Teaching English at Japanese Universities

“I’m happy that my thoughts and insights… help folks. Really, that’s what teaching is all about…being there and encouraging students and perhaps changing their attitudes. This tends to be forgotten in all the presentations, articles, methods, etc. It is a critical thing especially for a culture like Japan that really has a lot of negative thought and also the highest rate of suicide in the world.”

–a Veteran English Teacher in Japan

English teaching in Japanese universites can be the most interesting teaching you will do here. The salary is generally good for the number of hours that you actually spend working.

In my case, I teach about 28 weeks per year, but I am paid for 52! During time off, I travel, read and enjoy my hobbies.

The campus where I teach is beautiful, the meals are discounted and I have access to many campus libraries boasting not only books, but CDs, DVDs, maps, newspapers and more. I also have access to other facilities such as: the swimming pool, tennis courts and events that are all free for me as a faculty member. Yet another perk is access to great lectures on teaching and other topics.

Moreover, access to many colleagues has been invaluable for their advice and support. Their ideas about teaching have been indispensable and I have become a better teacher because of them.

(Pictured: Japan`s famous sunset by Richard Baladad)

English teaching in Japan Universities: The Classes

The classes at universities can range from very difficult, unmotivated English learners, to extremely keen students. As long as you keep in mind what kind of student you are teaching, and adjust accordingly, you and the students will enjoy your classes. Teaching at a university can be a dream job.

However, if you are one of those teachers who must have keen, motivated students only, I would not advise teaching English in a Japanese university. Teach at a language school instead. At language schools in Japan, the students pay good money to study and are more motivated to learn. They are often more mature students, who recognize why they are studying English.

Part-time work at Japanese universities can sometimes still be acquired with a four year university degree, and many years of teaching experience. However, to get a full-time position you will need a masters or ph.d.

(Pictured: The corn is almost ready for harvest in Hiratsuka,Kanagawa by Richard Baladad)

It is still extremely difficult for non-Japanese English teachers to get tenure at Japanese universities. This fact has been described in the press as academic apartheid. Despite this fact, I think teaching at a Japanese university is one of the best teaching positions you can get in Japan.


English Teaching in Japan Universities: Part-time

If you choose to teach part-time at a university, your obligations are few. There are few meetings to attend. There will be no committee work, so you can come, teach, then go home when you are finished. For me at least, this is the best option. I love my freedom, and I love teaching too. I feel I`m a teacher not a researcher.

I prefer to leave the research and the committee discussions to the full-timers. But if you would rather be more involved with the intricacies of the institution, and get involved with research, then full-time work may be for you.

Certainly, some people prefer being a full-time university instructor in spite of the extra obligations, and much less paid vacation time. They feel the benefits greatly outweigh the negatives.

As a full-time instructor, they of course will receive bonuses like research grant money, and a much higher salary. There are other perks too of course–in some cases: trips abroad for projects, research or other interesting opportunities.

(Pictured: From Kaisei Town, Kanagawa, Mount Fuji in the distance by Sam Galbranson)

Here is a list of good universities to teach for

English Teaching in Japan Universities: Teaching Uninterested Japanese University Students

Deep down, almost everyone would like to be able to speak English. What a great gift it is with world travel now so widely available.

I have taught English at a Japanese university since 2006. Some of my students are highly motivated to learn, but many are not. So one of the challenges is how to motivate them?

English Teaching in Japan Universities: Movie Projects

At the start of the year, I surprise students by asking them which movies they would like to watch in class. You can see the sparkle in their eyes as they write down their choices. Davanshe Chauhan elaborates further on the challenges of teaching young adult learners in his well thought article.

Japanese L & R Pronunciation Difficulty

English Teaching in Japan Universities–Pronunciation

“Recall that Japanese “L” and “R” difficulty? Kuhl and scientists at Tokyo Denki University and the University of Minnesota helped develop a computer language program that pictures people speaking in “motherese,” the slow exaggeration of sounds that parents use with babies. Japanese college students who had had little exposure to spoken English underwent 12 sessions listening to exaggerated “Ls” and “Rs” while watching the computerized instructor’s face pronounce English words. Brain scans―a hair dryer-looking device called MEG, for magnetoencephalography―that measure millisecond-by-millisecond activity showed the students could better distinguish between those alien English sounds. And they pronounced them better, too, the team reported in the journal NeuroImage.

“It’s our very first, preliminary crude attempt but the gains were phenomenal,” says Kuhl.”

–Associated Press

More advice on teaching English to university students here

The Dumbo Feather and communication circles.

Aldwinkel gives his thoughts on English teaching in Japan Universities:

“Many of these places (universities) have overtly discriminatory hiring practices towards their full-time (joukin) educators/staff on the basis of extranationality, or for other reasons unrelated to professionalism. This has been going on for more than a century in Japanese academia, and applicants from overseas are advised to research Japanese institutions of higher learning very carefully before committing years of their academic careers to jobs in Japan which may not in fact have a future.”

–Dave Aldwinkle (also known as Arudo Debito)

Unfortunately, full-time university instructors in Japan are often forced to look for work after 3-6 years. They can sometimes extend their contract, but there is a lot of uncertainty and stress involved, of not knowing where you will be working and living.

It is a shame that more universities in Japan do not extend tenure to teachers, people who give a lot of thought, time and even sweat to the university they teach for.

A very few of the lucky ones, are offered tenure after agreeing to a huge pay-cut and perhaps committing to taking on a job that no one else wants to do, for an agreed period of time.

The Greenlist of Japanese Universities

About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
This entry was posted in Universities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s