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Teach English in Japan


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Types of English Teaching

English conversation

By far the most common type of English taught in Japan is the conversational variety. As the name suggests learners of conversational English are hoping to develop fluency in spoken communication as well as familiarity with listening to English.

Many learners have considerable latent knowledge of English (vocabulary and grammar rules) but have little opportunity to put it to use. The most important quality of a conversation teacher is a friendly and engaging personality, able to give learners the confidence to put into practice what they already know.

Get the learners to talk about themselves and their interests, and try to show genuine interest in what they are saying. However, when you have the same students on a regular basis there is only so much to be said about ourselves. It helps to have a ready supply of topics for conversation. Reading newspapers (printed or online) is an excellent and topical source of material, as is surfing the Web.

Photocopy or print out articles for students and use the article to introduce the topic. But avoid at all costs having the students sit there reading through line by line in lesson time. Instead tell them the gist of the story and perhaps get them to read a paragraph or so, or read it to them as listening practice. Then talk about it. Give them the article to take away in case they want to finish reading it, or check unknown words etc.

Songs provide excellent listening practice, and the lyrics to most popular ones can be found on the Internet. Give students copies of the lyrics, leaving some blanks for them to fill in as they listen. You can try talking about the meaning of the lyrics afterwards, but beware - some songs defy explanation! An alternative is to get the students to sing along. Remember - Japan invented karaoke.

Role play is another excellent way of stimulating conversation. With lower level learners you'll probably need to model the language first, perhaps by getting them to read through a prepared dialogue (most students will be competent at reading). Typical role play scenarios include shopping, eating out, booking travel tickets etc.

Try to make lessons as active as possible. I used to teach giving directions by handing one student a pair of dark glasses and getting another to guide the "blind" person around the school.

Avoid over-correction in conversation lessons. Learners will expect some feedback on their performance and tips for improvement, but this should not interrupt or discourage the main aim of fluency, Instead make a mental note of one or two points to raise at the end of the session. And always give more praise than criticism.

Teaching kids

Childhood is the best age to learn a language and many schools have cottoned on to this, along with parents' best intentions, by specializing in children's English classes.

Teaching kids is something you'll either love or hate - there doesn't seem to be an in-between. If you decide to give it a go, the key is to make it fun. Adults choose to learn, kids probably don't, so if you can't make lessons pleasurable for them, they might become hell for you!

Lots of games and activities are the order of the day, preferably ones that have them running around, and lots of prizes (stickers, candy…) to encourage getting it right.

English for Examinations

English for examinations involves teaching students to pass TOEIC, TOEFL etc.

Many people need to pass exams such as TOEIC or TOEFL for progression at work or to study overseas. Exam students tend to be highly motivated and much more serious about English than conversationalists. A nice chat about the latest movie will not suffice here. The up-sid is the earnings potential is significantly higher than conversation teaching.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the requirements of the exam. Luckily there are very good ext books available, and this is one group of students that won't mind using a text book. They will of course expect your input too, and this should include tips and strategies for exam success.

Business English / English for special purposes

Business English students study English for a special reason, ie business. Their needs may be even more specific, eg for the travel industry, IT, or finance. It would certainly help if you have a background matching the students needs, eg an IT specialist may want to discuss the latest operating system in English.

Many companies hire English teachers to give lessons to their staff, eg on a weekly basis. Such positions can be quite lucrative. Companies will require well-planned lessons, and will also expect teachers to follow any corporate dress code - probably suit and tie.

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