This is a kind of a dry topic, but it is a very important concept to understand if you are someone who is trying to master a second language. If you have ever been in a language class, or tried to learn a new language on your own in your spare time, you know how horrible the process is. You study and study and study and make almost no progress. You try again. You study and study more. You buy books and CDs and DVDs. You join more classes. You watch TV in the language you want to learn. You buy new pens and notebooks. Special notebooks. Special pens.
But you feel like you don’t know anything. All your efforts so far, all your special stationary supplies are a waste. The sit on your desk and you feel like they are mocking you, like they are laughing at you.
You have failed.
You have not failed. You have actually made some progress, even if you don’t know it. Even if you don’t feel it. You have, in fact, learned something. In your brain. Deep in your brain there is the vocabulary that you have studied. It lies deep in your head, but it cannot come to the front of your brain, and out of your mouth yet. It needs to be revisited. It needs to be reviewed. It needs to be forced a little more. It needs to be polished up.
Researchers have shown us that in order for a foreign word to become natural for us to use it requires seven or eight reviews. It needs seven or eight contextual uses so that it becomes natural for you, and then you will recognize it as having been learnt.
Learning language is not like anything else, and the closest proximity we can find is the study of music. Music needs practice and rehearsal. Endless practice and rehearsal until it sounds natural and spontaneous. We hear the “voice” of great pianists and guitarists. They are smooth and seamless. It is because they practice like crazy. Of course there are the very unique few who can learn language or music instantly, but for the rest of the peons like me and you, we have to plod along, endlessly, relentlessly. We have to be like a dog with a bone.
Like a dog with a bone.
This is the year of the dog. Language study is the bone.
That parallel just fell into this article. How cool is that?
So, learning language is incremental, and unromantic. It needs time and persistence. Knowing that is a powerful thing, and it is liberating too. If anyone says, “You studied language for so long, why don’t you speak it yet?” The only answer is, “I am still practicing.”
Those are the same words spoken by martial arts masters in Japan. They never claim mastery, even though to the outsider they are completely flawless. They are “in the midsts of learning”. Surely we can take that to heart in our own study, whatever it is we are trying to learn.
Language learning is not fun. We need the building blocks of language–vocabulary. And lots of it. We have our students write out vocabulary lists. They make vocabulary cards. We drill the vocabulary. We quiz them. We review and review and review and review.
Then…. we can build some sentences. And that is the fun part. We can choose simple grammatical structures and drop in a verb, drop in a noun, drop in an adjective. Instantly we are using language, playing with language, and reviewing it. We can learn a more complex pattern, something with prepositions. Drop in a verb, a noun, an adjective, and jump it around. The kids can see how easy, and fun it can be.
It’s fun because they master something. It’s fun because they really KNOW something. And what they have played with in a variety of forms gets reviewed. Soon it gets to seven or eight times of usage and they can keep that part of language in their minds. Forever.
Then review it all one more time.
Then get out the vocabulary worksheets, the cards, and do it all over again.
It is a very exciting time for us at englishbiz. This year promises to bring a few new projects to life, as well as move our company and schools further down the road of becoming stronger and of better service to our students and community.
Last year, in our English classrooms, we experimented with developing an EIKEN JUKU. For those of you do not know what that is, “Eiken” is the name of a series of English tests that kids can take from an early age and the difficulty extends upwards to full fluency. The “Jr” levels are Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and then from there the ranks go 5, 4, 3, pre-2, 2, pre-1, and 1. The “Junior Eiken” levels are primarily for elementary school kids and then from junior high the “Adult Eiken” program kicks in. The word “Juku” means “cram school”. So, what we have in essence created, is a cram school environment for kids working through the “Eiken” ranks.
We did not know what to expect, but it has been a booming success for our school. The parents want it, the kids need it, and there is no one anywhere in Takamatsu City who has done it. This really hit home for us that we were on the right path of making a serious, and seriously enriching and enjoyable, English learning school and environment. We were very very excited when the results came in that 98% of our kids could pass their Eiken examinations and advance to the next stage. There is nothing like real success that can give kids the confidence they need to learn.
While other schools are twirling ribbons, and screaming, and running about with unruly kids, we managed to model, demonstrate, and guide kids towards a better way of learning, REALLY learning, and not just “experiencing” English. I am proud of our school and our team for this success. We will make certain it extends to reach more kids for 2018.
The other area where we saw some incredible success was with our experimental English Daycare called “Little DaVincis”. This was a brainchild of my wife, and we decided to start very small and to see where it would lead us. We made the facility inside the largest language school we ran and hired staff to work with us. It has been a very adventurous start, and we are still in the first year of its inception. There is a growing demand for bilingual daycares in our city, so we are considering carefully if this is another service we can provide better.
Looking ahead to 2018, there is a new project that we have decided to work on, and this is concerned with developing and finding teachers who are either looking for their next placement, or who need the skills and certification that Japanese Immigration authorities require for work visa permission. We contacted iTTi in New York and have secured exclusive rights with them to run their TESOL program here in Japan. The first session will be a 120 hour certification program in Osaka in July. Details will follow on this page, so please let us know if you are interested in this. We are keeping the class size small so we can manage the quality and effectiveness of it, so seats will be limited for the first year anyway.
Thanks so much for coming by! Thanks for the emails and kind comments, and friendly support. It means a lot to me to be connected to great educators and thoughtful people. Teaching English overseas as a career is a wonderful ride, and it is a great pleasure to be on it with you.
It is with great excitement that we can now announce that we are ready to start taking inquiries regarding the TESOL / TEFL certification course that will be offered in Osaka during the month of July.
We are partnering with iTTi, the International TEFL Training Institute, located in New York, and have secured exclusive rights with them to be the sole certifying board for the TESOL program. The TESOL certificate has great value as it gives you the theoretical background that will help you with teaching and make you a more effective educator. In addition to that, the TESOL certificate is sometimes CRITICAL in helping Immigration authorities determine if you will be a suitable candidate to receive from them a working visa.
As you may be aware, securing a working visa in Japan can be full of difficulties, and simply applying for one does not guarantee anything. In fact, many times officials look for reasons to quickly disqualify candidates to lighten their workload and the amount of applications they must process. As an employer and owner of language schools in Japan we have first-hand experience of visas being refused because the applicant had a speciality outside of ESL, or English, or Education. The need for a TESOL certificate is very real, and can be the tipping point for your application.
Below is the blurb on our program that will be on the iTTi site, but I thought I would share it with you. So, before we get to the rush of 2018, just know that this is the first time we are setting up the program and we are limiting the session to 20 members only. Let us know if you want to secure a position in our July session for Osaka!
Ok, here is the blurb!
Our TEFL School in Osaka, Japan
Our training center is located in central Osaka. The bustling metropolis of Osaka, while having a mega-city scale to it, is still home to many cultural and traditional locations, temples, shrines, parks, and all the things that make Japan an incredible launching platform for your ESL career.
Our training center offers internet access in a suitable classroom environment, located near all amenities. Led by a professional long-term ESL teacher, and business owner of language schools in Japan, students will learn the ins and outs of delivering high quality interactive lessons for students of all ages, while also getting some insight as to how ESL schools run, and what real employers require of prospective new teachers. Developing capable and confident instructors is our mission, and feedback and support is given to all members to ensure that they have the best possible success both in leading classes, as well as managing issues that crop up from time to time in the ESL field.
There is a pressing need for ESL teachers to have the certifications necessary to apply for visa status to work as a language teacher in Japan. While many local school boards receive applications from all over the world, the processes and determining factors that grant successful visa applications often rests not only on relevant degrees in the Arts or Education, but also in ESL certifications attached to those applications. A TEFL / TESOL certification is a powerful element, and often a convincing document that illustrates the seriousness of visa applicants, paving the way and opening the door to the ESL industry.
The Ministry of Education and Science in Japan has proposed an aggressive and progressive increase in the hours and expected outcomes for English education in elementary schools, and higher standards are required for the year 2020. What is needed are new teachers with proper credentials to meet this challenge.
Having had considerable first-hand experience both in working as interviewers for ESL teacher positions, including the illustrious JET Program which is sponsored by the Japanese Government, we will provide advice and counsel how to craft your applications and resume.
We are also currently working with a network of ESL language schools, as well as other hospitality and service industries throughout Japan and can refer you directly to those company and school owners who are currently seeking new teachers and staff.
Ok, so here is where we are at with the TESOL course preparations. The ink is drying on the contract that I have received and we are ready to move ahead. Our initial plan is to start our first TESOL course in July of 2018, and we will set up in OSAKA.
The reason for this is that it is very accessible for anyone coming to Japan, or already living in Japan. The Kansai Airport is within an hour of the downtown area, and Osaka is a major hub for the entire country. Tokyo is great, and if this would be your first time to Japan, it is a “must-go” to location. I highly recommend a few days in Tokyo to get in the sights and sounds of that massive concrete megacity.
Osaka is significant because it is also just a stone’s through from Kyoto. We are going to set up the TESOL course so that we will have some intense sessions for a few days, and then cut you guys loose for a few days in a row. This is essential to let you have the time and space to explore the country, and to really see some of the most significant sights of Kyoto, Osaka, and beyond.
We also hope to have plenty of leads with companies and language schools that are looking for qualified teachers to work with. That is another important thing that we need to do our best in terms of preparing you for life after you get your TESOL certification. Part of getting you ready for life in Japan is to also sort out your CV, and consult with you about strategies for the next step of your career. We have some ideas, but need to hear from you as well in terms of what you are looking for, what ages do you feel most comfortable teaching, and what kind of contracts or length of time you wish to put into an ESL teaching position.
There are many things to formalize and to let you know about, but details are coming! Drop me a line at email@example.com if you have any questions!
This is a very exciting time for our company. We are in the midst of making a significant step forward in developing a TESOL certification program for prospective teachers. We are realizing that to be of best service we need to reach out in two directions as a company and school.
One is, of course, to the kids that we see in our classrooms. They need a very serious and well designed English program, and they deserve to get something better than what they currently get in school. That is our mission as a school.
The other, now that we have the size and clout to do so, is to develop something good for people who are planning to live and work as English teachers in Japan. Towards that end, we are in the finalizing stages of getting our company’s TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification. When the paperwork is resolves we will be able to hold training sessions for teachers looking to teach in Japan.
Our plan is to host the training sessions, give prospective teachers opportunities to do “on-site” teaching and get some experience, get them through the certification process, and then to help get them placed in real ESL jobs. Of course we cannot guarantee placement of jobs, as it is really up to the interviewee to wow their prospective employer, but we will do what we can to set things up properly in that regard. After all, it is great to come to Japan to get your TESOL certificate, but you really want to land the job that will keep you here, right?
Watch this blog for updates. They are coming soon, and we are getting all our ducks in a row to move ahead with this project for 2018! Would very much like to see you here, so if you have interest in coming for a training session with us, they are short term (2 days), one week (7 days), or 120 hours (over one month period), drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .
In the meantime, take care and enjoy the festive season, which is just around the corner from today!!
I have been thinking about what I can do to show friends and neighbours more of what we do here at englishbiz. One of the coolest parts of my job, and when I have the time to attempt to be a little creative, is making videos. I made a bunch of videos for kids that focus on vocabulary, so I am going to drop them in here and leave them for you to check out.
I made all of these easily enough on my Mac, and am trying to keep to a simple format that simply works. I hope that you thought they were cool, and I hope that it may encourage you as a teacher to think of creative ways to get English to your kids. I also think that you will probably be more creative and interesting than my feeble attempts here! Not great production, and I have very limited skills. But I gotta use what I got!
Thanks so much for coming by and have a terrific day.
Today I put out an advertisement for new teachers on Dave’s ESL Cafe website. We have been using Dave’s site for a number of years and we often get some great applications coming in to apply for teaching positions with us. I hope that you are meeting some good results as you are throwing your CVs out to the world, and I hope that you land the job that you need and want.
I should tell you a few things about working with us here at englishbiz that are hard to see in a short advertisement. The first thing is that we live in an unbelievably beautiful part of Japan. We have our schools in the city of Takamatsu, in Kagawa Prefecture. The environment here is simply marvellous, and it permits people a sense of having a “home”, yet not being so far away that you can’t get to Osaka or Okayama easily enough for the weekend. Kobe is nearby, and so is Kyoto. Many of our teammates find time easily enough to get out and explore the areas around, to catch live music and night life after they punch out for the weekend.
Even if you don’t head off to the major cities for fun there is a lot to explore here. We have a beautiful set of islands in the Seto Inland Sea which are there for you to explore. Each island has its own feeling and sub-culture. We really recommend you get out on the ferries that bring people out to those places, and feel the sea wind on your face. In addition, there is an unbelievable art festival that takes place every three years. People from all over the world come here to put up their displays and exhibits all over the islands and in Takamatsu too.
Kagawa-ken is also home to part of the 88 Buddhist Temple Pilgrimage. Taking some time to walk in the footsteps of the great priest Kukai may be the thing to reset your mind, give you some inner peace, and explore the deep culture that lives on today. I have had the chance to go through the temples once via tour, and hope to do it all over again, but next time by foot. Taking some time to walk through the temple grounds, hear the priests and pilgrims pray, and learn something of the local culture, its folklore, and see the architecture can be marvellous. Also, these temples are much more intimate and “closer” to visitors than what you may see in bigger cities, like Kyoto. Here you can touch things, hear things, go inside many of the buildings, and experience much first hand, rather than standing on the other side of a rope meant to keep the crush of tourists away.
Ok, well enough about where we are. If you come our way you will have time and space to explore that on your own. We need to also to also talk about the job that you may be taking.
In short, I think that the big thing that separates us from our competition in other ESL or eikaiwa schools is that we are very keen to get real results. We need and want our students to succeed, and we design our classes and curriculum to take kids from literally zero English to complete fluency. We have not seen any of the local schools come close to the organization and dedication we have towards education.
The typical ESL school is a lot of activities, with music, and cooking, and colouring, and dancing, and messing about with the illusion of education. Sounds harsh? Maybe so, but we know that kids absolutely NEED 2,000 plus hours of solid language education to be able to use it in any meaningful way. When I see some other school mixing up brownies for English class I can only think that I can buy my own brownies, thanks. What I need is education for my kids.
Also, we don’t need to know about American culture.
Sorry, we just don’t need it. America can take care of itself. What I would like our teachers to do is to help kids learn nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, subject-verb agreements, how to use the past tense, how to write English letters, how to perfect their pronunciation, how to make a sentence, how to ask questions, how to ask for clarification, how to structure a paragraph in English, how to sound out new words, how to ask “What does this mean?”, and to develop a sense of “I can do it” when they study English.
We don’t need the dancing, guitar playing, or brownie making class. We just don’t have the time. Sorry about that.
We like our teachers to love teaching, and to love the art of being “in the moment” with the student, and to inspire them, encourage them, and help them towards the next plateau of learning. We love teachers who love to teach. If you have a passion for learning, and books, and personal development, and want to mentor and coach kids, that is awesome. You should send us your CV.
Also, you do not need to be a “native speaker”. If you are, that is great. I am one too, and it has some advantages, but it is not a “deal-breaker” at all. In fact, we find that our teachers who speak multiple languages (including English, we are going to need that one) have a deep sense of care and empathy for kids who struggle. Having gone through the process themselves, they know what it is like, and what it will take to master English.
Send us your CV, and all the other info we need (photo, copy of degree, certificates, letters of reference, etc.) to email@example.com .
Sometimes in the morning, especially when I can’t find the remote control to change the channel, I will see some kids program on TV that is teaching English to youngsters. There is a fair bit of sing-song voices, some overly exaggerated gesticulation on the part of the hosts, and some jumping about which far exceeds my early morning tolerances.
But my kids are watching it, so I have my coffee in grouchy old-man silence, scratching the head of one of our dogs who no doubt has found her way onto my lap, eyes gazing upward expectantly, hoping, waiting for breakfast.
And then it happens.
The English program hosts are now at a daycare. They are outside with the kids. The kids are in rows. The hosts are in the front. The daycare staff are staggered around the kids. The calisthenics begin. The music starts. The kids start to shuffle, jiggle, and contort.
“How are you?”, bellow the hosts, arms askew and walking “like an Egyptian”.
“I’m so happy!”, screeches the response. Bodies now raising one leg and arms flapping akimbo.
They repeat. The kids are walking like Egyptians, screaming… something. I can’t understand it. They repeat again. The kids are raising legs with arms akimbo. They are hysteric now. The shrill English conversation session resembles a hospital ward of patients experiencing painful seizures. I can’t hear a single recognizable English sound. They repeat again. The daycare staff look confused. They do not walk so well like Egyptians.
“That’s….. GREAT!” shout out the frenzied hosts. They leap. They land in frozen poses. The camera lingers just a couple seconds too long before cutting away. The hosts, in that final fleeting moment, lose some of the brightness in their eyes. A thought…. a lonesome brief pause flickers across their faces….. Something is slipping away. Their eyes darken ever so slightly.
I can read what it means.
They are quietly whispering through the television screen to me.
“Why, for the sweet love of all that is soy-flavored, am I doing this?”, they seem to ask.
I know the reason why. Even if they don’t.
These poor wretched souls, these lost sheep of eikaiwa glory, are stuck in a groove. Like a vinyl record with a trapped needle, skipping, skipping, skipping…. they are products of a 1990’s Frankenstein creation of “What English education is supposed to look like.” They are the doomed souls of Dante’s ESL Inferno, that is, if Dante was an ESL teacher instead of a brilliant poet. They were programmed, or told to believe that in order to be an English teacher of any calibre. you must be…. GENKI.
Ooooof…. there is that word. Genki.
What is this “genki”? Is it a virus? Is it a disease? Is it the Japanese sparkly season of our discontent? It may be, and more. To be “genki”, for so many language schools in Japan, means that you have some element that is marketable, and sellable, for eikaiwa schools to provide their clients. It means that you will open your eyes a little wider. It means that you will use gestures in a more flamboyant manner. It means that the pitch of your voice will be raised, as if the hair on your head was being ever so slightly pulled upward. You will smile. You will show more teeth, right back to your molars if necessary. You will nod a lot. You will not laugh, but you will guffaw, and do so with gusto. You will stand in poses where your feet are planted further apart than they normally would be, as if you were preparing an oratory of a great genki Greek tragedy.
In short, you will be the overly cheery monster that lurked in your own shadow. I am not sure if Camus had this in mind, but there it is, lurking, like an exaggerated lovable rascal that was hiding in the subconscious of your brain. And now you have summoned it forth, and brought it into the light of day. It smiles, in all its toothy glory. Like rows of brilliantly white styrofoam lined up in an artificial plastic mouth, gaping, and lost.
You have become genki.
It may be good to be of good cheer, and to be mirthful. A mercurial presence can be much needed in an otherwise dreary classroom, and far be it from me to poo-poo on anyone’s genki parade. But I have concerns, grave concerns, about an over-extended identity of “genki-ness”, that may breed more trouble than what may have seemed a meager price to pay for one’s human dignity.
To be formally genki at all times when you interact with your students here in Japan means that you cannot actually be the person you are, the person that is good all on your own. It is a sign that you may feel that your truer self is unworthy of normal public and human interaction. It is a sign that you feel that Japanese people have a continuous stream of expectation of you and your outward behavior. It is a sign that you believe that Japanese people do not possess the capacity to just see you, and accept you, as the natural person that you are. It makes both you, and the people you are now surrounded with, into strange creatures, and not humans at all.
All of that is complete and utter nonsense.
In my, going on 20 years, experience of living here, people in Japan are much like people anywhere else. They have things they like. They have things they don’t like. They have things they need to do, and places they need to go. They have families, and loved ones, and dreams, and trouble, and crushing disappointments, and angry in-laws, and flaws, and virtues, and vices, and a sense of humour. Just like everyone else on this planet.
Why do you need to treat them different? Why do you need to treat yourself different in order to live here?
But then there is that tricky thing about dealing with your eikaiwa task-master. They want you to “be genki”, they want you to be like the creatures they witness on children’s television in the morning. They expect you to be genki, and they believe that they need you to be genki. They want you to …. embrace your genki-ness.
I suppose, that while you need to get yourself settled at first in Japan, you will need to take the job that you have in front of you. You will need to be very cheerful and clown around a bit with the kids. You will need to be goofy and strut around a bit with your best “Gee willikers” or “Gosh darnitt” expressions to get through the day. What are you going to do? Protest? That will simply hasten you towards unemployment, or needing to jump ship to a hopefully more agreeable lateral job.
There may be no solution…. well, no solution for people who are stuck in that genki-groove. For my part, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the market is changing. I am hopeful that the antiquated ossified notion of what it means to be a foreign teacher in Japan will be ground to dust. I am hopeful that students and schools and eikaiwa employers will see that gentleness, authenticity, truthfulness, honesty, goodness, and a cheerful heart will win the day, and truly inspire the next generation of Japanese students.
I am hopeful that the English teacher can simply “be” and not “become”, as in become the thing they ought not, a false shadow of a darkly lit clown.
We see signs of this shift. We see signs in some of the English language programming. Yes, there are still the old crusty “genki” standbys, and they will be with us for some time yet to come. But there are moments, and good teachers, and thoughtful people, and common sense that is starting to shine through cracks and blot out the vapid and empty genki presentations we have seen far too much up until now.
As I said, I am hopeful. We will, for our part, do our best to simply “be” and not “become” the sum of expectations of those around us.
Hmmm…. I am glad I got that off my chest.
I am not completely sure where this blog came from, but it has been settled in the back of my mind for some time. Thanks for dropping by and giving it a read. Much appreciated, and if this speaks to you as a language teacher looking for a place that will measure you by how well you are as yourself with kids, rather than how you must paint over your own character, I hope you will drop me a line. I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, keep your stick on the ice and keep between the ditches.
As always, thank you so much for coming by! Things here in sunny Kagawa remain, by and large, the same. I am getting off my keister to get this blog active and to do my best to add more and more content as we go along. I just realized the other day that I have been doing this kind of work for over 20 years, and maybe there are a few things I can share with you that might be of benefit. And if it is not so much of benefit, I hope I would have amused you.
Right now I would like to put out a notice that we are interested in interviewing prospective teachers to work with us at englishbiz. I usually put out an advertisement for the position on-line using various venues, but I would like to put the information about the position here as well.
In short, we are looking for a person who is:
Already in Japan and who has a visa which grants them permission to work.
Flexible, easy-going, friendly, well-mannered, honest, and who enjoys working with students.
Self-reliant and self-sufficient, who can find things on their own in town and who can be resourceful.
Punctual and understands that being on time is not only necessary for a job, but it is good manners too.
In possession of a university degree. This is a MUST. No degree, no interview.
Looking for a school within which they can grow.
Looking for the possibility of working long-term, and perhaps having “a piece of the pie” that belongs to them.
If not looking long-term, can commit to the minimum of a year contract. This is okay too!
If you are someone who is looking for a teaching job in Takamatsu, Kagawa-ken, please feel free to drop me a line. The best email for that is firstname.lastname@example.org . In your correspondence please send a copy of your degree, a copy of your valid visa, and some information about yourself, your current situation, and what kind of teacher you are. That would be wonderful, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.