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  1. #1
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    OT: Advice: Teaching English In Japan

    I just finished my degree this summer and am pretty much fully decided on teaching english in Japan in the near future. As far as companies go, I was looking more into the bigger schools since they seem to compensate airfare and travel. For those with experience teaching in Japan, is there any companies that I should avoid or those that you recommend? Any other help or horror stories would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Look into the JET program, it is the Japanese government's official teaching program:

    http://www.jetprogramme.org/

    They will hook you up with a school and a place to live, and they pay quite well considering that the housing is often free. Normally you teach in an elementary, junior high or high school. A little bit of Japanese will help you, but you are not required to speak any prior to going.

    I know a few people who did it and it worked out very well for them. One of them went back, and eventually did a similar thing in China.

    I haven't heard of any horror stories from the JET program. Private programs might be different. JET has an excellent reputation.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the link, i definitely appreciate it.

  4. #4
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by relyt View Post
    Look into the JET program, it is the Japanese government's official teaching program:

    http://www.jetprogramme.org/

    They will hook you up with a school and a place to live, and they pay quite well considering that the housing is often free. Normally you teach in an elementary, junior high or high school. A little bit of Japanese will help you, but you are not required to speak any prior to going.

    I know a few people who did it and it worked out very well for them. One of them went back, and eventually did a similar thing in China.

    I haven't heard of any horror stories from the JET program. Private programs might be different. JET has an excellent reputation.
    He'll have to wait another year to do the JET Programme and go through the application process (which includes an interview). The application deadline is in December or January and they give replies later in the winter. I did it, and it's a great program. A lot of the positions are in the sticks though, so it may not be the right fit for someone looking for an urban experience. There are many private companies that contract with school districts to provide assistant language teachers for public junior and senior high schools - basically the same thing as JET but with less pay and less support from the school. Those companies usually only hire people already in Japan.

    The big schools are generally soulless companies with little regard for their employees or the education of their clients. It's a fine way to get a visa and make a living, but don't expect to have a rewarding work experience. Some of the smaller companies have more integrity, but they're unlikely to hire someone from abroad. A lot of people go to Japan through one of the big companies and find something better later on. Last I heard, the English teacher job market is pretty tight right now because of the failure of Japan's largest English education company, Nova. Many of the people who used to work for Nova are gobbling up positions that may have been filled in the past through international recruiting efforts. So the timing is not ideal, but I'm sure you can find something.

    I loved living and teaching in Japan. Learn the language.

  5. #5
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    Oh, Berlitz probably had the best reputation of the language school companies, but it's also more selective in hiring than the others.

    I've heard horror stories about all the big companies and plenty of small ones too.

  6. #6
    No plan. peabodypride's Avatar
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    I'm planning on doing something similar to JET in Japan, China, or SEA once I'm out of school (engineering degree, I'm a year behind and I have not even taken ENG101.... I've got a long 5-6 years ). All I can recommend is to read Gaijin Smash as early and often as possible, especially once you apply and are about to leave when the anticipation and anxiety rumbles. It is simply hilarious.

    http://www.gaijinsmash.net/

    edit: and I assume my experience will be completely hilarious, probably with many fleeting cluster****s, many mistakes, and overall a ridiculously rewarding and fun experience to celebrate completion of a difficult degree before entering the real world. I used to cringe at the idea of getting utterly lost and socially disconnected in an Eastern country, now I've seen how many other Westerners like Mark just take it more lightheartedly and I can't wait!
    Last edited by peabodypride; 07-26-08 at 11:07 PM.

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    Member Spirald_out's Avatar
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    I'm teaching in Tokyo at the moment, so shoot me a PM about it if you have questions. I work for Berlitz.

    You'll end up working 8-5 or similar with JET, but I'm only in the classroom for 30ish hours a week with my company. I like the free time and if I need extra cash I have the option of teaching more lessons.

  8. #8
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    If there is one thing JET Programme participants have plenty of, it's free time.

    To be specific: I used to work from 8:45-3:45 everyday, and spent maybe half of that time actually teaching. I did some lesson prep during breaks, but spent a lot of that time hanging out with my students and passing time on the internet. In addition to much wasted time at school, we had weeks of paid vacation a year and several weeks without any classes or responsibilities at all (due to exams and school festivals, etc.). There was an astounding amount of down time and an equally remarkable lack of accountability. It's a nice gig, but I felt pretty useless at times. Situations vary of course, but my experience seems pretty typical.
    Last edited by supercub; 07-27-08 at 12:35 AM.

  9. #9
    oldsprinter oldsprinter's Avatar
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    Keep in mind that while Berlitz isn't too bad, they are in the middle of an industrial dispute right now involving rolling strikes - so if you take up a job with them you'll quickly have to decide whether to walk out with your coworkers and not get paid, or get called a scab.

    Might be better to look for another firm until this blows over.

  10. #10
    Member Spirald_out's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldsprinter View Post
    Keep in mind that while Berlitz isn't too bad, they are in the middle of an industrial dispute right now involving rolling strikes - so if you take up a job with them you'll quickly have to decide whether to walk out with your coworkers and not get paid, or get called a scab.

    Might be better to look for another firm until this blows over.
    The number of union members varies greatly from school to school with Berlitz. Since I am working at a school with a low union population, I don't really feel affected either way from the strikes nor the finger pointing for being a scab worker. I am sure the situation would be different at a school with a higher union concentration though, YMMV with militant union members.

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    :jarckass: deathhare's Avatar
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    I worked for Berlitz for a long time and have nothing bad to say about them. Good people for the most part. Ive worked at a number of different locations around Tokyo and one outside of Tokyo and the vibe was quite different at all of them. Some I didnt like, others were great.
    I first entered Japan thru Nova before I was married and quit almost instantly. Terrible people and terrible company. So glad they folded. They still owed me 70,000 that they never paid me.

    I also worked for Gaba as a side gig for awhile. Theyre ok but the pay sucks.

    If you want to get out of the eikaiwa world and get into the schools there is Interac. http://www.interac.co.jp/recruit/
    They also recruit outside Japan.
    Ive heard good and bad about them but never worked for them so ask others maybe about them.


    If you have the cash to float on, you'll have 10x as many options inside Japan. Its a gamble though. Looking outside, as you said, will limit you to the big players usually.

  12. #12
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    I knew a few people who worked for Gaba, and they had a decent experience. I also knew a few people who worked for Interac, and they said it kind of sucked. I don't think Interac is unethical, but they definitely d!ck around their employees.

    I'll give a plug for my former employer, IEC (Institute for English Communication). They are good people and actually care about English education and their employees. I don't think they recruit outside of Japan, but it might be a good option for further down the road. They're in Tokyo and contract with local school districts to provide assistant language teacher positions.

  13. #13
    Senior Member nateintokyo's Avatar
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    I've never done the company-English gig here, but I echo everyone's sentiments. Over the years I have heard good things from friends about Berlitz and Gaba and even EON, but lots of things are a crap shoot depending on what school you end up with what its management is like.

    Small places can be wonderful, but like dh says, you have to be lucky+ have some cash to get you by until a job pans out. And like others said above, that is getting harder to do with NOVA's collapse.

    If you have time and don't mind going country-side JET can be awesome. The net is awash with forums and horror stories abound. But I imagine you are Googling everything too......

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    Thank you all for the advice. So far I think I'm leaning more towards signing on with Aeon unless of course I can find a way to get on at Berlitz. For location i would definitely prefer to live in one of the bigger cities (Tokyo or Osaka), mainly because it will be easier to adapt with the language barrier and the access to transit would leave me feeling entirely isolated. I'm definitely not naive to the soullessness of a big chain school like Aeon and have read plenty of horror stories from my recent research but the consensus seems to be that those companies regardless of how evil offer an easier chance to get your foot in the door rather than a rewarding work experience. As long as I have the opportunity to live in and experience Japan with a little bit of stability while at the same time avoiding another Canadian winter I should be more than happy. I guess I have little to know expectations since I haven't yet left Canada but I think thats the best way to go about it. I do fully intend to learn Japanese, Conversational anyways. Learning to read or write Kanji (sp?) might be beyond my abilities right now. Anyways, thanks again for all the advice and perspective.

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    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    The key is to get a visa. Once you have a visa, you can switch jobs easily. The way the Japanese visa system works is that you need a sponsor (your employer) to get a visa, but once you have the visa you can switch employers without a problem. Then when your visa runs out, your employer at the time can sponsor you. Unlike the U.S. (don't know about Canada) where visa holders are beholden to their sponsors and losing the job means losing the visa, Japan allows the visa holder to keep the visa even if he switches jobs.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Sangetsu's Avatar
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    I don't know what to say about Berlitz other than that there are rumours floating around about them. I would do as the previous poster suggested and steer clear of them for the time being.

    I've heard nothing bad about AEON, though you'll be required to write a 750 essay to go along with your resume and cover letter. Make sure your essay is mistake free, they'll be looking for them when they read it.

    GEOS is another company to consider. You'll have to attend the interviews and training programs at your own expense, but on the other hand, they'll set you up in a private, furnished apartment with no money out of pocket for you. On the other hand, they drive their people pretty hard to sell books, lesson renewals, and the like.

    Nova is out of the question, no one is really sure what's going on with them now in their reborn form. I've heard nothing good about GABA from anyone here, but it's a moot point because they require applicants to be in Japan and possess a valid visa.

    I have yet to hear anything bad about ECC, and I notice that Takeshi Kitano is one of their spokespeople now.

    The JET program is definitely something to consider, the pay and benefits are very good. But, you will not have any choice as to where in Japan you will be sent. There's more than a good chance that you'll be living and working somewhere out in the countryside.

  17. #17
    Senior Member indiglow's Avatar
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    Hold out for JET; its basically THE best you're going to do as far as teaching English in Japan. It is also generally viewed with a little more respect than private language schools, and the pay is better as well.
    Additionally, given that you are not working for a for profit co. you will not have to bust your ass. For example, right now we have no class (for all of Aug as well), so today I studied Japanese and researched rims/spokes/hub for my new wheelset. Then I ate lunch and I also took a nap.
    True story.
    I'm telling you, don't go for Eikaiwa....

  18. #18
    :jarckass: deathhare's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indiglow View Post
    Hold out for JET; its basically THE best you're going to do as far as teaching English in Japan. It is also generally viewed with a little more respect than private language schools, and the pay is better as well.
    Additionally, given that you are not working for a for profit co. you will not have to bust your ass. For example, right now we have no class (for all of Aug as well), so today I studied Japanese and researched rims/spokes/hub for my new wheelset. Then I ate lunch and I also took a nap.
    True story.
    I'm telling you, don't go for Eikaiwa....
    Do you guys get regular working VISAs?
    Can you quit anytime you feel like it and get to stay in country without finding a different type of VISA?
    I know little about JET except the fact that they usually place you far in the countryside.

    So, if you like sitting on your ass and getting paid for it, JET is a good gig?
    Last edited by deathhare; 07-28-08 at 09:12 AM.

  19. #19
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    When I was on the JET Programme (back in 2001), I was given a 3 year visa, which was very nice. Yes, you can stay in Japan with a JET issued visa. I did JET for one year and stayed in Japan for four more years, only needing to re-up my visa once.

    You can't quit JET, because it's a selective program and the government spends thousands of dollars to bring the participants over to Japan. The school welcomes participants with all kinds of special help and pomp and ceremony. It would be captain sh!tty to quit. The only people I heard about who quit without completing a year had nervous breakdowns or maybe got arrested.

  20. #20
    Senior Member indiglow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deathhare View Post
    Do you guys get regular working VISAs?
    Can you quit anytime you feel like it and get to stay in country without finding a different type of VISA?
    I know little about JET except the fact that they usually place you far in the countryside.

    So, if you like sitting on your ass and getting paid for it, JET is a good gig?
    DH,
    Hey, no we have "Instructor" visas, so if I was to quit I would have to leave the country, or apply for a 3MO tourist visa and look for an Eikaiwa job if I wanted to remain in the country. That would be one of the few negative points about the program; humanities visas (that Eikaiwa teachers get) are not connected to the job. In reality, though I have absolutely NO reason to quit and I have worked at language schools before, its a totally different situation. So, to the OP, if you have the opportunity, do JET, you will lead a much more comfortable life. Regarding the countryside thing, I can be in Shibuya within 25 minutes from where I live.

  21. #21
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indiglow View Post
    DH,
    Hey, no we have "Instructor" visas, so if I was to quit I would have to leave the country, or apply for a 3MO tourist visa and look for an Eikaiwa job if I wanted to remain in the country. That would be one of the few negative points about the program; humanities visas (that Eikaiwa teachers get) are not connected to the job. In reality, though I have absolutely NO reason to quit and I have worked at language schools before, its a totally different situation. So, to the OP, if you have the opportunity, do JET, you will lead a much more comfortable life. Regarding the countryside thing, I can be in Shibuya within 25 minutes from where I live.
    This isn't true (at least it wasn't a few years ago). You can easily change the status of your visa without leaving the country. In reality, most any Eikaiwa will hire you with an Instructor visa. As I wrote upthread, I had a 3 year Instructor visa and worked a couple of Eikaiwa jobs without problems.

    Where are you indiglow? I was in Chigasaki, Kanagawa-ken (50 minutes to Shibuya). But that's pretty unusual. My friend, who asked for Okinawa, ended up in Akita-ken. Know another guy who was in the middle of nowhere Hokkaido. Both of them had a great time, but they were FAR from any major cities.
    Last edited by supercub; 07-28-08 at 07:40 PM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member indiglow's Avatar
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    ^^^^^
    Yeah, actually, I was thnking of the "contract" with the JET program stating that we must leave within a month in order to get our travel expenses paid. Technically, youre correct that the visa is good for the duration stamped in your passport regardless of anything else.
    OOPS!

    As far as the leaving the country, I said OR change the status of the visa (Ive done this twice from with in Japan already), so just a clarification, but yeah, right again.

    I b in DaSaitama. Everybody always tells me how lucky I am to be so close to Tokyo, it is admittedly rare.
    Last edited by indiglow; 07-29-08 at 12:56 AM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member EatMyA**'s Avatar
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    Sorry couldn't help myself

    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/02/07/58-japan/

    From the site:

    But it goes beyond just food, all white people either have/will/or wished they had taught English in Japan. It is a dream for them to go over seas and actually live in Japan. This helps them not only because it fills their need to travel, it will enable them to gain important leverage over other white people at Sushi restaurants where they can say “this place is pretty good, but living in Japan really spoiled me. I’ve had such a hard time finding a really authentic place.”

  24. #24
    Baka dakara supercub's Avatar
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    Ha. Thanks for reducing my life to a stereotype.

  25. #25
    :jarckass: deathhare's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EatMyA** View Post
    Sorry couldn't help myself

    Why not? Because you're still a racist?

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