Teaching University Students ESL in Japan

University Students ESL

(Pictured: Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo by Paul Canosa)

One thing to keep in mind about Japanese university students, is that their agenda may not match yours. For four years, they are expecting to have fun, make new friends, and learn--and probably in that exact order of importance.

Unless you are lucky enough to be teaching English majors, you may have to structure your class accordingly. Like an esteemed colleague suggested: you may need to give something to the students, so they will give something back to you--and your goal of teaching English.

I always keep in mind that the guys and the girls want to get to know each other. And I of course, want to teach them English. How can I combine the two goals?

Group Projects

One way is through group projects. At the start of the term I hand out a sheet of different projects they can do.

They can choose from a number of projects such as:

Tell us about your favorite movie, write and perform a play in English, make a school newspapaper, tell us about your favourite musicians. The also have the option of creating their own project. Unfortunately few do. I wish they would though. I would love more of their ideas.

These projects allow them more input in to the class, and I think we all learn a lot more of value because of it. The more realia we can bring to our lessons the better, in my view.

As much as possible, English classes should be about what they are interested in.

More on English teaching in Japan`s universities

How do you motivate Japanese university students?

(University Students ESL Photo: Sunpu Park (by Paul Canosa)

From university students ESL to How to teach English in Japan (home)

Getting Tenure in a Humanities Faculty at a Japanese University: A How-To Guide

So you're a liberal arts college graduate, and came to Japan to teach English after graduation to see the world a little and maybe save some money. Turns out you love the country, and while you're not exactly discussing the fine points of Flannery O'Connor's fiction with your students, you like the job and could definitely see yourself doing it for a career.

Then "reality" hits: people tell you you're not a real teacher, and that teaching English is a dead end. It looks like your undergraduate degree in English literature is just as worthless here as it seems to be elsewhere. Every once in a while you hear about the prospect of university jobs in Japan- perhaps even one where you actually can discuss Flannery O'Connor with your students. But in the same breath you're told that tenure is rare, and that the good jobs are very competitive- the implication being it's hopeless, and you shouldn't concern yourself with that option.