The TEFL Times /times The only online TEFL newspaper Wed, 23 May 2012 06:33:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Living and Working in Japan: A guide for US Citizens /times/2012/05/living-and-working-in-japan-a-guide-for-us-citizens/ /times/2012/05/living-and-working-in-japan-a-guide-for-us-citizens/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 06:33:58 +0000 david /times/?p=1182 Japan is a stable, highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available, except in coastal areas of Northeast Japan still recovering from the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. Below is a comprehensive list of all the information you should read before visiting or relocating to [...]]]>

Japan is a stable, highly developed parliamentary democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available, except in coastal areas of Northeast Japan still recovering from the aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. Below is a comprehensive list of all the information you should read before visiting or relocating to the country.


You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business “visa free” stays of up to 90 days. Your passports must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan. U.S. citizens cannot work on a 90-day “visa free” entry. As a general rule, “visa free” entry status may not be changed to another visa status without departing and then re-entering Japan with the appropriate visa, such as a spouse, work, or study visa.

For more information about the Japanese visa waiver program for tourists, Japan’s rules on work visas, special visas for taking depositions, and other visa issues, you should consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at 2520 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 238-6800, or the nearest Japanese consulate. Please visit the Japanese Embassy’s website for location details. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates in Japan cannot assist in obtaining visas for Japan.

All foreign nationals entering Japan, with the exception of certain categories listed below, are required to provide fingerprint scans and to be photographed at the port of entry. This requirement is in addition to any existing visa or passport requirements. Foreign nationals exempt from this requirement include special permanent residents, persons under 16 years of age, holders of diplomatic or official visas, and persons invited by the head of a national administrative organization. U.S. travelers on official business must have a diplomatic or official visa specifying the nature of travel as “As Diplomat,” “As Official,” or “In Transit” to be exempt from biometric collection. All other visa holders, including those with diplomatic and official visas stating “As Temporary Visitor,” are subject to this requirement. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) personnel, are exempt from biometrics entry requirements under SOFA Article IX.2.

If you are a U.S. citizen entering or transiting Japan, make sure that your passport and visa are up-to-date before you leave the United States. Occasionally, airlines mistakenly board U.S. citizens coming to Japan even though their passports have already expired. The U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates cannot simply vouch for you without a valid passport, and passport services are not available at the airport. In some prior instances, travelers have been returned immediately to the United States, while in other cases, they have been issued 24-hour “shore passes” and required to return the next day to Japanese Immigration for lengthy processing.

Many Asian countries require you to hold a passport valid for at least six months after you enter the country. Airlines in Japan will deny you boarding for transit if you don’t have the required travel documents for an onward destination in Asia. For the entry requirements of the country you’re traveling to, check the State Department’s Country Specific Information website

Airlines in Japan will deny you boarding for onward flights to China if your passport does not have a valid Chinese visa. You will then have to obtain a Chinese visa in Japan, which can be a long and complicated process. The U.S. embassy and U.S. consulates cannot assist in obtaining Chinese visas. More information is available in the Country Specific Information for China.

Long-Term Residency Requirements: 

Japan amended its Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 2009, and the changes will take effect July 12th, 2012. In addition, under the 2006 revision of the same law, if you are a long-term resident who obtained residence through your Japanese ancestry, you may have to provide evidence that you do not have a criminal record in your home country before you can renew residency status in Japan. As Japanese Immigration regulations are complex and changing, the Embassy recommends that you consult directly with your local immigration office for specific guidance. You can obtain a Proof of no U.S. criminal record through the FBI Identification Record Request.

Starting July 12, 2012, the Japanese government will institute a new residency system impacting the following groups:

* Foreign nationals with Permanent Resident status;

* Foreign nationals who have long-term residence in Japan based on familial relationships with Japanese citizens;

* Foreign nationals with “College Student” status; and

* Foreign nationals issued a working visa in various professional classifications such as Engineer, Specialist in Humanities / International Services, Research, Business Management, Designated Activities, etc.

The changes in the new residency system include new residence cards, a new maximum stay of five years, a new re-entry permit system, updated requirements for reporting to the Japanese Immigration Bureau, as well as new regulations requiring aliens legally resident in Japan to report to the city offices where they reside. As part of the new policy, a new Residence Card (zairyu kaado) will replace the current Alien Registration Certificate (ARC). Resident aliens will also be required to be registered by household in the same manner as Japanese citizens.

The new procedures also include updates and changes to penalties for those who are unable to maintain legal status in Japan or fail to comply with new the new reporting regulations. Both prospective and current resident aliens in Japan should be familiar with updated procedures to ensure compliance with current policies.

As the changes in Japanese immigration and resident registration procedures and the affected groups described above are not a comprehensive listing, please check directly with the Japan Immigration Bureau or the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The Japanese government websites below have more information on these changes:

Also, it is important to remember that “Long-Term Resident” (teijusha) and “Permanent Resident” (eijusha) are different and therefore are subject to different requirements.

For a renewal of visa status or a change in visa status, you should bring your Japanese health insurance card (social insurance or national health insurance) to immigration offices in addition to your passport.  Immigration officials will urge those applicants without a health insurance card to join the Japanese public health insurance system.

HIV/AIDS Restrictions:

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents of Japan.


There have been no major terrorist incidents in Japan since 1995. However, you should be aware of the potential risks and take these into consideration when making travel plans.

The Government of Japan maintains heightened security measures at key facilities and ports of entry as antiterrorism precautions. At times, these security measures may increase because of regional tensions with North Korea. The Government of Japan is vigilant in tracking terrorist threat indicators and remains at a high state of alert. You can contact local police substations (koban) and police emergency dispatchers (tel. 110) to report any suspicious activity.

U.S. offices in Japan communicate threat information through our nationwide e-mail message system and post current threat information on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) web page.

You can stay up to date by:

  • Taking some time before travel to consider your personal security—Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.


The general crime rate in Japan is well below the U.S. national average. Crimes against U.S. citizens in Japan usually involve personal disputes, theft, or vandalism. Violent crime is rare but does exist. Sexual assaults do not happen often but do occur, and females may be randomly targeted. Hate-related violent crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments or actions because of their nationality or their race. There have been some incidents of pick pocketing of foreigners in crowded shopping areas, on trains, and at airports. Every year, a number of U.S. citizens report their passports lost or stolen at international airports, especially passports that were carried in their pockets.

Some U.S. citizens report that Japanese police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns compared to the procedures in the United States, particularly in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault, or when both the victim and the perpetrator are foreigners. Few victim’s assistance resources or battered women’s shelters exist in major urban areas, and they are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes are often conducted without female police officers present and police typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships. The quality of Japanese-English interpretation services can vary, and for some U.S. citizen victims, this has caused a problem.

Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are such goods illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.

Concerns Regarding Roppongi and other Entertainment and Nightlife Districts: 

  • Roppongi is an entertainment district in Tokyo that caters to foreign clientele and is considered a high-risk area for crime, particularly misappropriation of credit card information in bars to make fraudulent credit card charges. Other high-risk areas for crime in the Tokyo area include Shinjuku (especially the area of Kabuki-cho), Shibuya, and Ikebukuro. However, you should use caution in all entertainment and nightlife districts throughout Japan. Incidents involving U.S. citizens since the spring of 2008 in these areas include physical and sexual assaults, drug overdoses, theft of purses, wallets, cash and credit cards at bars or clubs, and drugs allegedly slipped into drinks.
  • Drink-spiking has routinely led to robbery and has also resulted in physical and sexual assaults. In most drink-spiking reports, the victim unknowingly drinks a beverage that has been mixed with a drug that makes the victim unconscious or dazed for several hours, during which time the victim’s credit card is used for large purchases or the card is stolen. Some victims regain consciousness in the bar or club; other victims may awaken on the street or in other unknown locations. Several U.S. citizens have also reported being charged exorbitant bar tabs in some bars and clubs in Roppongi and other entertainment and nightlife districts. Please be aware that Roppongi and other entertainment and nightlife districts have also been the scenes of violence between criminal syndicates in the past.

We urge you to keep these incidents in mind and use caution in all entertainment areas and nightlife districts.


If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:

  • Replace a stolen passport.
  • Help you find appropriate medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape.
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities, and if you want us to, we cancontact family members or a friend.
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.

The local equivalents to the “911″ emergency line in Japan are 110 (police) or 119 (ambulance/fire).

Contacting Police, Fire and Ambulance Services: You can reach the police throughout Japan by dialing 110. Fire and ambulance services can be contacted by dialing 119. Note that these numbers may not work from cell phones and English-speaking dispatchers may not be available. Please review advice on how to call for help. If you need assistance, you should be able to describe your address/location in Japanese or find someone who can do so, since few police officers speak English.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In Japan, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport or Japanese alien registration card to show your identity and visa status. Driving under the influence could also land you immediately in jail. If you violate Japanese law, even unknowingly, you may be arrested, imprisoned, or deported. If you are arrested in Japan, even for a minor offense, you may be held in detention without bail for several months or more during the investigation and legal proceedings. A list of English-speaking lawyers located throughout Japan is available on our website. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods or purchase child pornography. While you are overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. If you do something illegal in your host country, you are subject to the laws of the country even though you are a U.S. citizen. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.

  • Illegal Drugs: Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs, including marijuana, are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines. In most drug cases, suspects are detained and barred from receiving visitors or corresponding with anyone other than a lawyer or a U.S. consular officer until after the first hearing. Solitary confinement is common.
  • You could be convicted of drug use based on positive blood or urine tests alone, and several U.S. citizens are now serving time in Japanese prisons as the result of sting operations that used informants. The Japanese police routinely share information on drug arrests with Interpol, assuring that notification of the arrest will reach U.S. law enforcement agencies. About a quarter of all U.S. citizens now in prison in Japan are incarcerated for drug-related crimes.
  • Japanese authorities aggressively pursue drug smugglers with sophisticated detection equipment, “sniffing” dogs, and other methods. When entering Japan, you and your luggage will be screened at ports of entry. Incoming and outgoing mail, as well as international packages sent via DHL or FedEx, is also checked carefully. The Japanese police make arrests for even the smallest amounts of illegal drugs. Several U.S. citizens have been arrested, tried, and convicted after having mailed illegal drugs to themselves from other countries, or for having tried to bring drugs into Japan as paid couriers working out of Southeast Asia or Europe.
  • Knives: Possession of a knife with a locking blade, or a folding blade that is longer than 5.5 cm (a little more than two inches), is illegal in Japan. U.S. citizens have been arrested and detained for more than 10 days for carrying pocket knives that are legal in the United States but illegal in Japan.
  • Immigration Penalties: Japanese work visas are not transferable and are issued outside of Japan for a specific job with a specific employer at a specific place of employment. It is illegal for you to work in Japan while in tourist or visa-waiver status. Japanese authorities do not allow foreigners to change their immigration status from visa-waiver status to work status while in Japan. Japanese immigration officers may deny you entry if you appear to have no visible means of support. Please contact the Japanese Embassy or nearest Japanese consulate in the United States for information on what is considered enough financial support. If you work in Japan without a work visa, you may be subject to arrest, which can involve several weeks or months of incarceration, followed by conviction and imprisonment or deportation. If you are deported, you will have to pay the cost of deportation, including legal expenses and airfare.
  • Overstaying your visa or working illegally may lead to fines of several thousands of dollars, and in some cases, re-entry bans can be as long as ten years or indefinitely for drug offenders. For additional information please see Japan’s Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

Arrest notifications in Japan:

Generally, when you are arrested in Japan, the police will ask if you would like the U.S. embassy or consulate to be notified of your arrest. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.


Japan has very strict laws regarding the importation and possession of firearms and other weapons. Persons bringing a firearm or sword into Japan (including target and trophy pistols, air guns, some pocket knives, and even Japanese-origin swords) may have these items confiscated by Japanese customs authorities and may be arrested, prosecuted, and deported or jailed. Some prescription medications, as well as some over-the-counter medications, cannot be imported into Japan. (Please see the “Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and other Medication” section below.) Please contact the Japanese Embassy or nearest Japanese consulate in the United States, or visit the Japanese Customs website for specific information regarding import restrictions and customs requirements.

Japanese customs authorities encourage the use of an Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission (ATA) Carnet in order to temporarily import professional equipment, commercial samples and/or goods for exhibitions and trade fairs into Japan. The ATA Carnet Headquarters is located at the U.S. Council for International Business (U.S. CIB), 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036 issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call (212) 354-4480, or email the U.S. CIB for details.

Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and Other Medication: 

The Japanese government decides which medications may be imported legally into Japan. The Embassy and Consulates of Japan in the United States have limited information available and do not have comprehensive lists of specific medications or ingredients.

You can bring up to a two-month supply of allowable over-the-counter medication and up to a two-month supply of allowable vitamins into Japan duty-free. However, it is illegal to bring some over-the-counter medicines commonly used in the United States, including inhalers and some allergy and sinus medications into Japan. Specifically, products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers) or codeine are prohibited. You can generally bring up to one month’s supply of allowable prescription medicine into Japan. You must bring a copy of your doctor’s prescription as well as a letter stating the purpose of the drug.  However, some U.S. prescription medications cannot be imported into Japan, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. You should not mail prescription medicines, including insulin and injectors, without obtaining an import certification called “Yakkan-Syoumei” from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.

Japanese physicians can often prescribe similar but not identical substitutes for medicines available in the United States. You can consult a Japanese doctor by phone before you travel to Japan, to find out what medications are available and/or permitted in Japan. Here is a list of English-speaking medical facilities. Certain popular medications that are legal in the United States, such as Prozac and Viagra, are sold illegally in Japan on the black market. Please bear in mind thatyou risk arrest and imprisonment if you purchase such drugs illegally while in Japan.

If you travel to Japan carrying prescription and non-prescription medications, you should consult the Japanese Embassy or a Japanese consulate in the United States before leaving the United States to confirm whether or not you will be allowed to bring this particular medication into Japan.


The Japanese Animal Quarantine Service (AQS) sets procedures for importing pets. At a minimum, the process will take 7-8 months, though the process can take up to a year before a pet may enter Japan. Advance planning is critical. You can find more information about importing a pet into Japan or information about exporting a pet from Japan on our embassy website.

Consular Access: 

You must carry your U.S. passport or Japanese alien registration card with you at all times so that if questioned by local officials, you can prove your identity, citizenship, and immigration status. Under Japanese law, the police may stop any person on the street at any time and demand to see identification. If you do not have with you either a passport or valid Japanese Alien Registration Card, you are subject to arrest. In accordance with the U.S.-Japan Consular Convention, U.S. consular officers are generally notified within 24 hours of the arrest of a U.S. citizen, if the U.S. citizen requests consular notification.

Employment Issues: 

U.S. citizens should not come to Japan to work without having the proper employment visa arranged ahead of time, or in the hopes of earning a large salary. Teaching English, even privately, and serving as hosts/hostesses are both considered “work” in Japan and are illegal without the proper visa.

Some U.S.-based employment agencies and Japanese employers do not fully discuss or correctly represent the true nature of employment terms and conditions. U.S. consular officers in Japan receive numerous complaints from U.S. citizens who come to Japan to work as English teachers, carpenters, models, actors, entertainers, exotic dancers, and bar hosts/hostesses. The complaints include contract violations, non-payment of salary for months at a time, sexual harassment, intimidation, and threats of arrest, deportation, and physical assault.

A minimum requirement for effectively seeking the protection of Japanese labor law is a written and signed work contract. Without a signed contract, Japanese authorities do not get involved on behalf of foreign workers. If you’re coming to Japan to work, carefully review your contracts and the history and reputation of your Japanese employer before traveling to Japan. We cannot confirm information about prospective Japanese employers although we may be familiar with organizations or have received complaints in the past. If you are asked to do something you find troubling, you should reconsider being in Japan and think about terminating your employment and returning to the United States. Complaints against U.S.-based employment agencies or recruiters should be directed to the Better Business Bureau or the Office of the Attorney General in that particular state.

Living and Travel Expenses: 

Japan’s cost of living is one of the highest in the world. The use of credit/debit cards is not widespread, particularly outside major cities. While there are ATMs in Japan, most are not open 24 hours a day, and only a very limited number accept U.S.-issued cards. ATMs at major airports, foreign bank branches, Japanese post offices, 7-11 stores and some convenience stores are more likely to accept foreign cards than are those at other locations. You should make sure that you have access to sufficient funds through credit cards, debit cards, or cash to carry out your travel, and know how to contact your banking or credit card establishments in an emergency.

In summer 2010, Western Union resumed service in Japan, offering cash-to-cash transfers across 200 countries and territories to and from some areas in Japan. Western Union service is available at the following Travelex offices.

  • Chiba: Narita Airport Terminal 1, Narita Airport Terminal 2
  • Tokyo: Roppongi, Shinjuku (Ome-Kaido Ave), Shinjuku South Gate, Hibiya, Aqua City Odaiba, Keisei Ueno,Otemachi, Tokyo Station (Yaesu Shopping area) T-CAT, LaLaport Tokyo Bay, Shiodome, Ikebukuro (West)
  • Yokohama: Yokohoma Sky Bldg
  • Kyoto: Kyoto Shijo (Nippon Travel), TiS Kyoto (Kyoto Station)
  • Osaka: Nankai Namba, TiS Osaka (Osaka Station)
  • Hyogo: TiS Sannomiya
  • Nagoya: Meitetsu Department Store B1 (Nagoya Station), Nagoya Chunichi Bldg 2F (Sakae)
  • Sapporo: Chuo-ku, Asty 45 Building
  • Fukuoka: Tenjin
  • Sendai: Aoba-ku, Ever-I Building

More information can be found in English at and in Japanese at

Taxi fares from airports to downtown Osaka and Tokyo can cost hundreds of dollars; bus fare can run US$40 or more. The airport departure fee is generally included in the ticket prices for flights departing from international airports in Japan. Bus fare between Narita (Tokyo) International Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo is approximately $40 and takes from 90 to 120 minutes.

English Help and Information Lines: 

As a tourist or foreign resident in Japan, you can have access to valuable information, including professional counseling, through help and information telephone hotlines. The Tokyo English Lifeline (“TELL”) provides English-speaking counseling and referrals at 03-5774-0992. The Japan Help Line provides similar assistance nationwide at 0570-000-911 (domestic), 813-3435-8017 (international).

Disaster Preparedness: 

Japan is faced with the ever-present danger of deadly earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons. Japan is one of the most seismically active locations in the world; minor tremors are felt regularly throughout the islands. On March 11th, 2011, an earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale struck the northeastern coast of Japan and triggered tsunami waves that caused extensive damage to life and property and severely damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Additional information on the aftermath of the March 11th earthquake is available on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) web page. While responsibility for caring for disaster victims, including foreigners, rests with the Japanese authorities, one of the first things you should do upon arriving in Japan is to learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness from hotel or local government officials. Self-preparedness information is available on the on the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizens Services (ACS) web page and on the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page.

Radiation: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Agencies of the U.S. government continue to review the conditions at and around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant and the measures taken by the Government of Japan. Additional data are now available from Japanese authorities, allowing for a fuller assessment by U.S. government scientists.

Areas to Avoid:

Based on current data from Japan, we recommend that U.S. citizens avoid all unnecessary travel to areas within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. In addition, U.S. citizens should avoid all unnecessary travel to the area northwest of the plant that the Government of Japan has designated as the “Deliberate Evacuation Area.” This oblong area in a northwestern direction from the power plant covers Iitate-mura, the Yamagiya district of Kawamata-machi, Katsurao-mura, Namie-machi and parts of Minamisoma. U.S. citizens should also avoid all “Specific Spots Recommended for Evacuation” by the Government of Japan. U.S. citizens who are still within any of these areas should evacuate. Government of Japan maps and information on evacuation areas may be found at

Other Areas within 80km of Fukushima Daiichi Plant

  • Temporary Visitors: Government of Japan data measurements show varying levels of radiation in land areas outside of the area described above, but within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. The U.S. government believes the health and safety risks to temporary visitors to these areas are low and exposure does not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens making visits of less than one year. We recommend U.S. citizens contemplating travel to these areas consult with Japanese authorities regarding local conditions at the proposed destination.
  • Long-Term Residents: The risks may be higher for U.S. citizens who reside for more than one year within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that U.S. citizens who choose to reside for more than one year within 80 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant consult with local authorities to receive current guidance on expected levels of radiation and recommendations for reducing exposure to radiation. In addition, pregnant women, children, and the elderly should avoid residing within 30 km of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.

Additional information about radiation and its effects on human health may be found at the following websites:


While in Japan, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Although Japan’s accessibility laws mandate that new construction projects for public use include provisions for persons with disabilities, older buildings are not likely to have been retrofitted for accessibility. At major train stations, airports, and hotels, travelers with disabilities should encounter few accessibility problems. Accessibility at other public facilities continues to improve through the installation of elevators and wheelchair ramps. However, travelers should note that many smaller stations are inaccessible to those who cannot climb stairs. Most major urban hotels have wheelchair accessible rooms, while smaller “business hotels” and traditional Japanese-style inns may not accommodate wheelchair users.

Information on travel in Japan for travelers with disabilities is available at Tesco Premium Search Co., Ltd. website “the Travel Guide for Wheelchair Users.” American travelers in wheelchairs should be aware that wheelchairs must be no more than 120 centimeters in length/height and no more than 70 centimeters in width in order to be allowed in trains, and large American size wheelchairs may not be allowed in trains. Accessibility information regarding the East Japan Railway Company is also available at the company’s website. Reduced train fares for individuals with disabilities are not available for temporary visitors to Japan. If you do not speak Japanese, you may wish to ask your travel agent to make advance arrangements for your travel in Japan.


While medical care in Japan is good, English-speaking physicians and medical facilities that cater to U.S. citizens’ expectations are expensive and not widespread. Japan has a national health insurance system which is available only to those foreigners with long-term visas for Japan. National health insurance does not pay for medical evacuation. Medical caregivers in Japan require payment in full at the time of treatment or concrete proof of ability to pay before they will treat a foreigner who is not a member of the national health insurance plan.

U.S.-style and standard psychiatric care can be difficult to locate in major urban centers in Japan and generally is not available outside of Japan’s major cities. Extended psychiatric care for foreigners in Japan is difficult to obtain at any price.

U.S. prescriptions are not honored in Japan, so if you need ongoing prescription medicine you should arrive with a sufficient supply for your stay in Japan or enough until you are able to see a local care provider. Certain medications, including some commonly prescribed for depression and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), are not widely available. Please see the section above entitled, “Confiscation of Prescription Drugs and Other Medication,” regarding the importation of medicine into Japan. Also see information on importing medicines into Japan and a list of medical facilities in Japan with English-speaking staff.

You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions, on the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

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Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000 or more, depending on your location and medical condition. U.S. military hospitals in Japan do not treat or provide military medical evacuation to private U.S. citizens. The military strictly controls access to U.S. military facilities; veterans with service-connected disabilities should contact the appropriate U.S. military hospital before traveling to Japan. Most small clinics and some large hospitals do not accept credit/debit cards. No facility accepts checks drawn on U.S. bank accounts.

You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the U.S.?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation?

In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip.


While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Japan is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Japan is quite complicated and expensive. Those who cannot read the language will have trouble understanding road signs. Highway tolls are assessed at about $1 (U.S.) per mile. City traffic is often very congested. A 20-mile trip in the Tokyo area may take two hours. There is virtually no legal roadside parking. In mountainous areas, roads are often closed during the winter, and cars should be equipped with tire chains. Roads in Japan are much narrower than those in the United States. Japanese compulsory insurance (JCI) is mandatory for all automobile owners and drivers in Japan. Most short-term visitors choose not to drive in Japan. Traffic moves on the left side of the road. Turning on red lights is forbidden, unless it is specifically authorized.

Japanese law provides that all drivers in Japan are held liable in the event of an accident, and assesses fault in an accident on all parties. Japan has a national zero percent blood-alcohol level standard for driving, and drivers stopped for driving under the influence of intoxicants will have their licenses confiscated. If you’re found guilty of “drunken, speeding, or blatantly careless driving resulting in injury” you are subject to up to 15 years in prison.

All passengers are required to fasten their seat belts.

Emergency Assistance: 

Within Japan, please dial 110 for police, and 119 for ambulance. For roadside assistance, please contact the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) at 03-5730-0111 in Tokyo, 072-645-0111 in Osaka, 011-857-8139 in Sapporo, 092-841-5000 in Fukuoka, or 098-877-9163 in Okinawa.

For specific information concerning Japanese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please refer to the Japan National Tourist Organization website for locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. In addition, information about roadside assistance, rules of the road, and obtaining a Japanese driver’s license is available in English from the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) web site.

International Driving Permits (IDPs): 

An international driving permit issued in the United States by the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) is required of short-term visitors who drive in Japan. You must obtain an international driving permit (IDPs) issued in your country of residence prior to arriving in Japan. The U.S. Embassy or its consulates do not issue IDPs. IDPs issued via the Internet and/or by other organizations are not valid in Japan.

“Residents” – the exact definition is unclear – must convert to or obtain a Japanese driver’s license. Residents in Japan who use an international driver’s license may be fined or arrested. In practice, the term “resident” involves more than simply visa status or length of stay in Japan and is determined by the police. In short, an international license is not a substitute for a valid Japanese license.


If you are going to live in or visit Japan, please take the time to tell your Embassy or one of our Consulates in Japan about your trip. Local embassy information is available from the links at the bottom of this article and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

You can find information quickly and easily on consular services for all of Japan, including travel enrollment, passport renewal, legal matters, and safety and security, using the convenient, alphabetized links on the U.S. Embassy’s website. Please also see the list of U.S. and Japanese holidays. Look at maps of all the consular offices in Japan, along with directions on using public transportation to reach us.

U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420 Japan
Telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-3-3224-5000
Fax: 81-3-3224-5856

U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe
2-11-5 Nishitenma, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543
Telephone: 81-6-6315-5900
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-6-6315-5900
Fax: 81-6-6315-5914

U.S. Consulate General in Naha
2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe, Okinawa 901-2104
Telephone: 81-98-876-4211
Emergency after-hours telephone:
81-3-3224-5000 (Emergency calls are routed through the Embassy switchboard after hours)
Fax: 81-98-876-4243

U.S. Consulate General in Sapporo
Kita 1-Jo Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821
Telephone: 81-11-641-1115
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-11-641-1115
Fax: 81-11-643-1283.

U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka
2-5-26 Ohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052
Telephone: 81-92-751-9331
Emergency after-hours telephone:
81-3-3224-5000 (Emergency calls are routed through the Embassy switchboard after hours)
Fax: 81-92-713-9222

U.S. Consulate in Nagoya
Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagono, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001
Telephone: 81-52-581-4501
Emergency after-hours telephone: 81-52-581-4501
Fax: 81-52-581-3190.


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Experience a New Culture When you Teach English in China /times/2012/05/experience-a-new-culture-when-you-teach-english-in-china/ /times/2012/05/experience-a-new-culture-when-you-teach-english-in-china/#comments Mon, 21 May 2012 13:28:35 +0000 david /times/?p=1177 The human desire to help others is an innate one. This is why, despite the negative aspects, people are still very attracted to the profession of teaching, notes Thomas Galvin. It has been regarded for centuries as a very noble job, and no doubt this will continue for centuries to come. Many teachers these [...]]]>

The human desire to help others is an innate one. This is why, despite the negative aspects, people are still very attracted to the profession of teaching, notes Thomas Galvin. It has been regarded for centuries as a very noble job, and no doubt this will continue for centuries to come. Many teachers these days feel that there is a growing lack of desire to learn that is afflicting classrooms across the western world. For this reason alone it might be time that you thought about taking a leap to teach English in China.

As China becomes an increasingly open country its citizens realize that they will gain a great advantage by learning English. As a result of their willingness to learn they tend to be attentive, polite, and generally very well behaved. This is where you come in. offers teachers a range of flexible teaching programs ranging from a summer to year long placement. Therefore, when you decide to teach English in China, you have the option to either dip your toe in the water or dive straight in.

Teachers are also pleased to know that they can teach at any level, from elementary right through to university, and even participate in one-on-one tutoring. Teachers are guaranteed 100 hours a month of work at $15 an hour. If this sounds like you it might be time to visit the website and read more about how easy it is for you to teach English in China.

It goes without saying that there is more than education in China. China is a country with a very long history and a culture that continues to be rich and vibrant. Nearly all visitors are amazed by the color and spectacle (not to mention the noise) of the festivals that take place throughout the year. China is home to many impressive tourist spots. These range from The Great Wall to the Ming Tombs, and the world renowned Shanghai Art Museum. In fact, Shanghai is home to no less than 1000 private art galleries.

Earlier we discussed the Next Step teaching programs. However, there are of course many other Chinese language schools situated throughout the country. Most of these (the better ones at least) can be found in Beijing and Shanghai. But where do you start when you are looking for one to teach at? (referred to earlier) is one such website that provides plenty of resources, but there are a number of others as well. Look for Chinese language schools that are well regarded by your peers, and ones that are accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

When you Teach English in China, you will no doubt regard it as an incredible and memorable experience. For the adventurous soul there are a great number of things to see and do right throughout the country. You are also guaranteed to meet teachers and students from across the world. Teaching English in China truly is an easy decision to make.

About the Author:

Thomas Galvin recommends finding Teach English in China and Chinese Language Programs related information at


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The Importance of Vocabulary Roots in AP English /times/2012/04/the-importance-of-vocabulary-roots-in-ap-english/ /times/2012/04/the-importance-of-vocabulary-roots-in-ap-english/#comments Mon, 16 Apr 2012 16:48:26 +0000 david /times/?p=1163 The Advanced placement exams are very important for students, suggests Joseph Paul, as they look very good on the students’ report cards and also help them to get credit in certain universities which helps them to save a major portion of the tuition money demanded from students who have not cleared the exam.

The [...]]]>

The Advanced placement exams are very important for students, suggests Joseph Paul, as they look very good on the students’ report cards and also help them to get credit in certain universities which helps them to save a major portion of the tuition money demanded from students who have not cleared the exam.

The advanced placement English course requires the full dedication of the students as it is a very difficult course. But if the students are quite devoted to passing this exam then it is not a major hurdle to pass the AP English course. The benefits of having the degree of AP English on one’s report card are many. AP English test is of two kinds- one is the AP English Language Test and the other is AP English Literature test. There is a very fundamental difference between these two tests. The test can be chosen based on the skill and the requirements set down by the colleges or universities to which the student is planning to apply to.

Vocabulary roots are very essential for increasing one’s vocabulary of English. A good knowledge of English vocabulary is very important to gain a fair command over the language.

The AP English Test requires a good vocabulary in English and the students need to work very hard to acquire one. Vocabulary roots are very essential for increasing one’s vocabulary of English. A good knowledge of English vocabulary is very important to gain a fair command over the language. Especially the AP English test requires that the students have a very good and enriched knowledge of the language and therefore, it becomes imperative for them to have a very good and rich vocabulary of the language.

English vocabulary is very expansive and this may discourage people who are planning to take up AP English but in reality it is very easy to gain utmost knowledge of the language and its vocabulary if one is really dedicated to gaining it. There are several ways to improve one’s English vocabulary, these include:

• Focus on root words
• Use regular help of dictionary and thesaurus
• Synonyms and antonyms
• Phrasal verbs
• Foreign language words

Thus, AP English is very important for getting entry in to a good college or university. Any senior year student needs to do at least one AP class to gain easy admission to a top ranking university and AP English is a very good course in such case. This becomes very for such people who are hardworking and dedicated to achieving their goals in time.

About the Author:

Joseph Paul is a master of media studies and he has written widely acclaimed topics on various subjects. I am renowned author who believes in summarizing topics in a user friendly manner which makes reading quite easy to understand and interesting.


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Business Translation: A Useful TEFL Sideline? /times/2012/04/business-translation-a-useful-tefl-sideline/ /times/2012/04/business-translation-a-useful-tefl-sideline/#comments Sun, 08 Apr 2012 17:01:34 +0000 david /times/?p=1168 The use of translation in business is heavily underestimated and misunderstood.

However translation has a big part to play in business and is rapidly becoming one of the most useful things an organisation can use to get ahead in the business world. Whether it be using in-house translators to transcribe documents, official papers [...]]]>

The use of translation in business is heavily underestimated and misunderstood.

However translation has a big part to play in business and is rapidly becoming one of the most useful things an organisation can use to get ahead in the business world. Whether it be using in-house translators to transcribe documents, official papers and the like or outsourcing to professional translation agencies, translation in business means ‘big business’.

If you are organisation that wants to spread your wings and go global, then it is vital that you have access to some kind of translation service to ensure you can adequately communicate with your would-be customers. It may not always be possible to hire native speakers of language you need to translate into or out of, therefore a translation agency could be just the ticket to solve all your linguistic problems.

Equally, if you are an organisation, that already has existing links with a foreign customer or business partner but wish to strengthen this relationship further, the use of translation services would definitely benefit you in terms of understanding local lore and custom, getting a better grasp of local and understanding more effectively the people and their customs.

All of this in turn would foster a better relationship with your business partners/customers and in term ensure that your revenues from your international connection remain consistent and reliable. Some think it is just used for document translation from one language to another for ease of communication, while some believe it just to be an additional advantage when dealing with international companies.

In a global economy, it pays to understand your potential customer/investors culture, so that you can aim to woo them over to your side by paying attention to their cultural norm and outlook on life. When dealing with an overseas customer, they do appreciate when you have taken the time to learn about them and show an interest in their way of life. All of this bodes well for business relations and can actually ‘seal the deal’ in certain cases.

So, the use of translation in business is justified. Not only does it foster great inter-cultural communication but it also can be linked in with business strategy and corporate social responsibility to take a business forward into the 21st century and beyond.


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How to Judge the Quality of Language Learning Software /times/2012/03/how-to-judge-the-quality-of-language-learning-software/ /times/2012/03/how-to-judge-the-quality-of-language-learning-software/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2012 17:08:36 +0000 david /times/?p=1173 We all know that learning a language is a great way to enhance the look of your resume! Fortunately, there are lots of different options available to you to help you make that a reality.

Out of the vast number of options available to you, the option that provides you with the most [...]]]>

We all know that learning a language is a great way to enhance the look of your resume! Fortunately, there are lots of different options available to you to help you make that a reality.

Out of the vast number of options available to you, the option that provides you with the most flexibility and probably the highest quality of learning is the option to use language learning software. Language learning software programs are unique because they provide you with the teaching experiences of a tutor and a teacher in the comfort of your own home. This is a great benefit to anyone with a hectic schedule to keep.

A major headache that you’re most likely to face in your experiences with language learning software is in the beginning when you have to decide which software is right for you. You can make the right initial decisions by learning how to judge its quality.

Quality, it’s the inside that counts!

I am sure that most of you have heard the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover.” The same principle is used to judge the quality of language learning software program. Each program has a variety of features in which it uses to teach its students. These features can range form teaching methods, fundamentals covered, learning tools, customer support, and so on.

A major headache that you’re most likely to face in your experiences with language learning software is in the beginning when you have to decide which software is right for you.

So, the best way to identify a high quality language learning software is by becoming a judge. Take the time to learn more about you by asking yourself questions like “how do I learn best?” By answering this question you can identify characteristics that you need language learning software to have.

It’s important to add yourself to the overall equation because each person is different and each person needs different things to maximize their learning potential. After you answer some questions about yourself, you need to start picking part various software programs to see what they really have to offer you.

My favorite way to learn more about a language learning software program is to contact their customer support. The customer support personnel can become your own personal gold mine! You can ask these representatives anything you want to know about the software program and they will, in most cases, provide you with what you want to know. For instance, ask the company how their software program works? What do the lessons consist of and how are the lessons structured?

You can become a better judge of the software program’s quality by finding the answers to these questions. In addition, the customer support group can also provide you with tantalizing clues about the quality of the software program! For instance, how the customer support group responds to your inquiries in regards to speed and the quality of their answers. Try to find out how many different ways you can contact customer support if you need too. I found this to be a very good indicator of quality. The customer support department of a software program that I recently analyzed had five different ways to be contacted. In the end, I found this language learning software to be one of the best on the Internet.

These are a few ways that you can use to identify a quality language learning software program.


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The worst ELT interview questions… and how to answer them /times/2012/03/the-worst-elt-interview-questions-and-how-to-answer-them/ /times/2012/03/the-worst-elt-interview-questions-and-how-to-answer-them/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 20:52:29 +0000 david /times/?p=1160 Some friends of Naturegirl123 were talking about interview questions that they got. Here are some difficult ones to answer and suggested answers.

What religion are you?/ Are you X religion?

This could be a legit question if you’re applying to a religious school. If you have the same religion as the school, simply say [...]]]>

Some friends of Naturegirl123 were talking about interview questions that they got. Here are some difficult ones to answer and suggested answers.

What religion are you?/ Are you X religion?

This could be a legit question if you’re applying to a religious school. If you have the same religion as the school, simply say so. They might then ask you if you attend church.

If you don’t practise the same religion, say that while you are not X religion, you will respect their practises during class time.

If the school isn’t religious, simply say that you believe in keeping your personal beliefs personal and out of the classroom.

DO you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

This could also be legit if the school is very religious or if you are being placed by a recruiter. Often they try to place partners in the same school or city.

If the school is relgious, tell the truth, but you might want to be careful. If you’re living together, you might have to live apart while working for the school. Some places are very strict. I wasn’t allowed to live with my husband because we were only married civilly and not in the church.

If the school isn’t religious, or you’re not dealing with a recruiter, then tell the interviewer that you believe in keeping your personal life separate from your work life.

How much are you earning now?

Bad question. Even worse if you answer it. There are a couple reasons why you could be asked this. First, the school wants to know what competitors are paying. Second, they want to gauge what they will pay you to what you’re currently getting. Third, you can’t really compare. Let’s say that your current school is only paying you 500 usd, but gives you free housing, lunch, medical insurance, contribute to your pension, and transport. Total per month is about 600 usd in benefits. They also paid for your visa, your flight and will give you an end of contract bonus. Total is 2100 usd per year. And this school gives you 900 usd, but nothing else. You may simply assume that you get the extras, but they don’t give them to you. Result? Although you would get 900 usd a month, your current job is probably better due to the benefits.

When asked this question, it’s probably best to tell a white lie. If you don’t have a fixed salary, maybe you teach privates or do consultating, simply say that it varies. If you are on a contract, simply tell them that your employer has forbidden you to discuss your salary and your contract also states this. After all, they have to respect the fact that you promised not to discuss your salary.

If they keep pushing, it’s probably best to pass this one by. A professional institute will have fixed salaries.

How much is your expected salary?

This is even worse than the one above. Basically, you’re being asked, “What do you think you’re worth?” Let’s say you make 500 usd, and they were going to offer 1000, but when they find out that you only make 500, they might simply offer you 750. OR, let’s say you make 1000 usd, but they only offer 700. If you accept, you’ll look desperate, or they might think that you lied about your salary.

So what do you do? Put the ball back into their court. There are a couple of things you could say. It would depend on the English level of the interviewer and your experience/qualifications.

First, you could say, “I would expect to be paid what you’re paying your current teachers.”

If you’re just starting out “I would expect to be paid what you’re paying your teachers who have similary qualifications/experience as I do.”

Or, if you have lots of experience/qualifications, “I would expect to be paid in the upper salary range because I have X”

Or, “I know that (your institute) is a professional one, and as such, you much have a salary scale, what could I expect to earn with X experience and X qualifications?”

Why did you leave X job after only 3/6 months?

There are two reasons for a short term job. First, it was a short contract. If that’s the case, you have nothing to worry about. Second, either you or your employer ended it early. If that’s the case, you’ve got some explaining to do.

If you pulled a runner, I would suggest you take that job off your CV. If they ask about the gap on your CV, there are tons of things that you could say you were doing, like volunteer work, travelling, visiting family, studying, taking a hiatus, etc.

If you quit, and remain on decent terms with your employer, you might want to leave it on your CV. Let’s say you quit because you were paid hourly, but due to the recession, you only had 3 hours a week. That’s a legit reason.

If you were fired, you might want to take it off. Unless the person who fired you has left and someone else at the institute would give you a good reference. If you were fired for stealing, dating students, lying, etc, I would take it off your CV. And if you got fired for something along those lines, I certainly hope that you have changed.

Why do you want to leave your current job?

A legit question. It could cause problems if you just started your job a couple of months ago. If that’s the case, see above. But, if you’re simply finishing your contract, be honest. BUT, never ever speak badly about an employer. EVER. You could say something like “Although I’ve enjoyed my time at X teaching primary students, I’m looking for a position teaching secondary students.” Or, “Although I’ve enjoyed my time at X, I’m looking for new opportunies in the education sector.”


Naturegirl123′s websites
The Ultimate Peru List
My Quest for Romanian Citizenship




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Invoice factoring as a way of financing your language school /times/2012/03/invoice-factoring-as-a-way-of-financing-your-language-school/ /times/2012/03/invoice-factoring-as-a-way-of-financing-your-language-school/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 16:56:10 +0000 david /times/?p=1155 You’re looking into alternative ways to keep the finances in order in your burgeoning language school. Why not consider invoice factoring?

Please don’t think of invoice factoring as a loan because it’s actually something quite different to that: it is more correctly defined as the acquisition of a financial asset. What does that mean? [...]]]>

You’re looking into alternative ways to keep the finances in order in your burgeoning language school. Why not consider invoice factoring?

Please don’t think of invoice factoring as a loan because it’s actually something quite different to that: it is more correctly defined as the acquisition of a financial asset. What does that mean? Basically, as the owner of a small language school, you need your customers to pay so that you can stay in business. This factoring basically helps you to facilitates this!

Thanks to the system of invoice factoring, you can do away with that crippling period of one to three months that it often takes for your consumers to shell out what they owe you. The reason you might want to consider this is that it enables cash flow to move on more quickly and efficiently, which is one of the biggest problems that most small business owners face.

If you’re fortunate enough as a language school owner to find yourself in the position of having a regular flow of learners then invoice factoring could prove to be of tremendous value to you. This system is also great for businesses which have their cash tied up in invoices or are faced with regular cash flow constraints.

The invoice factoring company naturally pays a key role in making sure that everything runs smoothly. Typically, the invoice factoring company in question won’t necessitate you selling all of your invoices. In fact, it’s normal policy for you to merely sell what you need to in order to maintain the level of cash flow necessary to keep things running smoothly.

At this stage it’s probably useful to think about how much it’s going to cost you to implement invoice factoring. As you might expect, this is entirely dependent on several contributing factors. You really have to consider whether or not the people involved are creditworthy, the estimated amounts of money that are going to be flowing through the language school and, perhaps most importantly, the number of learners that are going to be coming through the door at any given time.

Having said all that, this accounts receivable lending approach to keeping your cash flow not only practical but also viable can be invaluable. Remember: if you’re going into business as a language school, there are a lot of expenses for you, such as consumable resources and also teacher wages. These will often need to be paid before your customers are fulfilling their invoice payments. This is why invoice factoring is becoming increasingly attractive.


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Language Classes… Heat Up Careers! /times/2012/03/language-classes-heat-up-careers/ /times/2012/03/language-classes-heat-up-careers/#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2012 11:02:09 +0000 david /times/?p=1144 Whether you love the snow or can’t wait until the warmer days of spring, this is a time of year when we all start to get a little stir-crazy, suggests Charlotte Evans. Winter was fun back in December but now the cold temperatures and extra layers of clothing are starting to feel a bit [...]]]>

Whether you love the snow or can’t wait until the warmer days of spring, this is a time of year when we all start to get a little stir-crazy, suggests Charlotte Evans. Winter was fun back in December but now the cold temperatures and extra layers of clothing are starting to feel a bit tiresome.

It’s easy to feel the winter blues and just want to sit around and wait for warmer weather. That makes now a great time to take on exciting new things. Although it is too cold to spend much time outside you can still learn new skills in the classroom. Now is the time to get serious about your language goals and put them into action.

Learning any new language can be quite challenging and sometimes the desire isn’t enough. You need supportive, experienced teachers and a positive learning environment. That is just what you will find at Malvern House. Each year over 6000 students from over 100 countries study a variety of languages and courses at Malvern House. All teachers are native level speakers of the language they teach and hold the CELTA/Trinity TESOL certificate, Delta/Trinity Diploma or an equivalent. They are enthusiastic about teaching and lesson planning and have experience working with students of all levels and backgrounds.

An extensive English programme, foreign language courses and teacher training are all things you will find at Malvern House. They offer courses in French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Hindi and many other foreign languages. Teacher training is available for those with an upper-intermediate or higher level of English and an interest in teaching. Their highly-respected English programme includes courses to help students develop business communication skills, General English, Intensive English and courses focused on helping students prepare for the IELTS, PET, FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC and TOEIC exams. Whatever your language goals, Malvern House can help you reach them.

When choosing a school, you should be selective. When it comes to English courses London has a large selection but not all schools are alike. Whether you opt for their General English or Business English programme, teacher training, or one of their many foreign languages, Malvern House will be your best ally in helping you reach your language goals.


About the Author:

I’m Charlotte Evans. I write about language education and where it can take you in life.. Anywhere!


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Learning and Communicative Strategies /times/2012/03/learning-and-communicative-strategies-2/ /times/2012/03/learning-and-communicative-strategies-2/#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2012 15:45:20 +0000 david /times/?p=1148 Introduction

Communicative strategies are systematic techniques employed by a speaker to express his meaning when faced with some difficulty and the difficulty here refers to the speaker’s inadequate command of the language used in the interaction (Faerch & Kasper, 1983:16). On the other hand, the term learning strategies has been defined as “the higher-order [...]]]>


Communicative strategies are systematic techniques employed by a speaker to express his meaning when faced with some difficulty and the difficulty here refers to the speaker’s inadequate command of the language used in the interaction (Faerch & Kasper, 1983:16). On the other hand, the term learning strategies has been defined as “the higher-order skills which control and regulate the more task-specific or more practical skills” (Nisbet & Shucksmith, 1986:26). Based on the previously mentioned definitions, it could be said that learning and communicative strategies refer to language learning behaviors that contribute directly or indirectly to learning. I am not very concerned here with the definition of the two terms as much as I am concerned with the fact that most if not all non-native speakers and second-language learners use these strategies throughout their second/foreign language learning journey. They tend to use them to compensate for their lack of sufficient language knowledge and to get themselves out of troubles when interacting in the target second/foreign language. These are only some of the short term benefits of using learning and communicative strategies. In fact, the successful use of these strategies can promote longer term language development.

In the first part of this article, I will provide examples on some of the commonly used strategies and at the same time, I will focus on the ways in which these strategies promote the language learning process and the development of the learner’s speaking skill. I will also highlight the short and long tem benefits of using both learning and communicative strategies in learning and developing speaking skill. In the second part of the article, I will show how the knowledge of learning and communicative strategies has influenced me to change my old style of teaching the speaking, and how it has encouraged me to adopt a set of new methods of teaching that make utmost use of these strategies. Finally, I will give examples on some of the speaking activities that are based, in some ways, on these strategies, and are designed to promote and develop the learner’s speaking skill.

Part One:

Teaching writing skill has been given the priority over teaching speaking skill in almost all educational syllabus and plans and the case in my country, Oman, is no exception. Writing skill has been considered the most important especially in the area of second/foreign language teaching. On the other hand, speaking skill has neither been given sufficient focus in our teaching syllabi nor has it been represented fairly in our classrooms as opposed to the other skills. In my context, most people in general and educationalists in particular, seem to have taken this skill for granted; maybe because they think it is an easy one and that almost everyone can speak. Speaking is, however, a skill which deserves much more attention in both first and second language. I have chosen to write about this skill because I know very well how important it is as a means of communication especially, for second/foreign language learners. Throughout my teaching of English as a foreign language, I noticed that speaking was the area of weakness for the majority of my students. On the part of teachers, not so much time was devoted to teach this skill, and on the part of the curriculum designers, not so much effort was exerted to promote the development of this skill. Consequently, speaking was regarded by the students as an obstacle in the way of learning English rather than as an important skill. In the following sections, I will attempt to show how this problem can be addressed by the use of some strategies.

1/ Examples on some learning and communicative strategies used by ESL and EFL students

So many studies and research have been conducted in both areas learning strategies and communicative strategies, and many researchers and linguists have been involved. Consequently, different definitions and classifications of strategies have been stated. However here, I will focus on the classification of communicative strategies suggested by Faerch and Kasper (1983), and on the classification of learning strategies suggested by Wenden and Rubin (1987). I will also show how each set of strategies are used by ESL and EFL learners. I have chosen the previous classifications because they confirm with the knowledge of strategies I acquired throughout my teaching experience.

Faerch and Kasper suggest that communicative strategies are classified into two categories each of which is classified or comprised of other subcategories. The first category is avoidance behavior and this consists of formal reduction and functional reduction strategies. Formal reduction strategies could be phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical strategies. Learners tend to use formal reduction strategies either to avoid making errors and/or they want to increase their fluency (Faerch& Kasper 1983: 40). On the other hand, functional reduction strategies include reduction of speech act and reduction of propositional context and these two are used by learners to reduce their communicative goals in order to avoid problems in interactions (ibid: 43). Achievement strategies are also called compensatory strategies and they consist of code switching, inter/intralingual, cooperative and non-linguistic strategies. These strategies are used by learners to expand their communicative resources in interactions (ibid:45). The following figure has been designed based on what was mentioned above:

Wenden and Rubin classified learning strategies into cognitive strategies and metacognitive strategies. Cognitive strategies are used by learners when they deal with steps, operations, or problem-solving that require direct analysis, transformation, or synthesis of learning materials (Wenden & Rubin,1987:23) and these strategies include clarification/verification, guessing/inductive inferencing, deductive reasoning, practice, memorizing and monitoring. On the other hand, metacognitive strategies are used when the learner deals with knowledge about cognitive process and regulation of cognition. These strategies consist of choosing, prioritizing, self-management, advance preparation, advance organization, directed attention, selected attention and delayed production. The following figure has been designed based on the information mentioned above:

2/ The short term benefits of training learners on the use of learning and communicative Strategies

Research and theory in second language learning strongly suggest that good language learners use a variety of strategies to assist them in gaining command over new language skills. In her study of five Chicano students who were learning English, Wong-Fillmore as quoted in Wenden & Rubin, (1987:27), identified some learning strategies used by successful language learners. Wong-Fillmore found that by using a few well chosen strategies, learners could continue to participate in speaking activities (ibid: 21). Moreover, O’Malley (1983), reports on an experiment in which students received training on the use of learning strategies with three language tasks; vocabulary, listening skill and speaking. His major conclusion was that strategy training was effective for listening and speaking, but not for vocabulary.

One of the major short term benefits of the use of learning strategies is the fact that they help learners to compensate for their lack of adequate language knowledge. Bygate (1987), states that the use of these strategies can bridge the gab between knowledge of the rules and the students’ ability to express their own meaning. In other words, these strategies help learners to practice using acceptable language with reasonable fluency and reasonable ability to convey meanings and express opinions. On that basis, it could be inferred that training learners on using these strategies would help them a lot in their language learning. Language learners will not be hesitant or afraid of being involved in an interaction where they do not have sufficient language knowledge for it. Bygate adds that being trained to use learning strategies helps the learner to succeed in autonomous interaction. According to this, using such strategies in learning represents a transitional process where control of learning is moved from teacher to learners, leaving the learner with responsibility for his own thinking and learning. In addition, Wenden& Rubin (1987), mention that learning strategies help learners to better utilize the experience they bring to their language class. As a result, learners grow appreciation of their power ability and become critically reflective of the conceptual context of their learning.

The efficiency of communicative strategies training in learning languages has been proved in so many occasions. For instance, Spilka (as cited in Faerch & Kasper 1983:10), points that some trained French learners tend to use specific phrases in order to avoid liaison in French; to avoid French partitive en, the learners may produce the specified form J’ai trios pommes, rather than J’en ai trios. So, the French learners are making use of the avoidance strategy which is one of the communicative strategies. In another occasion, Kasper (1983:43), gave some examples of how trained German learners of English reduce their IL performance with respect to politeness making. Moreover, Faerch (1983:43), gave other examples of speech act reduction, in which learners in conversation with native speakers often do not use initiating acts (reduction strategy). Based on all that has been mentioned, we could say that strategies be they learning or communicative ones, are important for language learning for they are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communicative competence. I shall now move to discuss the long term benefits of the use of learning strategies.

3/ The long term benefits of training language learners on the use of learning and communicative strategies

As we have seen previously, there are so many short benefits for training learners on using learning and communicative strategies. Likewise, there are other long term benefits for strategy training as well. Faerch and Kasper (1986:189), report the findings of a study where an attempt was made to train learners to use interaction strategies (some of the communicative strategies). They were Danish learners of English and the training for strategy use lasted for three months. The findings were that:

a) Middle proficiency level learners made considerable progress in using interaction strategies.

b) Low and high proficiency learners made less progress.

g) The general attitude in the class towards errors and towards risk-taking had changed. More learners accepted the need to make an attempt even if they did not get the right answer.

Based on the findings of this study, we could say that training learners to use communicative strategies raises their confidence and encourages them to participate in different communicative interactions even when they don’t have enough language for it (e.g. when they don’t have the answer for a question). In another study, Knowles (1975), finds that training learners to use these strategies helps them to develop the attitude that language is a lifelong process and to acquire the skills of self-directed learning. Most importantly, he points out that communicative strategies help learners to be equipped with the skills necessary to continue learning on their own when they leave formal education experience.

Many other studies have been carried out by different researchers and the long term benefits of communicative and learning strategies training have been proved. For instance, O’Malley and Chamot (1990) looked at learning strategies used both by ESL and EFL students and they found that training students to use these strategies helped them become more aware of the whole process of learning a second language. Based on the findings of one of their studies, Wenden & Rubin (1987), state that training learners to use learning strategies helps learners to better utilize the experience they bring to their language class and help them as well, to become critically reflective of the conceptual context of their learning.

Part Two:

1/ The influence of learning strategies on my teaching style of speaking

I have previously mentioned that speaking is an undervalued skill in Oman. All focus and emphasis are placed on the other skills as if the speaking skill does not exist or as if acquiring it has been taken for granted. Out of my own experience as an English teacher, I have noticed that the Omani students’ biggest difficulty when learning English falls in the area of speaking. As teachers, we have not been working so much on this skill due to the fact that there are no formal speaking tests in the whole low-intermediate, intermediate and high-intermediate levels of teaching English in most of the academic institutions in Oman in general and in the Language Centre at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in particular. We were basically preparing our students to be able to pass the final test which normally contained listening, reading and writing only. Personally, I used to rely on specific activities in my speaking classes and these activities were not always suitable for my students’ levels of English. However, since it was “the speaking skill”, I did not bother to search for more activities or even try to design a simple syllabus for teaching it.

Having read about learning and communicative strategies and having known about their crucial role in promoting and developing the learning process in general and the verbal interaction skills in particular, I have decided to adopt a new teaching approach that makes full use of these strategies. I have realized that the new teaching capacities should include identifying students’ learning and communicative strategies, conducting training on these strategies, and helping learners become more independent. That is because when students take more responsibility in the speaking activities, more learning occurs, and both teachers and learners feel more successful and satisfied. Teachers including me, (especially when teaching speaking) should attempt to discover what strategies their students are already using by interviewing them or questioning them about the strategies employed for specific language learning tasks (Wenden & Rubing, 1987). And then, they could direct them to utilise learning and communicative strategies for a variety of speaking activities. Metacognitive strategies such as self-management and self-monitoring can be practised in communicative situations in which the learner wishes to gain the maximum amount of comprehensible speech from others (ibid). Moreover, teachers can provide students with practice in useful strategies for the negotiation of conversational encounter outside of class. They can also suggest alternative strategies for organising and storing information and they can encourage students to consider which strategies work best for them. O’Malley and Chamot (as quoted in Macdonough,1995:122) summarise what has been previously mentioned by stating that the Cognitive Academic Learning Language Approach consists of five phases:

1/ Preparation: develop student awareness of different strategies.

2/ Presentation: develop student knowledge about strategies.

3/ Practice: develop student skills in using strategies for academic learning.

4/ Evaluation: develop student ability to evaluate their own strategy use.

5/ Expansion: develop transfer of strategies to new tasks.

According to these phases, teachers should go through several steps while teaching speaking tasks in order to make sure that students would get benefits from them and would develop their speaking skill. We should base our explanation of the tasks as well as our instructions on the students’ communicative and learning strategies, and we should try focus our activities on developing these strategies. Furthermore, we could provide students with various activities that would enable them to use their strategies in new speaking tasks and to evaluate their use of these strategies.

Macaro (2001:176) gave another way of training students on using and developing their strategies. The following figure shows the sequence of steps that are to be followed by teachers in order to best utilise their students’ learning and communicative strategies while teaching English skills in general and speaking in particular.

Another important aspect every teacher should take into account is materials and syllabus design. In Oman, both syllabus and curriculum design are prescribed by the Ministry of Education (for schools), or the Ministry of Higher Education for some colleges and universities. Teachers have an almost passive role in that process. On the other hand, researchers and educational inspectors play the major role and impose their ideas and opinions which are not always in favor of the learning process, learning situations and students. Teachers are not allowed to innovate or create additional materials and they are severely penalized if they deviate from the prescribed curriculum. It is really a hard task for the teacher to change or at least modify this traditional curriculum but is not impossible. Teachers should attempt to change such curriculum gradually and they should have their role in the curriculum design task. They should be creative, eclectic and adaptive in terms of producing educational materials. Educational authorities on the other hand, should take into consideration that aspects of learning and communicative strategies are to be incorporated in each and every syllabus or curriculum. Finally, it really makes a great difference in teaching and learning if teachers bear in mind the fundamental knowledge of learning and communicative strategies while teaching.

2/New teaching approach and examples on some speaking activities

In Oman, most if not all the teaching approaches adopted by teachers seem to be teacher oriented. Teachers are doing all the work; they teach, explain, ask, provide answers and help students. The students’ role is passive in one way or another; they are being spoon-fed throughout the academic year without being asked to contribute to their studying activities or even being taught how to do it. Being a teacher in that country, my teaching style was influenced to a great extent with the teaching methods used there. For instance, in my speaking class, I used to do all the talk, control activities, come up with ideas, and choose the suitable speaking tasks. I did not use to allow students to express their ideas and if I did, it would be to a very limited extent. Even when my students were giving a presentation or performing a dialogue, I used to interfere either by giving my own opinion or by correcting them every now and then. It is only now after knowing about learning and communicative strategies that I have realised the pressing need for some teaching strategies especially in the area of speaking. I have realised also that it is the turn of the students to do most of the talking in the speaking class, while the teacher’s main function is to provide them with maximum amount of meaningful practice. In this section, I will attempt to give some examples on speaking activities and show how they are best taught taking into account the students’ learning and communicative strategies.

a/ Dialogue and negotiation

Dialogue and negotiation present the language as directly in the contexts in which they are most commonly used, and permit the learners to practise it in the same way, thus establishing a firm link between language and situation (Byme, I976:2 I). My teaching of dialogue was a kind of memorisation task; I used to type the dialogues or negotiation task and give copies to the students. All that they had to do was to read them, memorise them and present them in front of the class. Taking the students’ learning and communicative strategies into account, I should do some pre‑speaking activities and prepare the learners in terms of vocabulary items and tenses that are going to be used throughout the dialogue/negotiation. This will direct their attention to the task and will help them operate their planning strategies so that they are ready to some extent to tackle the task. During the task, I would interfere where possible to provide the learners with suggestions and to give some alternatives. I would not focus so much on correcting their mistakes since I am concerned in the first place with developing their communicative abilities. I would rather compliment and praise the good performance in order to create a stimulus and motivation for the rest of the learners to improve their work. I guess this way would work well with my students since they are very afraid of making mistakes and they are easily motivated by praise, compliments and marks.

b/ Imaginary situation

I did not really make use of this task although it is very important in developing the students’ ability to be involved in problem‑solving tasks, to improvise, guess and brain storm. I was not really aware of it and of its role in promoting speaking skill. However now, after realising the importance of this task, I would try to prepare and design some imaginative tasks that are culturally appropriate and related to the learners’ day to day life. For instance, I might ask them to imagine that there is a specific problem in their village (e.g. water is getting salty due to overuse) that needs to be solved and then, will ask them to come up with solutions and to try to talk about their own solutions in front of the class. Since the topic represents a very serious problem due to the scarcity of water sources in Oman, most of the students will be involved and will participate in the discussion. I might ask them to discuss it together in groups or I might ask individual students to talk about and justify their opinions. Of course, there are so many other exciting and relevant tasks (to the students’ daily life activities) that could be made use of in order to hook the students’ attention, sustain their interest in the subject and appeal to their needs and desires.

c/ Role‑play and Narration

I taught this task before and I noticed that students liked very much especially when it is incorporated in a narrative task. I used to give my students a story and ask them to play the roles of the different characters; it was really very simple and fun. Actually, it was another way to train them to memorise some language phrases. If I am to do this task now, I would ask the students to compose their own story (in an attempt to focus on past tense for example), and then to act it out in front of their colleagues. I strongly think that this task would work very well with most of the students even the weak ones because they would be working in groups and they will have the chance to choose the role that they really like and that suits their linguistic ability. While performing this task, the learners will be practising speaking, prioritising and choosing their role, and memorising some language chunks. In other words, they will be practising the language and developing their learning and communicative skills.


The research evidence that has been mentioned throughout this article proves to some extent the short and long term benefits of using strategies in learning second/foreign language. It also suggests that some learners are using more strategies more effectively than others. For this reason, teachers and researchers should work closely together to discover the role of motivation in learner strategy use (Macaro, 2001). It has also been shown that strategy training is effective in promoting a great predisposition towards language learning and a framework which enables the learner to take more responsibility for their learning in the immediate, medium and long term. In this regard, policy‑makers should be closely involved in supporting teachers’ effort by facilitating local and national programs of strategy training. They should not set up learning frameworks (curriculum, syllabus) which place obstacles in the way of teachers to adapt their teaching to the strategy­-related needs of their learners. They should rather allow teachers some freedom so that they can be creative in terms of designing tasks and activities that would appeal to their students because teachers are the ones who are in direct contact with the students and therefore, they should be the ones who know exactly what their students need. On the hand, teachers should bear in mind that the strategies which plan and evaluate learning and the strategies assumed by the learners who go out and make contact with language outside the classroom are the ones that teachers should increasingly tum their attention to (ibid).


Bygate, Martin.(1987). Speaking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Faerch, Clans & Kasper, Gabriele.(1983). Strategies in Interlanguage Communication. London: Longnnan,

Byrne, Donn.(1976). Teaching Oral English. London: Longman

Faerch, G. and Kasper, G.(1986).Strategic competence in foreign language teachin. Aarhus University: Aarhus University Press.

Knowles, M.(1975).Self Directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers. Chicago: Association Press.

Macaro, Ernesto.(2001). Learning strategies in foreign and second language classroom. Great Britain: CPD, Ebbw Vale

Macdonough, Steven H.(1995). Strategy and Skill in Learning a Foreign Language. London: Edward Arnold, a division of Hodder Headline PLC.

Nisbet, John & Shucksmith, Janet.(1986).Learning Strategies. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Plc.

O’Malley, IM & Russ, R.P, et al.( 1983). A study of Learning Strategies for Acquiring Skills in Speaking and Understanding English Language. Rosslyn, Va: InterAmerica Research Associates.

O’Malley, J.M and Chamot, A.U.(1990).Learning Strategies in Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenden, Anita & Rubin, Joan.(1987).Learner Strategies in Language Learning. Cambridge: Prentice Hall International.

Rivers, Wilga M. (1972). Speaking in Many Tongues, Essays in Foreign‑language Teaching. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Wong‑Fillmore, L.(1976).The Second Time Around. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.


About the Author:

Rashid Al Maamari holds a BA in English for English Specialists from Sultan Qaboos University (2001), an MA in ESP from the University of Warwick (2003) and has been teaching English Language in the Language Centre at Sultan Qaboos University since 2001.





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Optimizing Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) /times/2012/03/optimizing-computer-assisted-language-learning-call/ /times/2012/03/optimizing-computer-assisted-language-learning-call/#comments Tue, 06 Mar 2012 10:21:28 +0000 david /times/?p=1141 Technology transforms virtually all human pursuits, notes Michael G. Hines. In the field of education, the use of audiovisual aids, computers, and telecommunication devices has radically altered classroom dynamics. For ESL and TFL practitioners, the possibilities being opened up by technology are highly promising, with the currently accepted practices already demonstrating the huge benefits [...]]]>

Technology transforms virtually all human pursuits, notes Michael G. Hines. In the field of education, the use of audiovisual aids, computers, and telecommunication devices has radically altered classroom dynamics. For ESL and TFL practitioners, the possibilities being opened up by technology are highly promising, with the currently accepted practices already demonstrating the huge benefits technology offers to both students and educators.

Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is a growing sector and advocacy in the language instruction area that has huge potentials in making the learning of a second or foreign language easier and more accessible.

The impact of technology on all levels of academic instruction cannot be overstated. For the most part, educators agree that technology enriches the learning experience in many ways. For example, watching relevant video clips certainly enhances how students develop an appreciation of nature and its processes. Research work also becomes much easier using an online computer. In the ESL and EFL sector, the advances in software development and the channels through which multimedia instructional content can be delivered has already reached the point that ignoring CALL in instructional strategy is almost unthinkable. Serious language educators who wish to be effective, updated, and creative practitioners should integrate CALL in their lesson plans.

Various studies already affirm the positive impact of technology on students’ ability to think, articulate, and create ideas using words that are expressed verbally or in writing. There are already dozens of computer software, for example, that are designed to allow young learners to create their own stories even before they undergo formal language training. Word processors are not just great tools for doing home work, they are also instrumental in helping students grasp English syntax through built-in dictionaries as well as spell and grammar checkers.

Various studies already affirm the positive impact of technology on students’ ability to think, articulate, and create ideas using words that are expressed verbally or in writing.

Definition and History of CALL

Broadly defined, CALL refers to approaches in language teaching and learning that uses computers as aids in one or more aspects of the learning engagement. These aspects include how instructional materials are presented to students, how students engage the instructional content, and how their understanding of the lesson concepts are assessed. Thus, Power Point presentations, video conferencing, interactive language games, and computerized assessment exams all fall under the classification of computer-assisted language learning.

The use of computers in language instruction can be traced to as early as the 1960s wherein programs lodged in mainframe computers were used in universities as teaching aids. One example is the PLATO project that was designed in the University of Illinois and offered a number of coursework from elementary to university levels. When the personal computer was introduced in the late 1970′s, CALL programs were developed and marketed more aggressively. Since then, CALL evolved into a formidable tool for instructing language learners, and one that should never be barred from a language classroom.

Benefits of CALL

Early studies on technology-enhanced instruction already indicated strong evidences on the positive impact of technology on education. According to these studies, technology-enriched classrooms exhibit impressive learning outcomes including higher test scores, improved learner attitudes, higher interest about the subject matter, and deeper engagement.

Two such studies are particularly notable. One was directly funded by the Department of Education while the other is a 10-year program called ACOT (Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow) initiated by Apple. The first study concluded that the effective use of technology translated to improved gains for all students regardless of demographics: parental income, gender, age and other criteria. Meanwhile, the second study reported that students immersed in technology-enhanced environments not only performed consistently well but also learned other competencies that were rarely measured before. These include behavioral modifications wherein students are encouraged to explore their environment more. Students under the program also became socially aware, self-starters and independent learners. They were also enabled to communicate more effectively and generally developed more confidence in their abilities.

When properly deployed, CALL delivers huge benefits that ESL and TFL educators cannot choose to ignore:

  • CALL has a significant positive effect on learning achievement.
  • Interactive videos are effective tools when lesson concepts have strong visual elements.
  • Online collaborative interfaces have been shown to improve students’ academic skills as well as increase their self-esteem.
  • Use of computer-based instruction can result to positive attitudinal changes–particularly those relating to self-confidence, learning motivation, and how lessons are received. When students are allowed to manage their own learning pace, the effects were greater.
  • CALL transforms the learning environment into a student-centric engagement.
  • CALL encourages cooperative learning and dramatically improves student-teacher interactions.
  • CALL provides avenues for passive and underachieving students to perform, communicate and participate better.

Barriers in the Use of CALL

While the advantages of integrating CALL in the overall language teaching strategy are well-documented, there are still barriers that prevent many educators to fully embracing the benefits of CALL. In a study conducted at the University of Taiwan, these barriers were itemized as follows:

  1. Financial Barriers. The cost of computers, online connectivity, software and technical support can be prohibitive, especially in economically less advanced locations.
  2. Availability of Relevant and Applicable Software. High quality software that are applicable to the socio-cultural context of the language classroom may sometimes be difficult to come by.
  3. Technical Proficiencies of Teachers and Learners. There are cases wherein the learning curve required of teachers and/or students to develop adequate proficiency in the use of new technology may prevent full integration.
  4. Hesitation in Accepting New Technology. Similarly some cultures take longer to accept novelty than others.

Notwithstanding the barriers, the future is still very bright for computer-assisted learning simply because it has been consistently demonstrated to work extremely well. In addition, many of the barriers will eventually be addressed even in the short term (the prices of computer hardware and software are generally going down, computer interfaces are rapidly becoming so intuitive that people hardly need a technical background to operate touch screen phones, notebooks, and computers, etc).


CALL is arguably the most formidable instructional aid ESL/EFL educators can integrate in their learner engagement strategies. Currently, the range of available online applications that ESL/EFL educators can use in their classrooms is far-ranging.  There are dictionaries, encyclopedias, language translators, resource links, forums, chat rooms, digital pronunciation tutors, quizzes, videos, music and games.  Aligning lessons to integrate some of these aids will enrich the experience of both students and language teachers.

CALL impacts practically all aspects of the learning process that giving lessons without it is like shortchanging both the learner and the educator.

  1. CALL promotes experiential learning that empowers students not only to become self starters but also content creators themselves.
  2. CALL boosts student motivation because computers are associated with games and are considered fashionable.
  3. CALL allows for the accessing of instructional materials 24/7.
  4. CALL provides the infrastructure for close collaboration and cooperative learning.
  5. CALL expands the learning environment by bringing in resources from the World Wide Web.
  6. CALL promotes global understanding.

To use CALL in the language classroom is to embrace the future of holistic language education. Hardly designed to replace teachers, CALL nonetheless provides new and richer opportunities for learning English. In addition, CALL is already redefining the roles of language educators and students such that ESL/EFL teachers are not just sources of information but knowledge facilitators who guide students on how to proactively assess and build on the information shared with them. Meanwhile, students take on a more active role as content creators instead of merely just content recipients.


About the Author:

Michael G. Hines is an educator and the Founder of Icon Group Thailand (IconGroupThailand) – Educating the Future: ESL SpaceTESOL MaxTeacher LMS



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