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  • 5 things you must check before choosing a TEFL course June 21, 2010
    Unfortunately there has never been one single regulatory body for the TEFL industry, notes Jimmy Krangol. Right now there are numerous TEFL schools springing up everywhere, all claiming that their course is better than the rest or, that they offer the most accredited TEFL certificate. It can be a daunting task trying to select the right [...] […]
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    Over the last few years Mike Pickles has received many questions about teaching English in Korea. He has prepared this unofficial guide to give teachers basic information on the background of teaching English here so that they can be better informed before committing themselves to any particular job. Unfortunately some people come to Korea under [...] […]
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    It’s hardly difficult to see Thailand’s appeal, claims Emma Foers, what with its gorgeous beaches, buzzing cities and fantastic food – but just in case you need a little persuading as to how amazing TEFLing there would be, check out these seven reasons to teach in Thailand: 1) Enthusiastic kids Don’t believe anyone who tells you that [...] […]
  • 3 easy steps to becoming a TEFL teacher April 22, 2010
    You may have heard a little rumour that, as a fluent English speaker, you can magically get paid to teach English in amazing places all over the world. It sounds a bit too good to be true, but in fact, Emma Foers suggests, it’s not! Teaching English abroad is as simple as 1, 2, 3… Step [...] […]
  • Keeping control of your TEFL class April 12, 2010
    There will be times in your TEFL career when you are really challenged in terms of student motivation and classroom management, notes Bruce Haxton. Students, especially children, can be temperamental – but one of the things you’ll quickly learn is that how you behave as a teacher largely dictates how your students behave. Here are [...] […]
  • 6 things to check before accepting your TEFL job March 15, 2010
    It’s tempting to get carried away with the excitement of going to a new country and being accepted for a job is a great feeling, notes Bruce Haxton, but before you start packing your suitcase, make sure you check out the conditions – they’ll make or break your experience of teaching abroad! Here are 6 [...] […]
  • What type of English can I teach? March 1, 2010
    In this article Chris Soames looks into your options as a native speaker. If you’re a British TEFL teacher, you’ll be asked the question ‘do you teach American English?’ more often than you’ll hot dinners. Your response should always be a firm, but polite, ‘no’. This is nothing to do with snobbishness or a belief that British [...] […]
  • Being Certified in TESOL or TEFL has Benefits February 23, 2010
    By Frank Collins TEFL and TESOL are acronyms for teaching English as a foreign language and teaching English to speakers of other languages. If you plan to teach English overseas then getting a TEFL or TESOL Certificate is a prime requirement. Subscribe to The ELT Times by Email Nowadays there is huge demand for TEFL and TESOL certified [...] […]
  • How are TEFL courses structured? January 28, 2010
    What to expect from your four-week TEFL course by Bruce Haxton. So you’re interested in Teaching English as a Foreign Language [TEFL] but you don’t know which course might be for you? Or maybe you’d just like to know more about what to expect on day one on a course you’ve already booked? Well, there are [...] […]
  • How to Fact Check January 25, 2010
    How to write more accurately and improve your grade, by Celia Webb Fact checking is an important part of writing an accurate article. Meticulous authors do research prior to committing their thoughts to paper. Not all authors are so careful. Editors and readers serve society and themselves well when they read with a judicious eye. Just [...] […]

Teach English in Japan: the Grand Adventure

By Tom Aaron

In late 1980s Japan and into the 1990s, some English teachers were earning $50.00 to $100.00 an hour while the basic minimum salary for English teachers was 250,000 yen per month. The government required schools to pay teachers this before giving visas, thus establishing the basic minimum salary. On this wage, teachers could pay their rent, eat out, enjoy themselves a bit, and still save the equivalent of $1000 each month. Most native English speakers could fly into Japan, pick up an English newspaper, find job listings, and have several job offers within a week. Some jobs paid the minimum, but most offered more as the minimum was insufficient for schools to find teachers. Many schools, unable to find applicants in Japan, recruited teachers abroad.

As the 1990s progressed, the economy deteriorated, and fewer teaching jobs were available. Native English speakers arriving in Japan found that a college degree was no longer enough to guarantee finding employement in a few days. With reduced positions available, schools were able to discriminate based on qualifications, ability, appearance, gender, age, and race while offering the basic minimum salary. More closely examining teacher qualifications and ability was a welcome change, but discrimination based on age and cosmetic features was not.

Now, the competition is tougher for jobs; salaries are closer to the 250,000 yen minimum established by the government. Still, a college degree, some dedication, shoe leather, and perseverance coupled with some relevant experience and skills may be enough to find a job. Go to your web browser and search for “teach English in Japan” to find all the information you need to get started.

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If you are interested in teaching English in Japan for the money, we recommend you look elsewhere. If you are thinking about Korea, China, or other countries that hire English teachers, go ahead. We are writing of Japan because we know Japan. We have ridden the bullet trains, eaten the sushi, and gotten lost in rural and urban regions. We found our grand adventure here and you may find yours. Here are a few of my memories from Japan:

Omikoshi carrying: Omikoshi are portable shrines resting on two logs or beams. The total weight of one shrine and the two beams or logs that support it can weigh several tons. The omikoshi are carried in parades by groups. The people carrying the omikoshi have an up and down rhythm as they carry the omikoshi for hours. The people in each group will spell each other, so no one drops from exhaustion. I still remember the warm summer night, the beat of the drums, and the weight on my shoulders. Unable to match the rhythm and taller than the other carriers, my shoulder was bruised and my back sore, but I still remember that special night.

Outdoor mountain hotsprings: Emerge yourself in the hot water of a mountain hotspring, surrounded by friends and hills. Sit there and soak as the snow falls down around you.

Speaking Japanese: While many Japanese speak English, many Japanese also speak little or no English. Outside of work, I struggled to learn Japanese, trying to put words together to make sentences and trying to use sentences to communicate. Eventually, I could speak Japanese. I met a woman who was a child in Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s. Asking what it was like, I waited for an epic tale. She had only one sentence: It was dirty.

Sweet grasshoppers: Sitting at a kotatsu, a table with a heating element under it that warmed my legs, I was offered grasshoppers. Once a major source of calcium, grasshoppers are no longer part of the standard Japanese diet. Looking at the insects head, wings, and legs was not encouraging. Crunchy and a little too sweet.

Carved Buddhas in the rocks: The temples and shrines of Kyoto, Nara, and Nikko are world famous and not to be missed. Still, out for a walk in the country one day, I came upon a series of Buddhas carved in the rock. Standing in the shadows, I thought of who had carved the Buddhas in the stone and why they were there.

These are a few of my memories. Teaching English in Japan was my grand adventure. It could be yours too.


Tom Aaron runs Aaron Language Services provides translation and proofreading via the Internet to a primarily Japanese client base. We also offer online English coaching to ESL students. All of our coaching is one to one.

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  • [...] Japan: With upbeat music and the cheerful voices of fourth- and sixth-grade girl DJs, an all-English radio-style program created a festive lunchtime atmosphere one afternoon at Tezukayama Gakuen Elementary School in a tranquil residential area in Nara. The primary school, which teaches English two hours a week for first- to sixth-graders, began the English-language program in April. The 15-minute program, which plays about five English songs with short talks, is compiled by six members of the school’s broadcasting committee, who also take song requests from their friends and teachers. [...]

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