Teaching English in Japan! Tips? Advice?

My wife and I both went on the first JET program back in 87-88. I have no idea how it’s changed over the years, but one thing I learned there is that I wasn’t really an English teacher, I was a living audio-visual aid for the Japanese English teachers. The understated primary responsibility of my position was to speak English with Japanese English teachers, many of whom had never spoken with a native English speaker before meeting me. I was lucky to get a good high school with an English Course program, what we here would call an “immersion program.” This one group was really good at English, and I have some friends still from that class. But the rest of the time, even in this good high school, I was teaching bored kids who were taking English because it was required, and had no intention of ever using it. My wife taught at several different schools, and they were not as highly rated and she didn’t see the same quality of students as I did; consequently her experience was not as fulfilling as mine.
We had a good time, but it would have been a better experience for us if we’d learned more Japanese, but several things impeded our language learning. One was that we both knew Chinese, and found that we could read (and learn quickly) a lot of Kanji, which utterly stumped the other expats (and Japanese), who couldn’t understand how we could be literate in a language we couldn’t speak. It does seem odd, I’ll admit, but characters aren’t phonetic, so there. Also, we had each other, and after dealing with Japanese all day at school we wanted to chill with each other in the evenings rather than study Japanese. Also, we found Japanese to be more difficult than any other language we’d studied, including Chinese. They have these levels of formality and status that baffled me, and an off-putting way of correcting your mistakes in a gently condescending way… so we just never bothered much. We did learn to speak fluent Janglish – English words spoken with Japanese pronunciation that is incomprehensible to both English and Japanese speakers. It was our own private language.
And do indeed save up as much money as you can. We lived comfortably on one salary and saved the other; we returned to the US with enough money to put my wife through grad school.
Fun times…

JET just came up in the big government “what can we do to not waste a ton of money?” meeting. The program isn’t in danger of dying out as far as I know, but several prefectures have already cut many of their JET positions. Iwate, for example, has only a handful of HS JETs left. The peak of JETs was about 6-8 years ago, and positions have been declining since then.

Oh, that’s why you’re coming to Aomori-shi, Auto. Welcome to the great frozen blue forest!



AKA "“You worthless piece of trash… I’ll make you regret that. Ho! Hidden Leaf Village Secret Martial Arts Technique: One Thousand Years of Pain!”

For a graphical depiction of your suffering, see here: http://www.narutowallpaper.biz/images/wallpapers/one-thousand-years-of-pain-sennen-goroshi-small.jpg

Yes… I know it’s supposed to be ‘death,’ not pain, but it sounds much better this way.

Calling all Tokyo-based dopers! Dope-fest attempt here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?p=12744813#post12744813
(lynkster, are you ready? It’s time!)