One of the things I’ve noticed in reviewing the posts of the last few weeks is that speaking a few different languages can be a great route to ending up with a cool job:see Diplomat, Social Anthropologist, and Sign Language Interpreter. However, if none of those careers suits you, consider teaching your native language to others in a foreign country.
Today’s contributor Ross Janes is originally from Canada, but has spent most of the last decade teaching English in Japan to students of all ages. It is clear to me from reading his blog, and seeing this picture of him at work with his students, that he’s a great communicator (and very silly) in both English and Japanese.
So…bored where you are and ready to see the world? Let’s go to Japan and see what it’s like to teach English there!
When people ask you ‘what do you do?’ how do you describe your job?
My first response is usually, ‘as little as possible for the most money’. Then I say that I teach English to students from 3 to 80 years old, individually or in small groups. I mainly teach conversational English; but I also have Business English classes, English Proficiency Test practice sessions, and visit 2 kindergartens. I co-host a travel show at the local radio station as well.
What are the things about your job that you love?
I love talking to people and finding out what they are interested in. Among my students there is a small aircraft pilot, an equestrian dressage rider, a Teddy Bear club president, a sparkling water connoisseur, and a support member for the Hino team in the Paris to Dakar race.
Teaching children allows me to be goofy and keeps me young, or at least immature. Coming to work is fun and usually doesn’t feel like work at all, except for the money.
What are the things about your job that you hate?
I don’t hate anything about my job. But there are 4 things that are not so enjoyable.
1) Working until 10 pm is a little tiring somedays, but starting at 1 pm means never having to wake up to the alarm clock.
2) Other ‘teachers’ who come here and don’t really want to teach, just want to party, or disappear in the middle of the night. It makes all foreigners look bad.
3) Kids that don’t improve or don’t like English are frustrating, but learning another language is not for everyone.
4) Students who don’t tell me when I have a piece of lettuce stuck in my teeth.
What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
For most teaching positions in Japan, a person needs a University degree in anything. It’s not mandatory for the job, but an immigration/Visa requirement. Being a native English speaker usually improves your chances of employment, but some companies/schools aren’t too picky. Some people arrive on a holiday visa and do private lessons; but most English teachers work for small language schools (like me), large chain language schools (sometimes referred to as McEnglish companies), or in the school system as an Assistant Language Teacher.
Not having done too much research on teaching or living in Japan, I took the first job offered me. I worked for 7 years here, left for 2 years to travel, and have been back with the same company for a year now.
There are some great companies to work for and some real stinkers. You just have to do your homework or get lucky. I was lucky.
The biggest misconception most newbie teachers have is that they are going to change their students’ thinking and enlighten them about how great Western Culture is. A bit rubs off on students, but usually it’s the teacher’s way of thinking that changes.
What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?
Because the Japanese translation copies of the Harry Potter series came out a year after the English version, I was the envy of all my students. When asked about any character, I always said ‘They died’. The students knew I was joking, eventually.
In the city I live, I probably know 70% of all children between 4 and 6 years old.
In the city I live, about 50% of people under 17 years old have either punched me in the balls or poked me in the bum at some point in their lives.
Most asked question by adult students: ‘Why aren’t you married?’
Most asked question by younger students: ‘How tall are you?’
Most common statement students say to me: ‘Your nose is really tall.’
Most annoying answer to the question, ‘How are you?’ is …. ‘How are you?’