Business English Lesson

Top Secret: Teaching Business English in Japanese Companies


More about teaching English in Japan

Business English Lesson - Teach in Japan

Luckily for me, my Japanese is not very good. Because of this, I can teach a business English lesson in some of the most sensitive areas of Japan. I teach English in some of the top companies of the world. At one of them, part of the interview was conducted in Japanese. They wanted to see how good my command of the language was. It wasn`t to deal with problems that might come up, we have a bilingual office staff at our school for that. No, I suspect it was to insure the safety of company secrets. How much could he comprehend if he overheard something? That was their concern.


Business English Lesson -- at Japanese Companies

If you teach Business English at a Japanese company. You enter a secretive world. As you walk towards your company, you may notice what looks like a moat all around it. You can be forgiven for thinking you are entering a fort or some other military complex. In a way you are. You cannot enter freely. The enclosure is fenced in, sometimes with barbed wire at the top of the fence or at least with a wall and perhaps more. There may be video cameras. There is a guard house, and the security guards will decide if you can enter. You must report to them.


Business English Lesson -- Teacher

Being the company business English teacher the guards get to know you and will admit you with a wave of their hand after a while, but still they keep track of your comings and goings. You are scrutinised by any new guards. Company secrets are worth money, and closely guarded.

When teaching business English lessons at your Japanese company you may be politely asked to change classrooms some days. Sometimes it is simply for a lack of space, but sometimes it is to insure that company meetings stay secrets. Excuses are made: "This room is more comfortable," your student will politely say.

Business plans are being formed for Japan`s newest assault on the world. No more does Nippon attack her neighbours, instead she ships her factories abroad and produces her products more cheaply in China, Malaysia, and Thailand. For new ideas, she sets up factories and research centres in the United States and other nations. These plans are well guarded though, and as an English teacher you are not privy to them. You can`t be fully trusted no matter how long you have taught there. I understand this. To some extent I work in a war zone. Business is war, and Japanese companies are battling it out for survival.





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Pictured: The Mita area of Tokyo by Richard Baladad

Shintaro slumps into his chair. He worked another twelve hour shift last night. Business trips to China and other locales require him to study English once a week with me. He is a good student. In spite of exhaustion, he comes to class with a smile. He was transferred to Odawara a couple of years ago. Due to this, he had to leave his pregnant wife back in Osaka, and wasn`t around when his mother passed away. Ironically, his son was born the same day. I admire Shintaro. He is a pleasant man. He obviously loves his wife and baby and is a nice guy to be around. He is loyal to his company and never complains. Many Japanese are like that. Gaman is a Japanese word that is entrenched here. It really means grin and bear it or do your best. It is said before a sports event and it is entrenched in business.




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Spacious Cottage near Hakone

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In a land with virtually no natural resources, the people are all it has. Her people become the most important asset of the country. Other nations pay lip service to this in presidential speeches, but all Japanese know this to be true. If her people fail, Japan fails. There is no oil money to fall back on.

It is common practice for Japanese companies to loan employees money to buy a house - a very expensive commodity here. The company often seizes this chance to promptly transfer the employee to a new city - perhaps in the countryside or up north. Being obligated to pay the loan, the employee can`t say no in most cases. She or he is usually trapped. The brand new house is usually rented, most often to another employee of the company. The employee then rents an apartment in the new town she/he has been transferred to. Five years later he may return to finally live for the first time in his house.

Often the wives and children do not accompany their husbands to the new locale. A friend`s husband is alone in China and has been for three years. This isn`t strange at all to Japanese. It is all too common. One can imagine what this can lead to. Fifty percent of Japanese women have affairs. For men the percentage is higher. The sex industry brings in billions of yen and even offers host clubs for women.

The ageing head of one company I work for feels English is unnecessary. I cannot understand why. Fortunately some of the general managers feel otherwise and hired me to crack the whip and get their employees in shape for negotiations abroad in arguably the most difficult language in the world. It is a Fuji-like uphill climb. The classes are largely occupied by unmotivated, unconfident English students. When I say unconfident, I mean they don`t believe they will ever be good at speaking English. With this belief, they can`t. I try to motivate by being friendly, witty and caring. I try to get to know them and take an interest in their lives. A few become pretty good students and attend class regularly. It is slow, but they do improve year by year.

I tell myself I am making Japan a little bit more international. I am educating the people about other nations. I am making this country a better place, and I keep the company secrets to myself. Not that I know any. My Japanese is still not very good.


To Japan Living


Teach in Japan - Business English: check out the big schools in Japan.

Pictured: Shimizu (by Paul Canosa)

Business English Lesson -- Having a Plan

Eric Keuling talks about the importance of having a plan when teaching or studying business English or other English classes. Indeed having a goal helpts the teacher and student in a business English lesson.

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