What it really is like being an English teacher in Japan

  • Being a foreigner in Japan, who doesn’t speak fluent Japanese, there aren’t that many options available in terms of job hunting. The easiest route for many, is becoming an English language teacher. A large proportion of Japanese people really want to improve their English skills, so there is always a demand! There are many different ways to do this, and all have their good and bad points, but what is it really like working as an English teacher in Japan?


    If you want to teach English in Japan, be prepared to brush up on your American-English. That’s right! Most schools will want you to teach the American pronunciation of words, and the American versions of words as well. As a Brit, I found this quite difficult at first, but now I constantly refer to football as soccer, a lift as an elevator, and a bin as a trash can!

    Cultural Differences

    The way of the school system in Japan is very different from that of the UK, USA, Australia etc. In Japan, a lot of a child’s learning is done through rote memorization and they spend a lot of time being quiet, sat down and very polite. When trying to teach young children, westerners usually want to be very energetic and a little silly, playing games, and singing songs. This can sometimes be very strange for Japanese children to experience and they might not want to join in, or feel uncomfortable. It’s also important to learn about the culture of Japan so you don’t do anything rude in class. For example, pointing at someone is seen as very rude, whereas in other countries you might just do this to get their attention.

    The Best Thing

    The best thing about being an English teacher in Japan is the students! Japan is a very hardworking country and so you will find that your students are usually very willing to learn and try new things in your classes. They love learning about another culture, and many of them will be fans of English language music, TV shows and movies too. In Japan, teachers are given a lot of respect, so the students will always try and impress you, and will always want to talk more with you when they see you!