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The state of the language school industry

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By Dean Rogers

SHAMED? RIDICULED? EMBARRASSED?

Often ridiculed and scorned: The language school industry in Japan is one that is looked down upon and often ridiculed, especially by non-teaching foreigners. But for many, it is an industry that powers their lives. When I decided to leave the expat world (in my case, software) and start my own school, everyone I knew in banking, in IT, and in the expat community all said: "Why the heck do you want to become an English teacher?" with a fair bit of scorn.

On many an occasion, I have been asked by other foreigners upon meeting them, "What do you do?" Usually I just say, "I am a teacher," and am quite often summarily dismissed from their thoughts. You can literally see it on their faces as soon as the words leave your mouth. This is the legacy that has been given to us and set for the last 30 years by poor management and uncaring executives. This is an image that leaves some teachers almost feeling embarrassed to say what they do. This must change.

The people who work and make their living in this industry have been sorely disappointed by the direction the industry owners have taken things. This industry in recent decades has been marked by a complete lack of vision and the all important concept of "caring" that should define any good service industry. It is a great industry that facilitates international trade, and increases the joy and security of traveling abroad with increased ability to communicate, and even, dare I say, helps people to realize their dreams on both sides of the teaching desk.

Yes, for many on either side of the student-teacher divide, it is their life. Beyond this, there are many industry suppliers linked to this industry that, according to Yano research, combine to form a roughly $7.7 billion industry. It is neither a small nor insignificant industry, but it is looked down upon because of its relatively poor reputation. There are bright spots in this industry, but they seem few and far between for those of us who work in this industry.

DEAN ROGERS: WHO AM I?

About me and my insights. I own and operate several small language schools under the brands Dean Morgan, SALA, and Hummingbird in Tokyo and Osaka. We have been in business since 2004 and currently have six schools with several thousand students studying at our facilities.

I have been approached by Japan Today to write a bi-monthly article about the state of the language school industry and topics relevant to working at a language school in Japan. I am excited (and in a little bit of a state of trepidation due to the nature of the current state of the industry) about this opportunity to share information that I am able to with teachers and other interested parties. Our articles will include subjects focused on teachers, running and improving your own school, and overall news relating to the language school industry from an insider view.

THE BEGINNING: OUR SCHOOL NEARLY FAILED

The successes and failures that I have had as a teacher, and now also as a school owner, and a businessman, have given me a somewhat unique insight into this industry, and to the process of starting and building a language school company. I hope that it can and will be helpful to others, especially teachers and small school owners.

There were a lot of failures in the early days of our schools. In that first year we came inches away from running out of our seed money (and thus bankruptcy). It was only through the commitment and dedication of a lot of great people (and my not taking a salary for a number of years) that got us through those tough times. We are still a young business and, for sure, not perfect, but we are one of the few companies humbly growing in an industry that has been in a steady state of decline.

Matt Kobayashi, our Namba school branch manager, has coined the term "Thrival" ( "survival" combined with "thriving") to describe those early, earnest days. Those early failures and misguided decisions were lessons hard learned, hopefully to our readers' benefit. In recent years, as we have stabilized and grown, I have endeavored to reach out, together with our management team, to be a resource and support center for other small school owners and independent teachers, providing advice, mentoring, and help wherever and whenever possible.

The articles will also be directed at casual readers interested in business, leadership, and management.

REACHING OUT

The goal of this column is to be a larger extension of our ongoing effort to reach out and share knowledge together with great organizations like ETJ, and the E-Quality association. We are also seeking to be a meaningful resource to others who have chosen to make their living as teachers or school owners. The upper management and owners of some large language school companies have kept information at arm's length from teachers and front line people for far too long. It is not difficult to find a blog or forum with teachers and small school owners looking for more information on the state of things in the industry and for business related guidance. Transparency is the key to trust and that lack of transparency has lead to often times very valid mistrust.

To that goal, the hereafter articles, resulting discussions, and forums will be shaped around the challenging topics of running a school, and to shedding light on the issues shaping today's language school industry (the largest employer of foreigners in Japan).

On a side note, I will be presenting material at each of the seven ETJ expos in 2010, put together by David Paul and ETJ, and his outstanding team around Japan again this year. I hope in the coming months to have a chance to meet more teachers, school owners, and teachers looking to be owners.

STATE OF THE LANGUAGE SCHOOL INDUSTRY

Facts and Figures: Population of Japan: 127,076,183
Percentage of the Japanese population that has had some exposure to the English language: Best estimate, in excess of 85%, likely closer to 95%, if not in fact more

Foreign Residents: 2,500,000 (approximately 2% of the population)

English Natives: Approximately 1–1.5% of the 2% English Teachers: Best guess, tens of thousands

A small group to be sure, but with a wide-reaching and influential voice. So, what does the future hold for them and the industry they work in?

TOUGH TIMES FOR EIKAIWA

Difficult straits: The language school industry in Japan is without question in difficult straits at the moment, most clearly exemplified by the well publicized bankruptcy of NOVA two years ago, and the ongoing saga of its ousted CEO. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) recently published data that showed over the last three years a roughly 50% decrease in attendance, and a dramatic drop off in sales (link to data download given here). Even if this information is not 100% accurate, the obvious fact is that things have been in decline. Yano research data has also shown a similar drop off, but not as severe as the METI data. The Yano Research institute data is a bit broader, and they state that in 2008 sales were 767.2 billion yen, down by about 45 billion yen from 2007.

OLD NOVA IS NOT ALONE

The Pink Bunny is not the only school to have gone bankrupt in recent times. Over the last few years, there have been Grandom, Britannica, and more recently during my tenure as a school owner, Lado, NCB and others.

The bankruptcies left many students without refunds on their lessons, and teachers unpaid. In the years preceding the end of the old NOVA, there was a steady flow of these schools going bankrupt. I and our team have closely watched the flow of schools coming and going. For us and other small school owners, it has at times made for rough sailing, due to the negative publicity and thus, insecurity of students, caused by these failures.

EMOTIONAL TIMES: REAL PEOPLE IMPACTED

My first experience with watching a school go bankrupt was in 2005. I watched the local (in Shinjuku) bankruptcy of NCB (we interviewed and hired a few teachers from NCB, so I heard a fair number of first hand stories), a school chain with over 5,000 students. 2006 saw the bankruptcy of Ecole de Paris, a three-school chain in Tokyo with 500-1,000 active students at the time of the bankruptcy.

I personally attended the meeting put on by the French CEO at the time, as our schools teach both English and French. It was a pretty morbid and vicious affair. There were nearly 500 students and teachers, sullen and justifiably angry, who attended that final meeting at the local city office. To be honest, it left a strong impression on me that stays with me even to this day.

On July 23, 2007, ABC Language School based in Osaka, with four locations and nearly 1,000 students, went bankrupt. It had outstanding liabilities, according to covering news services, of about 100,000,000 yen, about half of which was lost student tuition, and half of which was teachers' unpaid salaries.

This was followed by LADO (again we hired a number of their staff during this time) which had four locations, several hundred employees, and 5,000-plus students enrolled, and reportedly hundreds of millions of yen in liabilities. Apart from ABC, all of these schools were well established, and many had been in business for over 20 years.

Back to the present, the reports of other schools going through unmistakably lean times continue. As a school owner, I can fully attest that the market has slowed down from a few years gone by, and that patterns continue to repeat themselves in a broken unhealthy cycle of decline.

PAINFUL FOR STAFF AND STUDENTS

The subject of bankrupt schools is obviously an emotional and personal one for many, especially those who have been personally impacted by the bankruptcies of the old NOVA and other schools. With each bankruptcy, the stories of lost money in one form or another, as a teacher, as a student, or as a vendor to those schools, continue to be heard.

This regular commentary on Japan Today allows us for the first time to share relevant insight on the industry, and provide useful information to teachers and school owners.

In the first three articles, I should like to discuss the business models that currently exist and the way in which the market itself developed. This will provide context in order better to understand the current state of the language school industry as it finds itself today.

When I meet teachers at the English expos put on by ETJ and by others, I am regularly asked about this. I hope this series will provide meaningful information that will help put into perspective the articles relating to our industry. In this first four-part focus series, I shall identify and elaborate on the three most impactive parts of the industry that have led to the current state of matters, separate from the GFC (Global Financial Crisis).

Article #2 The Financial Business Model

Article #3 Package Sales System

Article #4 Management of Foreigners

Beyond this initial focus, the series will turn to other aspects of the language industry in Japan.

I look forward to this opportunity to discuss real and meaningful topics and ongoing issues in the industry, from a business point of view.

The Japan Today commentary system allows for responses and input from readers and I ask and encourage you all to contribute and add to the quality of this series with your meaningful comments and insight. I will endeavor to respond to responsible questions and commentary placed here, and will welcome other relevant topics suggested by our readers for future articles.

© Japan Today

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148 Comments
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sounds good. I am looking forward to reading about this.

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I'm hitting 60, I have about 5 more years of teaching in me .... I wonder if i am teaching material or The Dean is only hiring backpackers ?

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This is the legacy that has been given to us and set for the last 30 years by poor management and uncaring executives.

Or the fact that many English "teachers" would never find work in the teaching profession in their home country, lack any formal qualification for teaching, and lack any other viable skills beyond a clear English accent and the ability to appear engaging to a Japanese person for an hour at a time. The ease with which many "teachers" find work here undermines the integrity of the profession as a whole. Most of them that I've met have used their job merely as a means to hang out in Japan, which is totally fine so long as they are honest with themselves about that.

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The state of the industry is taxing at best for many.Though like every other publication,JT has not mentioned the state concerning GEOS,which has been wimpishly avoided.

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combinibento: "used their job merely as a means to hang out in Japan" no problem with that.

In my part, I'm tired of people asking where I teach before asking my name or where I'm coming from. J people should understand that a foreigner in a suit is not automatically a teacher.

Good for Dean. Hope his business goes well as long he is serious about it.

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This is a very informed article. However, readers/commenters should be aware that the author of this commentary is also a part of the problem. Go to the Sala website and find out how much teachers actually get paid. If there isn't information, email them. What qualifications do they seek or will they take anyone willing to work those wages? Do they promise full time or only advertise for part time? Bear in mind, I very briefly used a teacher web portal service (HeadTeacher.net) he had and got very little in return for my investment. When he says he has hired a few teachers from the failed schools, what he really means to say is he sold them on this web portal program, not as in gainfully employing them at a school with enough hours, enough pay, to make ends meet. I frequently see job postings for his school in Osaka...they certainly aren't expanding in this economy, it's more likely turnover. (Again, ask yourself, why is there turnover at a school in this economy?)

While I agree with much of what was said, do your research and consider the source, Dean Rogers.

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I think part of the reason the industry has a bad name is the structure of the companies. I do not know how the author runs his, but I worked for 7 years for a big eikaiwa that starts with E and ends with C. I could never support a family working there. Not because the salary was low, but because there is no proper health insurance, time-off, labor unions, bonuses etc.

I do not think NOVA is the reason for the bad reputation, I think it is mainly how the eikaiwa companies are structured internally.

On another note, Mr. Rogers is very articulate and pleasant to read. I will be following these articles even though I am not a part of the eikaiwa industry.

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SALA?? Ha! It hires teachers with no clue,pays crap and give a song and dance about how they give back to the community which is BS. I went for an interview there many moons ago for PT classes once and left. It was a crappy building with room dividers for classrooms.

This guy knows nothing about teaching. He might know how to run a business but he certainly shouldn't be out here writing about eikaiwas as he hasn't got a clue about what teaching involves, hire non qualified teachers... Mutton dressed as lamb - though I've seen the mutton that they are.

I love that there is a GABA ad next to this article.

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JT has not mentioned the state concerning GEOS,which has been wimpishly avoided.

Well stated. This should be a page one news item for Japan Today, yet nary a mention of it yet. The Let's Japan forum is awash in ongoing (all bad) developments.

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Good Luck Dean - It's a headache. I used to work for a big company in Tokyo. I couldn't believe the shame they put on the customers. It makes me asahamed to be a teacher. Shames & scams, charging ridiculous money for piss poor service. If I blew the whistle alot of heads would roll.

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The language industry is in total chaos & very bizarre, alot of snakes in the garden. Alot of crooked shysters !!!!

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Sala website looks like a dating agency for gaijin guys and Japanese girls. Some of those longing looks was like...yuck!!

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There are some classes of people who want to go live in Japan:

some can study -> they enter a university in Japan

some can work -> they enter a company in Japan

some can do something else -> they do whatever they do in Japan

some can do none of the above -> they become English teachers in Japan
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nobody blew the whistle on Nova and guess what?

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Very cynical post sarcasm123. Reeking of Gaijin-classism which is one of the ugliest aspects of ex-pats living in Japan

some can study -> they enter a university in Japan

Most teachers have degrees already.

some can do none of the above -> they become English teachers in Japan

A lot of teachers I know are quite clever, have worked as professionals in their native countries and could slot back in easily if they wanted to go home. The fact is that they like teaching and enjoy making a difference to peoples lives in Japan. The industry does have its clods - but name one that doesnt.

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Yes I'm wondering why GEOS hasn't been covered in the news.

Moderator: Nothing has happened yet in Japan. If and when it does, Japan Today will report it.

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"Why the heck do you want to become an English teacher?”

Wrong question. Why do you think you can become a teacher.

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I'm surprised that nobody has commented on the statistics in this article - it makes for some pretty harsh viewing for anyone who is an English teacher right now because it probably means another big eikaiwa (everything seems to point towards GEOS as being Japans next casualty) is eventually going to go belly-up in the same way everyones favourite pink-bunny-brand did 2 years ago.

Regardless of which way you view the English teaching industry, this isn't a particularly great time for a lot of people and that suggests it's going to get worse... a lot of GOOD teachers were also hit hard when Nova collapsed so it's a bit unfair to label all teachers as being unskilled and unable to do anything else (although there's no smoke without fire and I'm sure everyone has met at least one muppet only teaching so that they can get a visa to sleep with as many Japanese girls as possible...)

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Here is an idea for you. Hire qualified English teachers with degrees in teaching. Passing off English speakers, as "teachers", is fraud, the Chatty Parrot is better and cheaper then most of your staff. How many percent of your staff hold actual degrees in English education, specifically English majors? Do you hold a degree from an accredited university in teaching English? Japanese have no more money to waist on fake teachers. Get real.

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You need an English degree to say "Repeat, what is your name?" I agree hiring teachers with degrees weeds out the trash, but please do not start on about how eikaiwa teachers in Japan are intellectual upper-class professionals. Those are at the university.

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Guest - I've met teachers who hold teaching degrees or celta/tesol qualifications yet have the personality of a loaf of bread. Eikawa is just as much a sales industry as it is a teaching industry and just because you hold a qualification doesn't mean that you are good at a job... There's only so far you can go with experience gained through studying in any profession!

It would only be 'fraud' if schools were advertising teachers as holding qualifications which they don't have!

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I worked at Sala in Osaka for a couple of years. They may not pay top dollar salaries but I really liked what they were trying to do there. Good luck to everyone there.

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Hire qualified English teachers with degrees in teaching.

All a matter of supply and demand. The super qualified are simply not available at the prices and conditions most Japanese schools are willing to pay. They also may not be prepared to teach kids or housewives who will never get it, no matter who is teaching. The word you may have been looking for guest is "waste".

intellectual upper-class professionals. Those are at the university.

Dont be so sure ahocchau. There is a lot of cronyism at Universities here. Guys getting jobs for their buddies who hate the students and campus jobs being farmed out to Eikaiwa chains that send teachers who have little to no qualifications in English teaching.

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@tokyochris I resent that you call many of my friends muppets

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Guest, I like your logic. Stay lurking in the shadows, critical of everything others are trying to do to better their own situation and those who share their industry. Either you know nothing about the industry and are speaking from the perspective of blathering outsider, or you are part of the industry and have given up on trying to make any type of an improvement in your own situation or those surrounding you. Sarcasm, doubt, criticism and loathing have long been the calling cards of great innovators.

Maybe Dean Rogers will make a difference in the industry and maybe he won't. At least he's trying something other than criticism and complaining. Besides, I think this article is directed more at people who are interested in taking action to improve their situations while being willing to work at it, rather than waiting for others to simply give them more. If you deserve better then prove it. If not then at least sulk quietly.

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Looking forward to reading this stuff, but I'm more interested in the business end of things.

By the way, it's not just foreigners in Japan that look down on eikaiwa teachers. I was talking with someone in the U.S. and he asked me what I did in Japan. I said I was teacher. He said, "Oh, you're one of those," or something to that effect.

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The whole racket needs reform like the banks in the 90s... To be quite frank...every industry in Japan including the Govt. needs reform but thanks for the 2 cents Dean and I also enjoyed your interview last summer... I printed it out and passed it on to a few guys. Wish we could get in touch or cross paths to get some serious action started and I am in Tokyo and Kansai. Its just hard to find businessman-teacher guys with vision for an entire nation. You will get a lot of ugly stick here but there are clever ones who high five your mission and business. Cheers Dean and JT

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It would only be 'fraud' if schools were advertising teachers as holding qualifications which they don't have!

The word "teacher" implies that a person was granted a degree from an accreted university to teach.

Much the same way a trademark cannot involve a place name for its product. Example calling sparkling wine, Champagne if its not made in the Champagne region of France. invoking the name teacher is misleading. Maybe conversationists, would be more accurate. People could then make an informed choice as to the quality of education they are paying for.

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Some schools, like this guy's, accept less than 5% of applicants. Not all English teaching jobs are easy to get.

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Teaching English is a tough nut. I can't believe how you survived without a salary for two years. That would wipe out my savings. Good luck.

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Two key points.

Career Teachers: Having and developing career teachers will improve the image as well as assure students of quality. This means salaries that allow good people to consider English teaching as a real and viable career. It also means empowering teachers to have a hand in maintaining quality and developing new ideas. And it means providing them with real benefits so that they feel like employees and not disposable staff.

Customer Centered: Take a page from Six Sigma and see your business from the customer's point of view. Listen to them, gain their feedback, and invite them to share ideas. This is where you can regain customer confidence in your sincerity. If your environment, materials, policies and attention are customer focused, you will have a much greater chance of gaining and retaining students. Find out what they want and give it to them.

I spent six months providing process improvement services for a large Eikawa several years ago. My background was corporate and I applied that thinking to their sales and back office processes. We were able to reduce costs, expand the sales force by altering roles and eliminating red tape so that more people could help clients and less were needed to process paperwork.

On the learning center side we started taking ongoing quality measurements and started to evaluate performance on client feedback.

Sadly the company didn't take it to the next step. They should have started to work to refine lesson content and all other services to better adapt to the client's needs. And they should have started to explore ways to find new client bases.

Most of all english schools need to share the fact that their client centered with the public and put action behind it to prove it. And retain the people needed to assure that quality is delivered by making them fully supported and reasonably paid full time staff. I strongly believe that this will help rebuild the reputation of English schools.

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The word "teacher" implies that a person was granted a degree from an accreted university to teach

Since when? I thought it meant someone who teaches something.

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How could someone live for several years without a salary? That's a bit of a stretch. As for teaching, salary's hover around 200,000 which is lower than the Japanese working Poor. I think Interact even has 170,000 yen in some places. Teaching is a good profession, but it is not paid unless you work for JET (The government directly) and/or a University (which by law outsource companies are not allowed to do business.) That said, teaching is a life style here. Freedom. Often not very long hours. And let's not forget the women. I did it before and while I was sitting at a coffee shop learning Japanese on my free time, the foreign company workers would walk by in their dark suits walking (to an almost run) to their next meeting. While they make a ton more, at the time it was nice to party. University gigs are the best. 4 months off a year paid and salary's are actually pretty good. (no outsource companies) If you worked a part-time job in the off months, you would make almost as much as an expat. It is the outsource companies that have made teaching in Japan a shameful job. The charge their customers "schools" 350,000 yen to 400,000 yen and pay their staff often 1/2. It is a scam because they promise their customers the best, but who works for that. Global Partners a long time ago hired me for a job. The school came to me directly and asked me what they were paying. It was 1/2. The school was very upset that they would take so much and understood why I would bolt out the door at the last bell. Found out later that working for them was a visa violation. It is illegal for Humanities visa holders to work for an outsource company and/or for yourself. So 99% of these companies are breaking the law. Anyway, teaching is honorable but to teach you need to have experience and education. Most of which is not in this field here. Even this guy admits he didn't have any background in it. i.e. Japanese can't understand English and the reputation is low.

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Either you know nothing about the industry and are speaking from the perspective of blathering outsider, or you are part of the industry and have given up on trying to make any type of an improvement in your own situation or those surrounding you.

Or maybe im sick and tired of supposed "teachers" in Japan ridiculing their students. Maybe I find it offensive that people who are being paid good, hard earned money, from decent and trusting Japanese people, laughing about how they do absolutely nothing to earn that money, and even comment that the people they purport to teach, are suckers. But, the biggest complaint by far, that these teachers have, is against the unscrupulous managers that operate those language companies. Ask any teacher of language in Japan, in a candid conversation, and you will here those same complaints.

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Good luck to Dean and Noel at Sala and DMA. Both are highly qualified people trying to build a company and create a legacy. Either of them could be doing other work in Japan. While I myself am not a teacher, when I first came to Japan SALA hooked me up with a job which I did for a few months until I found what I wanted to do. As a result of that job I made some very close Japanese friends that I still keep today and who have helped me a lot in my current business.

Good guys trying to do good things.

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I want to praise Mr. Rogers for looking at his industry with eyes open, acknowledging its problems, opening himself up to and realizing a vision for something far better, and applying himself to achieve that vision. You simply can't ask for a better foundation for success.

As the owner of a small but growing services company, I totally agree that caring is at the heart of what we really do. As someone once described sculpture as the process of removing the material that doesn't need to be there, it has been my experience that teaching is a relationship of trust and helpfulness, first and foremost -- and one which drives the teacher to help the student remove the obstacles in the path to their learning. This is a psychological/emotional task as much as it is an intellectual one, in my opinion.

I will look forward to more articles by Mr. Rogers!

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200,000? Wow, what kind of company are you talking about? I made twice that teaching English.

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My take is the problem is that most of the "teachers" are not career people. Some are, and likely are good at their trade. Many, however, are recent graduates on a "working vacation", others people who speak English with a native accent --but know little to no formal grammar and got laid off at their "sales job" (phone monkey) back home and had nothing better to do than travel, make some spare money and meet other young people and have fun.

So, by and large, I think the problem is with perceived and real lack of professionalism. Many are really nice people but aside from being good talkers, have little else in the way of marketable skills. If they had, they'd be doing something more profitable --I mean, except for the few who might be bone fide educators and love teaching. Those, however, would likely get a gig a for-real place -like a university.

Good luck to him, though, maybe he'll be the savior of the racket.

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Those who think the eikaiwa industry in Japan is about education have a limited understanding of Japanese culture. It does serve to teach some people, but it is actually more of a controlled cultural experience situation. Japanese people pay to interact with foreigners and learn about them in a situation where the foreigner is obliged to be patient, defer to them, and where the student can complain if the experience is bad. It's culture as a customer and it's "safer" and far less intimidating than the real world.

If language schools were only about education, there would be a much smaller industry for language learning in Japan. Given how many Japanese people regard foreigners (unpredictable, loud, scary), they prefer the controlled environment of schools to actual travel abroad. It's the same reason they often take package tours rather than set their own itinerary when they travel. Someone else is looking after there interests.

By narrowing the scope to "education", you view the schools from a very ethnocentric perspective. It's much more than that.

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m5c32: You hit it. What I found in my 6 years of teaching here is that only about 20% of English teachers are seriously devoted to their craft and really care about helping their students. About 60% seem to enjoy it and do a respectable job but it's only a temporary gig for them cause they have other plans. The other 20% are total losers who have no direction in life and don't care about teaching at all; they just want to put in the least amount of effort for the biggest paycheck possible.

Doubt that this is likely to change unless language schools start hiring only the qualified and devoted teachers, offering them better incomes and better benefits.

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Really? then they should stop the pretense and call themselves "cultural studies institutes," "fenced foreigners," "foreigner fetish" or some other descriptor and drop the whole "teaching" aspect. You know, come correct about it. Veritas vos liberabit, as they say.

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The Eikaiwa industry in Japan has become a necessary evil. Lots of people need it to conduct business, evil because of the way it has manipulated this necessity by hiring those who couldn't care less about their students and ripping off both those teachers who are committed to giving quality lessons and students.

DMA, SALA, and Hummingbird recognize this and are doing something about it.

TMarie- all native speakers at DMA are required to teach including management. They don't just talk the talk.

Quest-your comments highlight the reason why the Eikaiwa is in the situation it is. While the kind of teachers you speak about do exist, it's hardly fair to lump us all in the same pile.

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good point Orchid64. In my experience the majority of students were looking for the experience you describe. Only a minority were serious about language learning.

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Yes it is a good observation Orchid64. But does it really matter what the student is coming in for? If they want the cultural experience then fine give it to them. That's part of the whole sales idea. Give the customer what they want. But if the customer/student wants to seriously learn the language you need to have the teachers that are able to teach.

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Orchid64: Yes, that's very true. Perhaps what is needed is two separate industries. Real English language schools for teachers who are serious about teaching and students who are serious about learning English. And cultural exchange centers where Japanese people can go to chat with foreigners. It certainly would simplify things for both the teacher and the student. Also it would make expectations of the student clearer for the teacher.

In my experience, I sometimes found it difficult to determine exactly what kind of lesson the student wanted. Some would claim to be 'serious' learners but then didn't seem to really want the teacher to correct them, didn't want any homework and didn't do any extra studying at home.

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While the kind of teachers you speak about do exist, it's hardly fair to lump us all in the same pile.

Yes, that's true. Sorry for making it seem like all teachers are the same, I didn't mean to imply that. Many Teachers do good work.

m5c32 at 02:47 PM JST - 4th February

Really? then they should stop the pretense and call themselves "cultural studies institutes," "fenced foreigners," "foreigner fetish" or some other descriptor and drop the whole "teaching" aspect. You know, come correct about it. Veritas vos liberabit, as they say.

Exactly!! A two tier system is needed, one with accredited teachers, and one for non accredited teachers. How about Best Conversationists Academy.

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Yes, I myself limit my social excursions to the more trendy areas of Tokyo nightspots lest I be pegged a lowlife for being an English teacher. And this despite having a B.A. in English, a Canadian teaching certificate, and a MEd in TESOL from Temple U with 25 years experience in the trenches. Once the info harmlessly issues forth from your lips that you teach English, many of the more 'elite' occupation gaijins' eyes just glaze over as a large L sign appears on your forehead. It's a shame as I like to go out but there is too much pigeon-holing here.

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guest at 11:20 AM JST - 4th February......."The word "teacher" implies that a person was granted a degree from an accreted university to teach"...... Wow i hope you don't teach that definition to your students there guest. You are a bit off target on that one. I think you better go and blow the dust off your dictionary.

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Opps i meant quest not guest

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I look forward to future articles in this series for both personal as well as professional reasons. Thirty years ago, I had the honor and privilege of being selected for the Monbusho English Fellow program (MEF) which was the predecessor to the current JET program. I spent two years teaching English in the public junior and senior high schools in Nara-ken. I also assisted my Japanese supervisor, who was the prefectural curriculum specialist for English, in teacher training.

My question for Mr. Rogers regards his credentials to teach English - at minimum, does he have TESOL/EFL training, a linguistics or English degree, or is his experience to teach derived from on the job training? I'd also like to know about the state of technical English programs in Japan - my cousin, who is an engineer at Intel, is curious about the employment potential in this English education niche in Japan.

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Interesting comments about Hummingbird above. I worked for them before it went under due to mismanagement and misappropriation, got sold and repackaged and let me tell you, upper management had a very poor view of students and their motivations. I was once told by saxophone-playing upper management that "they all want to sleep with foreigners - men and women, and don't think about what is taught; only that they feel good". Only the branch managers and teachers cared.

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kanadamanada- was that the view of upper management before the sale or after?

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People do what they do, not necessarily out of love for what they do, but to survive. English teaching in Japan is no different. Many English teachers only have the ability to speak English as their sole qualification. There are actually software programs now that do a better job of actually teaching languages than do most teachers. Those with a true desire to learn will find a way with or without a teacher.

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Enjoyed your piece (and I hope it helps grow your business you discuss) Mr. Rogers, but I have some thoughts to share. In any event, it will take more than what I read in the above "column" to make a dent in the ongoing Japanese struggle with foreign languages. This struggle is an old one and will remain with Japan indefinitely.

The reason for this is simple linguistics to some extent. As you must know, Japanese is indeed unique and for the most part largely unrelated to any language on the planet. Obviously, I refer not to the writing system, for we are talking about language as spoken communication here.

Any linguist can point to a chart showing the degree of separation between Japanese and other languages, specifically English in this case. That degree of separation itself is logically responsible for much of the difficulty a Japanese student of a foreign language MUST face. That is a built-in obstacle. One that can be overcome, but not easily.

English is closely related to the Romance languages the most well-known o f which are French, Spanish, and Italian. Therefore, a native English speaker is confronted with less difficulty in acquiring these languages. Furthermore, we can discuss the Indo-European family of languages. Again less difficulty than a Japanese learner will encounter.

I think the first task is to let students know that they are doing something tough (tougher for them than others) when they tackle a foreign language. Once they realize this, they will feel a greater sense of accomplishment on the other hand, and I would predict positive results.

Of course the Japanese learner would benefit greatly from English being an official and regular part of public school curriculum. After all, the earlier one starts learning the better.

Then again, as these products of a regular English curriculum take their place in society, the "language schools" will logically find business less rewarding.

Even now, some English teachers will honestly point out to his or her student(s) that the number, type, and quality of **English language materials available for "self-study" is almost beyond belief these days,and this, combined with the potential of computers and the internet, means students can learn more on their own with less actual "language school time." Providing such information can be of great advantage to the students. Teachers then, focus more on providing such valuable information and function more like consultants. There are still too many Japanese out there who don`t realize how much has changed, including the tools (such as cell phones and "talking" electronic dictionaries). They need to be apprised of these changes.

Given the above and considering it as a whole, it is hard to see any resurgence or growth in the conventional "language school market."

**And almost all of these published by domestic publishers, rather than the largely British or American companies we know so well and love. Maybe not love. Their slice of the pie is greatly reduced compared to the past.

In my next issue, if I have one, I might discuss my firm belief that the successful foreign language teacher have a firm grasp on Japanese before teaching English here, or at least study Japanese even as he or she teaches. The reason for this, again, is to know the unique qualities (and we see that "unique" is not always a good thing) of Japanese so that the teacher can handle the well-understood "rough spots" in English for the Japanese learner.

Nor, as we well know, does a TESL, ESL, TESOL degree always the better teacher make. Advanced degrees in this area (with all due respect), moreover, tend to be somewhat easier to obtain than advanced degrees in other fields.

Perhaps this is an area for further debate.

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The author describes non teachers looking down on teachers. Now in comments we get certified teachers looking down on non certified teachers. Please all the snooty certified teachers: It isn't rocket science to teach your native language to children using a proper curriculum and with a college degree. Get over yourselves and get off us.

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What about English taught by non-qualified English teachers from South and South-east Asia?

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“Why the heck do you want to become an English teacher?”

In my experience English Teachers are the most rude and unfriendly of all the groups of foreigners in Japan....

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A question for the gallery:

How much of an advantage does it give a native speaker of English who also speaks Japanese fluently? (Assuming also their raw teaching ability is on par with the top 20% in their profession.)

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Perhaps what is needed is two separate industries. Real English language schools for teachers who are serious about teaching and students who are serious about learning English. And cultural exchange centers where Japanese people can go to chat with foreigners.

We already have the latter. They're called 'English Cafes'. Sometimes 'Gaijin bars' too.

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my experience English Teachers are the most rude and unfriendly of all the groups of foreigners in Japan....

if you stay with idiot kids even one hour you become an idiot, so this true.

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I spent 7 years teaching english in Japan and have just recently returned to my home country.

while in Japan I worked for 2 different companies, the first was teaching mainly kids, I would describe this as basic kindy stuff.

My second school was with one of the larger chains (Not Nova) with this company came a challange of effectivly teaching different levels, from aged 3 up to business people.

The industry needs to be customer focused and deliver specifically to the customers needs, purpose and Goal.

In Japan there has been deep divisions in the debate of english instruction within the Japanese public school system, where english is concerned.

The foreign community offered to help to formulate more constructive english tuition, these were rejected.

Deffinately Nova`s situation knocked the confidence of students out of the industry and mistrust about quality surfaced.

I never regret my time in Japan and certainly got satisfaction in seeing students improving thier level and most of all confidence, through having a communicative goal orientated lesson.

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Oh, I was amazed by it. I would have thought like the finance guys or expats would be the worst - I mean money is supposed to make people arrogant right? No, English teachers are terrible, just out and out rude for no specific reason. Maybe teaching all day makes one forget how to relate to other people? I don't know...

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LoveUSA: no, there aren’t idiots kids. They can be lazy, spoiled, and rude but not idiots. Completely agreed with m5c32. Moreover native speaker doesn’t mean automatically good English teacher.

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#

ratpack at 04:04 PM JST - 4th February

guest at 11:20 AM JST - 4th February......."The word "teacher" implies that a person was granted a degree from an accreted university to teach"...... Wow i hope you don't teach that definition to your students there guest. You are a bit off target on that one. I think you better go and blow the dust off your dictionary.

Lets use common sense.

When you learned to speak English in your native country, you were taught by an accredited teacher, with a degree. Teachers in Japan also need to posses a degree to teach.

Most English teachers in Japan are more actually, English coaches, as they posses no degree in teaching.

There is a big difference between a coach and a teacher.

If your selling a product or service it is not a good idea to mislead your customers.

Being honest in your business practice is the owners of these schools responsibility. This is not an attack against English teachers, you would be paid the same money if you were called coaches, but, true teachers with degrees in teaching, would be paid better, and Japanese students could get what they pay for.

Im sure that most of you are excellent English coaches.

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Japanese people pay to interact with foreigners and learn about them in a situation where the foreigner is obliged to be patient, defer to them, and where the student can complain if the experience is bad....it's "safer" and far less intimidating than the real world.

Orchid64, excellent summary of what most eikaiwa students seek.

Dean Rogers, I enjoyed your interview last summer, especially the specifics you mentioned about what lead to your success. You mentioned recording every lesson which both allows student to review the lessons, as well as provides data from which management can judge the validity of student complaints. I'm hoping your future articles will include more specific, practical insights like these.

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guest: I learned English from my mother and father. Probably most people did. By the time a child enters school they are already far more fluent than the vast majority of students taking eikaiwa. My personal opinion is that a degree in education is not particularly useful in the average eikaiwa situation. A degree in english as a second (or foreign) language would be very useful, though.

Before I came to Japan, I worked for 20 years as a computer programmer. Many of the most successful programmers I worked with did not have a degree in computer science. Some didn't have a degree at all. One didn't even have a high school diploma. An accredited university is not the only place where you can pick up skills. In fact if I think of the people I know who have degrees in the Japanese language, most of them don't even have the fluency of the aforementioned 5 year old when then graduate from college. Does the piece of paper make them better qualified to be a Japanese speaker?

As far as I know there is no industry protection for the word "teacher" like there might be for the word "doctor". In Japan you must have a degree (any degree) and pass the teacher's exam to work in a public school. To work in a private school you don't even need to take the exam. There is no such expectation on the title.

Certainly it would be great if more English teachers were qualified to do their job. But a degree in education is definitely not a guarantee of this for eikaiwa. As it is a private industry, caveat emptor is the rule and students should ask tough questions about the qualifications of their teachers.

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TMarie- all native speakers at DMA are required to teach including management. They don't just talk the talk.

What's your point? I've been to the Osaka office and it was less impressive. Looked like every other crappy eikaiwa but they were trying to convince folks they were giving some back to the community.

It is even more sketchy when you know that a former JET was helping run the office while skipping all his JET classes, upsetting everyone he worked for and the BOE wanted to fire him. Giving back, eh? Dont think so. If they are so good where are their credentials like Cambridge tests and whatnot? Oh, they have none. Just another place trying to scam the Japanese out of their money - at least they were original with the giving back BS.

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I am not a teacher nor an educator but here is my take. Back home teaching a language is not mandatory or really encouraged where I come from. The teachers were mostly unquantified who may have spent some time in another country. What was even more disappointing is they weren't even native speakers mostly. It's pretty sad when the students in many cases knew more then what the teachers did. Something tells me Japan may be similar in some respects. The requirements for teaching English in Japan is well below what would be considered acceptable by US standards. Teaching English in Japan or elsewhere kinda has a bad stigma as you admitting to your failure as one back home. Universities may be somewhat better but this has been my experience. In contrast what good teachers do manage to make there way over here have many obstacles. Like back home many schools which have a foreign language on the curriculum are not that interested in it being there. It is more looked at like an extracurricular activity and not of much importance. As in Japan's case, qualified teachers at least in the school environment are discouraged by lack of support from teachers staff etc.

This even becomes more discouraging when all the regulations are put forth on how and in what way they can teach their class. Nothing like being reduced to teaching with your hands behind your back. Teaching English in Japan in the school environment at least is pointless until administrates start taking it seriously and as an important part of their curriculum. For those you which to learn meaningful English private classes and or organizations like EIKAIWA need to be more widespread, more easily available for those to wish to learn and more innovative in their approach to teaching. This eventually will improve I believe but getting enough on board to make any difference is going to be a major challenge, not to mention cost effective. It just seems at current that English in Japan has no substance and of little use to anyone. Although one area which shows promise is Cyber Classroom or something along those lines. This has been done on a somewhat smaller scale to great effect.

I myself attend a weekly class with a native speaker and a class of about 6 students. It is tapped so if I miss it i can always review. I basically pay every 6 months to a year. You avoid running into all the red tape of a traditional classroom environment and the teachers are motivated and well qualified. This could be a considerable cost savings and allow to focus on fewer more qualified and accreted teachers. I don't know just some ideas to put forth. It would be my dream one day to be able to interact with other students throughout the world in a sort of online language university. Teaching and learning as we go. Highly ambitious I know but it cold happen. Teaching English should be fun and interesting while being productive. By in large that is just not the case at present in the current program. If the state of teaching English in Japan is going to survive. New and more creative ways or teaching are going to need to be brought forth. English will never likely be used widespread but for those you have the desire to learn we need to do our best in proving students the best educational experience possible. This is a battle well worth fighting for.

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This guy knows nothing about teaching. He might know how to run a business but he certainly shouldn't be out here writing about eikaiwas as he hasn't got a clue about what teaching involves,

What makes you think he doesn't know anything about teaching? Because of your alleged experience in Osaka?

My point was he,The owner and C.E.O. actually sits down at a desk in front of a computer and teaches students who show up for his lessons and walk away, not just satisfied, but happy. Hence the fact the company has been growing in new student numbers unlike the big Eikaiwas and fly by night operators out there.

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I don't think the industry in Japan has any future without proper regulation, accreditation, approval and guarantee of fees by the government. There is nothing to stop any Willy Wonka opening or running a school (or even using that name) in Japan. There are no audits (educational) or inspections to ensure quality or anything like a quality assurance system. Consequently schools compete with the lowest cost model that make the highest profit (Gabba? at present) with disastrous results. Sorry Dean, but I don't believe good intentions, nice smile, sales system, or financial business model etc are enough in the long run even in Japan. When Geos owned schools went bust in Australia (I'm not an Aussie or work for Geos) the government's compulsory insurance scheme made sure the students didn't get burned and will be able to continue their studies at approved language schools with qualified teachers who teach on accredited courses, thereby helping maintain confidence. In Japan, the confidence is disappearing and there is little awareness of what changes are needed. Let me finish this off by going straight for the jugular. Regulation must ensure all the Willy Wonka outfits are and stay shut down.

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I have to admit, that my first thoughts on English teachers is of people who can't get a proper job. Almost like a conman selling snake oil.

But building up ones own company earns my honest and utmost respect.

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I agree with some of the quotes on here about having a degree. The fact is that just because you have a English Language Degree or any degree does not in any way shape or form, make you a good teacher. I think that College is overrated and has been for many years. I know that in the U.S. even people who have degrees can't get a good job. Most companies that are worth a dime need people with experience and not just a degree. It all about money just like these schools here in Japan. There are people who have comon sense smarts and people who have book smarts. I wish people would lay off the your not qualified because you didnt got to College or University to become an English Teacher. If a person is motivated enough and has a love for teaching, they will do great! Oh and I think Willy Wonka became famous! Final thoughts, there is allot of what I call lost talent out there because so many have this must have a 4 year degree issue. I feel your only hurting your company by allowing such shallow thinking to exsist. For me its basic "Love for what you do and motivation to do it"

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tmarie, you sure do have an impressive resume on this man's company and are certainly more qualified to criticize him than you are to teach. I wouldn't let a shrewd man/woman/finger-pointer like you near any of my students. Your bitterness seems contagious and I like to keep my classrooms clean. I do hope you use that 99% bacteria cleaning soap to clean yourself of disdain before typing angry rants.

You've been to the Osaka office once...and you made crystallized and ironclad observation in 30 seconds that gives you some kind of backseat driver's license for the industry. (Pause for impressed whistling sound as I collect myself)

When I was a kid, I once visited the White House as part of a group tour. Does that mean my fifteen second glimpse of the Lincoln bedroom makes me a qualified candidate for president? Or does it simply mean nobody really wants to hear what I have to say, I wasn't elected to any position and I should probably keep my mouth shut and let others who want to produce something go about their business of producing it?

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Come to think of it tmarie, your connection to the company seems to stop at the interview. You claim to have left, but judging by the quality, content and comprehensibility of your posts, I would put my money on Dean Rogers having good people screening the candidates. You probably never got a call back from them. Did you?

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Many people just love accentuating the negative of this or that foreigner's drawbacks in relation to being a teacher or not.It is often petty,rarely constructive,but reads more into the psyche of some beaten down people,whom if they were all that,would go out and build their own brick or should I say school and show how it should be done and be proud of it.

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Thanks to everyone who have added their comments on the forums. It is rather late, so please give a bit of flexibility on my late night prose and lack of effective spell checking.

Cracaphat – The article series is not dedicated to one particular company. I hope to provide meaning information through the article series that allows people to make more informative assessments. Also I believe JT will write on something relating to GEOS if and when something more substantial occurs that can be reported on.

Tumbledry – quite serious about it. Thank you for the well wishes.

Otakufreak – I have tried to be and continue to try to provide meaningful help and services to both our students and services. All of those efforts have not been as successful for the people that used them as we had hoped. I am not sure what the web portal service that you are talking about is as I have never owned a site named headteacher.net. We did work on an online scheduling and support service called headmaster.com for nearly 2 years that we shelved due to at that time our inability to support the service to the level that the customers needed. If this was the case with you and (not headteacher.net… which would thus not be us). I am sorry that the service was not up to your expectations. New first time offerings are not always the glowing success that you hope they will be.

Ahocchau – Thanks. The company structures and business models in depth is part of this planned series. I hope you enjoy the read in the coming weeks.

Intheknow – JT monitor addresses this in a later post, but they report on hard news wherever possible. Let’s Japan and Shawn do a great job providing open discussions and information leads, which is not necessarily right for JT. (my view at least) Quest – I took a degree in Japanese from UCLA. 4 years of studying languages and linguistics. I speak nearly fluent Japanese, and have taught over 5000 lessons here in Japan. I hope that allows me some leeway to be considered a teacher. Hep501 – Thanks for the comments. Pay has gone up every year since I bought SALA. We continue to raise salaries as the business has grown. I had a bit of a hard start with the original business that I purchased as prices were too low. Most of the price increases have gone right back into salary increases.

Therightsofman – 2nd paragraph is right on the money.

Tarento - The focus is on the business end. There is a lot of excellent writing on classroom structures, teaching styles and methods but little hard data on the business. That is the focus of this series. Hope you enjoy it.

My2sense – Vision to reality. The proof is always in the pudding as they say. We still have a fair ways to go.

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Bicultural – our last hiring in July in Tokyo was less than 1% actually. We hired 5 people. It is a bit of a running joke with those guys as they all have “a number” that they can quote. Many of them applied through gaijinpot and when you apply you get told what number applicant you are. I believe our curriculum designer who was hired in this group was number nine hundred and something.

Tkoind2 – Well said, if you want to contact me through one of the schools and identify yourself I would be happy to meet and talk more. Well written.

Noborito – Good question. It was not easy. It started with me moving away from the expat life I had been living into a 25m 1rm apartment 5 minutes walk from my office, and living eating and drinking teaching and our business for the first several years. It was not easy.

Bobbafett – You obviously know us. Thanks for the well wishes.

Yabits – look forward to your constructive feedback on those upcoming articles. Glad you appreciate the content.

M5c32 – You are right. Most are not career people when they come here fresh out of college and many do not become career oriented while working at a language school, largely because there is no career opportunity being offered. You have to offer an opportunity and a vision for where the business is going and then back it up with results and opportunities before people can turn into “career people”. Don’t want to be the savior, just build a great company that does great things for great people.

Orchid64 – really interesting insight, and one I would agree with to some degree. It is a safe environment to take steps to learn to communicate with non-Japanese for some. Nicely stated and quite succinct. Yabusama – agreed. And yes we teach a lot and it does make a difference to everyone in the business from the reception to the teachers, and the students.

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Sctaber56 – In my personal case as addressed earlier, I have a degree in Japanese and studied in the linguistics dept for 4 years at UCLA. It’s a pretty darn good program. I hope I picked up a thing or two there… On the job… yes I have taught “a few…” lessons. ^ - ^. 5k plus and counting.

Kanadamanada – was pleasantly surprised to see a former Hummingbird teacher on here. Welcome. Hummingbird was in really dire circumstances when we bought the rights. The parent company did right by the customers and the employees and unlike many other companies in this industry paid out their employees and refunded students money. So, they may have had weak management but they did follow through with their employees and students from this standpoint. Hummingbird was our most profitable division last year. For the employees who have come over to the business with us it was a pretty huge year. The business lost money for 8 years straight to the ire of the former company and they (the teachers) knew it the whole time. They can and should be proud of their achievement in 2010. We have most definitely changed a lot about how the business was run and the model itself. It is a great program that was run by teachers without considering that you have to DO BOTH WELL, teach well and run a business well. We hope we are doing that now and that it is reflected in the results of the business. Ogino-sensei is doing a great job heading up the day to day for us now. I welcome you to come over and visit the Shinjuku team and see the school.

Yabusama – He is referring to before. I am familiar with what he is referring to. Different management, and different times now.

Ashika1009 – Agreed, Agreed, Agreed……… Right on the money just about through your whole “article..”. Come by a DMA or SALA school and you will find that over half our teachers speak 1kyu or 2kyu Japanese. You will also find a computer in every single booth which is set up with a lot of technology most of which we have spent the last 5 years developing. Think ERP for Eikaiwa that ties everything together from learning systems, to operations, CRM, reporting, tracking, and financial. Japanese: It is not a prerequisite, but shows a dedication to Japan and to learning the language of the people you are trying to teach. Many of our meetings are conducted in Japanese as pretty much all of us are fairly comfortable in the language at a pretty high level. The ones who are not great speakers, are good teachers and almost without exception learning Japanese. We offer Japanese lessons to our foreign staff by the way for all reasons above and many of the ones stated in your “article”. Thanks for the obvious time and effort you put into your comment. In terms of TESOL, ESL etc.. I look on it as good formal education that can do nothing but benefit the teacher and shows a dedication to improving oneself in the area of teaching. Definitely not a minus.

Audreyruqburn – The same thought did cross my mind when reading a few of the comments this evening.

Yabits – It sure does not hurt does it to understand and have studied the language of the people you are teaching. Then again I am a bit biased.

Mark MaCracken – I do remember you from the interview article. Welcome back = ). We will get into some very specific stuff. One of the articles will be going into great detail and break down the exact costs and expenditures for running a language school for example. All the good stuff that is “not public”. I own 6 of them so have a few cases to work off of. Hope it sheds light and adds knowledge and transparency for people.

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Kyoken, good post, the guy had a vision and went for it, good on him, he is his own boss, Ive been here 7 years and owned an English school moved on to another 2 different fields that caught my interest now I'm kicking ass in Japan doing something no body else is doing, I found My niche and it wasn't being an English teacher,I cant spell for shit(thanks spell checker) but as Dean Rodgers said, we are all English teachers now in the eyes of the Japanese, thank god i can say something different at an event, sometimes i say "im sorry i dont speak English" In japanese, am I being small to say this? should I charge them to talk to me at a party? whats the difference? School-nightclub-bar-coffeeshop, English is an asset, start charging to Speak to anybody in english, Learn Japanese ,sorry the dribble, all i wanted to say was good post Kyoken. at 12:16 AM JST - 5th February

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First I would like to say that these are very interesting comments. I have a couple of points and questions. My understanding from Japanese who have paid to go to some of the big schools, some now closed, they all seem to have gone in with the understanding that the schools were a path to learning English and not a means in and of themselves. One does not learn a language by going to a class a few times a week but by using the language every day until he/she becomes so familiar with the new language that he/she dreams in that language.

That said I really agree that English language teachers should be taking Japanese classes while they are in Japan, with the hope of learning enough Japanese and using Japanese daily so to improve their ability to communicate with Japanese students that they may teach and to improve their own quality of life while in Japan.

Another point that has been stated is that English teachers need to be certified teachers. While this may do a good bit to improving the competitiveness of English teachers it doesn't equate to better teaching. Many schools in England, Australia and the USA are full of bad certified teachers, whom should not be teaching. Some people are just not cut out to teach. Look at most professors at universities. They were, by and large, not taught how to teach but rather were thrown to the wolves as graduate students and over time mastered their "craft" at least the classroom aspects or saw that this was not their game and got out of the program.

When it comes to English teachers in Japan, most companies require a college degree. Why? Because a college degree means that the person should have some body of knowledge, including use of the English language, from which to draw upon in the professional world. Critical thinking and the ability to undertake and complete complex scholastic goals, which all college graduates should be able to do by the time they graduate, should enable native English speakers with university degrees to engage in and teach their native language, given the proper course materials and time to prepare. As of now all majors are required to take several hours of English, though this may change as universities become more about job placement and less about well rounded educations.

Finally there is no excuse for those that are seeking to come to Japan to pick up girls/guys and live easy by giving a few lessons in English. These types need to be easier to ID and get rid of, as they serve as a justification for those that are hypercritical of English teachers. This last issue is easily rectified by improving professional standards and by proper screening in the hiring process. All in all one may desire to move to another country, to experience another culture. To do this most cannot just by a ticket and go. Most modern immigrants, not just those going to Japan, immigrate by going into some structured system, such as a job or school. That being said I wonder if anyone knows how many permanent foreign residence of Japan came to Japan to teach English? It seems that I often read the biographies of now prominent people in business/politics whom are foreigners and it seems that many cite coming to Japan to teach English and then staying on in other jobs.

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I teach English lessons one to one on the side. I am first and foremost a businessman and teach business English to people who deal with business transactions in English or will be posted in an English speaking country. Models and college degrees are all well and good but my students are getting a much more applicable curriculum than if they were being taught by some fresh out of college wanker here to get drunk and pick up girls. By the way I do not have a teaching degree but I do have many years of business and negotiation experience that are far better than a canned curriculum from a school like Gaba. I wish Mr. Rogers well in his endeavor and think that many of the Eikiwa haters on this site really are going too far in judging this man you really know nothing about.

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An inciteful article about the state of the foreign language industry in Japan. I was always curious about it. I was often bemused about how the Japanese had a passion for English ever since I can remember. Their interest is sincere and try their best at it. Even though I speak fluent Japanese, they insist using English in business and socially. On rare occasions do they resort to Japanese with me. Teaching English is difficult and applaud those who teach it. One thought I might add from a business angle is approaching universities to carry out some of their English programs under contract.

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Sorry to put it plan but there are master degree courses to teach English and be qualified to do it the right way.

I personally would not like to get operated on by a doctor who does not poses the proper academic accreditations. Would you?

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Thanks for feedback, DRogers. Very good marks on assuaging me, too! I am serious, kinda. You will find that most of the comments herein are thoughtful ones. (Regarding this post, specifically. By all means do check out the other posts and comments for some rather "interesting" comments, if you have not already done so). Some may be mine, but, oh well . . . .

Someone up there said I/we learned English from accredited teachers. Not so for native speakers. We first learned from our parents and family as babies. We did not wait for the school bell to ring to learn our native language, I believe. Nor do I buy the "English coach" put-down. I have met excellent teachers with and without ESL degrees. I find a real love of teaching combined with a love of learning tends to make a great teacher. Such a teacher will also learn from other teachers. Of course if the "English coach" commenter would like to debate me, he or she may first read my previous comment and . . . better bring the beef. Teachers with ESL degrees, if they don`t really like the teaching, will not make good teachers. Like other people going thru the motions, they will be the ones checking their watches constantly and heading home as soon as the clock strikes five bells, if you will.

Personally, I enjoy teaching now more than ever.

And don`t assume that a degree equals a love of teaching. Perhaps recall some of your . . . ahem . . . college/university professors.

Personally, my degree is in East Asian Languages and Cultures, Concentration in Japanese Language and Literature (MA). I taught Japanese at the university level as a GTA and taught a summer intensive course on my own. (I was . . . uh . . . requested to do so by the Chair . . . nuff said. You dont say no to the Chair, if you can help it!) She, the Chair, apparently had better things to do than grind out in a month what is usually covered in one full semester during the academic year. Yep, those students were living and breathing Japanese every single day for one month. And so was the teacher.

I have done so much work in teaching both languages in both countries combined with a wide range of translation that it boggles the mind. At least it boggles mine.

Moreover I read about just about everything I can avidly and that knowledge is imparted to my students.

No, this is no "appeal" on my part, just the facts (and the tip of the iceberg at that).

So if someone up there wants to debate my lack of ESL degree, go for it. I am sure many assumed I have a degree in ESL from my comment. Sorry, no degree in ESL here, just MA (requiring three years because I was also teaching) and my 150 page thesis to go along with it. And no illustrations in my thesis. Yep, merely Coach Ashika1009 at your service.

Like I said, debate me, but be very well prepared, I must warn you.

Finally, someone up there wrote something about English teachers being a nasty lot. I find that offensive. More than that, it is simply untrue. You will find English teachers and teachers in general share certain qualities, such as being human. And individuals vary greatly.

I am glad JapanToday did not "moderate" that particular comment out of existence.

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Those who think the eikaiwa industry in Japan is about education have a limited understanding of Japanese culture. It does serve to teach some people, but it is actually more of a controlled cultural experience situation. Japanese people pay to interact with foreigners and learn about them in a situation where the foreigner is obliged to be patient, defer to them, and where the student can complain if the experience is bad. It's culture as a customer and it's "safer" and far less intimidating than the real world.

Nails. There are very few Japanese who actually want to "learn English," because they honestly see themselves in the future "speaking English."

The vast majority of people in eikawa are there for an English speaking experience with a foreigner in a controlled environment.

As far as the above school only accepting 5% of applicants, that's pretty standard for any school that advertises on gaijin pot, as most job listings there get thousands of resumes as a matter of course.

I'd put Eikaiwa's in Japan in the same category of hostess bars and maid cafe's. A hobby, or reality diversion that people use disposable income on. Not to learn any real usable skills.

Those in Japan who really want to learn to speak English will do so with or without the eikaiwa industry.

As for kids, often times the eikaiwa is nothing more than expensive daycare with added benefits, giving the parents a couple hours of free time and the illusion that their kids will benefit somehow.

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Seems acceptable that teachers in the English language industry in Japan do not need degrees or experience. Would you put your own child into an English class with a young person who does not have a degree, teaching experience, a teaching qualification, experience of teaching English, language proficiency [can’t even spell “elementry” school], or experience of children? Some teachers possessing none of the above become adept: would you take the risk with your own child (and your own money)?

Let’s get professional

I want to know the teaching ability of the teachers or of the English school. Does the school publish results? What level of English or qualification (eg, IELTS) does the course aim for? What is the rate of achievement? If there is a general failure, are fees returned? Is there stability in the school - what is the turnover of teachers?

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Small quibble:

The number of foreigners in Japan is 2,217,426 Population in Japan is 127,540,000

Foreigners only make up about 1.7% of the population.

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The above numbers show there are more than enough Japanese for gaijin to teach,so stop the qualified/unqualified BS and go get yours.

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I was the hiring guy for 20 years at a large junior/senior high in Tokyo and in that time I must have hired a hundred so-called foreign teachers of every age, size, and race without discrimination. Of those 100 individuals, maybe 5 were professional in their approach to the job. The others ? They were the biggest, most selfish, rude, unfriendly, and anti-social people you could ever meet on the face of the earth. Why ? They thought they were elite professionals yet not one of them had a degree in teaching. They get this attitude by the locals referring to them as "sensei" and this goes to their heads.

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The others ? They were the biggest, most selfish, rude, unfriendly, and anti-social people you could ever meet on the face of the earth.

It's not just me who noticed!! I knew it!!

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The problem is that it requires no skill at all to be an english teacher in Japan. The reason people look down on foreigners teaching is because it's the same as working in McDonalds, they'll take anyone and require no skill or formal education from the teacher.

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Seriously questy, why such negativity? Are you jaded because of a bad eikawa experience? I would say that if you think your assertions of "homeruns" is all it takes to win debates you had better go find a coach.

Let us see what Senior Webster has to say on your idea of what is and what is not a "teacher."

Main Entry: teach•er Pronunciation: ˈtē-chər Function: noun Date: 14th century 1 : one that teaches; especially : one whose occupation is to instruct 2 : a Mormon ranking above a deacon in the Aaronic priesthood

The source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/teacher

So in the end you can call it what you like but those that teach English, yes even without your precious "degree from an accreted university to teach..." are teachers. Now it is over.

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How can one expect things to change under the present system!

The turnover of ALTs and other English teacher is ridiculous! How can you expect professional teacher when in many cases the pay is not that much more than McDonald's!

There are NO benefits, NO health insurance and NO job security!

With these conditions you will never get anything more than low standards!

And one more point for Dean to think and maybe comment on! God forbid that you are over 40 (some places 35) or married! If you are over 40 forget teaching in most English schools, ALT is the most you can expect and the same goes for being married or having children, in the event that you do land a job at an English school you will most likely be advised (told) not to ever mention that you are married!

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In the first three articles, I should like to discuss THE BUSINESS MODELS THAT CURRENTLY EXIST [REDUNDANT; SHOULD BE "the current business models"] and the way in which the market ITSELF [redundant] developed. This will provide context in order better to understand the current state of the language school industry AS IT FINDS ITSELF TODAY [redundant].

A little less bloat in the writing would be welcome.

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quest: you realize that there are also professionally qualified and nationally licenced "coaches". Does that mean that no one outside of this very specific group is allowed to use the term?

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Several people have emailed me saying that the link to the METI data was deactivated when the article was uploaded. Sorry about that. Here is the direct link:

http://www.meti.go.jp/statistics/tyo/tokusabido/result/result_1/xls/hv15603j.xls

Included on this excel sheet are the current sales, employment data and customer numbers for the Language School industry: From METI

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A few things that I'd say degrade the market in Japan:

A lack of freedom regarding teaching practices. A lack of desire for trained teachers (at home a TESOL certificate is a bare minimum... here... many schools will frown upon teaching qualifications because they're a threat to their model.) A lack of certification for schools. No offence to the author, but he boldly admits he's an IT guy who just decided he'd teach English one day! Surely a school principal should have at minimum a master's in TESOL, and 10+ years experience in the profession? There's no regulations here, so anybody can teach. A lack of ANY promotion system within most schools (you either own the shop or you're on around about 250 000 yen, which isn't enough for a family.)

I think teaching in Japan is a good gig... if you're young and want to have fun in Japan for a couple of years. Alternatively if you have the skills/patience to setup your own school then good on you.

If you're a trained teacher and want to teach here because you have some good methods you want to implement & teaching is your chosen profession, then it's a bit of a joke (you're better off going home with your qualifications/experience because all eikaiwa teachers get paid the same.)

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Just curious, what about the practical necessity of speaking and communicating in English? I have always wondered about this. It is pretty obvious to me, after living in Japan for almost 10 years that there is no practical necessity for most Japanese to speak a word of English, is there? This question is about 50% literal and 50% rhetorical. Let's imagine for a minute that the level of English ability in this country was, say, on a par with Sweden, or Singapore or Malaysia.

I think it would have a couple of results. Initially it would have a similar effect to a full blown revolution in the society. I think there is a deliberate effort on the part of the power structure in Japan to keep the Japanese monolingual, hence using Japanese natives as English teachers in the State school systems, and not doing anything at all to make Japanese bilingual.

The other result is that it would make the Japanese very competitive with the Chinese. Bilingual Japanese would really be able to take a bite out of the inroads the Chinese have been making around the world. Maybe this is the way to sell it to the government here. Make them wake up and see that Japan is falling behind. Japan runs the very real risk of becoming a complete has-been, also ran, in todays competitive global economy, a complete and utterly irrelevant backwater.

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There are plenty of good posts as well as the usual suspects spitting their poison.

Good on anyone who does take a shot at anything at life, we all have different motivations, ideals, and goals in life. None of the above make any of us better than the next.

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It is pretty obvious to me, after living in Japan for almost 10 years that there is no practical necessity for most Japanese to speak a word of English, is there?

SCAP65, you have asked a throught-provoking question. With some experience at living and working near the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka behind me, it always puzzled how relatively few Japanese living and working in the vicinity of the base could communicate in basic English. That base has to create one of the biggest, native English-speaking labs around and yet few, it seemed to me, take advantage of it.

English is the default second-language of our planet, so it's not like the time spent learning and practicing the basics is going to be wasted.

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Working in an eikaiwa takes as many qualifications as any other professional job usually does: A college degree. I've met Japanese people who have a degree in music but who do accounting. A degree in law, but they work in a bank. I know that's not uncommon back in the US either.

In the US, teachers are required to have a teaching license. This does not always guarantee a good teacher. It just guarantees someone who has a teaching license. Pieces of paper =/= good teacher. I never understand why people get so hung up on the fact that eikaiwa and ALTs are "unqualified" to teach. By that definition, many people in professional jobs are unqualified to do their jobs because their degree doesn't match their employment.

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I have two university degrees, one in industrial design and one in electronics and I have been teaching the English language since 1974, without a teaching certificate. Have I not proved that I have a quite good brain working quite well in my head? I love teaching, I started by accident and simply never want to do anything else, I am neither proud nor embarrassed by the work I do, because it is nobodies business but mine, except of course the students to whom I have a life times responsibility, not just while they are in my classes but as friends that go on through the rest of our lives. Because this should never be a job that ends with the sound of the bell. That is what a teacher is, a person that teaches and there is no need to have a certificate to show that is what you are. That is what you are. As for teachers being rude, nasty or whatever, well sadly there is a strong element of that in the profession, and for that reason I avoid other teachers like the plague. If you doubt this you need only read much that has been written above, those that believe having a certificate makes then some how superior simply cannot stop themselves ridiculing the Willy Wokers who might well be extremely good teachers. The arrogance that that certificate gives to some people never fails to amaze me, especially when many of them are not that good at the job.

Anybody that says this is not a hard job or that there are no real rewards at the end of almost everyday has no idea what they are doing and shouldn’t be doing it. Money matters because we need to live in the real world, but it should never be the motivation for going into teaching.

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Regarding the gaijin who react with disdain or in an arrogant manner to those who have the audacity to admit to being teachers, well, they should be laughed at with contempt. Many, if not most, of these folks were were teachers, but "graduated" to what they believe are to be bigger and better things(could be), but there's no reason to become an elitist twerp because of it, or actually did come to Japan specifically to work another kind of work. Stiil, one should respond to them as one would in their home country. If you admire and look up to these, what are often pseudo-rich folk wannabes, then go for it. If you find them amusing as a symptom of a socio-cultural disease, as I do, then you shouldn't worry in the slightest, burp at them, and walk away.

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yabusama at 05:55 PM JST - 4th February

kanadamanada- was that the view of upper management before the sale or after?

Before. I wouldn't know what he thought after. I never had any dealings with the company after they closed the shop, though I hear that manager is still attached - the same one I mentioned above.

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Last comment by gogogo..."The problem is that it requires no skill at all to be an english teacher in Japan." You're kind of wrong...It requires no experience (teaching experience) to work as a teacher, in some jobs in Japan....but it does require skill. It is hard to try and explain something in your native language, so imagine how hard it is to explain something to a non native speaker, who potentially has a low level of English. Now that requires skill! Yes I'm sure you will say that you were a teacher (or still a teacher) and I'm not here to correct you. Just I think it is up to English teachers to represent themselves well and change peoples (wrong) perceptions, of a lot of teachers in Japan. I have also worked in MacDonalds and that does require some skill such as being able to work under pressure.

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Hey Tosaken, just curious, are you a native English speaker?

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Japanese have no more money to waist on fake teachers. Get real.

Speaking of fake teachers ... Ah, I don't want to waste my time.

I agree hiring teachers with degrees weeds out the trash, but please do not start on about how eikaiwa teachers in Japan are intellectual upper-class professionals. Those are at the university.

I had a friend who had worked at Nova and then got a masters degree in English or whatever and became a university teacher. He said that he was shocked at how far superior the Nova teachers were in comparison to the university teachers. I thought about it and realized that at Nova, there were tons of fascinating teachers despite the few bad apples. Management pushed them to generate role play ideas and they produced great stuff most of the time. My image of a university teacher is someone who works in isolation. He may read a lot, but he doesn't often get to hear the laughter coming from another classroom which pushed so many at Nova to get better.

This debate reminds of a little of the rivalry between the allegedly skilled Salieri and the raw and "unskilled" Mozart.

Don't overestimate university teachers and don't underestimate eikaiwa teachers.

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Most uni teachers here are a waste of time - older, got the job before an MA in the area was demanded. The young Japanese and foreign teachers at uni are pretty good - know their stuff, want classes to be fun AND useful. The uni scene is changing. I'd rather a uni teacher who cam eup the ranks from eikaiwa than some jerk who came to Japan 25 years ago, got a uni gig and hasn't done a damn thing to educate himself about teaching. There are MANY of those types here and it is realy sad that they are able to keep jobs they haven't got a clue how to do.

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The debate here has turned into a "I'm better then you because I have a Uni degree, a masters, a teaching license, etc.."

I is interesting to note 2 things:

1-)Outside Japan (particularly North America)most language schools that are not in Universities, especially the larger chains do not always hire University graduates, this is not just limited to English teaching but other languages. Like many of the "eikaiwas" here, they have their own books,methods and training programs! I know this well as I do not have University (though I do have college and not in teaching) and I worked in a few of these schools back home teaching French to new immigrants and we seemed to be doing a fairly good job seeing the average student was able to be fluent enough to enter the job market or regular school (high school, college, university) within one year!

2-) In North America (Canada, USA) their is presently a lack of elementary and high school teachers, many provinces and states have programs that take in to account, work experience, education and other skills, then have a short training program (usually 3 months) and certify these people for teaching in provincial and state schools. The results have been interesting, these "teacher" have been showing better results than "conventional" teachers!

So draw your own conclusion on this!

The big difference in North America and Japan is the law, consumer protection laws are strong and enforceable in NA but fairly weak and unenforceable in Japan!

Language schools in NA must deliver results or face complaints that cloud result in the relevant consumer protection association shutting them down!

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I have been offered jobs by English schools and private individuals asking for lessons. I left school at 16, im not qualified to teach, as are about 50% of the English teachers i have met since ive been in Japan.

It is all amoney making scam, i`ve met so many who brag about how much they make doing private lessons etc. Well i prefer to make my monet honestly, not by ripping off the natives.

There are honset teachers, but it seems learning English is a fad/trend here and not a real endevour for most.

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It is all amoney making scam...

Pretty close. I'm sure there are some bona fide educators amongst the "teachers" and maybe some eikawa which make a bona fide effort at imparting and teaching English to students. My impression, like yours, is it's mostly a scam/racket... but it's more complicated than that. There is collusion with the parents who should know better and the students who know better. It's a place where the "students" get to slack off just as much as the "teachers".

Still, I think if people are serious about being serious teachers of foreign language they'd do it at places which teach foreign languages for reals --Universities, Academies and such.

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I have to admit there are many so called English teachers out there just out for an easy Yen and after more then 20 years here, I have come to believe that 90% of the "eikaiwas" are pretty must just a scam!

That said I also know plenty of good honest people trying to actually make a difference and are genuinely trying to teach English!

In regards to Japan, Universities and other so called true learning institutions are not must better then the "eikaiwas". I have met many University Japanese University professors of language (both French and English) and most knew the fundamentals (grammar etc..) of the language extremely well but couldn't a conversation if their lives depended on it!

The problem lies in the Academia's focus on translating and rules of the language instead of actual language use, anyone who as ever worked as an ALT can attest to this!

The other problem lies in the "working holiday" Visa system. This cultural exchange program was created to promote better international understanding, but whereas Japanese who go overseas can engage in multiple job opportunities most foreigner coming here have little or no choice other then "eikaiwas" giving these businesses access to a cheap and captive labor pool!

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Meant to write "couldn't hold a conversation"

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This cultural exchange program was created to promote better international understanding, but whereas Japanese who go overseas can engage in multiple job opportunities most foreigner coming here have little or no choice other then "eikaiwas" giving these businesses access to a cheap and captive labor pool!

If you learn the language of the country you're going to then of course you're going to have more job opportunities. But it doesn't necessarily mean you'll take them. I have personally met two native english speakers of Japanese ancestry from the States who chose to work at Family Mart and a 100 yen shop for less money than they would have earned being a teacher. Didn't ask why they didn't teach though.

Where I'm from the Japanese students who take part in the working holiday program almost always work in Japanese restaurants, speak Japanese unless they are in school, and eat Japanese food. They REALLY take advantage of learning about and experiencing another culture.

I personally have struggled, and continue to struggle at times with the thought of the Eikaiwa industry being a business rather than an opportunity to learn English. But that's exactly what it is first and foremost. I can understand why some would say the industry is a scam but it depends on how you look at it. Ultimately if the customer/student is happy then whether they've learn something, or rather retain what they have been taught is secondary.

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yabusama; Wrote: "I have personally met two native english speakers of Japanese ancestry from the States who chose to work at Family Mart and a 100 yen shop for less money than they would have earned being a teacher. Didn't ask why they didn't teach though."

Some key words in your statement should have given you the answers about why they didn't teach and why they could get those jobs the key words are "Japanese ancestry"!

Until quite recently most "eikaiwas" were very reluctant to hire native speaker who did not look the part of your stereotypical English speaker, basically white and from one of the major English speaking countries (forget South Africa, Bermuda, Jamaica and in some cases Ireland!)(for French you had to be from France only forget Belgium, Switzerland or Canada)!

Second, even if you could speak Japanese unless you look Japanese or are in a "gaijin zone" forget working in anything related to meeitng or serving the public, people would panic and walk out of the store!

I just love when I walk up to the clerk in a store and ask "ikura desuka?" only to be replied in a panicky voice "eigo wakarimasen"

The industry has changed and now hire many different type of people but not because the management is being more acceptable or because the students are more open but because they have figured out that those who are not your stereotypical native speaker have less opportunities for work and have little or no choice but to accept some of the worst working conditions in this industry!

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The bottom line though is that Japan does not want to do what it takes to attract and retain qualified instructors. There is no support here at all, unless you have an MA. And let's face it, how many people have the time and the money these days to get an MA? NOVA is a joke. So are the ALT positions. It's not a low status job because the teachers are no good, it is a low status position because the goddam Japanese government likes it like that. If they were serious they would provide teachers with accommodation, in and outbound flights, health care, the works. Then they could afford to select the very best, even if they only have a BA. This country is still in the middle ages, basically barbaric. No clue. Let's just say it like its, come on. Why? Why does Japan lag behind every other first world country in English language acquisition?

It is not because the Japanese are somehow stupid or incapable of learning English. Far from it. The Japanese are highly intelligent, and almost the entire population could become bilingual if the crass, materialistic, clueless government could pull its head out of where the sun does not shine.

The whole country is going downhill fast, and it will not be a pretty sight watching this country coming apart at the seams. Totally clueless. They are so far behind the times in Japan it is sad. They still get all wet about their bullet trains and small cellphones, but look at their cell phone industry getting pummeled by Sofbank a company run by a Korean, and with an American product, the iphone.

You know, come to think of it, the only hope for ever getting these guys to master English is for foreigners to come over here and simply scoop up all the students. The English instruction business needs to be seized by Native speakers and run properly, otherwise fuggedaboudit. I think the ex investment banker has the right idea. I hope more of his breed come over here and scoop up the money being spent on English instruction.

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Regarding the statement above having to do with the chap's friend who said the NOVA teachers were often much better than the university teachers, I simply must laugh for the reason that most of the time the classes they teach are nothing alike. I teach at two universities where most of my classes have an average of between 45-60 students per class. I don't quite think doing role plays between 4 people is quite the same. That being said, it IS somewhat possible to do role plays even with 60 students, albeit noiser. I DO think there are good teachers all over the place, some whom have degrees, and some of whom have never been to college at all. While it can help to have advanced degrees, it is not a prerequisite.

Secondly, I think part of the problem with the eikaiwa industry is partially the fault of the eikaiwas, and partially the fault of the entire Japanese educational system and what students(and/or parents) expect from education.

1)First, the problem with the eikaiwas can easily be seen in such scam schools as NOVA which I recognized as a scam my first week in Japan. After having taught for years in another non-English speaking country, as well as helping to build several schools there, I was already quite familiar with the way schools worked. My very first question about eikaiwas when arriving in Japan was regarding how much in advance were students required to pay. I heard between two and three years. PING! Scam alert! As ANYONE in the business is FULLY aware of the fact that the vast majority of students do NOT stay for this long, with adults being worst. Yeah, sure, there are the few older dedicated folks who DO actually get their monies worth, but in general most will leave within 6 months to a year. Anyone who claims different is either lying, or they haven't been in the business for more than a year themselves. I consider such depraved business practices as at least dishonest if not boardering on criminal. NOVA managers were WELL aware of this fact and took advantage of it. And when the government changed the policy to refund students who had not utilized all of the hours pre-paid for, they collapsed shortly after. The schools should be honest up front. They should not make fairy tale promises that the students wil be fluent if they only study at 'their' school because they have some magic teaching method that other schools do not. It's nonsense. There are no secret methods. None.("Speed Learning!")No school has a secret or special method. There is ONE method. That is that the students get off their butts and study. Period. This leads to the second problem.

2)Students are often taught English as they are taught other subjects such as math i.e., sit back, take notes, try to memorize the data, and repeat for tests. They often expect to be spoon fed the information and think they don't have to put in effort into learning, other than being forced to attend jukus, etc...Many schools become enablers in this process as well. Many parents of students are clueless to this basic fact as well. They pay the school or teacher, and if their kid doesn't produce results it's the teacher's fault. This may be true in a very few cases, perhaps .00001%, but more often it is NOT the teacher who is at fault, but the parents who are not making their kid study as they would piano, basketball, or anything else which requires participation. This is also why many adults quit so readily. They, too, often expect spoon-feeding, and when confronted with the fact they're going to have to actually study OUTSIDE the class i.e., where 90%+ of their work should be happening, they give up, blame the teacher or school, etc...((And remember, NOVA bosses knew exactly this and used it))

In closing, I think there are probably some differences between teachers, their background knowledge of the subject, their abilities, etc...but MUCH more importantly is that students need to take responsibility for their learning and quit expecting to be spoon-fed. Japan has the lowest English level of perhaps all Asian countries for a reason, and it is NOT because 'they're shy'(cop out). It's primarily because they are either lazy with regards to studying English, or they've been lied to so long that they simply don't now how.

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I was wondering if anyone could help me with my research on the eikaiwa industry in Japan. Any links to resources would be very much appreciated! (ie reasons for growth/decline over the years, expectations of students/teachers, reasons for students quitting etc). Many thanks!

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What kind of research are you looking for?

And yes, while eikaiwa classes and uni classes are different, most eikaiwa teachers aren't nearly as bitter about the whole state of affairs. Unis need to get rid of the dead weight - Japanese and foreign. The government should also set up regulations for eikaiwas and while I'm wishing for things, I wish I had Ozawa's bank balance! Dreams that will never happen.

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rburgundy, you can google gaijinpot.com, there you'll find lots of info and comments on the eikaiwa industry.

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rburgundy, If you call our office (check our company website), leave your name, number, or email I will get back to you. I am happy to share industry info etc with you directly beyond what I will be publishing in the coming weeks and months. What is the project? A book? Starting a language school? Currently running your own?

Happy to Help. Dean

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Thanks for your help! gaijinpot.com was a helpful site and I also found figures from the below link to be very useful. http://www.meti.go.jp/statistics/tyo/tokusabido/result/result_1/xls/hv15603j.xls

I am trying to gather information for a paper. I wish I had the capital to start a language school, haha..but from what I have been reading the language schools are having a difficult time in Japan? If anyone knows of any other sites with statistics I would appreciate your help. (@DRogers - I was not able to locate a link to your website. I look forward to your articles in the coming weeks)

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Firstly, great article Dean! I'm very much looking forward to your next installments. You really seem to be onto something formidable.

Secondly, not a bad assortment of comments for the JT crowd. I've been following this site for years and love to hate most of the jaded peanut-gallery. Having spent my formative years growing up in Japan, I fully know where many of you are coming from (and headed to).

Finally, I set up an account here today just to put in my 2-cents' worth on this topic. I did my fair share of ESL teaching in a wide variety of Japanese schools in Japan. For sure, some of it was bad, but more often than not, I got more out of it by putting everything into it, just like any job I've ever done.

As a recent arrival in China, I'm thrilled to be back in the classroom, on both sides of the desk. I'll be trading in my teacher's desk for a manager's desk before long, in part because a good teacher makes for a good (ok - 'great') manager.

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Jiana, ESL you say? In Japan? You sure you don't mean EFL? It might make your comments look more creditable if you got the title correct.

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Duly noted <blush>

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my blushing didn't appear in my previous post~

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Hey Featherhead,

You say it is the fault of the students being lazy. But surely their attitude is the result of the way Japan socializes its citizens (or would it be more accurate to say "subjects)? Anyone who lives her will testify to how bright, inquisitive, intelligent, curious and alert very young Japanese (the under 5-9 crowd) are. How does this nasty society take these precious, wonderful little children and transform them into recalcitrant, self satisfied, incurious cowardly automatons? That's my question. Blame Japanese society dude, and blame Japanese society on the incompetent fools in charge of it, the nimrods at the ministry of Truth (um I mean Education), and the other fossils and deadwood dragging Japan to the bottom of the global scrapheap.....

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Just after I made this post, I got to thinking of the way I have been treated as an editor here in Japan, by people who struggle to put together a sentence in English, but who have the gall to correct the work I am doing for them, as if they know better. Simply amazing. This arrogance, on the part of many Japanese, and the pervasiveness of the view that, essentially, they have nothing to learn from anyone, is at the root of the problem.

The unbelievable idea that one can simply fork up cash, and expect to get English language ability in return is a sure-fire road to failure. Hard work and humility are what is needed. And yet, the poor, underpaid, overworked, discriminated against English teacher, who probably came to Japan with dreams of encountering an exotic and wonderful culture, but in reality finds himself despised and looked down upon, as a failure, seeking refuge in the life of an English teacher, a professional gaijin, if you will, takes the brunt of something that is simply not his or her fault.

Don't get me wrong, I have met some unbearably conceited, nasty English teachers in Japan in my time. When I first got here, I worked at NOVA for two months, until making my carefully planned escape from that hellhole. And, I must say, some of the teachers, most of them, were real pieces of work. I have been treated with much more kindness and respect by the Japanese than these Eikaiwa trolls. They thought the sun shone out of their nether regions, merely because they had adoring young (and old) Japanese hanging on their every word. As if they were god's gift to the Japanese people....yuck!

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I must say, I quite like my description of the Japanese politicians and bureaucrats as "fossils." Quite apt, if I don't say so myself. The living fossil is a feature of 21st century society. He exists (and it is most usually, and almost exclusively a he) in large numbers, in Japan and in the United States, for some reason. This living fossil, this Coelacanth embodies all the values of a bygone age. He seems to have maintained his core principles and values from the offices and companies of the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. He has utterly failed to change with the times, but through some fluke, or chance, he has somehow survived, still breathing, dusty air percolates down into his lungs and his ossified alveoli, and he lives another day, to arrest the forward momentum of society.

He is a curse, universally reviled, but somehow endured, and tolerated, much to the detriment of those who do not shunt him aside.

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hey scape65. you should work for uni-edit.net

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Most Japanese say "Let's be friends, I want to practice English." Why don't they say: "Let's be friends, I'll show you around, introduce you to all my friends and teach you some Japanese if you like."

Can anyone answer that for me? It annoys the hell out of me.

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Because they are taught from an early age that English speaking gaijin are good for one thing only - someone to practise their English with. How many kis have been pushed towards you at an early age while their parents stand there and go "Speak English Taro!!". The poor kids are terrorized for life.

I agree with whoever said blame society. I have many great students who are very keen. Sadly the majority of students are lumps. Lumps just waiting to be made into something, anything but yet, they won't do the work themselves.

When I once was an eikaiwa teacher I had a parent who got very angry at me that his 4 year old daughter wasn't "fluent" after a year in eikaiwa. I asked if they studied at home - "No, that is YOUR job" he replied. I knew this girl played the piano and asked dear daddy if she praticed at home. Of course she did. How would she get better. He didn't make the connection until I suggested that he might want to help her at home as one hour of English a week is just like one hour of piano. You can't get better without practising. That of course didn't go over well and he threatened to quit but I think I made my point - the manager had to deal with him after that!

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tmarie - yeah i love how parents who dont speak a lick of english are experts on how to teach it. i have experinced a fair load of monster parents who expected the impossible and most times they had zero experince with english and only brief education.

also the biggest and most obvious flaw of english in schools here is the fact that its still taught in japanese. i have worked as an ALT at multiple schools and have watched plenty of senior english teachers attempt to teach fluency while using only japanese 80 percent of the time through class.

the other horrible thing is that i have met almost zero english teachers here who come no where close to actually being able to speak the language.

europe got it right ages ago. hence most can speak fluent english even though its a second lang. alas japan refuses to take note or acknowledge such facts.

then again should i really be complaining? its such faltering by the education system that will foever keep me in a job here

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I have to ad to the comment of why do Japanese only say "hey lets be friends, I want to practice English"!

This is and will always be one of the most annoying things, BUT it cuts both ways!

Many of my female Japanese acquaintances (I'll ad my 14 year old Japanese daughter to the list) complain that if they are on the train or anywhere in public reading and English book or paper and they see a foreign guy they have to quickly put it away or risk being hit on!

SO GUYS NOT EVERY GIRL READING OR STUDYING ENGLISH ON THE TRAIN WANTS TO MEAT YOU AND ESPECIALLY NOT THE ONE WEARING A SCHOOL UNIFORM!

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Space monkey: oh, yes, this is classical sentence to hear from Japanese. “ Lets be friends, lets speak English”. LOL, like in a kindergarten

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SO GUYS NOT EVERY GIRL READING OR STUDYING ENGLISH ON THE TRAIN WANTS TO MEAT YOU AND ESPECIALLY NOT THE ONE WEARING A SCHOOL UNIFORM!

Hahaha!!

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also the biggest and most obvious flaw of english in schools here is the fact that its still taught in japanese. i have worked as an ALT at multiple schools and have watched plenty of senior english teachers attempt to teach fluency while using only japanese 80 percent of the time through class.

Is that not mainly because of the pressure to pass the exams, which are composed mostly of questions on arcane English grammar? Certainly, one or more of the readers here have been exposed to questions from Japanese students on the kinds of English grammar questions they are posed with in their classes.

The tests, in turn, seemed more inclined to want to fail people than measure what they have accomplished.

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They thought the sun shone out of their nether regions, merely because they had adoring young (and old) Japanese hanging on their every word. As if they were god's gift to the Japanese people....yuck!

Good comment, especially the fresh ones off the plane who show off too much and think they've found their sole purpose in life.

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tmarie;

Sorry was trying to think, type and listen to 2 fighting kids all at the same time! I know it's MEET and I am beet red right now!!!!!!

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Yabits;

You hit the nail on the head! My daughter is now doing her high school entrance exams and nearly half the exam consist of translating, grammar question posed in Japanese, and archaic English, that is a major problem for her as she knows the meaning but they often mark her answers as wrong because is isn't the "official" translation /answer!

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Until the universities either a) get rid of the entrance system or b) include oral communication in it classes will ALWAYS be taught mostly in Japanese - I was impressed with the 80% comment as the ones I've seen/been invloved with were closer to 95%.

The tests are a waste of time - more so when universities and schools are working hand in hand with regards to entrance without tests - the recommendation system.

Mumbusho can make all these nice little rules about teaching in English but until someone gets out there and checks that teachers are doing that and either fines or fires those who aren't... All will remain the same. What is worse is that they are bumping up the number of vocab and whatnot for English. Students don't even "know" the "needed" vocab now. This is what happen in top down government.

Eikaiwas are no better though - uni grads without a clue on how to teach. Japanese want Bobo the clown to entertain them for the most part so I guess everyone wins. Students who are serious get out and study abroad.

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limboinjapan:

I wish your daughter well -- on the exams and especially beyond that.

By marking correct answers wrong because they don't match the official answer is teaching a very important lesson: Always do exactly as you are told, even when you find out it is wrong.

If this kind of thing goes on for too long, it can seriously deplete and damage the kind of independent thinking that any society desperately needs. I believe that if I were to ever entertain the idea of teaching English in Japan, I would never teach anyone who has not graduated from high school, as a general principle.

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My daughter is now doing her high school entrance exams and nearly half the exam consist of translating, grammar question posed in Japanese, and archaic English, that is a major problem for her as she knows the meaning but they often mark her answers as wrong because is isn't the "official" translation /answer!

That's what bothers the students from foreign countries when they are educated just like Japanese students at JP schools. JP schools emphasize the "direct" and "accurate" translation from English to Japanese, way too much. This is where so many Japanese students fall into the trap. Japanese language does not have many linguistic and phonetic connections with English, while German, French, Spanish do. Literal translation is NOT really effective in teaching English to JP students, because Japanese language constructs its own phonetics, meanings, logical structures, and frames of references that stand apart from English language. Sadly, most Japanese teachers teaching English and even some college professors in department of English or Foreign Language at JP universities do not really understand this at all.

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I have met many Japanese English teachers and the vast majority cannot speak more than 3 word sentences, at the same time I have met a lot of Japanese French teachers (I am bilingual French/English) and the vast majority of them are quite fluent in French (still zero in English!)

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Japanese language does not have many linguistic and phonetic connections with English, while German, French, Spanish do.

When taking a total-immersion French class, the instructor tried to dispel the notion to English-speakers that French is English translated into French. Sounds rather silly, but anyone who attains true proficiency has to think in the language as well as pick up and demonstrate all the cultural cues until it all becomes as natural to them as to a native speaker.

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I am not so sure how different it is in the States. I have a French degree. When I was at uni, I was always the one in the class rattling away in French, anxious to have a conversation, but most people kept their traps shut, as if they had taken a vow of silence. Not to boast or anything, but it was pretty clear my spoken fluency was superior to theirs, perhaps the year I spent in France before returning to the States helped, or having been bilingual (another language other than French or English) since the age of 5 might have helped.

Anyway, I am also pretty certain that my grades were inferior to most of the other students, when it came to essays and exams. I am not really competitive when it comes to producing results in exams and university essays, etc. However, I usually dance circles around most of the uni educated crowd, as far as spoken Japanese (or French for that matter) goes, here in Japan, they can read probably thousands of kanji and I can't remember more than about ten.

My strength is that I am not afraid to jump in and start speaking. My weakness is an aversion to study, and the almost complete inability to retain things.

My case is unusual. I am a very weak listener, but a strong speaker. Most people are the other way around. I think it was the way I was raised. We were encouraged to think and be intelligent in my household. I wonder why so many people develop a fear of speaking, or making mistakes in front of others. This shyness or fear would seem to be the biggest obstacle to foreign language acquisition, in my inexpert opinion.

Of course the Japanese are notoriously shy, so we have a serious problem here. The Chinese are not like this. they could give a damn, and are fast becoming fluent in English, yet another thing for the Japanese to develop a complex about, par rapport the Chinese (hee hee!).

Shyness and arrogance are two sides of the same coin, and both are negative undesirable characteristics. There is no virtue in being shy, it is not cute, it is annoying and prevents communication. The shy person, if they feel they may have inferior ability, clam up to protect their egos. However, if they have an inkling they may have superior ability, they become an unbearable arrogant bastard.

Well there you have it, my reading of Japanese society in a nutshell. I hope I don't come across as an arrogant know-it-all!!! : )

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Yabits;

You touched on a good point here. For all intensive purposes I guess my mother tongue could be considered to be French and if I ever try to think in French but speak in English, what comes out of my mouth can be quite hilarious, every words comes out like its, its own sentence (like Cpt. Kirk)! This is precisely what your average Japanese English speaker sounds like, it can be a very painful time, trying to listen to a story being told by a Japanese speaking in English!

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Dean Morgan, I want to first thank you for becoming my online source for inspiration, information and destination. That last one, destination, I'm referring to the ideas and facts you've provided me so far and enabling me to envision a realistic approach to kickstart a language initiative. Again, thank you.

What I have gathered from billing the article and an assortment of comments is that the infrastructure for Japanese language schools must be changed. From incorporating conversational courses in the junior high curriculum to moving away from translating skills to focus on lexical language scenarios.

I'd be interested in learning more of the infrastructure failures of these conglomerate English chains to fully grasped any they failed. Does anyone have ideas?

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