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ALT/Eikaiwa as a non-career venture
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Ethrivar



Joined: 23 Apr 2010
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:59 am    Post subject: ALT/Eikaiwa as a non-career venture Reply with quote

Hello! Long-time reader, first-time poster here. I've been looking into going over to Japan for about a year now and I'm finally at a good point in life to actually go for it. I guess I'll start off with a bit about me:

    26 years old

    United States resident (lived here all my life)

    BS in Computer Science

    I've been working for the same software development company since I graduated 4 years ago

    I've been studying Japanese in my spare time for the past 2 years or so (kind of a combination of Rosetta Stone, the Kanji in Context series + SRS, and using the internet). I don't really know how to gauge how good my Japanese is, but I know the kana, 250-300 kanji, and basic grammar.

    I have no teaching experience at all, nor any kind of certification.


My main reason for wanting to go to Japan is to learn the language and absorb the culture. I have no plans to live there for the rest of my life or making teaching English my career. I've had this interest in Japan since I was younger (I'm a huge nerd...video games and anime are my thing, not trying to hide being an otaku), so I started picking the language a few years back. Now I'm at a point where I'm ready to move on from my current job and I have nothing tying me down. The idea of spending 2-3 years in Japan just kind of popped into my head and I've been researching it for awhile. I'm big into travel and knowledge-seeking, so the whole adventure seemed right up my alley.

Now that you are all thoroughly bored with my life story...Questions. From what I've been reading, most people seem to bash or praise jobs in Japan based on some long-term career goal. How do the eikaiwa's and dispatch companies stack up in regards to coming to Japan for a couple of years? I'm aware that there are other ways to get to Japan like JET (which I plan on applying for this fall if I don't find something else first) and direct hire. How likely is it that someone like me with no teaching experience, and who doesn't live in Japan already, will be able to get a direct hire job? I know that I missed the big hiring season in like Feb/Mar, and I'm patient enough to wait for the next cycle. Are there any other times of year that are decent for hiring though? In general, are there any other avenues you all think I may have missed and should persue?

I'll clarify my desires a bit more:

    From all that I've read, I think I'd rather be an ALT than working at an Eikaiwa. Though I'm not really opposed to doing Eikaiwa. I really like kids, and I think I'd be more comfortable trying to teach children than adults. Also, it seems like being an ALT would get me a better taste for the "Japanese experience" than being in an Eikaiwa.

    Money isn't really a huge deal. I've got no problem living on easy mac (or the Japanese equivalent) and scraping pennies. Plus I've managed to net quite a large savings from my current job, so I'm not worried about being destitute. That being said, everyone loves money, so higher pay would always be appreciated. Just not necessary.

    I have little-to-no desire to live in Tokyo or any other big city. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I'm comfortable there. Also I get the impression that I'll get more of the culture living out in the inaka than I will in a huge city. Again, within reason. A 200 person fishing village might be a bit too "middle of nowhere" for me.

    I'd prefer to live somewhere colder, especially with mountains close by. I can stand heat/humidity, but prefer cold. I love snow and really enjoy skiing (hence the mountains). From what I've read, Hokkaido or Tohoku are the big places on my radar.


I'll stop rambling for now, was just trying to be thorough. If you all have any questions or need anymore clarification about me or what I'm looking for, I'll be happy to elaborate. Thank you all for your time! =)
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:08 am    Post subject: Re: ALT/Eikaiwa as a non-career venture Reply with quote

Ethrivar wrote:
My main reason for wanting to go to Japan is to learn the language and absorb the culture.
Teaching is certainly one way, but there are others. Student visa, cultural activities visa, tourist status.

Quote:
I have no plans to live there for the rest of my life or making teaching English my career.
Many others feel that way. Regardless, I would still urge you to take any teaching job seriously enough to learn how to do it properly. There are too many backpackers trying to pay for their trips by showing up in a classroom and doing squat.

Quote:
The idea of spending 2-3 years in Japan just kind of popped into my head and I've been researching it for awhile. I'm big into travel and knowledge-seeking, so the whole adventure seemed right up my alley.
Not that I'm trying to discourage you from a short-term teaching venture, but what have you got against coming here for 2-3 months as a tourist first?

Quote:
From what I've been reading, most people seem to bash or praise jobs in Japan based on some long-term career goal. How do the eikaiwa's and dispatch companies stack up in regards to coming to Japan for a couple of years?
Most eikaiwa teachers leave in that period of time, if not sooner. ALTs may be different, I don't know, and some have made ALT work a decades-long career. Most employers don't seem to care.

Quote:
I'm aware that there are other ways to get to Japan like JET (which I plan on applying for this fall if I don't find something else first) and direct hire.
Good! Keep the otaku stuff to a minimum, or you won't get past the first round of applications.

Quote:
How likely is it that someone like me with no teaching experience, and who doesn't live in Japan already, will be able to get a direct hire job?
Zero.

Quote:
I know that I missed the big hiring season in like Feb/Mar, and I'm patient enough to wait for the next cycle. Are there any other times of year that are decent for hiring though?
September for the October hires. Otherwise just keep looking because eikaiwas post all the time, but unless you deal with a major outfit that recruits from overseas, you are unlikely to be considered. Realize, too, that 2 of the largest eikaiwas just went bankrupt. Competition is steep with their employees on the streets.

Quote:
In general, are there any other avenues you all think I may have missed and should persue?
Business English agencies (do a search here), but with no certification, you'll face even harsher competition with most.

Quote:
it seems like being an ALT would get me a better taste for the "Japanese experience" than being in an Eikaiwa.
How do you figure?

Quote:
I have little-to-no desire to live in Tokyo or any other big city.
This will serve you well in big eikaiwas and with JET.

Quote:
I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I'm comfortable there.
But you lived in your own country where you could read, write and speak the language. Not so in many rural areas here.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1490
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want to learn the language and absorb the culture, come here on a student visa. You can work in many industries on a student visa for a limited number of hours. Such an experience would help your Japanese language fluency and cultural savvy.

If you want to work here in an English conversation school, you will be either a direct employee or a contract employee.

ALT work is generally poorly paid and the work conditions vary from okay to very poor. You are highly unlikely to be directly hired. ALTs are recruited from the US, Canada and the UK by various companies.

Your best bet, for learning about Japan and being a guest worker and earning enough to enjoy the experience while you're here (cover travel costs, get plugged into the local community through the municipal government, etc.), is the JET Program.

Good luck.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1490
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski said
Quote:
Regardless, I would still urge you to take any teaching job seriously enough to learn how to do it properly. There are too many backpackers trying to pay for their trips by showing up in a classroom and doing squat.


Glenski says what I think. Japan has enough people who don't have any interest in education as a profession. There are enough unqualified, temporary people here. Those of us who are career teachers prefer to work with qualified, committed people. On top of that, we have a serious PR problem with some Japanese teachers who are really fed up with teaching with ALTs who don't care about the job.

At the institution I work at, it is taking some convincing to get the Japanese section heads to recognize what we do as professional, informed, rational and organized because, for the most part, they have had years with unqualified recent graduates who couldn't deliver.

So, really, if you aren't interested in education as a career change, then by all means, come over as a student, a volunteer with an NPO, or continue your current career here.

I can imagine that it is possible for some people to come here thinking the sojourn is just a break from their regular job, they learn that education is a great place for them and they retrain and move up. But I haven't met any.
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Ethrivar



Joined: 23 Apr 2010
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, thanks for all the feedback (and quick responses). First, I'd like to apologize if I came across as just trying to freeload or get an easy ticket to Japan. I realize after reading your responses that it it does seem that way. I've always heard "teaching english is the best way to visit X" and I never really stopped to consider alternatives or the negative impact a bunch of people with that mindset could have.

In response to some questions/comments:
Quote:
Not that I'm trying to discourage you from a short-term teaching venture, but what have you got against coming here for 2-3 months as a tourist first?

Are you referring to going over for 2-3 months in an attempt to find a job there? or Just visiting to see if Japan is all it is cracked up to be (for me at least). If it is the former, then I get stressed out enough looking for jobs in the US. I doubt I could handle trying to adapt to Japan AND trying to find a job. That is why I was attempting to lock something down before going over. For the later, I guess I don't really have anything against it. I just never really gave it much thought.
Quote:

Quote:
it seems like being an ALT would get me a better taste for the "Japanese experience" than being in an Eikaiwa.

How do you figure?

The mental image I get of Eikaiwa is that it would be very western in order to let the Japanese students be more immersed in English. Whereas being an ALT I would be in a Japanese school where english and the western world is just some class the kids take, but everything else would be purely Japanese. I don't really have anything to back up these thoughts. It is just what I took away from the things I've read. If this is not the case, please enlighten me =)
Quote:
So, really, if you aren't interested in education as a career change, then by all means, come over as a student, a volunteer with an NPO, or continue your current career here.

I realize this is primarily an ESL board, but what are the qualifications it takes to do something other than teaching English? Like I said before, I have a degree and 4 years work experience in software, and I really enjoy my current career path. My understanding is that I would need to be able to pass at least the JLPT2 in order to get a non-teaching job. I know I'm definitely not there yet =P

Again, thanks for the insight, it is really appreciated. I realize now that I haven't thought about this or researched this as much as I though I had. You've given me a few more things to look into, so I'm off to do just that. Any further feedback would be much appreciated!
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ethrivar wrote:
Quote:
Not that I'm trying to discourage you from a short-term teaching venture, but what have you got against coming here for 2-3 months as a tourist first?

Are you referring to going over for 2-3 months in an attempt to find a job there? or Just visiting to see if Japan is all it is cracked up to be (for me at least).
It is the latter.

Quote:
Quote:
it seems like being an ALT would get me a better taste for the "Japanese experience" than being in an Eikaiwa.

How do you figure?

The mental image I get of Eikaiwa is that it would be very western in order to let the Japanese students be more immersed in English. Whereas being an ALT I would be in a Japanese school where english and the western world is just some class the kids take, but everything else would be purely Japanese. I don't really have anything to back up these thoughts. It is just what I took away from the things I've read. If this is not the case, please enlighten me =)[/quote]As low level a job as eikaiwa is, it is still a form of teaching. It's a business for many eikaiwa owners. The experience is, IMO, far from a western one, other than having a western teacher in the classroom. Chat about drunken weekends or spat with girlfriends or other nonsense, like some of the backpacker types do, and you are not teaching, even if the school lets you have free reign. You are suppose to get students to practice English conversation. You show how, they repeat, then they do it on their own. Bring realia if you like, or just use the stupid textbooks, but the room has 4 walls (or is a cubicle), and nothing western about it except your presence.




Quote:
I realize this is primarily an ESL board, but what are the qualifications it takes to do something other than teaching English?
Most non-teaching jobs require special skills that the locals don't have, plus at least JLPT2. There are exceptions.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1490
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:18 pm    Post subject: Exceptions Reply with quote

There is a possibility of working in IT here with survival Japanese language skills at the outset.

Two members of the dojo I have trained in are IT guys who came over with a wad of savings and contacted companies until they got hired. One depended on friends for his initial job contacts. Neither are fluent in Japanese, but they are both working on it.

To get started, I suggest you contact JETRO, the trade organization that puts entrepreneurs and skilled people from different countries in contact with Japanese companies and business people.

Good luck.
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projectrook



Joined: 08 Jan 2010
Posts: 45

PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I echo what has already beed said by previous posters.
Coming to Japan on a tourist visa or some kind of vacation is the way to go. You have the freedom to really dig around and see if Japan is the kind of place you would like to stay in for some time. As a worker, your time will really be cut down. Also, you will be stuck in a one year contract (of course there are ways around it) and if you are miserable, the staff will only make things much worse for you. With that said, applying to a teaching job requires you to make both a contractual as well as a mental commitment.

Another thing to add is, the job market in Japan is very very tough right now. There are plenty of people applying for jobs and (hopefully) the majority of these people are already willing to make such a commitment. And it would be kind of sad to see someone who really doesn't want to be a teacher and only wants a paid vacation get the job over someone who is really burning to be here as a teacher. ***note- Im not saying you are only looking for a paid vacation, but there are those out there***

So in closing, I would urge you to really think things through before you start the application process. Decide for sure one way or the other. For every interview you get, someone else is passed over. Also, try coming over as a tourist. See the sights, experience what Japan has to offer. Then maybe you can make a more enlightened decision.
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bry0000000



Joined: 08 Apr 2010
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TokyoLiz wrote:
Glenski said
Quote:
Regardless, I would still urge you to take any teaching job seriously enough to learn how to do it properly. There are too many backpackers trying to pay for their trips by showing up in a classroom and doing squat.


Glenski says what I think. Japan has enough people who don't have any interest in education as a profession. There are enough unqualified, temporary people here. Those of us who are career teachers prefer to work with qualified, committed people. On top of that, we have a serious PR problem with some Japanese teachers who are really fed up with teaching with ALTs who don't care about the job.

At the institution I work at, it is taking some convincing to get the Japanese section heads to recognize what we do as professional, informed, rational and organized because, for the most part, they have had years with unqualified recent graduates who couldn't deliver.

So, really, if you aren't interested in education as a career change, then by all means, come over as a student, a volunteer with an NPO, or continue your current career here.

I can imagine that it is possible for some people to come here thinking the sojourn is just a break from their regular job, they learn that education is a great place for them and they retrain and move up. But I haven't met any.


I think Tokyo Liz has some valid concerns about coming over to teach without the intent of becoming a professional teacher.

But not all teaching positions in Japan are intended for people who want to become professional teachers. Some positions are for people who are more akin to being a glorified English monkey than a teacher. In these type of positions, you will be closely scrutinized by the faculty to make sure you're teaching classes the way they want you to teach, giving you no freedom to teach the class the way you want to teach. These are positions that aspiring teachers do not want, so if you have no problems with taking a job like that, I'd say go for it. As long as you work hard and act in a professional manner, I don't see the problem.

And, just in case TokyoLiz is interested, I know of a Youtuber who went to Korea on sojourn, discovered he loved teaching and went back and is now certified. He now teaches in Japan. His youtube account: http://www.youtube.com/busankevin
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bry0000000 wrote:
I think Tokyo Liz has some valid concerns about coming over to teach without the intent of becoming a professional teacher.
Sad but true.

Quote:
But not all teaching positions in Japan are intended for people who want to become professional teachers. Some positions are for people who are more akin to being a glorified English monkey than a teacher.
Again, true, but who says you have to treat them as such and perpetuate the low standards in the industry and the concept that foreigners are just chatterboxes? I did eikaiwa for 3-4 years and never treated it as casually as many.

Quote:
In these type of positions, you will be closely scrutinized by the faculty to make sure you're teaching classes the way they want you to teach, giving you no freedom to teach the class the way you want to teach.
Not so in all cases. In fact, some are actually too lax!

Quote:
These are positions that aspiring teachers do not want
Yes, but they are often one of the rare doors into the business. Not everyone can move overseas and start a teaching job that has lots out clout and responsibilities. People have to pay their dues. I certainly did!
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1490
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:57 am    Post subject: ELT, a calling not a job? Reply with quote

Quote:
But not all teaching positions in Japan are intended for people who want to become professional teachers. Some positions are for people who are more akin to being a glorified English monkey than a teacher.


These kinds of unskilled jobs are an artifact of the bubble economy, long since popped, and a lack of professional standards in Japan, and I would argue are evidence of pathology in Japan's ELT. These salaries for these jobs are sinking as the economy can hardly support them. The collapse of GEOS and Nova demonstrate that these have pulse, can teach type of jobs are dwindling.

Granted, some people got their foot in the door this way, but I wouldn't recommend such a route.

Glenski said
Quote:
Not so in all cases. In fact, some are actually too lax!


So true. Eikaiwa and I dare say most ALT recruiting companies don't scrutinize the teacher's or syllabus' effectiveness. The only outcomes the eikawa or agent wants from the teacher is money out of the customer's pocket. Eikaiwas are not about languages or learning. They're about selling a commodity, time with English speaking people for an hour of more or less unstructured conversation lesson.

Bry0, that's rather cool that someone found their niche in ELT, coming from a different field. That's the only foreign person I've heard of. Some of my Japanese colleagues at high schools have come from other fields (law, pop music industry, NHK, other foreign languages) but I figure that's rare, too.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:52 am    Post subject: Re: ELT, a calling not a job? Reply with quote

TokyoLiz wrote:
Bry0, that's rather cool that someone found their niche in ELT, coming from a different field. That's the only foreign person I've heard of. Some of my Japanese colleagues at high schools have come from other fields (law, pop music industry, NHK, other foreign languages) but I figure that's rare, too.
Ah, how soon they forget... Wink
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bry0000000



Joined: 08 Apr 2010
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski wrote:

Again, true, but who says you have to treat them as such and perpetuate the low standards in the industry and the concept that foreigners are just chatterboxes? I did eikaiwa for 3-4 years and never treated it as casually as many.



Well, regardless of overall intent, I feel that people should put forward their best efforts in terms of professionalism and willingness to learn, even if they don't have any future plans concerning teaching. I feel it's a good way to pay respects to the profession even if it's only a temporary career move. (Just as an aside: regardless of the job, I feel people should always put their most professional foot forward. But that's just me ). Wink

And I think you make good points about edging out other teachers who may want to pursue ESL as a career and may be looking into those less-than-desirable positions as a way to break into the industry. I would hope that an aspiring teacher would know how to make a better impression than someone who is just taking the job to experience the country. If they don't have that ability, then being edged out may inspire them to learn how to better sell themselves.

Just my 2 cents.
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Imseriouslylost



Joined: 09 Nov 2009
Posts: 123
Location: Tokyo

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There needs to be an Otaku Visa. Once you get it, you'd have to walk around Akihabara from noon until 8pm every day, looking at dolls and wearing nothing but sweatpants and a t-shirt with permanent pit stains.

Laughing
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Imseriouslylost wrote:
There needs to be an Otaku Visa. Once you get it, you'd have to walk around Akihabara from noon until 8pm every day, looking at dolls and wearing nothing but sweatpants and a t-shirt with permanent pit stains.

Laughing
Sadly it already exists. Specialist in Humanities/International Relations in one case. Instructor visa for some other cases (certain ALTs).
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