Qualifications for Teaching English in Japan

Japanese girl

Photo by jpellgen on Flickr

Many young adults dream of the adventures they can have traveling the world. But reality sets in with a resounding crash when mom and dad refuse to foot the bill for such antics. While some teens take the collegiate route, letting their parents pay for school and then finding opportunities to study abroad as a way to see the world, others may be looking for an extended stay in a foreign country that allows for true immersion. And if you want to live in Japan for a while, teaching English could provide for ample opportunity.

Although for centuries the country remained insular, they have spent the last several decades emerging as a major player in the global marketplace, which necessitates an understanding of world cultures and languages. One result has been high demand for westerners willing to impart the finer points of the English language. But what do you need to do in order to hop aboard the teaching train that is bound for the island nation of Japan?

For one thing, you shouldn’t assume that just because you can speak, read, and write a language that you can teach it to others. Teaching anything is an acquired skill, and language is no easy subject to impart. As it happens, English is especially complex, thanks to rules with exceptions and constantly changing slang. This means that you need two things if you want to teach English and teach it well. You must first have a strong grasp of the English language, including vocabulary, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and so on. But you should also have some kind of background in teaching so that you know how to plan lessons and interact with a class. For kids straight out of high school, this is a pretty tall order, so at least some continuing education will be needed to prepare for tackling a teaching job overseas.

learning Japanese

Photo by sometimes rains in JUN on Flickr

Of course, Japan has requirements, as well. They don’t let just any nattering nabob in to teach their citizens English. In order to get a work Visa in Japan you must first have a bachelor’s degree. In a way this is good news since it will allow you to take further instruction in English yourself, as well as give you the opportunity to take some teaching courses. You might also want to take remedial Japanese. As it happens, most schools prefer full immersion courses, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to speak the local language in order to teach English. But let’s be honest, there are times when knowing basic phrases in the language of the country you’re living in can be useful.

You’ll also need a Certificate of Eligibility, but before you can obtain this you need to find a Japanese company to sponsor you. In some cases this will be a school of some sort (from elementary all the way up to business or urban planning schools), but you might also look into corporations that want to offer employee training in English. If you are able to find a sponsor company before going to Japan, you should give yourself approximately eight weeks for all of the paperwork to be processed for your work Visa. However, you may also obtain a 90-day tourist Visa so you can travel to Japan in search of a sponsor. From there you can begin the process of obtaining a work Visa to stay in the country (although this method may be frowned upon).

6 Responses to “Qualifications for Teaching English in Japan”

  1. Dustin  on November 12th, 2012

    Well written and insightful. It used to be that there was something called the JET (Japan English Teacher) program, although I don’t know if it is still around. Getting the visa is certainly the key, whether it be in Japan or any other Asian country.

  2. zoomingjapan  on November 13th, 2012

    What you said is so true!
    Just because one is a native speaker it doesn’t mean one can also TEACH that language to others.
    I’ve been working as an English teachers here in Japan for many, many years now.
    I’m not a native speaker of English.
    I’ve seen many “teachers” come and go.
    Most of them were young Americans who had no qualification other than a random BA degree that had nothing to do with teaching.
    The majority of them never managed to become a good teacher.
    It’s really sad.

    Many of them also hate the job and say they only do it for the money and because they can’t do anything else with almost zero knowledge of the language.

    I on the other hand have a degree in education. Being a teacher is what I wanted and although I’m almost fluent in Japanese, I don’t want to change jobs.

    For people who are qualified, but aren’t native speakers (holders of a passport of an English speaking country) it’s very difficult to get a work visa.
    For people who aren’t qualified at all other than having a random BA degree and holding a passport of an English speaking country it’s very easy.

    Sad, but true.

    Thanks for this nice article! :)

  3. Teaching English Overseas « Lemon Lime Education  on November 22nd, 2012

    […] just read a great article from my friends at I Heart Japan.  You should check it out here.  Teaching English is often taken as a ‘filler’ job or just something to pay the guest […]

  4. gowestsoon  on November 24th, 2012

    [lease send me info on teaching english in japan thank you Roy Rutter

  5. marlowe  on August 11th, 2015

    i love Japan ever since i was a child watching short documentaries. those Japan Videos gave me an insight on a perception of what the country is. the videos were short and very informative. I will be visiting Japan next year for the first time and if there is an opportunity to stay and work in this lovely country I would grab that opportunity.

    see you soon Japan!

  6. Travis  on August 11th, 2015

    See you there Marlowe! :D

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