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Cultural Differences when teaching Japanese students in the UK

Here at English Language Homestays, we Love teaching English to Japanese students, but you have to be aware of the many cultural differences between the English and the Japanese and once you know them, then its great fun!

Not only is the Language and Culture very different between the two countries but also the education system.  When you do a Lesson plan for European students you can be sure that it will involve lots of conversation and inter action.  To do that for Japanese students would be quite difficult, initially as they are used to listening in class and not having a lot of conversation.

Japanese students are very diligent at learning the English Language and really want to progress, but they are used to working at the pace of the slower learner and may find it hard to ask to go into a higher level class.  Japanese teachers are well thought of and so if you are referred to simply as           “ Teacher” then don’t be offended, as it is a title along the lines of “ sensei”.  Some English speaking teachers have gone to Japan and spent a few months as a teaching Assistant.  This is a great way to slowly break yourself into the way that Japanese people think and learn English.  Its such a great way also to learn more about their culture .  For example, did you know that whilst Japanese people don’t often show their feelings or emotions, they will be quick to complain if you smell or have strong perfume!  They consider this quite rude and its something to remember along with the fact that gestures and facial expressions are often lost on them.

So where to start?  You will find many Japanese students are involved in the JET Programme. The Japanese Government are very keen to promote this throughout Japan and there are many High School Exchange Programmes working towards this effect.   Even though you are a native English Speaker  you can still find pitfalls teaching Japanese students in the UK and you will need to ensure that your lessons plans take into account the cultural differences that do occur.

Japanese students love to come to the UK to learn English and try to embrace all of the changes but when you ask them a question in the class, don’t worry if they are silent!  Often this silence is them simply thinking about the answer  so please embrace this cultural difference when teaching Japanese students and allow them time to think and reply!  You will be rewarded with very motivated Japanese students if you remember this.

You will probably get many JET participants who have been recommended by their Japanese ( English) teacher so they will be one of many students studying to improve their English or even improve the way they teach English or any other foreign language in Japan.

Jackie Verrall MD of English Language Homestays
Written by :
Jackie Verrall,MD of English Language Homestays

If you are teaching Japanese school students (not College or Adults ) be aware that they do not like to make mistakes.  Its true to say that if they make a mistake on their page, they will try to amend or re write it so no one knows.  It is very important that Japanese students do not “ lose face”.   They will often say “ Yes I understand!” when they don’t, so its so important to take it slowly and promote international understanding with your other students in the class, so that the Japanese students feel welcomed and included.

Learning a foreign language for any Japanese student is seen as a great honour and you usually wont have any trouble with these kids in your class.  If you have been teaching previously in a Japanese school you will know what we mean when we say that Japanese teachers are held in the highest esteem but its also fair to say that if you get Japanese students to do a lot of homework in the UK, they will complain as much as their French and Scandinavian counterparts .

If you think some of the students are particularly confident then you could try getting them to speak to the rest of the class about language and cultural differences.  Be aware though, they will only say things that are positive about their Japanese school.  Unlike Japanese schools and teachers, where they do expect their teachers to be wise, Japanese exchange students come to learn English in the UK for the more relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.  It may be strange to them but they soon get used to it.

Japanese people, and so by default Japanese High School Exchange Students, are a modest lot and don’t like to draw attention to themselves.  It would be wise not to ask them the usual questions about where they live; what their parents do for a living or what paper they read.  They see this as being tested to their social level so try not to ask these when conversing with them in class.

If you can take all of the above in your stride then you will certainly enjoy teaching Japanese students in the UK, regardless of all of our cultural differences.

As the French say “ Vive la difference !”  and so we should…

If yo are a Japanese Highschool student who like to improve English naturally, we can recommend our summer school, for a gradual and immersive experience in England with students in your own age group, probably the easy way to learn English and make lot’s of friends from across the globe.

Contact us to learn more about our English Immersion Homestay  for a One on One Homestay English learning with a great Language Homestay teacher.

If you are an adult native Japanese  speaker, interested in a 1:1 personalised Fast Track English Course, in Business English with full immersion, please contact us for a friendly chat, We have an entire website dedicated to Adult English Learning especially focus on private English lessons for adults

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