English Teaching in Japan Universities

English teaching in Japan Universities: share YOUR stories of teaching in universities in Japan. Plus read the stories of others and comment on them.

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Share YOUR stories about teaching at universities in Japan

Update 2016:

I no longer recommend that foreign university teachers come to Japan to teach English at a Japanese University. The employment situation is too tenuous now, the possibility of long term employment is a risk, and giving non-Japanese teachers tenure is extremely rare. The working conditions for university teachers continue to decline. So especially if you have a family, I recommend choosing a different country for university work. If you want to stay at a university long term, look elsewhere.

It is demotivating for teachers to give their heart and soul to teaching, only to be treated like so many cattle. There are other more positive environments to teach in than Japan, for career teachers. Top down decision making, and Japanese style educational management leaves many university teachers here burned out.

Until Japan stops practicing racism in the work place and racism in legal matters, I do not recommend teaching here as a serious long term career. Once Japan actually gets serious about internationalism and truly embraces the full meaning of that word, stay clear.

If you just want to come over for two years and see the country and teach, in an Eikaiwa school, Japan is still good for that.

As well, there are just too many university English teachers, clamoring for less and less, low paid work with poor working conditions. Unfortunately, at the moment, I do not see a bright future for foreign university English teachers in Japan.

Perhaps the Arab countries, Korea, Taiwan, Europe or China might be a better bet than Japan between 2015-2025?

I wish I could be more positive, and will update this section again if/when things change for the better or worse.

University teachers in Japan work under the shadow of a falling ax.

Creating confident creative conversationalists with communication circles

"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

Pictured: Fujisawa Endo (Park) by Richard Baladad

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.

University teaching jobs available in Japan now

The Value of Part-time University Instructors

Thomas Anderson talks about the value of part-time teachers in the university classroom in his article about Unsung Heroes.

The Five Year Contract Limit, How to Deal with it?

If you teach at a university in Japan and you are asked to take a break or asked if you would like to take a break, politely state that you do not want to take any breaks. You wish to teach every semester.

English Teaching in Japan Universities - How to teach English through Film

Why teach through film?

Movies expose students to natural English, and give students an eye into foreign cultures. Learning through movies is fun!Anything that helps keep students interested in English is usually not a bad thing.

The following is a compilation of my ideas and the ideas of other teachers I work with.

From English Teaching in Japan Universities to How to teach English in Japan (home)

To Teaching English in Japan - Amazing experiences

From English Teaching in Japan Universities to Jobs in Japan - the American Experience

To Teach English in Japan - TESOL

To Japanese Video and teaching English in Japan

To Kevin`s Machida English School