JET Programme

English language education in Japan: Are native speakers essential?

Like so many foreigners living in Japan, I first entered the country as an eigo shidou joshu, more commonly known as an Assistant Language Teacher, or ALT for short. Although terms like “grass-roots internationalisation” and “globalisation” are uttered during ALT training seminars and by boards of education across the country with such frequency that you’d swear they’re being sponsored to use them, in reality an ALT’s role at a Japanese junior high school (where the majority in Japan are employed) is to go along to class with a non-native Japanese teacher of English (or JTE) and, as their job title implies, assist in teaching. The idea is that students, particularly those from rural areas, will benefit from the presence of and instruction from a native English speaker.

But are native speakers entirely vital to English language education in Japan? And should native English speakers, rather than Japanese teachers of English, be the ones taking the lead role in the classroom?

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The Problem With Everyone Knowing Where We Live【You, Me, And A Tanuki】

You, Me, And a Tanuki is a weekly featured blog run by Michelle, a Californian who is currently one of only two foreigners living in Chibu, a tiny fishing village on one of the Oki islands in Japan. Check back every Saturday for a new post or read more on her website here!

My husband and I live on a five square mile island with less than 600 inhabitants. To make matters even cozier, most of our island is mountainous so the houses are clustered together on the coasts where any flat land is available. As a result of our close proximity to our neighbors and the fact that we are the only two foreigners on the island, everyone knows where we live.

This is a great thing most of the time. People often come to our door to give us extra vegetables from their garden or fish they caught. When Khoa and I stayed on the island during New Year’s, the principal of the elementary school saw the light on at our house, figured we were home, and invited us over for a big New Year’s feast.

However, there is a downside to the entire island knowing our whereabouts.

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