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Gov't plans to increase number of foreign English teachers to 10,000

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An advisory panel to the Education Ministry has recommended to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that Japan increases the number of foreign English teachers at schools to 10,000 from the current 4,360 by reviving the JET program.

According to a report in the Nikkei Shimbun, the government's goal is to cultivate global human resources in Japan by dispatching native English speakers to all elementary, middle, and high schools within 10 years.

Already many Japanese business have been prioritizing English skill when hiring and promoting employees. For example, Japan's biggest e-commerce company Rakuten has changed its official language from Japanese to English. Uniqlo has done likewise. SoftBank recently announced a policy to boost its employees' English skill by rewarding them with bonus payments if they get top marks in an English-proficiency test for non-native speakers, known as TOEIC. Those who score 800 or higher will get 300,000 yen.

As the pillar for its policy, the government is planning to revive the JET program which was considered wasteful spending by the Democratic Party of Japan back in 2010. However, the LDP says the program is necessary to promote English education in Japan, as well as boost Japan's competitiveness on the global stage.

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Here we go. Rather than forcing staff to speak English or take the TOEIC exam, focusing on education might actually provide results.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Installing pet gaijin in classrooms isn't going to help much when what's needed is to fix the curriculum, textbooks, testing and teaching methodology.

Having the foreign teachers teach the Japanese teachers might be a step in the right direction though.

33 ( +36 / -3 )

BertieWoosterApr. 24, 2013 - 08:03AM JST Installing pet gaijin in classrooms isn't going to help much when what's needed is to fix the curriculum, textbooks, testing and teaching methodology.

I agree, although in the Ministry of Education's defence, they have made other reforms that are moving things in the right direction.

Having the foreign teachers teach the Japanese teachers might be a step in the right direction though.

However, the vast majority of JETs aren't English teachers. Most of them are fresh out of college with little or no life experience, being sent to a foreign country for a combination "cultural exchange" and to "teach". The JET programme needs major reform and refocusing if it is to actually achieve any goal in the teaching of English.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

The JET program: Japan-loving English-speaking Tape-recorders.

As the pillar for its policy, the government is planning to revive the JET program which was considered wasteful spending by the Democratic Party of Japan back in 2010. However, the LDP says the program is necessary to promote English education in Japan, as well as boost Japan’s competitiveness on the global stage.

So, they decided it was a waste of money, but want to start it up again, so that some dummy fresh out of college can go teach kids how to play rock, paper, scissors in some village in the middle of nowhere? Why get kids just out of college to teach, when they know nothing about teaching? Why not get real, experienced teachers? If they're serious about it, they should.

If they really think this will "promote English education in Japan, as well as boost Japan’s competitiveness on the global stage", they need to wake up. This waste of money failed before and it will fail again.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

However, the vast majority of JETs aren't English teachers. Most of them are fresh out of college with little or no life experience, being sent to a foreign country for a combination "cultural exchange" and to "teach". The JET programme needs major reform and refocusing if it is to actually achieve any goal in the teaching of English.

Exactly. The purpose of the JET program is not the English education of Japanese kids, so I don't see how increasing the number of unexperienced, unqualified foreigners is going to help. It's just a waste of taxpayer money if you ask me. They should follow Seoul's example and get rid of all unqualified English teachers, not increase them.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

As a former JET who knows tens of other JETs, I would say unequivocally that the program is a success and most of us had a profound effect on our schools and neighborhoods and were similarly profoundly influenced. Secondly, JETs fresh out of college are extremely motivated to INTERACT and SPEAK and PLAY with the children, thus vastly increasing their interest in the foreigner and his/her culture and giving MOTIVATION to continue to study English. I have seen these so-called English teaching professionals who generally seem to settle into nice private school gigs or teach at junior colleges. Though they may be qualified in pedagogy, I do not think that can replace the ENTHUSIASM and MOTIVATION that new JETs have. Possibly the naysayers above just couldn't get in the highly selective JET program and are forevere bitter...

-3 ( +10 / -14 )

I hope that someone in the government get this message:

I applied to one of those schools for an English speaking assistant, but I was refused to even have an interview just because I am Japanese! I lived in the states for a long time and an speak English with an American accent without a trace of Japanese accent.

If you listen to some people from South Africa, England, Australia, etc. you hardly understand what they are saying, but those schools in Japan are discriminating Japanese citizens because they were NOT born in an "English speaking country". As far as I am concerned, those schools which do not even OFFER an interview to Japanese English speaker should have their license to operate void and null.

I mentioned about how I felt about some of those prospective English teachers to Americans and other nationalities about not understanding well, and they don't understand them well either!

So, my feeling is that the schools give Japanese applicants priorities to give them interviews at least and find out their abilities in speaking English.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

If you listen to some people from South Africa, England, Australia, etc. you hardly understand what they are saying

Maybe the reason you were turned down as an English teacher was that, by your own admission, you had trouble understanding English spoken by native speakers? And a strong American accent can be pretty hard on the ear.

Sorry, but if you don't understand the English spoken in England (本場なんだから、ね) you really have no business setting yourself up as an English teacher, whatever your nationality or country of birth.

7 ( +19 / -13 )

No bickering please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cleo,

I totally agree.

English is an international language. It's not like Japanese where there is the standard language and the rest are dialects. There are many kinds of English, all equally valid. A person who uses the language has to get used to this. This is one good feature of the JET programme. Teachers of different backgrounds, going around schools and universities in rotation would help Japanese students and teachers become accustomed to the different accents.

However, I do feel that foreign assistant teachers would do better teaching the teachers and university students.

I get Reckless' point about injecting fun into the lessons. Of course, this is completely necessary - especially with JHS and elementary children. But it doesn't take a JET to do this, does it?

The textbooks used in JHS and HS are - excuse my French - crap. And the way English is taught in many schools turns what is a vibrant, exciting and useful subject into something dreadfully boring.

The curriculum, textbooks, exams and exam systems need rewriting from scratch. Not merely adding to what's already there.

And many teachers need to develop communication skills.

10 ( +14 / -5 )

Karashima, you are correct about some of the UK, Australian, African English teachers. I am American and have a difficult time understanding some of them. Herein is another problem, the almighty degree. For some reason if you have a degree in any subject you are now qualified to teach. I personally know people with no college degree who are more qualified to teach than those with doctorate degrees. I agree that if a Japanese national can speak the language like a native they should be able to teach it in the schools. There are some native speakers that speak a different English that is difficult to for people outside of their country to understand.

-18 ( +2 / -22 )

As a former JET who knows tens of other JETs, I would say unequivocally that the program is a success and most of us had a profound effect on our schools and neighborhoods and were similarly profoundly influenced.

Yeah, but how's the level of English in those places now? Bet it's still abysmal.

Secondly, JETs fresh out of college are extremely motivated to INTERACT and SPEAK and PLAY with the children,

I bet professional teachers are too, and I bet they're better at it.

thus vastly increasing their interest in the foreigner and his/her culture and giving MOTIVATION to continue to study English.

Is it worth the money for the few who actually have the gumption to keep learning?

I have seen these so-called English teaching professionals who generally seem to settle into nice private school gigs or teach at junior colleges. Though they may be qualified in pedagogy, I do not think that can replace the ENTHUSIASM and MOTIVATION that new JETs have.

They're enthusiastic and motivated because they're getting a free home, free food, and free whatever else, in the land of their Japanophile dreams. Enthusiasm and motivation are nice things, but if you're teaching something, it'd be better to have someone professional doing it, if you're going to basically throw money at them for a year.

I'd be enthusiastic and motivated if I got on the New York Rangers roster, but I bet they'd do better playing Ryan Callahan than me, because he's an experienced professional.

Possibly the naysayers above just couldn't get in the highly selective JET program and are forevere bitter...

I've never taught kids, and I have never wanted to, so why would I even think about the JET program? I guess it's so selective so they can get the most enthusiastic and motivated people rather than the ones with good grades? Oh, wait...

I applied to one of those schools for an English speaking assistant, but I was refused to even have an interview just because I am Japanese!

Er... yeah. Boo-hoo. So what? Do you know how many highly qualified native English speakers who speak Japanese extremely well, have the correct visa etc, get turned down for jobs in Japan, because they're not Japanese?

I lived in the states for a long time and an speak English with an American accent without a trace of Japanese accent.

I whose opinion? I bet there is a Japanese accent that is easily detectable to a native speaker. Anyone who tells you different, is probably your friend, or being nice to you. I'm sure you speak really great English though.

If you listen to some people from South Africa, England, Australia, etc. you hardly understand what they are saying

You just shot yourself in the foot there. If you were so good at English, you'd have no problem understanding English from ANYWHERE.

but those schools in Japan are discriminating Japanese citizens because they were NOT born in an "English speaking country".

I repeat: Er... yeah. Boo-hoo. So what? Do you know how many highly qualified native English speakers who speak Japanese extremely well, have the correct visa etc, get turned down for jobs in Japan, because they're not Japanese?

Not just jobs either. Credit cards, places to live...

As far as I am concerned, those schools which do not even OFFER an interview to Japanese English speaker should have their license to operate void and null.

I repeat again: Er... yeah. Boo-hoo. So what? Do you know how many highly qualified native English speakers who speak Japanese extremely well, have the correct visa etc, get turned down for jobs in Japan, because they're not Japanese?

Oh, and: "should have their license to operate made null and void"

I mentioned about how I felt about some of those prospective English teachers to Americans and other nationalities about not understanding well, and they don't understand them well either!

Wow. You're buddies agreed with you to make you feel better. They're nice buddies.

So, my feeling is that the schools give Japanese applicants priorities to give them interviews at least and find out their abilities in speaking English.

I repeat yet again: Er... yeah. Boo-hoo. So what? Do you know how many highly qualified native English speakers who speak Japanese extremely well, have the correct visa etc, get turned down for jobs in Japan, because they're not Japanese?

I'm sure you speak really good English. Well done! Really. But having a snobbish attitude, and only thinking that an American accent is worthwhile, is quite frankly, stupid.

Your friends can pat you on the back and say what they think you want to hear all they want. Not everyone is your friend though.

8 ( +16 / -9 )

@ Probie

lol

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Gonna bring over a bunch of rookies whose main purpose is to pay off their big uni debts.It's good for them,but that's about it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

i foresee an increase of gaijins in livehouses and bars with bourbons in their hands across the country...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

A waste of money. How about training the Japanese teachers in education methods that doesn't focus on memorization, grammar and translation? HOw about giving them opportunities to study abroad so they can actually learn to speak English? So much potential here and yet it is wasted. Our taxes are being increased to pay for a program that clearly doesn't work.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

...within 10 years.

Whoa...slow down there. Don't do anything drastic with bringing these human tape-recorders into the classroom. Maybe a 50 year plan would be less disruptive and less shocking for students and staff.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Excellent. This will do wonders for Japan/Anglo Saxon relationships and will also vastly improve the level of spoken English among young Japanese women.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

@kharashima

So, my feeling is that the schools give Japanese applicants priorities to give them interviews at least and find out their abilities in speaking English.

So, you think that you should get preferential treatment, because you are Japanese. Why is that?

What are the merits of having a Japanese person teach English?

You think Japanese people wouldn't feel odd talking in English to another Japanese person?

Oh, and:

So, my feeling is that the schools give Japanese applicants priorities to give them interviews at least and find out their abilities in speaking English.

"So, my feeling is that the schools should give Japanese applicants priority, give them interviews at least, and find out their abilities in spoken English."

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Just what Japan needs more unqualified, untrained kids coming over and having a holiday for a couple of years on the tax payer's expense. They might as well go to any university in the US, Australia or Britain, put a blindfold on, throw a few stones and whoever gets hit can come over to Japan and teach English. They need people who are trained and qualified in teaching English as a foreign language or better still to train Japanese teachers to in TEFL/TESL. If they invest money in training their own teachers they will need a lot fewer foreign English teachers a few years down the line. For the money that Japan spends on the JET programme they could get qualified and experienced teachers and teacher trainers, I really don't understand why they continue to get so little for their money.

'But the JET isn't really about teaching, it is about cultural exchange. I am the only foreigner they have ever met.' These people really need to wake up. This sort of attitude that I have heard again and again really stinks of cultural elitism. The countryside in Japan is full of foreigners but those foreigners are obviously the wrong kind to be put in Japan's schools. This is 2013 not 1985 but unfortunately the ALT system still thinks it is 1985.

I have seen these so-called English teaching professionals who generally seem to settle into nice private school gigs or teach at junior colleges.

How can someone who has spent the time and money to be properly trained in their profession be a "so-called" professional? If you care about your profession you will spend your time and money to become the best you can be in that profession. That doesn't mean that they are a good teachers but it certainly gives them a better chance of being a good teacher than someone who has never been at the front of a classroom before they came to Japan. Just because they don't look like a good teacher to your untrained and unqualified eyes does not mean they are not a good teacher.

To my knowledge in the whole time the JET programme has been in operation there has not been a single government evaluation of it's effectiveness in terms of language acquisition. The fact that it costs the Japanese taxpayer about 500 million US dollars a year and they can't even be bothered to see whether their money is well spent or not is incredible. Japan doesn't have this kind of money to waste anymore, particularly when quite a few Japanese people are struggling. The people a the top of the tree making decisions are seriously out of touch with the people and the fact they are wasting so much money on the ALT system could actually have the effect of breeding resentment against foreigners rather than it's original aim of creating understanding between cultures.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

The textbooks used in JHS and HS are - excuse my French - crap. And the way English is taught in many schools turns what is a vibrant, exciting and useful subject into something dreadfully boring. The curriculum, textbooks, exams and exam systems need rewriting from scratch. Not merely adding to what's already there.

This won't happen because as I alluded to in a previous thread, too many people are making money of the bad system. If the people making the decisions are making money of a bad system they will keep that bad system going, even if it is to the detriment of the population as a whole. In this respect the English teaching system in Japan is not that much different from pouring concrete into every river bed or spare bit of coastline they can find.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

American English should never be taught, it`s a broken simple version of possibly the most important invention ever made in the western world. The constant mistakes and hashing together of two words of American English is terrible. when a language is oversimplified to this extent then all the colour and beauty is drained from it. Therefore i think British English should be taught, not American.

1 ( +13 / -11 )

The JET program is paid for by the Foreign Ministry as a public diplomacy initiative. The Education Ministry just implements it. The purpose is to expose kids to foreigners and reduce xenophobia, especially in rural or less cosmopolitan areas (this is why Tokyo doesn't participate/isn't eligible for funding for JET teachers). It also seeks to build a pool of people in other countries who return home with positive views of Japan. With respect to these, its primary goals, it has been a tremendous success for Japan, particularly with the Anglophone countries it fought a war against and with which it had tense trade relations during the 1970s and 80s. JET is not focused pedagogy or teaching of ESL and is not evaluated on this basis by the Japanese government.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It's interesting the few people making points about English speakers other than Americans being difficult to understand. I'm an Australian and I have zero difficulty understanding strong American, British, Scottish and South African accents (However Irish does take me about 2 sentences before it clicks that they aren't speaking another language ;)). Might I suggest that these American native speakers who claim to have difficulty have poor inter-cultural experience? Please keep in mind that many students are studying English for travel and if you look at the top world travel destinations, you'll see that only a small number of them are in the States.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

The JET program is paid for by the Foreign Ministry as a public diplomacy initiative. The Education Ministry just implements it. The purpose is to expose kids to foreigners and reduce xenophobia, especially in rural or less cosmopolitan areas

This is exactly the point. Many of those rural areas you talk about actually have a far higher foreign population than even Tokyo. But wait those foreigners are from the Philippines, China and other places in Asia and sometimes South America. Do those foreigners not have the same value as the foreigners from the US, Australia or the UK? Can they not offer just as valuable cultural exchange? Some of these foreigners are likely the mothers or even fathers of the children in the classroom. Just because the average JET thinks he is the only foreigner in his rural town doesn't make it true.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I mean proportionately of course

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@kharashima Maybe you should go over your original post, double check for grammatical mistakes and re evaluate your self-confidence levels and sour grapes about not being given a " priority" interview treatment for a teaching position. Just because someone has lived in the States for a "long time" doesn`t mean they are better qualified than an Australian or an English national. A bit of "kenson" and self reflection can be beneficial sometimes.

@Probie - plus 1.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are numerous problems with teaching all subjects at the JHS level in Japan.

one level for all students difficult to discipline students... up to 40 students in a class teachers are busy with non classroom duties teachers making test that are easy to grade too much time wasted on ceremonies, field trips, sports days, graduation practice... teachers teaching the students how to pass test.. not to retain and use what they are learning teachers spending too much time at school... many teachers work 7:00 am to 9:00 pm during busy periods

For many students they know there is no immediate consequences if they don't study.. they will graduate no matter how little effort they make... sleep all day in class, no problem... never go to school.. no problem

kharashima, how about applying to be a normal teacher?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Therefore i think British English should be taught, not American.

But Japanese don't want BE they want AE, and I know of too many people who don't speak AE that have run into all sorts of problems because they couldn't or didn't know AE or American culture. JTE's that got absolutely indignant at their ALT because of it. Ignorant fools that they are.

Oh and on a side note, down here in Okinawa I personally know quite a few JAPANESE women that are teaching English in ES and JHS and are acting as ALT's.

So in that regard to the poster who was whining about not getting a chance, try somewhere else you might get lucky.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@kharashima please note that there are many positions in elementary school that are not a full-time teacher. I do not recall the name of the program but you can see posters here and there. Unfortunately, as you see above, you have provoked the cynicism and venom of the Queen's blowhard subjects who don't know enough to know that they don't know very much. Please keep trying in your quest.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Unfortunately, as you see above, you have provoked the cynicism and venom of the Queen's blowhard subjects who don't know enough to know that they don't know very much. Please keep trying in your quest.

I know enough to know that the JET program is an expensive joke that gives dummies a free ride for a year.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Well folks, here we have an English teacher cat fight. You all can take a deep breath, the beautiful and poetic English language along with the "correct" grammar is going in the toilet thanks to facebook-twitter-bloggs-email-texts etc. In one breath you lament the mess the Americans are making of the Queen's English and in the next breath you beat up on the whiner for not being able to understand "European English". Anyone who learns the "Queens English" in this day and age will find it akin to Latin compared to what is spoken and written in the day to day banter. And yes Ms/Mr English teacher it holds true for the corporate world as well.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I can't believe that people are seriously suggesting there is even a noticeable difference between American English and British English for the average Japanese English learner (or even English teacher for that matter). You have to be a fairly advanced learner before you would be able to distinguish between accents, vocabulary and grammar at that level. This whole British English/American English dichotomy is nothing more than a marketing ploy by corporate eikaiwa to make English seem more exotic or something. For the average Japanese student it really doesn't matter what accent they are speaking in as long as they are speaking clearly. The native speaker fallacy really does seem to have a strong grip on the Japanese imagination.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

But Japanese don't want BE they want AE, and I know of too many people who don't speak AE that have run into all sorts of problems because they couldn't or didn't know AE or American culture. JTE's that got absolutely indignant at their ALT because of it. Ignorant fools that they are.

Or there's option 3 which is what I do and teach both versions at the same time. Ie: "'I put the spare tyre in the boot of my car.' - now I say "boot" meaning the back of a car in BE. In AE it's "trunk"'

Again keeping to remembering that there is no "standard" English.

The constant mistakes and hashing together of two words of American English is terrible. when a language is oversimplified to this extent then all the colour and beauty is drained from it.

I do have to say that I enjoy tracing the origin of the word back to its root language through the British spelling. ie: hound -> hund (German - and others)

It really helps in tracing the history of the language and understanding it better. It's having this knowledge that helps understanding more advanced terms which are derived from Latin and the like.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I know enough to know that the JET program is an expensive joke that gives dummies a free ride for a year

Up to five years mate.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I know of too many people who don't speak AE that have run into all sorts of problems because they couldn't or didn't know AE or American culture

Well if you're claiming to be competent enough in English to be able to teach it, then you need to be able to understand that American accent as well as the British, Aussie, South African, Indian, etc., accents. Doesn't mean you need to have an American accent yourself, or indeed any other accent (though we all do, of course).

the Queen's blowhard subjects who don't know enough to know that they don't know very much.

I think we know enough to know that poor kharashima showed in his/her post that his/her English is not native level. Either that or s/he makes lots of typos.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I know of too many people who don't speak AE that have run into all sorts of problems because they couldn't or didn't know AE or American culture

Sorry but if you are an English teacher you should know the few differences between American and British English. No one is expecting you to understand Appalachian dialects just standard American English. They are hardly different languages but I am beginning to understand why the average Japanese thinks so when native speakers are believing the same nonsense. There is probably more difference between the dialects spoken in Yorkshire and say Suffolk than between standard American English and RP. One more thing it isn't the queen's English that is standard British English, it is received pronounciation which is just a bit different.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

or even received pronunciation

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Given that Japanese people are going to be using their English to communicate with Brazilians, Indians, Chinese and Russians, and vice-versa, I'd reckon that the further away from sounding like a native speaker the better.

A Chinese speaker is going to have a lot more trouble understanding a Japanese with a native-like Texas drawl or a Dublin twang than a Japanese with a completely neutral, robot-like intonation using an unnaturally sparse vocabulary.

"Native proficiency" isn't necessarily a worthwhile goal in what's become, for better or worse, the international language of communication.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

"Native proficiency" isn't necessarily a worthwhile goal in what's become, for better or worse, the international language of communication.

Or even an achievable goal for the average Japanese English learner

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Or there's option 3 which is what I do and teach both versions at the same time. Ie: "'I put the spare tyre in the boot of my car.' - now I say "boot" meaning the back of a car in BE. In AE it's "trunk"'

Not enough time and too many problems with the students and how they learn English now.

Sorry but if you are an English teacher you should know the few differences between American and British English

Did you notice I also said culture?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

We all know the center of the English speaking universe is Mumbai, and Mumbai English is therefore the gold standard. There are 50 native English speakers in Mumbai for every 1 native English speaker in London. Mumbai rocks and all future JETs should teach Mumbai English.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Please refrain from posting snide remarks on subjects you know nothing about.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Did you notice I also said culture?

OK fair point but I do think that a good language teacher can learn those things. After all many people from the US or indeed the UK may not know everything about their own culture, the USA is a vast country with many regional differences and the UK has a great deal of regional difference as well. A great teacher will also be a good learner and prepared to learn more for the sake of their students. You do have a good point there though. Apologies. But I just don't think that the differences at the stage of learning for a JHS or HS student is that important anyway.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Anyone who thinks you've got to leave England to hear unintelligible English with weird grammar hasn't been to Newcastle.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

We all know the center of the English speaking universe is Mumbai, and Mumbai English is therefore the gold standard. There are 50 native English speakers in Mumbai for every 1 native English speaker in London.

Have you even been to Mumbai?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Every week JT trots out Eiken, TOIEC, JET, AET related tripe and you guys make comment after comment debating the same topics. In the meantime, JT enjoys watching the revenue from their sponsors increase!

If you all feel so passionate, rather than debate pointlessly, do something about it in reality!

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Im sure some foreign teachers arent great but I dont think they are to blame. The entire system is a mess. No consequences for laziness and turning English classes into game shows doesnt help a bit. Learning/teaching English just isn`t taken seriously in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I appreciate the moderators here. I think JET is both hit and miss. More hit than miss, but there's definite misses.

I'm currently passing the two year mark with JET and, in total fairness, I can see how MANY of my coworkers work hard and really do well at their respective education levels. But there are definitely people who come on JET that need to still mature and improve their manner or methods.

That number isn't as large as most would think. So many people comment on crazy gaijin drinking at night. I hit the Yamanote line at night in Tokyo and it doesn't take much to find some Japanese group with half-unkempt suits drunk to the point of urinating on the train. Foreigners just stand out more.

In the end, I'd have to say it's DEFINITELY worth it. The payoff is excellent for students. Exposure to foreigners, better spoken English models, interactive classes, and most importantly...all this at a critical point in their mental development!

I'd just like to see stricter hiring and re-contracting protocols in place.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Gov't plans to increase number of foreign English teachers...

Well the owners over at Gas Panic are happy campers.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I was in the program years ago in the '90s and have done ALT work occasionally since then... Nothing has changed! ALTs are still used like talking textbooks. The system is useless when J teachers are so stiff and ridged that they are incapable of working with native speakers for the benefit of the students. ALTs are simply treated as a bothersome interference to their everyday routine. As stated above it is the teachers who need teaching. All J English teachers should be made to take weekly lessons so improve the English they impart to students in the classroom and to change their thinking about language teaching.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thank you very much for responding to my post especially from Reckless for his first comment. I appreciate it. I said "SOME" of those native English speakers. They probably spoke with very strong dialects! Obviously I offended some of you, I am sorry. I strongly believe that Any Japanese who wants to be an English conversation teacher, one should be offered an interview in English to find out about their eligibility. Students might like to have the Japanese English teacher, you know. Again, thank you for your posts.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I neglected to thank Kent Mcgraw and others who agreed with me.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I strongly believe that Any Japanese who wants to be an English conversation teacher, one should be offered an interview in English to find out about their eligibility. Students might like to have the Japanese English teacher,

I think so too and judging by your post your level of English is more than sufficient to teach English to Japanese learners. It is truly wasteful if someone like you cannot get a job teaching English in Japan, after all you should know more about where the average Japanese student is likely to have problems as you have had to overcome many of the difficulties they will face. You are not the first Japanese person I have seen who has excellent English and can't get a job as an English teacher and I really do think that the system is wasting your talent. I really hope that you can get a good job teaching English because someone like you with great English skills and international experience is exactly what Japan needs. Good luck.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Thank you very much for responding to my post especially from Reckless for his first comment. I appreciate it.

Only responding to those who said nice things. Isn't that quaint?

I said "SOME" of those native English speakers. They probably spoke with very strong dialects! Obviously I offended some of you, I am sorry.

That's not what offended people. It came across as you thinking "American accents are the best". Which might not have been what you intended.

I strongly believe that Any Japanese who wants to be an English conversation teacher, one should be offered an interview in English to find out about their eligibility.

Why? To waste the HR people's time? You might be amazing, but if it says "native English speaker" on the advert, tough. Foreigners here have to put up with it when the shoe is on the other foot.

Students might like to have the Japanese English teacher, you know. Again, thank you for your posts.

Yeah, they might, how many companies are going to take that risk though?

I neglected to thank Kent Mcgraw and others who agreed with me.

You just proved what I was saying in my long comment above.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

@Probie

To be fair he/she obviously has advanced level English which would make him/her more qualified to teach English to Japanese people than many ALTs who may have no training, qualifications, experience and Japanese ability.

Foreigners here have to put up with it when the shoe is on the other foot.

I am sorry but what world are you living in? I can't think of profession in Japan where an unskilled and untrained person can demand 3,000 yen or more an hour for their services.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

A few people's posts to Kharashima come across as bullying. We should be encouraging Japanese people who have learned English to such a high standard not drag them down and belittle their achievements.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

@PaulJ: "I can't think of profession in Japan where an unskilled and untrained person can demand 3,000 yen or more an hour for their services."

There are for instance massage parlors in Ebisu where you pay 3000 yen for 20 minutes, not to say higher prices for more "advanced" services.

0 ( +4 / -3 )

ok gotcha

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Any Japanese who wants to be an English conversation teacher, one should be offered an interview in English to find out about their eligibility.

But if the post advertised is 'native speaker', then the Japanese person is not qualified from the outset. That doesn't mean there are no English-teaching jobs available for Japanese, but you have to choose your battles. If I wanted a job teaching Japanese language, I very much doubt that 'I have a Hokuriku/Tohoku/Kansai/wherever accent with not a trace of an English accent' would be a very good selling point for me. Do you?.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I am sorry but what world are you living in? I can't think of profession in Japan where an unskilled and untrained person can demand 3,000 yen or more an hour for their services.

I can think of quite a few, but Reckless just beat me to it.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Better to kick someone for trying than encourage them I guess.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

What Eigen said

Exposure to foreigners, better spoken English models,

sums up the fundamental problem in the entire system, but in the wrong way. People are focusing on completely the wrong thing. ALTs are not needed (and I am one). Exposure to foreigners is not needed. Different teaching, practice and production methods are the only thing that will improve Japanese students English. Who does it is completely irrelevant, it's how they do it that is the only thing that will change things.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

you wouldn't be good at it with that attitude towards English learners.

...as opposed to the attitude that when an advanced learner who wants to teach doesn't understand a native speaker, it must be the native speaker's fault for having the wrong native accent?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'm no fan of the JET program, and don't hold out much hope that the kind of changes that would make expanding it worthwhile will be forthcoming.

However, if it is going to happen, I would far rather see these people in a program like JET than working for these scavenging private ALT companies. If they go out of business as a result of this, that will be great.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I am a JET alumni, and I loved it more than anything. It was an amazing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone that is crazy about Japan. It's a rewarding job with short hours and a very decent pay. However, one of the main reasons I quit the program was because of my conflicts with the Japanese education system.

I can't even count on my fingers how many times I've discussed with the JTE (Japanese English teacher) about changing a useless English lesson, or trying to correct some wrong English in the textbook. I look at their English tests (the one they need to pass jr. high and high school) and it makes me sick (because it’s so utterly useless). I don't think JET is a flawed system, but ironically, I think the Ministry of Education is a flawed institution.

I would bet that over half of the JETs are not being used to their full capabilities, and probably 80% of the JTEs don’t even know where to begin when it comes to pairing up with the ALT and planning lessons. It doesn’t help either that the ALTs are fresh out of college and know absolutely nothing about teaching. In fact, it’s a horrible combination that leads to poorly taught classes or the JTE completely abandoning the use of the ALT.

JET has been in Japan for… how long? And if I walked up to a random Japanese high schooler and asked where the nearest train station was in English, do I honestly think they could tell me? No, I don’t. So after thousands of Japanese government dollars being poured into the JET Program, we still have a country where a majority of its citizens are simply terrible at English. JET is a good idea, but for the last few decades its implementation has been terrible.

I remember fighting with my elementary school to allow me to teach the kids how to write the alphabet, but they absolutely forbade me to do so because it was against the ministry of education’s guidelines. They said ABCs would interfere with their hiragana-katakana learning. Puh-lease.

I live in Shanghai, China. There are no JETs here. And a good majority of Chinese people can speak a rather decent level of English. In fact, almost all young people I meet can have simple conversation with me, and their country hasn’t been open to the world that long. And is communist. And doesn’t even have access to normal internet.

So my point is: JET is great, it introduces kids to foreigners and teaches about cultural exchanges and accustoming yourself to foreigners—but in terms of English education, unless someone whips up a proper JET-JTE-English implementation curriculum ASAP, then 10,000+ JETs for Japan ain’t gonna do nothin.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I'm sure JET is a fun experience for those who take part, but for the money it uses, far more could be done in terms of actual English education. Unfortunately, JET also peretuates the stereotype of native English teachers as inexperienced and often unprofessional. Schools that use JETs for too long don't know what to do when an actual English teacher arrives. They are used to the fun, genki, smily gaijin. The idea of a non-Japanese professional who can contribute to education and curriculum development is seen as ridiculous.

As others have said, the cash is better spent on educating Japanese English teachers, training them in modern pedagogy, and using them as seeds for future teachers. By design, JETs leave after their contracts are done.

The current system only perpetuates the power and respect imbalance between native and Japanese teachers.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I have a TEFL qualification... but sadly will never get to teach the Queen's English in Japan. On the plus side at least I wouldn't bore the kids with a subject few of them are even interested in.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My 11 year old can ace EIKEN level 2;goes to a Japanese school and gets taught English at home by me-properly..... The JET program showed Japanese that 99% of gaijin don't bite but not a lot else.

Nuff said.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The top few posters have it- BertieWooster and Probie among others. Didn't bother reading dn the thread too far.

The Top Three Problems are:

1 Entrance Exams to college based on ridiculous grammar-translations methods appropriate to playing 19th century science-catch-up, and often as not relying on unnatural and forced grammar. And as a corrollary, these work places giving such weight to standardized test scores.

2 The whole "We are Japanese" special ppl mindset thing, whereby not many ppl think it is natural to speak one or two other languages (whether English or a neighboring Russia/ Korea/ Chinese etc). Compared to Euro/ India/ Africa/ anywhere else, where even ppl who speak only one language at least know others who can speak two or more and so know they are able to do it even if they have not realized that potential.

3 school teachers who were brought up in an environment of 1 and 2, thus stunting their ability and what inspiration they can give to their kids b/c they are preparing them for college tests, or b/c they think it is "ok" to have the mediocre level they have.

Real Solution:

Train good teachers, send them abroad. Change the stupid college entrance tests.

Wishfully thunk solution:

Hire recent college grads from foreign countries w/ no teaching experience and no Japanese ability and expect something will happen. Magically-like.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

PS I just got back from Taiwan where I had several long, intelligent and interesting conversations with college kids and adults, in English, w/ Taiwanese ppl who had never been off their island. Pronunciation was for the most part natural, certainly understandable, and willingness, ability to try and communicate very good. Admittedly these were motivated kids who were interested in English and trying to study it, but no international experience. Not even comparable to similar J kids (who have not been abroad). Like head and shoulders doesn't even come close to expressing it.

I came back here really depressed and convinced I was an awful teacher.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Speaking English for one class a day isn't going to help much, especially if the teacher is teaching it with a heavy Japanese accent. Any native English teacher will be spending 75% of their time trying to correct the errors introduced by the Japanese "English" teacher.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have got to try and break out of my hikikomori shell and get involved with this! I want to join this JET programme myself! Where do I apply?I spedk english quite well. It's my second language and have spoken it for a long time. This is a means to go back home, my real home (Japan)!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

(Sorry I have to work on the typos)!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As quite a high taxpayer here, I resent the fact that some of my tax money goes to pay for this pathetic useless "scheme" where useless idiots are given a long holiday. This "scheme" must be scrapped today and all the Japanese English teachers required to spend one year abroad in an English speaking country. They can learn to actually speak the language. Imagine that!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

As quite a high taxpayer here, I resent the fact that some of my tax money goes to pay for this pathetic useless "scheme" where useless idiots are given a long holiday

This is what it really boils down to. Many JETs are no doubt perplexed as to why we are so vehemently against them. We don't blame them personally for the failings of the education system. What irks us is, as taxpayers and parents raising children in Japan, we want to see our taxes used effectively.

JET is probably not a total write-off, but there are better things Japan can and should be doing with our taxes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hi Lowly,

I read your post, and with all due respect it just illustrates why only experienced teachers should be allowed to teach English. One simply cannot compare Japan and Taiwan or China because of linguistic factors in their L1. I would probably bore any non-English teacher to death with the details, but it relates to the absence of a syllabary in Chinese and Taiwanese.

You may or may not be a bad teacher, I'm really not in a position to say. What I can say based on your post is that you are unaware of the full complexities of teaching English as a second language.

How does this relate to the topic under discussion? So far most of the discussion has been around how the JET programme is unfair to the Japanese taxpayer and Japanese English education, but it is also soul-destroying to those JETs who are bought to a foreign country, assured that they will be taught how to teach when they get here, and are then thrown into a classroom with minimal preparation apart from an encouraging shout of "gambarre!" (and in some places not even that!), and expected to perform professionally.

It is a telling statement on the awful state of English education in Japan at present that so many JETs out-perform the Japanese English teachers simply based on the fragments that they can recall from how they were taught English.

However, it remains that the current JET programme is deeply unfair on all involved, from the JETs to the Japanese taxpayer.

A quick note, I see that some JET alumni have posted here saying what a marvelous cultural impact they had. How precisely do you assess that? Has it been assessed at all? I sincerely doubt that any effort has been made to do so. For every success story I hear from a JET, I hear half a dozen disgruntled JETs complaining, and I doubt that they are creating a very positive impression of foreign cultures.

Oh, and on the "accent" issue. Stop being so ridiculous. I have friends from all over the U.S., and not one of them speaks "standard American accent". My friend from New Hampshire in the U.S. has an accent that is virtually indistinguishable from that of my friend from Bedford in the U.K., while my friend from South Carolina has an almost stereotypical "Southern Belle" accent that is so thick that it took me a couple of minutes to realise that she wasn't faking it for humour value (the accent is quite charming once you get used to it). My friend from New York has an accent that is close to what one would consider "standard American English", whereas my friend from New Jersey, a subway ride away from New York, has an accent that might come straight out of the mouth of a South Londoner.

So let's all abandon this silly "standard accent" nonsense shall we? I find it ironic that it almost always comes from people who have rarely ever left their own neighbourhood and imagine that their own accent is "neutral", even when it is possible to pinpoint their country and state the moment they open their mouth.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am a JET alumni

Oh dear, oh dear....

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Frungy-

Oh do tell.

I thought you were going to solve all my teaching problems for a second there when you said I clearly had no linguistic training, and waited with baited breath. But then you went on to talk about your friend's southern accent which at first you thot was a joke, (and which subject (accents) I hadn't really got into).

Alas, I am left with my breath bated only and no solutions!

I have long experience teaching here in many situations. The "I am a bad teacher b/c of what I saw in Taiwan" remark was more an accidental stock Japanese-humble type remark (seeped in from being here so long) than a declaration of deep guilt and angst. It does make me sad, however I am certainly aware of circumstances beyond my personal failings that create problems for language learners in Japan. Some of which I mentioned in my post.

I don't know where you were going with the syllabary argument but I personally do not think that it is a great factor. (Like, ya, any language you learn that is similar to your own in some aspects will be easier than a less-similar language, anybody knows that. Korean will be easier than Eng for jpns ppl. But I was not really talking about "English" but "language learning in general".)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I tend to think that what is needed is real English instruction. Not more Jets, not more kawaii foreign teachers. But real, honest, hard working and well trained experienced teachers.

If Japan is serious about change, hire anyone who can properly teach English.

My friend runs a school in Samarkand Uzbekistan. They have won global recognition every year for the effective results of their English programs. They are outstanding teachers. Their programs are outstanding. Their global awards in English, French and other languages are universally recognized in proper academic circles.

These are the kinds of teachers, programs and people you need teaching English in Japan. Regardless of race, nationality or cuteness. Hire hard working, smart, experienced academic teachers who can get real results for students.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Frungy

My friend from New Hampshire in the U.S. has an accent that is virtually indistinguishable from that of my friend from Bedford in the U.K.

Indistinguishable by whom? Anybody with a functioning pair of ears would immediately recognise the difference. Unless your US friend has spent an inordinate amount of time in the UK.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

A telling point about JET is what the scheme is called in Japanese. The word "teaching" does not appear. Instead, it is called the "youth exchange programme". Even in English, it is the "Japan EXCHANGE and Teaching Programme". The emphasis is on the former and not the latter. However, they needed to find a way to actually have this "exchange", and classrooms were seen as a convenienf forum. From that , the idea that it was an English teaching programme was falsely developed.

The whole point is/has been to get impressionable youth from overseas to come to Japan, have a great time, and go home with good memories. Then, later in life, they may give favours to Japan when they can. Every JET who stays in Japan when they finish is a loss for the programme.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

tkoind2,

The problem isnt what you mentioned. Students dont have to do anything to pass, that`s the biggest problem. Overall, the attitude towards learning English is the pits. Not the teachers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Oh, and on the "accent" issue. Stop being so ridiculous. I have friends from all over the U.S., and not one of them speaks "standard American accent".

Exactly. The whole "I wanna speak like the American Engrish" people don't really have a clue.

I mentioned about how I felt about some of those prospective English teachers to Americans and other nationalities about not understanding well, and they don't understand them well either!

I wonder if the Americans spoken to were from Texis, Bawston, or Chicahga?

Anyway,

As the pillar for its policy, the government is planning to revive the JET program which was considered wasteful spending by the Democratic Party of Japan back in 2010.

Whoever decided to revive this, should be named, and made to outline in detail exactly how reviving the JET program is going to help.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

As a qualified language teacher, ex-JET and Japan taxpayer, I have to agree with most posters here, that this is a dumb move which will produce more of the same - a bunch of well-meaning genki graduates, with a puffed up sense of their own importance having a few cocoon years out in the sticks, spouting their grassroots cultural exchange number as still mouthed by the same tired old amukudari coots who run the programme and the Min of Education, while the English education machine in Japan still bumbles along incompetently, repeating the same errors as it has done for the past 25-odd years, and producing the same abysmal results. A Waste of My Taxpaying Money. Scrap the programme, create a system to second, say a couple of thousand Japanese Teachers of English, who have a few year's teaching experience, to work overseas in state schools around the world. If possible, they can teach Japanese, and also work as teaching assistants in EAL (English as an Additional Language) classes, or if they speak another foreign language like Chinese, in those classes, to see how modern language teaching works. They can then bring back best practice from all those different countries, from Sweden or Spain (places where state EFL programmes are really producing results), to the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, ... Also, they are likely to develop a real feeling for English through these experiences.

As for the old grassroots cultural exchange chestnut that some JETs like to bang on about like old records, Probie has said it. That old song about people who've never met a furriner out in the sticks - chances are that several kids with Japanese names are from bicultural homes, but the parents have relabelled them to avoid bullying. So actually do the exchange at the grassroots level, NOT through JET. There are sure to be Chinese, Filipinos, Burmese, Koreans, Indians, Nepalese, Brazilians, whatever - they are the ones that exchange should be going on with - after all, it's most likely their children in schools who are being bullied and ostracised, and their cultures denigrated. I speak here from several years experience of seeing dozens of children who the official narrative considers the wrong colour getting hell in schools.

Some JETs also spout the official line about increasing understanding between countries. To which I say, frankly, B#ll#x. Nothing to do with English teaching, and I don't to be honest care what people might feel about Japan at the end of their experience. That's their own private business, but it's simply irrelevant. If anyone wants to do a Japan experience, then by all means come over and get a job in an eikaiwa, but taxpayer's money here should not be thrown at you.

As for the JET programme's official line whining that it's not about language teaching, while on the other hand the government is once again claiming that it's going to improve English speaking in Japan by "exposing" Japanese youth to furriners through JET just seems to grind on, without anyone pointing out the total logical disconnect.

And kharashima, I agree that Japan is wasting the opportunity to make the most of Japanese like yourself who have a very high level of fluency in English. For what it's worth, I had a similar experience in the UK with Spanish. Despite it being my home language, teacher training colleges wouldn't accept me for Spanish teaching courses because I hadn't studied it at university. Like someone else suggested, maybe you should train as a regular teacher, rather than going the JET route. But at the same time, your point about not understanding different native speakers is a bit bizarre. Maybe you need to get around a bit more until you're able to cope with all the varieties of English around, from Glasgow to Goa.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

as the crow flies

Absolutely brilliant post there. You pretty much summed it all up. I am only sorry that I can give you a single thumbs up as I am holding them both up.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@cleo

Sorry, but if you don't understand the English spoken in England (本場なんだから、ね) you really have no business setting yourself up as an English teacher, whatever your nationality or country of birth

How does this explain Geordie? and what exactly is an "American Accent?" from the deep south? Boston? NY/NJ? Texas? how does one define what the american accent is? Such as British English - there is a distinct difference between north and south and all the little counties in between

I remember when I first came to Japan with nova.. there was a group of us during training, one girl from Scotland and when she spoke, it certainly sounded like a foreign language and I'm born and bred in Canada!!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I agree Paul - great post from as-the-crow-flies there.. I,ll thumb him up too. Well said.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Perhaps, I should make myself clear to those of you who misunderstood me. When I said that I don't "understand" , I did not catch a few words expressed on radio, TV and in our conversations. I did not mean that I did not understand their entire statements. Those of you who was rather rude should also know this to be a fact that you might miss a word or two or more because of their strong accent or dialects spoken by some of people from UK and other English speaking countries. I NEVER even said that American English is the best! You even misread my posts.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Typo: "who were, not who was", Sorry.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

kharashima, I did not catch a few words is a far cry from you hardly understand what they are saying, don't you think?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Don't twist my words. "hardly understand" who said that?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Perhaps, I should make myself clear to those of you who misunderstood me. When I said that I don't "understand" , I did not catch a few words expressed on radio, TV and in our conversations. I did not mean that I did not understand their entire statements.

What you came across as saying, was that since you "lived in the states for a long time and an speak English with an American accent without a trace of Japanese accent", you should be able to teach English because: "If you listen to some people from South Africa, England, Australia, etc. you hardly understand what they are saying, but those schools in Japan are discriminating Japanese citizens because they were NOT born in an "English speaking country"

Those of you who was rather rude should also know this to be a fact that you might miss a word or two or more because of their strong accent or dialects spoken by some of people from UK and other English speaking countries. I NEVER even said that American English is the best! You even misread my posts.

Judging by the amount of grammatical errors and mistakes you make with getting your point across, etc, you are not good enough at English to teach at this moment.

Also, why do you think someone with a Mancunian accent, for example, is hard to understand; but someone from Alabama, New Orleans or New England would be easy to understand "because they're American"? You sure you won't "might miss a word or two or more because of their strong accent or dialects"?

It stinks of snobbery. Yeah, you can probably speak really great English, and probably worked really hard to do that. Just because people won't accept you, doesn't mean you have to attack other people. Or make out that you should get preferential treatment because you speak with an "American accent" over someone who is a native speaker from England or Australia. Sad but true truth here: they speak better English than you.

You have no problems with Canadians? They weren't on your "hardly understandable" list. Ever spoken to a Newfie? Or a Quebecer, eh?

If you're applying for a job that states you must be a native speaker, you're 99.9% not even going to get an interview from them just by them looking at your name and seeing you're Japanese.

Yeah, it's annoying and frustrating. But, sorry, tough. Deal with it.

Get a job in a school as a Japanese teacher of English if you want to teach so badly.

Maybe the government will realize the JET program is a waste and start something that lets people like you work in schools teaching kids English?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

kharashima, I did not catch a few words is a far cry from you hardly understand what they are saying, don't you think?

Don't twist my words. "hardly understand" who said that?

Er... you did.

If you listen to some people from South Africa, England, Australia, etc. you hardly understand what they are saying, but those schools in Japan are discriminating Japanese citizens because they were NOT born in an "English speaking country".

Are we misreading your posts?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Readers, please stop bickering.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

they speak better English than you.

But Probie being able to speak good English doesn't necessarily make a good English teacher. I thought we had established and agreed on that point when discussing the effectiveness of native English speakers as ALTs. I do get your point but I don't think that a native speaker is any more qualified to teach English as a foreign language than a Japanese person with advanced English. In Karashima's case he/she is in a better position to teach English to Japanese learners because he/she is aware of most of the hurdles they will meet on the way and in most cases will be able to predict where the students are going to make mistakes. Being able to speak perfect English with no mistakes shouldn't be a qualification in itself to teach the language.

Half the native speaker teachers in Japan can't even write a lesson plan with interesting and motivating material and have no idea how to assess the level of a student and teach lessons to their needs. Many people have this idea that you can just go in a room and speak to people and they will learn the language, a myth that has no doubt been propagated by corporate eikaiwa. I would choose an unqualified Japanese person who can speak English over an unqualified native speaker every time because that Japanese person at least has English learning experience and can be valuable role model. A lot of Japanese people now are asking for Japanese English teachers because they have had unqualified and inexperienced native speaker teachers for years and have made no progress.

@karashima

If you really want to teach English why not get qualified and trained in TESL/TEFL. Judging by your posts your English is easily good enough to teach but if you want to be a good teacher you should think about learning some teaching methods and background knowledge about language learning (I am assuming here that you haven't trained). It does take more than being able to speak a language to teach it well, which you will find out when you begin teaching. I think there are plenty of good schools that will hire you as a teacher but unfortunately those schools are in the minority. The plus side is that this means when you do get a job it will be a better and more far more satisfying job than the many you are turned down for. Have patience and a school with the right attitude towards teaching English will hire you. Good luck if it is really what you want to do it will be worth it. (p.s you will likely never make much money bu there are better rewards).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@PaulJ

But Probie being able to speak good English doesn't necessarily make a good English teacher. I thought we had established and agreed on that point when discussing the effectiveness of native English speakers as ALTs. I do get your point but I don't think that a native speaker is any more qualified to teach English as a foreign language than a Japanese person with advanced English.

Doesn't matter how much better kharashima is. If the company wants a native speaker, they want a native speaker.

Half the native speaker teachers in Japan can't even write a lesson plan with interesting and motivating material and have no idea how to assess the level of a student and teach lessons to their needs.

If you say so, I can't really say anything about that because I have no experience. But, I always thought that native speakers were needed because they have 100% perfect pronunciation, and naturally know if something is "wrong" when someone speaks.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

If the company wants a native speaker, they want a native speaker.

That's fair enough

were needed because they have 100% perfect pronunciation, and naturally know if something is "wrong" when someone speaks.

were needed because you can charge more money for them by knowingly peddling blatant lies and pseudo-science about language acquisition (particularly young learners) to the general Japanese population, who of course know next to nothing about learning a second language because they don't have the background or experience.

Just thought I would fix that last quote for you there.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

were needed because you can charge more money for them by knowingly peddling blatant lies and pseudo-science about language acquisition (particularly young learners) to the general Japanese population, who of course know next to nothing about learning a second language because they don't have the background or experience. Just thought I would fix that last quote for you there.

And I'll fix that,

were needed because you can charge more money for them by knowingly peddling blatant lies and pseudo-science about language acquisition (particularly young learners) to the general Japanese population, who of course know next to nothing about learning a second language because they don't have the background or experience, and so will of course want a native speaker instead of an ethnic-Japanese teacher because that is what they have been told to want over and over again, and so the school will want to hire native speakers because more Japanese people will want to "learn" from them because they are the lauded "native speakers".

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Best not start doing too much of of this we might start agreeing with each other. Good work there sir

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thank you very much for your advise Paul J. I have heard you loud and clear.....good lesson for me. Have a great day.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

LowlyApr. 25, 2013 - 09:33AM JST Frungy- Oh do tell. I thought you were going to solve all my teaching problems for a second there when you said I clearly had no linguistic training, and waited with baited breath.

Oy vey, sarcasm much? But since you asked the teaching methodology for languages in China is completely different. There are many differences (compounded by regional difference), but one of the major ones is that Chinese lacks a syllabary (unlike Japanese, which has katakana/hiragana), and as such the first step in teaching foreign languages in most places in China is to teach the international phonetic alphabet (IPA). This promotes phonetic awareness, is less arbitrary than the English alphabet (the English alphabet is orthographically irregular while the IPA is regular), and leads to more accurate pronunciation in the long run. Most English teachers in Japan are currently pursuing phonics, but given the English alphabet's irregular orthography (the disjunction between how words are written and spoken) this is unlikely to be a successful route, and even in English speaking countries where children are surrounded by native speakers the phonics approach is not entirely successful beyond its originally intended purpose. Therefore the differences between Chinese and Japanese English pronunciation find their roots in the L1 of the learners, and as such your intiial comparison between China and Japan was off-base.

Oh, and if you want all your English teaching problems to be solved then my advice to you would be three-fold:

Stop looking for definitive answers in the comments sections of an online newspaper. Stop acting like you're entitled to be handed answers every time you demand them. Stop being lazy and actually start studying.

Until then I'd advise a little more humility and a lot less sarcasm when asking for help.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Kharashima

You're most welcome. Good luck

0 ( +2 / -2 )

SoftBank recently announced a policy to boost its employees’ English skill by rewarding them with bonus payments if they get top marks in an English-proficiency test for non-native speakers, known as TOEIC. Those who score 800 or higher will get 300,000 yen.

==> That's a large incentive.

I feel Korea always had a huge advantage. Many Koreans go back and forth to the USA and are basically native (very good) English speakers. These people come back and are able to teach their family and others. Japan needs people to do the same. Native Japanese that can speak English need to step-up and be promoted into positions that others can learn from. Maybe all universities need the students to go overseas 6 months min to learn English and have students come to Japan to learn Japanese. Maybe University Chinese and Spanish language also. If the economy of Japan falters these people can move overseas and still bring in income (Korea was an example).

So many good language programs out there also for cellphone. Even the language/font use for operating systems are better (IME Windows was poor, Mac OS much better and universal).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well here we go, I'll throw in my 2 pence/cents/yen.

The kids really do take to having a foreign teacher and it does give them someone to communicate in English with. I'm sorry if a lot of people can't acknowledge this, but it's just a fact, so it does make sense to have at least some teachers from foreign countries to raise the levels of cultural understanding and English communication here. Japan is one of the most isolated major economic powers. It's true that there should also be more programs for Japanese teachers to spend time studying English conversation, either here or, better still, live abroad for some time. My team teachers who have lived abroad are much more functional at this side of English teaching.

The JET program is a little strange in that it seeks out utterly inexperienced people with the assumption that they will be 'fresh'. Why not just employ more experienced people, including those already here? The problem with assuming that the private sector will manage it is only too clear to anyone who has worked for an eikaiwa school or 'dispatch agency' (which I have). Really awful conditions which make a lot of people desperate to get out of a substandard job. English teaching isn't something that can necessarily make for a profitable business, just like any other kind of education. Expanding something like the JET program sounds like a good idea, provided they try to get more people with suitable experience.

Another issue here is this strange fixation with regional forms of English. It's true, as a teacher it makes sense to mask any strong accent for the student's sake and having native speakers is necessary in Japan as a lot of the textbooks aimed at exams have antiquated forms of English that would make a weird impression if someone tried using them in real life. Some of my American friends seem to think that anywhere you go in the world, American English is or some mythical day will be spoken there. Sorry, but that just isn't true and I can't see it happening. Which means we should focus on international English, pointing out the small variations when they crop up (and in my view they are pretty small, it's mostly the accents that differ).

I'll just throw in one more point, that I think a lot of people will admit to if they are being honest. There are experienced English teachers/foreign residents here who would be great in a school classroom and be really keen to communicate with the kids, on an emotional level as well as helping develop their English. There are also some burned out cynics who might just do it as a job. One of the reasons programs like JET go for younger teachers is just this, that they want people with enthusiasm. Having said that, I've met more newcomers to Japan who can't positively adjust to the place than longer-term teachers. If they could just use 'enthusiasm' as criteria, alongside skill and qualification, they'd be more likely to find the kind of teachers they are looking for.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

However, the vast majority of JETs aren't English teachers. Most of them are fresh out of college with little or no life experience, being sent to a foreign country for a combination "cultural exchange" and to "teach". The JET programme needs major reform and refocusing if it is to actually achieve any goal in the teaching of English.

How different is this from Teach For America - I very highly regarded program that utilizes a similar demographic as teachers -?

I suspect the main difference lies in the utilization of human capital; I think increasing the number of ALTs is a good idea, but it won't change much if the underlying problems in teaching methodology are not addressed. Requiring, say, every ALT to have an Education degree sounds like a good thing, but what it really means is that you are reducing the pool of available applicants, the remainder of which you will have to pay more for. Instead, why not get veteran English teachers from English speaking countries to work with veteran Japanese teachers of English, to come up with training and educational materials which can then be utilized by incoming ALTs and their Japanese partners...? (Disclosure: I was an ALT, but never a JET - I don't know what sort of support the JET guys get, but I was pretty much on my own. I had some teaching experience, though and the enthusiastic support of my Japanese counterparts.)

Lack of native Japanese with fluency in English language (and anglo-sphere culture) make the continued presence of foreign ALTs a necessity. However, that presence alone is insufficient to solve the problems with Japanese English instruction...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I wish they would remove the degree requirement, I don't see how a non-specific degree helps you to be a better language teacher. I think it should be down to an array of proficiency tests to prove ability including life and work experience. I am pleased that they removed the upper age limit but it still leaves out those with valid experience and enthusiasm who couldn't afford University.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'm happy to see more people employed, and to see more people learning about the rest of the world, but I think the best thing anyone could do for English is buy all Sesame Street programs since the beginning of time, and play one for a half hour every day in elementary schools.

Kids should NOT be given ANY instruction about the program. Just let them to enjoy the program and get what they get. Lo and behold, a few years later, we'll have students with pretty good pronunciation, and some understanding of English, I bet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is raising consumption tax next year to try to secure more revenue yet they waste untold billions on this totally useless "scheme". Scrap it. Save billions. How is it tht when I go to Germany and Finland on the occasional business trip, I find that everywhere the people speak fluent English so easily?? What do they do in their schools? They don't have a whole army of useless, otherwise unemployable foreigners that's for sure.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Requiring, say, every ALT to have an Education degree sounds like a good thing, but what it really means is that you are reducing the pool of available applicants, the remainder of which you will have to pay more for.

I don't think so. For the wages that jets are paid they could easily make being qualified a requirement for application. The money and benefits that jets receive are easily comparable to esl jobs in the middle east and some other places which require a masters degree or qualified teacher status as a minimum requirement. I fear that at the moment qualified applicants are turned down for jet jobs because it is perceived that they may rock the boat, but this particular boats needs to be rocked. At the moment there are lots of selfish little cliques protecting their own interests at the expense of the greater good and until that changes the English education system in Japan will continue to be a waste of everybody's time and money.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

For the wages that jets are paid they could easily make being qualified a requirement for application.

I'm not sure this is true, but assuming it is, swapping out the current crop of ALTs with ones holding teaching qualifications isn't really going to fix any of the major problems with the system.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

swapping out the current crop of ALTs with ones holding teaching qualifications isn't really going to fix any of the major problems with the system.

Agreed. I actually it think it might make it worse in some ways. You're right the problems are on the whole systemic.

For the wages that jets are paid they could easily make being qualified a requirement for application

OK let's say some qualifications. At least an entry level CELTA for example.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

OK let's say some qualifications. At least an entry level CELTA for example.

Ok, but you are already cutting the applicant pool drastically with even this sort of basic qualification.

Most JET types, I'd imagine, are straight out of college types looking to spend a year or two abroad. That might not produce the highest quality teachers, but it's a pretty reasonable model for what ALTs are expected to do in the classroom. Again, this is the TFA kind of model; its a model that relies heavily on the enthusiasm of younger participants. (With TFA this is an enthusiasm or teaching and/or public service; JET, by necessity, relies on enthusiasm for Japan and/or cultural exchange. The unfortunate side-effect is that you will always have a percentage of "woohoo-paid-vacation!" types that don't really care about teaching, but I think overall the model works.)

Now, insert a qualification - even a minor one - into this equation and you get a serious problem: people who have spent the time and money to obtain such a qualification have made at least a partial commitment to a teaching career. Now, that is a very different applicant pool than the current one. It's also a much smaller pool. Furthermore, it's not clear to me what percentage of this pool is going to want to spend, say, 2+ years teaching in Japan, or even oversees at all. I think that many here are used to the idea of JAPAN as being a motivator in itself - certainly, you will still have some of those type of people in the new applicant pool. However, most people do not seriously consider living/working abroad for any length of time. Furthermore, the older and more committed they get to a single life path, the less likely they are to take a year or two off and move halfway around the world just for the experience.

So, what is the motivation here? Unless there is a serious overlap between the Certified teacher pool and the Japanophile population, your going to need more than the concept of a year in JAPAN to draw people in. The money, as you mention, is good for the level of work being done - but it isn't going to make you rich, and you could potentially make more, say , teaching in South Korea for example. Furthermore, what is the benefit to a person who has committed to a career in education? There aren't a lot of career advancement opportunities in an ALT position, are there? And even if there were, they would only appeal to the small portion of people who are interested in staying long term. How valuable is the experience gained as an ALT for one's future career, exactly, if one intends to return home? Or even if one intends to work at an international school in Japan? And how satisfied is a qualified teacher going to be doing the sort of work that ALTs currently do?

I don't have any objection to attempting to improve the quality of incoming ALTs. However, even disregarding the various systematic problems with English Language curriculum in Japan, you'd need to make a sort of cultural shift to attract and retain qualified teachers for these positions. It would require an entirely different model - everything from the nature of work done, to the interactions with Japanese teaching staff, to exit options would have to change. I don't think you can just insert a teaching qualification requirement and expect the system to continue to function.

In the end, such a program might indeed better serve the Japanese population. But it would take enormous investment and require radical change - neither of which are easy to come by.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Only if they made grades for English or required people to pass it, I imagine they would get some results. Teachers here at Elementary school are also abyssmally unmotivated. Whenever it comes time to team-teach in English, they just F off to a corner in the classroom and start grading papers instead of helping with English.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

angeia

I remember fighting with my elementary school to allow me to teach the kids how to write the alphabet, but they absolutely forbade me to do so because it was against the ministry of education’s guidelines. They said ABCs would interfere with their hiragana-katakana learning. Puh-lease.""

I have the same experience, and apparently frungy does too.. As many non-Japanese sounds cannot be properly represented by kana, for example non-vowel word endings, I think the monbushou would improve things much by stopping the use of katakana for teaching pronunciation of foreign language in general and by replacing kunrei transliteration of kana (taught in elementary schools) with Hepburn transliteration for English in particular.

Transliterate "sit" to kana and then to romaji according to kunrei and it should be clear the practice does not distinguish between bull-sit and .. well it should be clear.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Therefore i think British English should be taught, not American.

But Japanese don't want BE they want AE, and I know of too many people who don't speak AE that have run into all sorts of problems because they couldn't or didn't know AE or American culture. JTE's that got absolutely indignant at their ALT because of it. Ignorant fools that they are.

Oh and on a side note, down here in Okinawa I personally know quite a few JAPANESE women that are teaching English in ES and JHS and are acting as ALT's.

The discussion from BE and AE it's the same form the Spanish from Spain and Spanish from Latin America.

The language it's the same, it is the accent that changes, in that sense the AE tends to be more neutral in some regions of the US than lte´s say : New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Miami or San Francisco.

I once heard that the mid-west regions of US (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, etc) tend to have a neutral accent, many anchors and newscasters are from this region, and it is by far the easiest English to learn.

The person that couldn't understand English outside US is in my opinion narrow-minded, you really shoot your foot in saying that. but then, I cannot understand Korean people speaking English, (bu

t my advisor was very good and he understood anyone, from any country), still I don't think is that bad to have a Japanese English teacher, you get a grasp of comparison of both cultures while teaching, but somehow, the fact that you speak Japanese, leads the lessons eventually to learn and comprehend English to translations and not "pure" English, I've seen that so many times in other countries to think it would not happen in Japan also.

I was lucky enough to learn pronunciation from British music groups (the have better diction in their songs), teachers that taught AE, a private teacher that was British and when I arrived to the US my classmates were form Greece, China and India mostly, so I had the fortune to experiment a lot of English accents, I did develop a characteristic accent and my favorite to hear was always the Australian accent... it was so fun.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What would be money wisely spent for Japan to improve on their English speaking skills would be to teach NLP (neuro linguistic programming) or in other words hypnosis. Just need to hypnotize the children to change their mind set to believe that they can speak well. All of the negative programming that is already in the mind about how difficult it is to speak English needs to be gotten rid of. With NLP it is possible to change people within a short time and put them on track. An expert at NLP can quickly influence a person to do anything they want. This is not magic but a real science and a serious idea to be considered as the old systems in Japan are not working and JET program as we know will not really do much. As an American I have had many Japanese compliment me on my English speaking ability--duh---of course that is my mother tongue. The fact that Japanese are amazed that a native speaker can speak English well just shows how deep rooted this problem is. All of these negativities concerning difficulty to speak English just needs to be washed away since as I have always said people are brain washed on numerous ideas about everything in their life. So hypnotism is a kind of brain washing too, but it can be used in the right way.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the Ministry of Education is serious about getting a good return for the taxpayer's money (that's a question....), why can't they hire a few experts and do some research about what works and what does not? It's obvious that China and Korea (even NK from what I hear) are doing something right and Japan is not.

A lot of the preceding posts made good points, and I'll add some of my own ideas:

1) Requiring basic training in teaching a foreign language so the enthusiastic new teacher can do more than mumble "hi, kids, what's your favorite sport?", The assumption that little kids learn language by contact or immersion is valid, but the current system of an hour or two a week of English does not provide that.

2) videoconference interviews to weed out applicants who might be 'native speakers' but are generally unintelligible (like one from the sub-continent who taught in a school I know well),

3) adopt a proven English-language teaching system and its associated materials and provide the new teachers with training. Kumon might not be the best of its kind, (maybe because it does not use native-speaking teachers) but has an organized A/V system that also lets kids proceed at their own pace. I'm sure there are others too.

4) Recognizing that perfecting pronunciation and grammar is not nearly as important as giving young students confidence that they can communicate in another language.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'll preface what I'm about to say with stating that I have friends who are ALTs, at least some of which who are participants of JET and I am in no way directly attacking them.

With that said, I am one of the approximately SEVEN (no more than eight) fully-qualified, licensed native speakers of English who works as a teacher in the ENTIRETY of Japan. I was hired to teach math and science in English, but those classes wouldn't constitute full-time work so I have to teach English classes as well.

I have not seen such a poor excuse for promoting English education as ALTs. Having them is almost a complete waste of money. I was hired to work pretty much fresh out of college, but I've had quite a bit of experience IN the field of education. Many ALTs have not stepped foot in an education classroom. This is no fault of them, but of the Japanese government.

I honestly believe there needs to be some sort of pedagogical background before coming to teach in Japan. It's truly laughable though, regardless of what you believe, when ALTs call themselves "teachers."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I strongly disagree with this. I doubt that this will help us to increase our English ability... Otherwise the required qualification to be teacher in Japan should be stricter.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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