Teaching English to Japanese Students

Japanese Students. Image Credit: Tony Cassidy @ FlickrMany English-speaking foreigners travel to Japan to teach English. Many of them truly have a great time in the classroom because of their love for education and children.

They know that teaching English to Japanese students isn’t tantamount to speaking the language. They understand the skills, art and passion required for the position.

If you’re planning to stay in Japan and get an English as Second Language (ESL) teaching job, below are some guidelines worth remembering.

Establish Rapport

Most Japanese students are shy. They are not that confident to participate actively or express their ideas in class. They’d rather listen attentively to teachers and use their colorful pens in taking down notes. Often times, when you try to converse with them, they’d just answer, “I’m sorry, I can’t speak English.”

For someone who grew up outside Asia, this might be completely different from how you were brought up. This cultural difference is something you have to accept as its way beyond your control. This, however, should not disappoint you as a teacher. Shyness is just one of those personality traits you have to work with when teaching English to Japanese students.

Establishing rapport with the students is an excellent way of breaking the ice. There are numerous ways to do this. You can make use of your sense of humor, talk with them along the corridors and be approachable and friendly. Try to remember their names as well. It might be quite an effort but it works effectively for everyone.

Use Japanese-Related Examples

One of the goals of an ESL curriculum isn’t only about speaking a foreign language. It also aims to have a deeper understanding of different cultures. Hence, part of what you should share in the classroom are your or other countries’ practices, traditions and special occasions.

However, lessons don’t have to be one-sided. When you use examples in class, it would also be exciting for them to hear Japanese-related examples. If you’re a fan of anime, integrate Pokemon monsters and Dragonball characters. If you love traveling, mention your favorite tourist spots in Kyoto or Hiroshima. If food is your game, then bring pictures of natto or sushi. It will brings smiles and giggles to the learners.

Familiarize Their Language

You are not expected to speak Japanese in class but it would help to know their language. There are two reasons for this.

First, it would be impossible for all your students to speak in straight English for an hour. Hence, if they approach you or talk to their classmates in Japanese, you’ll be clueless about the message or topic. However, if you know basic terms, you can easily relate to their conversation and respond to their concerns and questions appropriately.

Second, you’ll be able to come up with teaching strategies based on Japanese phonology, alphabet and grammar knowledge. Knowing that they don’t have letter L in their alphabet helps you resolve pronunciation difficulties. Being aware that they follow a Subject-Object-Verb agreement will back you up in guiding them in constructing sentences and paragraphs.

Facilitate Communicative Activities

One of the reasons for their inability to speak English fluently is the lack of opportunities to practice what they’ve learned. When they leave the four corners of their classroom, they’ll be going back to the comfort of their native language, unless they stumble upon a lost foreigner.

Hence, as much as possible, facilitate English activities that would enable your students to communicate and interact with their classmates in a natural setting. Imagine different scenarios in the classrooms and teach them common expressions. Have them conduct peer-to-peer interviews. Play interactive games.

Motivate your students to express themselves. After all, better communication is the main goal of learning a foreign language.

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