Teaching English In Japan Is Total BS

…Well, it is if you work at this fictional English Language School, “Be Yes.”

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2O0E0emU85w']


I know a lot of you out there are thinking of becoming an English teach in Japan, so I thought this might be interesting for you. The show is about Tom Kellerman (actually the guy who plays Jon Sherr from “My Darling Is A Foreigner”), a foreigner teaching English in Japan. The show is in short segments, has good production quality, and is pretty entertaining all around. The part I liked, though, was how it satarizes teaching English in Japan. I’m pretty curious to see how far they go with this, since, to be completely honest, the English system in Japan kind of is one big satire in itself (no offense to anyone teaching, I’m talking about the education system here).

So, who of you out there is thinking about teaching English in Japan? Personally, I love teaching, but the idea of teaching English in Japan sounds horrible to me. I have a feeling that most places are a bureaucratic cesspool, and not the kind of thing I’d enjoy too much. There’s often very little freedom, and you have to teach the things that they want you to teach (depending on who “they” is, it can be pretty terrible or not too terrible at all). Anyways, that’s just my quick thoughts on this, even though the article is supposed to be about the fun video above. Gotta have some balance, I think.

You can see the rest of the series, here: http://www.youtube.com/user/englishseries

  • Vsnyder67

    Hi Brandy,
    I am thinking of teaching in Japan one day. I am a special education instructor and would like to teach at a university or high school level. Would you be so kind as to offer some advice or suggestions.

  • Cloudbri7

    I’m an English teacher here, have been for 7 months. And It’s been really good actually, but I think I work at one of the better companies. It really depends on what company you’re working for, and what mindset you come with.

    It’s a bit beaurocratic, because these schools are businesses first. But like I said, it all depends on finding the right school. Do your research, be very selective, and you’ll be fine

  • Paul

    I am interested in teaching English in Japan. I have a B.A and a J.D. but not the ESL or TOSEL acronyms after my name. I took two years of Japanese as my undergrad language requirement. Can anyone point me in a good, positive direction. It’s a little hard to get a good bearing on which firms are better than others.



  • Tokyo Joe

    Friend, teaching the English aint for everyone. It does attract a certain type of gaijin, that’s for sure. A poor one who needs the money just to live in Japan. Peace Tokyo Joe. http://www.intokyotown.tk

  • http://twitter.com/BHBT 竹花百合子 [Vanessa]

    High school level is only brought on by the JET program. For the university level, you will have to inquire to the specific university you have in mind and contact their English language department for the kind of professor they are interested in. Its different from the states, this I know for sure.

  • http://twitter.com/BHBT 竹花百合子 [Vanessa]

    Every firm has their vices. It depends on what you want. If you want Tokyo, those will be harder to come by, the salary will be incredibly difficult to have a decent lifestyle, and let’s face it, the city is just a million times more expensive. I’m currently working through a dispatch company in the boonies of Japan, about an hour away from Tokyo. Its a fair trade, and once I get over this homesickness, it’s not such a bad patch. It makes for good experience on the resume whenever you decide to return to your home country (esp since I’m interested in education back in WA state). The biggest ones are ECC, Interac, and Heart. Keep in mind that salary SHOULD be around 250,000yen/MONTH (apx 2,500$) and if you have to drive, make sure you receive even a percentage for transportation compensation. Learn from my lessons! (plus you cannot help but love the kids here ^.^)

  • AwesomeRES

    Woe, you’re doing exactly what I want to do. I really want to teach in Japan and then come back to Washington and hopefully teach in the high school I graduated from.

  • Lolerpa

    Actually, my Japanese course at my university is taught pretty much only in Japanese. The first day of the first class in JPN 1 had our teacher lecture us in Japanese first before she told us what she was talking about. She only uses English if it’s absolutely necessary. We got points docked if we used English and are banned from using English in the building. A lot of people have dropped out since then, but man have I been learning a lot. It think it’s important especially since most people have trouble with listening comprehension and speaking (I do at least). It’s also a great way to practice and learn new things through context. There’s also a pressure to be prepared for class, ask questions, and actually remember the stuff we’re learning. I’m sure learning a language using the language itself is much more effective because you won’t have your native language as a crutch.

    Also, using sweeping generalizations as a way to insult a group of people is a terrible way to make arguments. Everyone who speaks any language is equally capable of being arrogant thank you very much.

  • shiroi

    Not sure where you got that information; bigger cities like Tokyo, Nagoya etc don’t use the JET Program at all…

    Many high schools these days are going private-hire or through other companies like Interac. A quick search on Gaijinpot.com should reveal just how many of those jobs are available. My prefecture also has info about their private hire ALT positions posted on the Board of Education’s website in Japanese and English.

  • shiroi

    For university teaching there are not so many positions, but they are out there. You will need at least Master’s degree.

    a background in SPED, though, I think your skills would *really* be
    appreciated at the JHS level. Kids with special needs, unless profound,
    are not separated into separate classrooms so it’s not uncommon to get
    several with ADD, dyslexia, autism, and even Down’s mixed in with in a
    normal classroom, with teachers who have neither the time nor the
    necessary experience to give them the individual attention they need.

  • Andre

    Hi, I’ve been reading lots of comments about teaching English in Japan, that’s something that I would like to do in the near future, once I finish my Turism + Hotel Management degree.
    The problem is, I’m from Portugal, do you know what are the options for me?

  • Andre

    Hi, I’ve been reading lots of comments about teaching English in Japan, that’s something that I would like to do in the near future, once I finish my Turism + Hotel Management degree.
    The problem is, I’m from Portugal, do you know what are the options for me?

  • Andre

    Hi, I’ve been reading lots of comments about teaching English in Japan, that’s something that I would like to do in the near future, once I finish my Turism + Hotel Management degree.
    The problem is, I’m from Portugal, do you know what are the options for me?

  • meemers

    it was a joke, i think. she seemed like she was trying to be funny :p

  • Koyasha

    Hi there
    Does anyone know any good websites that I can visit to help find a teach English job in Japan?
    Ill be applying from NZ, and if I can get a job then I will move there.

  • Kilia

    Hi, I am very interested in teaching English in Japan as well. I just receive my Masters degree in Nutrition. I know it has nothing to do with teaching English in Japan, but I really like the Japanese culture. I had some teaching experience when I was in graduate school, and of course I teach about nutrition. Does any one have any suggestion on how I can get started?

  • Asch

    Hi there! I’m actually my second semester in college, on my way towards a bachelors in Secondary English Education. I play on teaching in Japan only because I absolutely ADORE the country. I had heard from a friend and again in the video that English teachers make good money- I had no idea- and that doesn’t change my feelings about it, either. I’d teach there with or without a good paycheck. Anyways. I was wondering if there were any good programs to go through in order to teach in Japan?

  • R Brumer

    I am very interested in teaching english in Japan. I do not have a teaching degree, I received a journalism degree a LONG time ago, Never used it, but do have exemplary language skills. Spent most of my years in retailing. Is there one good resource (online?) that I could use for information? Or anything you could tell me would be very appreciated. Thank you so much!

  • http://www.facebook.com/aswatharthi Aswatha Arthi

    what eligibility is required to teach english in japan?does it requireTEFL,,etc?

  • Jirugi

    The funny thing is, their little debate sounded much more polite than it probably would’ve in English lol. I love Japanese.

  • http://twitter.com/TroubleMakerTim Timothy Kelters

    Once I can take the pebble from my own hand, It will be time to leave.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbkenno Ken Havens

    I envy anyone able to live and work in Japan. I lived there for about 1.5 years and it was hands down the best time of my life, far better than life in the USA. I dream of going back one day for a year if possible. That was 7 years ago now, sigh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbkenno Ken Havens

    Japanese is a difficult language to learn. What you hear on the street is worlds different from what you encounter in any Japanese language school. Just getting your ear accustomed to the speed and picking up on the articles of speech and various endings is a huge challenge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbkenno Ken Havens

    Japanese has a multitude of words that sound nearly the same, it is a beautiful yet vexingly difficult language to pick up for someone that doesn’t have an ear for languages.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbkenno Ken Havens

    I’d give my left arm to be able to go back to Japan. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t regret my decision to leave, stressful as it was though, life in the states has been monotone compared to Osaka.

  • Matthew

    Hello, I am looking also to be an English teacher in Kyoto. I am the Author of the book Japanese in Training. I have taught
    Privately in the United States, some of it English, for 20 years. I’ve been to Japan five times and am very familiar with the country. Do you have any suggestions for finding a job in Kyoto. I have friends who live there and also teach. I love Japan and the Japanese language.

  • http://moviesnbeer-coffee.blogspot.jp/ coffeebot3000

    Teaching a language by using only that language is probably the best way for people to learn. How do you teach in a language? You repeat things over and over and over again. The trouble with most schools I’ve worked at is that they try having a conversation in English right off the bat. You can’t do that. A beginner doesn’t need to have a conversation. They need to learn phrases so in the future they can build a conversation.

    Japanese people start learning English when they are in Jr. High School and learn up until the end of High School. And most of them can’t speak English. That’s about six years of English. Anyone should at least have a basic grasp of the language after that. But they are taught by translating words into Japanese and conjugating verbs “GO WENT GONE” over and over. It doesn’t work nearly as well as just making people speak the language they want to learn.

  • John

    you should probably try teaching over there and/or check your sources. there are actually quite a few people who have majority control over the classroom. hence, it all depends who you work with.

  • ruby

    i’d love to come back to japan to live for a little bit but i’ll be damned if i’m going to spend the time teaching people who for the majority are completely uninterested, as well as having the idea that thinking for yourself is not an option ingrained into their psyche.

  • Katerina Ristic

    Hello sory for my bed english, but i need a english teacher for my kid,i want home schooling her in Hiratsuka,Japan.can somebody tell me how i find teacher? Some site or something please? and again sory for my english it s not my first language

  • Kaz

    Hey, do any of you know a site I can apply to that doesn’t require a BA degree? thanks =)

  • Zarkaus

    why did you come back?

  • guester

    Whats the point of a sweeping generalization like this?

  • GeneralObvious

    To teach English in Japan there are minimum requirements that are enforced by the Japanese government. You either have to have gone to school for at least 8 years in a country where the primary language is English, or have passed the TOEIC. You must also possess at minimum a Bachelor’s degree (in any subject).

    You may also want to look into teaching Portuguese or Spanish in Japan too, as some schools are looking for teachers of those languages also.

  • GeneralObvious

    You cannot get a teaching VISA in Japan without a bachelor’s degree. In fact it’s almost impossible to get any type of Japanese VISA without a bachelor’s degree.

  • GeneralObvious

    This isn’t true. You rarely have any control over the class at all, as you are just an alternate teacher. The JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) is in control of the class.

    Many eikaiwa do not give their teachers much leeway either, because eikaiwa teachers often do not have any formal training before they are hired. (most ALT teachers also have no formal training)

    The only way to have control over your class would be to get a master’s degree in teaching from your native country and then apply for a full fledged teacher’s position.

  • GeneralObvious

    You must have attended at least 8 years of formal school in an English speaking country and possess a bachelor’s degree in any subject.

    If you are not from a native English speaking country, then you would need to pass the highest level of TOEIC I believe.

  • GeneralObvious

    The pay is alright. It’s not amazing. As a classroom teacher in the U.S. you’d make about double.

  • GeneralObvious

    It’s not that bad, just learn the verbs and you’ll be fine.

  • GeneralObvious

    yeah, but only because France sucks.

  • Raveled


    You speak as though you’ve never taught here. While there is a lot of dogma about how English should be taught ( translation, Katakana for MISpronunciation and grammar with a lack of practice which doesn’t work ) your statement about a lack of freedom and flexibility while teaching couldn’t be further from the truth. In most cases, in my 7 years teaching here I can tell you most schools and owners leave the materials and method of teaching entirely up to the teacher to do as they see fit.

    Business classes always have a text and some schools do to, but how you teach it is up to you. I never hesitate to correct bad English whether it’s written in the text or not, or spontaneously teach the same topic off the top of my head using proper English, and I have yet to be chastised for doing so.

    It’s actually very rare that the school, even business classes check to see how the class is taught, they just want to get paid, so as long as the customer is happy they don’t really care.

    The stereotype you are espousing does apply to some of the larger chain schools ( or so I’m told as I’ve never worked for any of them ) but the biggest barrier to Japanese students becoming proficient at English is Japanese students and the cultural beliefs that they carry about learning and studying English.

    The system is messed up and ineffective, but even those outside the system maintain the same limiting beliefs that perpetuate the problem. There is a contradiction in that most students seem to believe they should be able to learn English in one hour a week, then feel like they, their teacher, or the school has failed when once a week isn’t enough. Most just take comfort in the statement “English is difficult” ( a perpetually overused statement EVERY English student knows how to say BTW ) and continue to make little or no real progress.

    I like teaching in Japan and I have COMPLETE autonomy as to how I teach so I’m recognized as an unusually good teacher by some and a defiant arrogant foreigner by others.

    Until students practice frequently or daily and believe that they CAN become good at English, the system won’t change and students will continue to fail to learn English well.

    Teaching English is a great experience, and there are many options. Truthfully, most students and schools will never produce good English speakers, mostly because NOBODY learns a language practicing and studying it only one hour once a week.

    The students who do succeed ( practice and believe they can get better ) are the one who make it worth teaching.