Top tips for teaching English to Japanese students whilst they are in the UK

Top tips for teaching English to Japanese students whilst they are in the UK

Okay so you have decided you want to teach and, more importantly, you want to teach Japanese students.  Well, there is good news and bad news.  Take a seat…

The good news is that the majority of Japanese students are quiet; very diligent about learning and really want to improve their English.  The bad news is that they are very passive in the classroom; don’t like to speak unless really pushed and certainly won’t want to be embarrassed by answering incorrectly

But don’t worry, all is not lost.  Read on…

Important Tip No 1

Be Prepared For Passive students in the classroom

It’s part of the Japanese culture to sit quietly and listen.  Listen to what is being said and not question it.  This is how the majority of Japanese students learn English.  But don’t be demoralised.  You can master this. The emphasis is on students not speaking out in class and asking questions.  If you direct a question at them, you will be hard pressed getting them to respond or even give their personal opinion. They will just take copious notes and hope that what they have written down will be raised in the exams.   Also take into account they are probably very nervous and shy.  Their culture is more “closed than ours” so take it slowly. Smile and be patient.  Never raise your voice and soon they will be “putty in your hands!” Also remember that Japanese will often laugh and giggle when embarrassed.  This hides the fact they may not know the answer to your questions.  Relax.  They are not laughing at you – just the situation.

And For Tip Number 2

Get them to sit with someone friendly

The good thing about Japanese students is that they want to be liked and will go out of their way to avoid any contentious situation.  Put them next to someone from another Country and get them to speak with each other and make friends.  It’s also a great time to do an “Ice Breaker” Lesson.  Get some of the other students to talk about themselves first so your Japanese guys can see it’s easy; friendly and nothing to worry about.  Once they start to speak, you may find you have a hard job stopping them.  Maybe introduce changing partners at the end of the first break so everyone gets a real chance to get to know each other.

Tip Number 3:

Keep it light and British

Okay, what do I mean by this?  I mean that if you are a lonely Japanese student you may not have the confidence to practise your conversational skills.  So it’s important you pull them out of their shell and make them speak; speak and speak some more!  Give them ideas such as listening to the Radio; TV or going to the Cinema.  Whilst the British can be seen to be reserved, the Japanese are more reserved than us, so always keep it light and friendly.  Arrive at your class a little earlier so that all of the eager Japanese students can spend a few minutes talking with you about the awful British weather.   Always remember if you ask a question and it’s a short yes or no, you can elaborate by saying “THAT SOUNDS INTERESTING. Tell me more!” BINGO!  Just remember, try hard not to criticise your Japanese students in front of others as this will really stop them from speaking in public ever again!

Top Tip 4

Using the Whiteboard

Whilst it’s great to talk about lots of things there are times when you need to use the Whiteboard or Flip Chart.  As you know, this can be somewhat of a challenge for your students because they can understand what you say but may not know what is written.  In Japanese classrooms, whilst the teacher is really in charge, there is also a Teaching Assistant who will go around and ensure all students are keeping up and understanding the class, regardless of the subject.  Assistant language Teachers are very quick to work out how they can engage discreetly with the student and when to move away.  As we said before, it’s all about not losing face in front of your classmates.  So use the Whiteboard and if any student seems to be struggling then give some eye contact to your Classroom Assistant and get them to make their way to the “lost student” and give some aid and assistance

Top Tip 5

Show and Tell is worth a hundred lines of grammar

You will have to follow a syllabus for sure, but if you have students of different levels it will be hard.  Incorporating a practical lesson for your Japanese students is always something that they seem to enjoy.  For a start, they have both a curious and enquiring mind so that’s half the battle.  Start off by showing them something English and talk about it.  Throw some questions into the audience.  Whilst you may find your Latin students will be quick to raise their hand, you can turn the questions to the Japanese after a little while.  Once they respond, do as we say before and say “yes, tell me more!” and see what happens.

You have to remember that the Japanese culture is so different to the English and even the whole European one.  So take time with them and be patient.  Out of all of your students, you will find the Japanese to be the most satisfying to teach.  They really engage with the lessons and want to learn English.  These students, whilst hard initially to win over, will positively grow in confidence as the course progresses.

Some of you will already have taught in Japan and know some of the tips suggested but teaching in Japan is quite different because they are in their own world and feel familiar with it.  Coming to England they will feel a little isolated and so patience, kindness and a smile are really some of the most important things for you to pack in your case.

They have come to England to be taught by a native English speaker because, for them, this is simply the best way for them to progress in English.  Some of them will want to return home and become Classroom Assistants or even take a job where English is mandatory.   Whatever the reason for them coming to learn English in England, take time to enjoy these very special students and the rewards will be great, not only for them, but for you too.

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