Talking about the English language teaching in Japan

Do you have anything to say about the English language teaching in Japan? Any ideas or suggestions to improve it? Any complaints about Japanese English teachers, students or textbooks? Any questions you want to ask about the English language teaching in Japan? Those who are currently involved in teaching English at secondary schools in Japan or interested in teaching at such schools in the future, please click here and feel free to send your ideas, suggestions, complaints or questions about the English language teaching in Japan by mail. I will add them to this page later. When you send, please don't forget to give me your name, mail address and the name of the city, the state/province and the country you live in.

You can get information on English teaching jobs in Japan from the following web sites.

JET Programme
The JET Programme aims to promote internationalization at the local level by inviting young overseas graduates to assist in international exchange and foreign language education in local governments, boards of education and junior and senior high schools throughout Japan.

O-Hayo Sensei
A twice-monthly newsletter that lists teaching positions in Japan at conversation and public schools, colleges and universities.

Safe Jobs In Japan
1. Collects detailed application information from job seekers
2. Advises how the application and presentation materials can be improved for the best advantage
3. Accumulates information on potential employers including interviews with current staff to determine their credibility
4. Recommends job seekers to potential employers

TEFL Professional Network
TEFL Professional Network provides registered professionals and subscribers with a weekly jobs newsletter detailing all the current vacancies (with hyperlinks) available on the website.

Here is how JET ALTs are screened and this is what I heard from my friend who knows the selection system.

They do the initial pre-screening of all JET application forms. They have a merit system where they award points on the basis of suitability for being a JET ALT. For example, if an applicant has a deep interest in Japan, they are awarded points. If they are really interested in teaching, if they have had experience of living abroad, if they have Japanese language qualifications or TEFL qualifications, they all receive points of merit. Therefore, the applicants with the highest points are then invited for an interview. The thing is the point system is not as rigid as it sounds; there is some leeway and bosses can usually also tell just by reading applicants' essays if they would be a suitable candidate for a JET ALT or not.

Then comes the interview. The interviewers consist of a panel of five people, usually consisting of ex-JET ALTs, Japanese Embassy staff and other Japanese natives. These interviews take place in January and each interview lasts about 25 minutes. It is then decided if a candidate is suitable to go on the JET program. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

My daughter was a JET teacher who spent three years in Osaka. She had an amazing time, and came back a speaker of Japanese! However, she was involved with a scheme to pilot the teaching of English in primary schools, and although the work was hard, she loved every minute of it, except the Kobe earthquake. She so loved Japan that she fetched her sister out twice to experience the oriental way of life. This is her first Christmas at home since Japan, and she has received some beautifully handmade cards with carefully written English messages from one of her most difficult teaching groups. Doesn't it just go to show that our most difficult, seemingly unrewarding work areas bear the most unexpected fruit? Those children made my daughter realise just how much she was valued as a teacher. [Mary: JERSEY CHANNEL ISLANDS]

I taught English in a private girl's school in Shibuya for one year. The girls were wonderful! It was a pleasure to go to class. After teaching four years in American public high school, I was shocked by having polite, respectful students. The classes consisted of 44 students per class. I taught the students a total of 50 minutes per week. That isn't a great amount of time to spend in conversational English. The students could read and write quite well, but speaking was very difficult for them. If there was a school activity, the conversational English class was the first to be cut. Between school activities and national holidays, there would be weeks between classes. It was a fun job with no pressure, but if you are a professional educator, you would be very frustrated. [Patty Stith: Rogers, Arkansas, USA]

At present I am working on the JET programme as a teacher in the junior high schools, elementary schools and kindergartens in Ena-shi in the southeast corner of Gifu-ken.

I very much enjoy my job - so much in fact that I am staying on for another year. The reasons for my staying are necessarily the teaching of English but more the friendliness of the students that I teach. The trouble with the English teaching system in Japan at the moment lies with entrance exams that rule the lives of Japanese students. From the universities down to the high schools there is no emphasis on speaking the language. Hence the majority of school lessons concentrate on written grammar. While this is important, the students lose sight of why they are learning English without the use and practice of English in real life situations. I am quite lucky in the fact that I work with some teachers that like to try and encourage the students to speak English and I also teach the students before the reality of university and entrance exams set in. Until the universities and downwards change their opinion on the spoken language, students will continue to be scared to use their knowledge in speaking English and hence the standard of English in Japan will never improve. Now don't get me wrong - some students are excellent at English but we need to encourage these and others to use their knowledge in a real and practical way! It is obvious from the lessons that I am involved in, that the students enjoy being able to speak English much more than sitting in their desks doing book work! If students are enjoying themselves, they are learning the language in a much more effective way!

I would also like to put another point across. When I teach the students in elementary school, they are so enthusiastic! I know that Monbusho (the Ministry of Education) are doing pilot schemes to teach English in elementary schools and I applaud this idea! At this age the children soak up knowledge - this is the perfect age to begin learning English!!

I may have some complaints but the benefits of my job here in Japan far outweigh the bad points (by at least 100 to 1!). I love my job and the kids that I teach - I'm even learning a bit of Japanese in the process!![Paul Sharpe: Ena, Gifu, JAPAN]

I am interested in making contact with anyone teaching English as a second language. I taught in Tokyo privately from 1957-1960 with great success. Maybe one of my former students in on the Internet and will answer my query. If not, I would be glad to get in touch with an instructor. I loved living in Tokyo and loved the people. I had 200 students, many of whom were planning to come to the States for further education. My students used to call my house "Little America" and called me "Naze-san" because I would not allow my questions to be answered in a parrot-like fashion and would always ask "Why" to their answers. I'd love to hear from someone. I taught from my home in Washington Heights near Shinjuku Station. [Janet Sylvester: Yuma, Arizona, USA]

I am a JET participant teaching in a junior high school in Ibaraki-ken. I have mixed feelings about teaching English in Japan. I am extremely fortunate to be placed in a small school, where I can begin to get to know my students as people. I enjoy teaching. I am thrilled when my students come to me freely outside class to communicate in English, and I am likewise thrilled when students who can hardly manage any spoken English at all make the effort to at least say hello. I am also lucky to be team-teaching with teachers who are open to trying some new things and don't use me as a human tape recorder. My complaints lie with the curriculum and the exams. My school uses the Sunshine curriculum, one of three approved curriculums, I believe. It starts out OK, but each chapter seems less useful than the last. I hate the way verb conjugation is never taught and students are frequently taught to express an idea but the negative of the same idea will not be taught at all. By the third year the curriculum is basically useless, focusing on obscure points of grammar that are rarely used in spoken English; I can imagine seeing them used in an academic paper, but not many other places. It is ridiculous to teach such material to students who have barely mastered "What is your name?" in conversational English. What would they ever use it for? Only to pass the sickeningly competitive exams. A lot of my kids go to juku (cram school) for the duration of every school vacation. I feel sorry that they have such little time to be children. A lot of their juku time is spent studying these obscure points of English, which are best left for more advanced study. Language study at this level should be more relaxed and should focus on vocabulary, not grammar. I teach the grammatical material because I have a responsibility to help the kids do well on their exams, which have a great impact on their lives, whether I like it or not. But I hope that Monbusho realizes that it is running the kids ragged for nothing, and changes the curriculum soon, giving teachers more room to teach what they feel their kids can really use. [Sue Gustafson: Ushibori, Ibaraki, JAPAN]

I teach privately in Fussa-shi (near Tokyo). I have found that most of the people I know who are teaching at schools are unhappy with the isolation that they feel they suffer. It seems that if you are a foreigner, you are always on the outside. I am interested in what you have to say about this. [Corri: Fussa, Tokyo, JAPAN]

I can see a lot of foreign teachers (especially Americans and Europeans) try to take full annual paid leave just because they have the right to do so. However, such practice is not common among Japanese and we usually end up leaving much of the leave untaken. I can understand they need to take the leave to travel around Japan and go back to their country, but from Japanese standpoint, it could be a kind of disgusting action to take full leave even if that is their right. I wonder if they have realized their Japanese colleagues feel constraint to take leaves. There is an old saying, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do.'

We feel taking 'nenkyu' or paid leave is our RIGHT not DUTY. We do take as many nenkyus as possible when necessary. It is sort of our "conventional wisdom" that we take them only when we need them. Civil servants are guaranteed to take 20 nenkyus each year and if they take less than that, another 20 nenkyus are added to the original ones the following year. Since most Japanese take less than 20, that adds up to 40. Foreigners can take as many nenkyus as possible because it's your right or even 'DUTY' to take up all the nenkyus that are guaranteed to you. However, if you work in the same place with Japanese coworkers, we may feel distant from you especially when we have our noses to the grindstone. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

When I spent a year in Japan as an Assistant English Teacher, I worked with a wonderful Japanese English Teacher. As the first school holiday approached, I spoke with her about paid leave. She told me that Japanese teachers often do not use their paid leave because they feel pressure to stay at school and to work hard in front of Kocho-Sensei. However, Japanese teachers work very hard during the year and spend much more time at school than with the students, and both groups work very, very hard.

She suggested that Western cultures and Japanese culture have a lot of good things to teach one another, and that perhaps Japan could learn how to relax a little. She thought it would be a good thing for me to use my nen-kyu to go on vacation and get some rest to show the Japanese teachers that it is not shameful to get away from work to prevent burnout or to spend time with their families.

In my current position, people make the choice to either stay late to try to impress their boss or work the hours required. Often those who stay late are trying to win favor with their supervisors but don't accomplish as much as those who work hard during the hours during which they are required to be there.

The stresses on a foreigner living in Japan can be tremendous. The language and culture are very complicated, highly-developed and confusing to an outsider. I'm sure you have seen foreigners struggle to understand how to speak, behave, even eat. Though many Japanese people are very hospitable and friendly to foreigners, sometimes Japanese shyness makes Westerners feel unwanted and disliked. Many Assistant English Teachers are disappointed with the limited role they play in teaching English. They are called "Gaijin," which is a pejorative term that is based on race. They are always reminded that they are not Japanese, nor will they ever truly be accepted. That is why they use their nen-kyu - to escape from a society that will not accept them. [Jason MacBeth]

Mr. Yukita mentioned correctly that Japanese teachers often will not take their annual accrued leave. However, in the US and England, leave is meant to be taken. The general concept is that teachers who are not rested cannot perform their jobs effectively. Furthermore, teacher's rights are governed by contract in those countries and it is therefore the expectation of the teachers coming from those places that if their contract says they have so much leave, then that is how much they are allowed to take.

Your "when in Rome" argument only makes sense when you know what is expected in Rome. If the teachers who were induced to come over to Japan upon the promise of receiving certain leave time knew that the cultural pressures meant that they would in fact be expected to take far less leave time, there would be no problem. But in almost all cases (I know for a fact), they do not know that prior to coming to Japan. They only find that out after arriving here -- usually through complaints from the Japanese teachers. When the foreign teachers are told, after getting to Japan, that the expectation is that they do not use all the leave time they have accrued, they feel as if they have been cheated.

The obvious solution to this quandary is for the schools that bring English teachers over here to clearly spell out the expectations in advance. As a practical matter, this will probably not happen because it will reduce the poll of qualified candidates. Schools know that if they tell foreign teachers the true working conditions and benefits, many of them will not come. I do not know of a single English teaching school in Japan -- not one -- that tells the teachers they are recruiting about the real expectations of vacation time usage prior to their arrival in Japan. [David Snyder]

I could understand the recruiting situation of qualified English teachers from outside of Japan if what you mentioned was really true. Generally speaking, Japanese are not so particular about the details on the contract. This is probably because we have our own culture in which we enjoy three relatively long vacations each year - around New Year's Day, early May and in mid August as well as national and weekend holidays and people take a family trip to some places in Japan and abroad on such holidays. Therefore, I should say that although many Japanese want to take more of their annual paid leave as they like to, they don't usually take all the leave like Westerners do. Some of us take a lot more leave for vacationing, of course, but it is not our idea that we can take ALL the leave just because we have the right to do so. We feel particularly closer to foreigners who understand our culture and take their leave moderately according to their need to take.

Finally, I still have a bad feeling on the screening system of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). I wonder why the Ministries (Education, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs) have begun to give them the privileges of all Saturdays off though the schools they work for or visit have classes every other Saturday. I think the Ministries' policy is weak-kneed and ALTs are well treated under the policy. I can easily guess they have reached the decision for fear that ALTs might not come if they had to go to work on Saturdays. If they are told less attractive working conditions and benefits, the candidates will sure decrease, but that way we can screen them more carefully and narrow them down - those who really want to teach at Japanese schools and exchange with Japanese people though their working conditions and benefits are not fully satisfactory. I hear the conditions and benefits are much worse in China, but still there are Westerners who want to go to China to teach students there and exchange with the locals. They are REAL educators. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

Just one comment to Hiroyuki Yukita. The JET program's contract is for three years maximum. Native Japanese can live in Japan all their life. Given an approximate working life of 40 years, an ALT spends 1/13 of that time in Japan, so has 1/13th the opportunity to see Japan than a native Japanese does. That is why you should humble yourself and instead of complaining when you see a foreign teacher eager to take all their paid holidays, be glad that the ALT is taking every opportunity they have to see beautiful Japan while they can. As for Japanese teachers, they have many, many more years to see their country, so I can see why they would think there is no immediate rush.

Another thing, the JET program does not hire teachers in the strict sense of the word. It hires 'assistant teachers' and expects them to behave differently than native teachers. This is one of the reasons they are there. If a foreigner wants to become a 'teacher' in Japan then they can do so without joining the JET program and many do. JETs are part of a cultural exchange, and if I am not mistaken, exchange is a two way street. They do not come to Japan to become 'English teachers', they come to Japan to experience Japan and share what they can with those they meet and teach. Being stuck in schools 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year is a poor way to engineer an exchange. A five minute talk to a stranger on a train is often richer cultural exchange than an hour in a classroom of kids who don't want to learn or in a staff room full of people who ignore you. [David Byatt: Zamami, Okinawa, JAPAN]

David Byatt mentioned "They (ALTs) do not come to Japan to become 'English teachers', they come to Japan to experience Japan and share what they can with those they meet and teach." But you should remember that we expect them more to help us TEACH English than just to share their cultures with us in class. We hope that they will play a more active role in teaching the language, trying to understand more about our educational background and students and prepare materials more spontaneously.

Ask not what we can do for you. Ask what you can do for us.

This is part of behavior you are expected to take for us here. I've heard you earn nearly 300,000 yen every month with all Saturdays off guaranteed. Do you think you deserve to get paid that much? [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

If we were being paid simply to assist with language education in schools, then we would not deserve the amount we get. In actual fact that's not the case, part of the reason for our wage is that we are stuck out on a limb in a foreign culture without our support networks. Just about my whole life outside of my apartment is work in some sense, interacting with people, struggling with the language, constantly aware that in the small town I live everything I do is representing my country, and most things cause considerably more stress than they do back home.

But that doesn't mean that we deserve to be paid so much...unless Japanese teachers are to be paid substantially more, and that is not going to happen. I feel guilty about the amount of hard work my fellow teachers put in, and even though I have offered my services they refuse them. I think that the vast majority of schools could use their ALTs to much better effect, we are being paid a lot but I personally don't feel that my schools are getting their money worth...and it is a two-way thing. As ALTs we need to realise that we are being paid a tremendous amount for what we do, and should be more than happy to give up our time. I would love to feel that I am earning my money. I would love to be treated more as a teacher and less as a guest, or a tape recorder, as I have been on various occasions, but I am painfully aware that the problem lies more in myself than in the schools. It's up to us to realise how valuable (in a literal sense) we are and to earn that money by giving our all to the job. The selection process is supposed to choose candidates who have that in mind, surely? I can't explain how they would have selected me otherwise, as I have no teaching qualifications, no English or Japanese qualifications, just some experience working (outside of schools) with young people and a bagful of passion for positively impacting the lives of the next generation.

A further point...if Monbusho wants to seriously improve standards in English education, then they need to take measures to ensure that ALTs are there for the right reasons. It IS a fact that we are attracted in part by the pay and conditions. I would have come over here to work for half the money, or double the hours, or maybe even both, but I can't say that would apply to all ALTs. Whilst I'm sure that the majority of ALTs have an interest in teaching to some extent, too many are in it more for the cultural aspect, to earn a lot, pay off their debts, and travel Japan and East Asia. Considering all the perks of our job, the opportunities to travel, the fantastic amount we get paid (as a recent graduate I have never seen so much money in my life and I don't know what to do with it), we should certainly not mind being asked to work longer hours, or Saturdays, or holidays. Surely those best suited to teaching are those dedicated to improving the lives of young people.

As ALTs we are entitled to take our leave. It's in the contract. It is essentially acting under false pretenses to get us to sign a contract without the knowledge that in actual fact we are expected to work much harder. If we are not supposed to take all our leave, then we should be told. Speaking personally, I think that giving ALTs longer hours or less holidays would discourage many from coming, which could be a good thing. The Japanese teachers of English can be more sure that those who DO come are dedicated and are aware of their expectations. Teaching is not just about doing what you are contracted to do, those with that kind of lazy and selfish attitude would be advised to forget any thoughts of pursuing a career in teaching (well, certainly in England anyway) and stop wasting their fellow teachers' time and the government's money.

It's important for us to have some holidays, to explore Japan, do the internationalisation thing, and more importantly just to keep ourselves in good shape mentally and physically. ALTs must be told what is expected of them...this might mean changing the contract, or it might just mean leaving the contract as it is but toughening up on the selection process, and most of all EDUCATING us on what to expect. If our presence causes resentment, then something has to be done...there is good internationalisation and there is bad internationalisation.

Well, that's my ha`pennies worth (`two cents` to those who have only experienced American internationalisation). Feel free to mail me on I would be fascinated to hear what people think about this...especially people with experience in the fields of youth work or teaching from anywhere around the world, who might be aware of the non-contractual obligations of their job... [Bobbins: Tosa, Kochi, JAPAN]

I have read some of Mr. Yukita's comments and would like to offer comments.

First of all, let me say clearly that I think there are still many problems with the JET Programme. However, I agree with ALTs who say that their holidays belong to them. They are NOT hired according on the same terms as Japanese teachers of English (JET). They are not in Rome to become Romans, quite to the contrary, in fact. In any case, I think a lot of Japanese teachers could benefit from taking leave.

Many Japanese believe they are working hard, but often they just work for a long time. By many western standards they are inefficient. Just two nights ago, I was talking with a Canadian, an Italian and a Croatian, all who are businessmen in Japan. One is assisting Yamaha to write programs for music in keyboards, another is selling automotive technology, and the Italian is selling machinery to Japan Tobacco. What did all of them say about their experiences here? Japanese take too long to do things.

To compare salaries is unfair. For example, do ALTs get bonuses like JETs? If you would like to do world comparison, you will find that Japanese teachers are well paid.

He wrote, "Ask not what we can do for you. Ask what you can do for us." I believe that most ALTs are more than willing to help, but, the fact is, ALTs are here to expose children to their culture. What they are supposed to do, in broad terms, has already been decided.

I DO agree with him that any person with good English should be allowed to be an ALT -- Indians, Filipinos, Malaysians, Israelis, Dutch, Swedes, Germans. This would be wonderful, but as you know, the Monbukagakusho (and most bureaucrats actually) is a very conservative ministry, just as Japan is still a very conservative country. [Gregg McNabb: Fukuroi, Shizuoka, JAPAN]

I'd like to give my comments on some of the things mentioned by Mr. McNabb.

1. Taking leaves
I just wanted ALTs to understand our work environment in which it's rather difficult to take all the paid leaves with our heads high. I should say this is sort of our 'culture' that has long influenced our society. There is no doubt we can take all of them as it's guaranteed to do so. However, the tradition I mentioned above makes it difficult for us to do the same things as ALTs do. Some colleagues may gossip with others about such teachers (even ALTs) who are rare by our standards. People rarely take all the leaves simply because we don't think we need so many days off as we have more national holidays than other countries, plus we have the complete five-day work week and because it hasn't been widely accepted to take all the leaves in our society yet.

2. Japanese work inefficiently
I almost admit what you and your friends said about this. I have seen some colleagues who stay at school late at night, enjoying chats with their colleagues for quite a long time. However, it seems to me that not all their chats are meaningless; they seem to try to share their experiences and problems with others and often ask them for their advice. Besides, many junior high school teachers tend to stay late at school to prepare for their lessons or mark the papers. They cannot find time to do so by the time they are to leave school. After school many of them go straight to the gym to coach students in extracurricular activities. Back to their staff room after that, they can finally take time to do chores around school. Some even take their work home with them.

3. Salaries or bonuses
I wonder how many ALTs know their salaries are higher than those of Japanese English teachers who are fresh from college. They come to Japan as assistant English teachers and are not responsible for their teaching no matter how they teach. I guess you once worked as an ALT and now you must be in more responsible position. You can easily understand the difference between the two in terms of responsibility. Didn't you feel you were like a guest when you were an ALT? Did you 'seriously' worry about teaching English like many inexperienced Japanese English teachers or try to talk to them and understand their situation? Furthermore, we do a lot more work than they do. Did you feel you worked more than your colleagues? Unfortunately, I have never ever seen such ALTs. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

My son is an English teacher in Nakasato, Aomori Prefecture. He tells me that many of the students do not give the teacher any respect and just do not listen in classes. They use dirty English words and think it'sfunny. The girls in class turn their backs on the teachers and comb their hair and put make up in class. Why do you think there is a problem like this? He says the Japanese teachers tolerate this and do nothing. This is not my image of a Japanese school system. If the students are not giving the teachers their attention, how will they be able to learn anything adequately? I understand that many of the JET teachers have a similar problem in their schools, too. My son enjoys teaching English to students that want to learn, but some of the guidelines that the school has do not allow him to teach it his way. [Al Coley: Streator, Illinois, USA]

I'm really sorry to hear about the situation your son is faced with in his school. I admit some students behave like that in their class and that teachers have a hard time handling such students. But we do not see such scenes in every school and every classroom, and again I suppose only a few students behave that way just to bluff.

However, I should say Japanese students' interest in their studies is gradually decreasing nowadays and that they are losing their interest not only in English but in English-speaking people and their cultures as well. Unlike the times when we could see few foreigners walking down the street, students can now see them even at school who vist to teach English. Due to the development of communication technology that has narrowed the gap among the nations around the world, we can get ample information on them (especially on Western nations) through media. I feel sorry then for the JET teachers (we call them Assistant Language Teachers) who come to Japan with much hope for teaching English.

It seems to me, however, from now on they will be expected to have more desire, originality and ingenuity to teach our students. Therefore, I personally feel that we should hire ALTs with diverse backgrounds. In that sense, Asians such as Singaporeans, Malaysians, Indians and Filipinos who have a good command of English and diverse cultural background should also be hired. They could teach their cultures that are similar to ours but still somewhat different as well as English. Unfortunately, many Japanese are not so familiar with their cultures as they are with Westerners'.

English is now an international language and there are no boundaries among people who use the language. I guess our students' interest in English, foreign people and their cultures would be a lot more increased if they were taught by such people from Asia. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

I read a post of yours in an ESL website... I was struck by your notion that Japan would be better served by English teachers from countries like the Philippines or Singapore or Malaysia because they are "Asian" countries and the Japanese would understand them better -- culturally speaking, that is. Or that they would understand the Japanese better because they are, after all, Asian just like the Japanese. Bad idea.

Frankly, as an American thinking of going to Japan, I'm very pleased that the Japanese are our allies in Asia. But the Philippines, Malaysians, Indonesians and Chinese aren't big friends of the Japanese. But Americans have a deep sense of forgiveness and, it appears so do the Japanese. We are civilized, Japan and America. We understand that peace is better than war, that countries that trade together live together in peace.

First, Americans go to Japan because we are very much alike, our systems, that is, and the Japanese government knows that ties to America are much, much more important than ties with Malaysia or Indonesia or the Philippines. Economically, we share similar abilities -- technical abilities and notions of law, land ownership/property, etc. Not that the Japanese found their way naturally to these things but that they were basically forced on them via the Meiji Restoration and, later, the Constitution after the WWII.

So for a man like me, going to Japan for two years of teaching and living in Japan -- and leaving with some understanding of your culture and language -- is a good thing for everyone. I will take knowledge and experience back to the US where I will work for an American company. I might come back to Japan -- in fact, probably will. You see, American companies cherish men and women with those special skills, the ability to bridge the gaps, make friends all over the place. In the end, we develop new business, transfer ideas, technologies and protect each other from what will certainly over the next few decades be the economic onslaught of the Chinese.

What I'm saying is that this notion of a pan-Asian love is nonsense. There is no love lost between Japan and the rest of Asia. Japan's greatest ally in the Pacific is still the USA. [Philip Hayworth: Honolulu, Hawaii, USA]

I'm a little disappointed to read your view as you seem to be trying to connect teaching English with something political. To be more specific, you sound like people coming from the country that Japan has strong ties with can be more qualified as an English teacher than those whose countries have poor relations with Japan. I suppose this is somewhat true, but I'm still skeptical about such a view. It even sounds prejudiced against the people from such countries, so-called developing countries.

I've encountered a lot of English teachers from various countries in and outside of Japan so far, and I have reached a conclusion myself that it's not countries they come from but people themselves that counts, especially in term of teaching English. Their own teaching techniques and zeal toward teaching are actually their assets, and not only students but their colleagues feel attracted to them.

People from the countries you mentioned have their own cultures that are somewhat similar to ours. Many Japanese students, however, do not necessarily understand the people and their cultures, though they belong to Asia where Japan also does. They could introduce these in the classroom as well as teach English, and their own language if possible.

English is an international language that plays an essential role in communicating with other people who don't speak the same language. It's not the language of the United Kingdom. It's not the language of the United States, either. It is the common language that people around the world share as a means of international communication. So I have a thought that it would be possible for nonnative speakers of English to teach English in Japan as long as they have a native command of the language. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

I've read your comments about teachers of English in Japan that come from countries other than the United States or Britain. I agree with you because it is no longer credible to think that English is the language of these countries. It is estimated that up to 500 million people in the outer circle and one billion in the expanding circle speak English as their second language (L2). Only the combined number of English knowing bilinguals in China and India account for far more than the total population of the inner circle.

Of course, anybody can argue that most people don't have an appropriate accent or command to teach English, but many do. Many foreigners in Britain have a better knowledge of the English language than those who are born here, and the only clue that reveals they were not born on these islands is their peculiar accents.

But in Britain itself there are many accents. Which one is best or correct? In this world of international communication, it is extremely important to adapt to different world Englishes. In international business it is pointless for a native English speaker of the inner circle not to understand others because his/her listening is only tuned to his/her community accent. [Amadeu Gilabert: Chester, Cheshire, United Kingdom]

Teaching English is a joke. The system is being promoted by those who are there to protect their jobs. I lived in Norway and just about everyone speaks fluent English. They do not use ALT's or language schools.

Everyone I met in Japan was there for the money or woman. No one is there for the culture. That is the problem. But everyone will say that is why they are there except for a few. Can they teach? I know that there are so many fake degrees in Japan it would make your head spin. I know a couple myself. The Japanese do not check. Why not?

An example. In Amagasaki there are teachers there who don't have qualifications. They are making 500,000 yen a month, bonuses, 2.5 months holiday and no responsibility. Most teachers have been there 10 years. I think that their culture experience is now over! They are there for the money. Hire real teachers or only hire young students on 3 year contracts only. And don't pay them so much. They will still go. 500,000 yen a month for uneducated assistants is absurd. No other country does this. These people stay all their lives. Almost all the teachers in Amagasaki now are married for the visa so that they can stay.

As for the people saying that they need more money because the language is hard and the country is not comfortable to live in. Forget that. People go and live in a lot harder conditions for a lot less money and support. Africa, China, etc. People will still go. [Been there done that]

I am a Filipino woman and I am very much concerned with the selection process that most agencies use to select foreign English teachers. In my research, I have discovered that most (if not all) recruitment agencies select only citizens of the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Having an excellent command of the English language and the patience and determination required of a teacher, I realize now that my qualifications would be overlooked by mere consideration of my nationality. I think it has been neglected by academes in Japan that there are many countries in Asia like the Philippines, India and others that produce true masters of the English language. Being one of the strongest economies in Asia, I think Japan would benefit so much if it opened its doors wide to its neighbours. It is unfortunate that this type of discrimination is being practiced because students in Japan are missing out on a myriad of cultural experiences that could be made available to them if the system simply allowed it. In this age of globalization, it is essential that Japan adopts a broader world view. And this can definitely be achieved by teaching its children that there is more to the world than what they perceive. And I think that by feeding on the notion that only US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand citizens are qualified to teach English, or even worse, that they are the only masters of it, would be detrimental to the intellectual growth of Japan's youth. I hope that the people who uphold the present system recognize this flaw and do something to change it. [Janet Paulin]

The Course of Study for Japanese Lower Secondary School English

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