Interviews with four ESL teachers in Tokyo, Japan

Here four ESL teachers are interviewed at a park in Harajuku, Tokyo. They talk about the ups and downs of life as an ESL teacher, cultural challenges living in Japan, give advice, and share teaching tips.

Here is a transcription of the video:

What's your name? Graham.

Where do you come from? Australia.

How long have you been teaching English Graham? In Japan, 3 years.

Where else did you teach? Back in Australia, but I wasn't really a teacher I was like an integration aide with kids with disabilities and stuff.

What have you enjoyed the most about teaching English abroad? Umm (laughing). Next question? Next question. I don't know it just becomes my life. I don't know anything else because this is what I do, so I don't really know what to compare it with. I don't know what I like the most, it's just what I do every day.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? Probably the culture with the Japanese. Just cultural differences and communication problems. I guess just language.

What advice would you give to someone who has never taught abroad before? Get a job (laughing). Do your research there's lots of jobs out there, so just find the one that works for you. There's lots of international schools, preschools and adults and it's just a matter of finding what works with what kind of job you want. If you hate it, probably do something else.

The end.

What's your name? Bryce.

Where do you come from? New Zealand.

How long have you been teaching English Bryce? Almost three years.

Do you like it? No (laughing).

What have you enjoyed the most about teaching English abroad? Ughh, the time not working. Living abroad is great, but working is shit.

What do you do when you are not working? I don't know (laughing).

What has been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? Not knowing their language. So being completely immersed and having to explain with pictures and hand movements. Gestures.

What advice would you give to someone who has never taught abroad before? Learn some of their language.

The end.

What's your name? John.

Where do you come from? Ireland.

Do you have a favorite tip, game or classroom activity that you would like to share? Ughh, favorite tip, favorite game. Let's see. I like playing soccer and you just draw a soccer picture on the whiteboard and you get one magnet and use it as a football. Split the kids into two teams. Show some flash cards and whoever gets it right gets to move closer to the goal and scores a goal at the end of the game. That is "soccer" and it works great cause it's very challenging.

How long have you been teaching English? Umm, since I was 16 years old. I taught English in Spain. When I was in high school I started teaching young kids private lessons. Almost 12 years all together.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? Well, before when I used to teach in Spain I knew the language of the students. I could explain stuff in Spanish or whatever. But in Japan, like Bryce just said, not knowing the language, not having a clue as to what they are saying is a massive challenge. Having to use gestures to try to get your message through only in the target language is quite a challenge.

What advice would you give to someone who has never taught abroad before? Just be over planned for your lessons. Have plenty of materials for your lessons and backups. So if you are going into a 30 minute lesson prepare for like an hour and a half (laughing).

Do you have an activity that is a good backup? Hangman (laughing). Although we are not allowed to use it in Japan. We're banned. It's a long story, but we received an email from the trainers banning us. But another good one... There's lots of backups. Like a spelling game where the kids are split into two teams. They have to race to the whiteboard to write a letter and then take turns until they end up writing a word. That's something I have used.

The end.

What's your name? Thaddeus Ribley.

Where do you come from? Indiana, USA.

How long have you been teaching English for? I have been teaching English for 3 years. All in Japan. Two years in Hokkaido and one year in Sendai.

What have you enjoyed the most about teaching English abroad? I have really enjoyed interacting with the students and giving them a chance to expand their horizons and communicate with the world.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have had teaching abroad? The biggest challenge has been getting the children to stay focused and motivated and looking forward to the future and not just in the present.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in teaching abroad? You have to come into the program with an open mind. Except the fact that not everyone is going to learn right away. Many people have different methods of learning, so you really have to work to adapt to everyone's style and pace.

Do you have a favorite tip, game or classroom activity? My favorite activity right off the top of my head is the "Who am I?" game. You go around and stick a name on each child's back and they have to go around and ask others questions about who they are. They don't know who they are, but their partner does. They ask questions like: Am I tall? Am I famous? They take chances and guess who they are. It's a very quick activity. It gets them up and talking.

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