered relatively safe, with a clean, efficient transport system, when compared with other popular EFL destinations. The country has an exciting culture and history and the people are warm and courteous.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Japan: http://www.britishcouncil.org/japan.htm
Japanese Embassy UK: http://japan.embassyhomepage.com/
Japanese Embassy USA: http://www.indianembassy.org/
Japanese National Tourist Office: http://www.jnto.go.jp/
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Global English students are working all over the world with their accredited TESOL certificates. Find out
how TESOL training from Global English has made a difference to their lives:
Japan, a country with a population of 126 million is a land of contrasts. On one hand it has the most modern technology on the planet, at the same time remaining deeply rooted in culture and traditions dating back thousands of years that still infiltrate everyday life. I have been living in Japan for just on 4 years and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience
teaching English as well as learning a new language and culture. While living in Japan I have fallen in love with the delicious Japanese cuisine and come to respect Japanese people for their politeness, humility, friendliness and hardworking spirit. Japan is a very beautiful country with four distinct seasons. Each season has its own beauty and there are many festivals to enjoy along the way. My wife and I enjoy hiking and living in a country where 65% of the land mass is made up of forested mountains, Japan is hiking heaven. After a day of trekking it is so refreshing to relax in one of the thousands of 'Onsens' (hot springs) all over these volcanically active islands.
Japan is also a popular place for teaching English. There are limitless opportunities to find work. However, if you are seeking a better than average position you should ideally have a TEFL qualification and any form of teaching experience is always a bonus. My Business English teaching qualification attained through Global English enabled me to get an excellent position with a large Japanese corporation teaching English to employees and management staff of a major electronics company 30 minutes from our apartment in the Tokyo area. The position starts from early June and I will be responsible for teaching both general English courses, as well as presentation courses, telephoning courses, online chat and e-mail courses and other specialised Business English technique programs. I look forward to the challenge and am excited about it. Over 150 applicants applied and just 10 were interviewed, and I was the very fortunate person to be selected. In the interview the interviewers asked me various questions with regards to I.T. and teaching English. I was able to answer and present some good ideas due to the fact that I had learnt many valuable points through the Global English Business English course. I am grateful to the team at Global English who provide such professional courses, and the support is second to none.
Before coming to Japan to teach English I would advise the following:
1. Complete a TESOL course
2. Try to get a bit of teaching experience before arriving in Japan
3. Study basic Japanese language (greetings, shopping expressions, travel language etc)
4. Buy a suit or formal work clothes
5. Make a few contacts in Japan
6. Buy a guide book
7. Carefully consider different job options available (incomes may seem high but this is the most expensive country in the world!)
8. Bring an open attitude and be willing to eat and try new things (you will win the respect of the locals)
9. Check out websites on teaching in Japan
10. If you have any health concerns seek advice
Many people have come to Japan to teach English for a year or so without any plan to stay on but have ended up staying several years, or even living permanently. Japan has that effect on you. I trust you will experience the same.
‘It is quite easy to find work in Japan. The average salary is 250,000 Yen per month, although the cost of living can be quite high. I got a job from the Internet and started work for a private school on a tourist visa! The Internet is the best bet for finding jobs here – there are jobs for all ages and levels in private schools. But don’t be surprised if your school sublets you an apartment, which is quite shabby for 50,000 Yen a month! The average working week is 25 – 30 hours and the people are very friendly.
I got my job by asking Global English which company would be good to apply to. They put me in touch with Interac. I went for an interview in London, where I was given some information about living and working in Japan.
I had to teach a short lesson in front of imaginary children! I was filmed doing this, and felt really silly, but it wasn’t that bad. Next there was a more in depth interview about why I wanted to go to Japan and what I thought it would be like. We also had to do a personality test, and an English grammar test.
I found out pretty soon after that I had been successful. After that, I was frequently sent information about what I needed to sort out, arrange and consider. They helped me to arrange my work visa, health insurance, housing etc, so that everything would run smoothly when I arrive in Japan. I felt free to email them with any questions I had, and they often called me back to talk about it. This was nice, because it made me feel part of the company and well taken care of.
I was not scared about coming to Japan, I was very excited, because I love to travel. However, when I arrived in Tokyo airport, I was very glad to be met by another ALT!! He took me and some others arriving at a similar time, to the hotel where we were to be staying for a week. The hotel was really luxurious and in a nice area of Tokyo. We had orientation for a week, and lots of advice on lesson planning and ideas, and cultural awareness, as well as housing and car information.
After the training, we went on a bus to the area where we were to be working.It was very nice, because we were all individually met by staff who work in the area. They helped us to arrange everything we need – a futon, food and other equipment.After that, we had a few days to get used to our local area before we started work in our schools.
I have three schools that I work in, all senior high schools – and this is ideal for me, and the kind of age range that I enjoy working with. I have a car, so all of the schools are easy for me to get to. I really enjoy teaching here, and I feel that I have plenty of support from Interac if I need it. We also have training now and again, so this helps us to keep up to date with information and meet each other. Since I got here (10 weeks ago), I have been busy going on trips every weekend with other ALTs. This has helped me to feel relaxed and at home here.
I am still a beginner at speaking Japanese, but with gestures and some words, I manage to get by most of the time. However, I am generally surprised about the low level of English skills, especially in the area that I am living. I live about 4 hours north of Tokyo, close to Sendai. At least the low levels of English skills in this area means that my job is meaningful to the students I teach, as they practice most of their English skills through me.
There does seem to be a general sway towards American English as opposed to British English, and this can sometimes be confusing as I hear words that I have not heard of before, or that I am not used to. For example, a “full stop” is referred to as a “period”, I find myself talking about “candy” instead of “sweets”, “fall” instead of “autumn”, and spelling words like “favourite” and “colour” without the letter “u”. The only problem with that is that when I return to England, I will have adapted an American way of speaking and writing.
I did your TEFL course last year and really enjoyed it! I had already been teaching in Japan for about 3 years but I wanted something that would give me the edge on the competition and more options in other countries. After finishing the course I was given 2 pay rises by my boss and favourable reviews, it gave me more confidence in my teaching ability, particularly grammar! I am still working at the same company and next week will be training new teachers myself!
There was a lot of support from the tutors on the course and they made very constructive remarks when grading the work. I have recommended the course to several people as I think its one of the best around so thank you Global English!
Konig. I graduated from the Global English TESOL/ Business English program in 2007. I have worked and lived in Japan for the past 12-years. I originally came here on vacation in May of 1998 and fell in love with the country. So much that I returned two months later to teach in an English conversation school. I found my job because a friend I worked with at the time had been a teacher at the school in the past. He heard from his old boss that the school was looking for a teacher. So, I was introduced and subsequently hired.
Presently, I teach at three elementary and one junior high school. I got this job also from someone I knew introducing me to the Board of Education.
I love Japan because of the friendly people and the abundance of nature and culture. My advice to anyone coming to Japan to teach would be to learn some basic Japanese including greetings, shopping, restaurant language as well as some phrases to explain grammatical phrases and concepts. Also, if you do not want to be in lower paying jobs forever, seek higher education like a TESOL certificate or a masters degree. Good luck to you all!!
Ana Paula Guerreiro
I am currently living in Japan and teaching English at a small English school. However, I did not have a job before moving here and I definitely did not feel too confident I would get one. Although Japan has a high demand for English teachers, I felt sure that I would not be hired solely because I was not a native speaker. It took a lot of effort to keep myself motivated and, after a few months, I was finally called for an interview at the school where I currently work. I recently found out that, originally, my boss didn’t want to call me for an interview and that it was my American co-worker that convinced her that a non-native speaker might bring many benefits, such as a clearer pronunciation. In the end, it was down to me and a British teacher and I ended up being chosen exactly because of the pronunciation factor.
I was quite nervous in class the first couple of weeks (most of my students are Pre-Intermediate or Intermediate) but it started fading away as I realised I knew much more than I originally thought (those years of grammar came in handy after all).
I hope to move to England in a couple of years and I want to be an English teacher but I still wonder if I will be able to find permanent work teaching English in a country where I definitely stand out as a non-native teacher. This doesn’t mean, of course, I won’t try!
My school was delighted that I could also speak Portuguese and French and they are now in the process of changing the school name from “Royale English Services” to “Royale International Services”. The school started advertising French and Portuguese lessons and I now teach one class of each per week, in addition to my normal English classes. It has been a challenge but extremely rewarding!
I think that non-native English teachers in the jobs market should remain confident and keep trying. It really helps to have a qualification, like the TESOL. Most schools in Japan require one as “proof” that you are qualified. With the supply of ESL Teachers rapidly increasing in Asian countries, for instance, it is really important to mark the difference with an official document. This will also increase the chances of being called for interviews. Trying to secure a contract before departure is still the safest way to get to Asia but not necessarily easy.
I know the courses I have done have been useful to me in Japan and have set me apart from others on more than one occasion. Definitely an advantage to have the Certificates in my resume and the training/ knowledge also, a good investment in myself for a relatively small cost really. For me, after 4 years work in an ESL environment they were icing on the cake and consolidated & improved on what I already knew and had experienced. Both courses I did have helped me over the past 5 years also & even helped me getting back into University to further my studies.
I'm working in a Junior High school in Okinawa, Japan at present. After leaving NOVA, a 4 year stint, I have been working in the public schools in Japan, 1 year in a Primary school and in my 4th year at a Junior High school now, well, it's almost over. I'm hoping to go back to a Primary school from April and will be returning to University studies later this year in Australia, to actually get a Primary school teacher's license.
Although out of the ESL world to a point, I've still been involved with different aspects than I was before and in a different setting, so it's been interesting although less 'conversation' orientated. The 2 courses I did with you, and living amongst 'study' mad people, has made me more interested in continuing to study, improve my life and options. In a interview today actually they were impressed that I had done the TESOL Level 2 and the Business English course, so hopefully I get the job!
Since completing our (Global English TESOL) course, both Tatiana and I have been offered a position in Japan teaching Business English one-on-one (our ideal job!) and will be moving there in May of this year.We had been searching for jobs in Japan, as we had planned to go on a Working Holiday for a while, then attended a seminar in February for Gaba Corporation: http://teaching-in-japan.gaba.co.jp/.
They were very impressed and regarded us studying TESOL (as we had not yet finished at that stage) highly. We had our interviews the next day, completed interview tasks and undertook simulated ESL teaching via Skype and the rest, as they say, is history!
I would like to thank you, Louisa Walsh and Helen Corbett, our tutor. Helen's feedback was invaluable, constructive and always got us thinking about how we could improve.
Travel and Teach
Jobs appear in the mainstream EFL press in the UK (the Times Educational Supplement on Fridays and the Guardian EFL pages on Tuesdays). Of particular note is the JET scheme; a well respected government run organisation that recruits UK graduates as classroom assistants. The pay and conditions are good and it is possible to stay for up to three years on a yearly renewable contract. However with the JET programme you need to be flexible, as you may not have much choice in destination. Alternatively, if you want to gain a prearranged contract, look on the Internet (e.g. www.tefl.com), where you will find many jobs and larger organisations advertising.
Japan is one of those countries where just speaking English may be enough to secure you some teaching work. However a Global English Level 2 TESOL with business will significantly enhance your job prospects, as will a degree, which is essential for the more established schools and organisations and in most cases, for a work visa to be issued. It is important to dress smartly and conservatively but schools often look for teachers who appear lively and fun.
To obtain a visa in advance you will have to secure a teaching position. The visa can be obtained from the Japanese Embassy in the UK upon presentation of certified proof of employment. A letter from prospective employer will not be enough. A work visa (valid for twelve months) can be obtained once you are in Japan but you will need to find an employer prepared to sponsor you. Alternatively you can work on a tourist visa (valid for three months) which is renewable for an additional three months only. You should note that Japan has become stricter on people overstaying their visas. If you are travelling to Japan prior to securing a position, the best option is to find an employer willing to sponsor you for the work visa as soon as possible.
If you are a Bristihs citizen, under 30 without a degree, it is possible to work in Japan for up to a year, subject to certain other conditions:
In addition to the reasonable salaries which attract so many new TESOL teachers, most Japanese schools tend to offer year round employment, in contrast to the typical European 9 month contract. It follows that the longer you stay the more comfortable life becomes. It is possible to live fairly well and save, as you can begin to take advantage of the perks and benefits that tend to accrue over time, and because the great expenses are generally incurred initially (see below). The tax rate is fairly low and many organisations offer free flights, health cover and paid holidays. These conditions, coupled with the chance to experience such a totally different culture make Japan a popular destination.
Teachers are very highly regarded in Japan, particularly those from abroad. Your students are likely to be very friendly, welcoming and eager to learn all about you. Although you are likely to be employed to help with ‘conversation and communication’ Japanese culture can make successful communicative lessons difficult to achieve. Having taught many Japanese students, we can testify to the fact that the Japanese are generally unwilling to express their own opinions publicly, particularly on controversial topics. Typical communicative EFL activities such as debates and discussions have therefore to be approached with more thought and planning. It is better to arrange small discussion groups and elect a spokesperson to speak for the group rather than as an individual. Accommodation is not usually offered with any position and is generally very expensive, sometimes as much as 33% of your salary in addition to (sometimes) a hefty deposit. Much accommodation comes unfurnished, adding to the initial outlay. Commuting can be expensive, particularly in the larger cities. Securing a job in advance from an organisation that provides help with accommodation is therefore the preferred option for most new EFL teachers. Opportunities for well paid private tuition are good, particularly when you have been in one place for a while and have established yourself.