For our first post let’s talk about the differences between teaching English here in Japan and most people’s idea of teaching English back home. Most people back home probably think that it’s a very formal and structured classroom where we are going over various grammatical patterns over and over, we are probably teaching them the alphabet and how to read and write. But for the most part this is not what we do. It depends on the situation that you find yourself in but if you are working at an Eikaiwa which is an English conversation school you most likely will be simply talking with your students most of the time. You are in effect offering them an opportunity to practice English that they already know with a live foreigner. Some schools will give you a textbook for the more beginner classes but the textbook is very simple and it was created for teachers who have little or no experience at all teach English. The sex books lessons generally will choose one subject or theme such as likes and dislikes give an example conversation where that subject is being used provide some kind of vocabulary practice and then provide some practice so that you can write out the sentences you just learned in this situation with it would be, “I like apples” or “I dislike oranges”. Then after that you will probably see some kind of exercises that the students can do with each other or with the teacher that practices are gives the students a chance to use what they just learned in a conversational setting. So that exercise might go something like this, the students will have a piece of paper and it will say go around the classroom and find someone who hates apples. Do this by asking people “do you hate apples?”, If you find someone that does hate apples right there name in the box. Then the next one would be fine someone who likes vegetables, you go around the class asking everyone “do you like vegetables?”. We start off simple and then once they have the hang of that particular sentence structure you start adding more to the questions or add follow-up questions. So this time you go around asking “what is your favorite fruit?”, Then when someone answers “my favorite fruit are apples” the student must ask a follow-up question like “how often do you eat apples?”. This is a very simple example and there are many different types of exercises but this is the general idea.
Introduce the subject or theme of the lesson
read the example conversation with the students or have them read the conversation
ask comprehension questions about the conversation
explain the key words or key sentences in the lesson on the whiteboard
have the students to the practice questions
have the students do the exercises where they take everything they learned and use them in a conversational way
There are many reasons that lessons in Japan are like this. One of them is that most Japanese already have a relatively good grass of English. And when I say this I don’t mean that they can communicate necessarily well but they’ve already studied grammar patterns 4,7,8 sometimes 10 years. They can read English very well and they can write English relatively well but it is in conversations and having a conversation where they are at a loss. There are many reasons for this and we will go over them in a later post.
Another reason that we have the style classes is because most students are studying English as a hobby and not for business or for school. Even the school students who come to our schools to study English are most likely studying conversational English and they will go to another type of school to study grammatical patterns and vocabulary that they will need for a college entrance exam. These types of schools are called “Jukus” and roughly translate to cram schools in English.
So with the English conversation schools the companies and schools are mostly looking for young energetic college graduates who will come in and stay for a year or two and teach other schools. There are not looking for certified English teachers or older people who might not be so energetic. They also do not necessarily want you to stay in the job for that long because many foreigners who do burnout and they are not able to give the students the right “experience”. Other strange occurrences are that in Japan at lease and I think for other parts of Asia as well the schools prefer your stereotypical foreigner which means American, blonde hair, blue eyes and of course white. This doesn’t mean that they will not hire other country people or that they will not hire other races or ethnicities but there certainly an unspoken secret that they prefer the stereo typical white person. We will certainly go over stereotypes that we have found in Japan in the later post but for now just understand that they exist and most people out here do not understand that they are stereotypes and that these stereotypes can be harmful. So that’s your basic set up for an English conversation school in the next couple post for going to go over some different types of schools that you might find yourself working for and how they differ from an English conversation school.
Here is another English teacher’s take on Japan