Transforming your ESOL college classroom into an “educational entertainment center”

By Hyuga Higuchi

The inspiration for this post

Fellow hardworking English teachers across Japan! Greetings!

So, early last week I was asked by a colleague of mine to sub one of his special “exchange program prep” classes at the university he works at. He gave me a brief description of what his class was like, showed me a student roster, told me briefly about his students and how their levels are different and mismatched within the class, how them students come from different faculties and basically have little to no connection with one another. He went on to tell me how most of them either sleep, or simply look at their cell-phones all the time during the class, how many of them just want to enjoy the experience of going abroad rather than learning English…you know, the usual problems ESOL teachers face when teaching students that were simply brought together for a short, non-credited, course.

無題I carefully listened to him, took notes on what he was telling me, asked about students that he thought were problematic, and tried to absorb as much as I could in order to face the challenge of trying to give these kids an unforgettable sub-lesson on class day.

A few days go by and the time to teach these students finally arrived. I did my usual set up: got the lesson ready on a power-point projector; had background musing playing; got over some jikko-shoukai with them to have them get to know each other; had a few ice-breaking activities and BOOM! I had all students communicating in (basic) English with each other. We have a fantastic, high-energy, lesson and all students high-fived me before leaving the classroom: “Are you teaching us next Thursday too?” some of them asked with bright smiles on. “Who knows, maybe if my friend, ‘teacher B’ (let me call him teacher B for the sake of this writing), can’t come again next week…maybe?” I responded trying to avoid negativity (in the form of a “no” answer) after having an amazing lesson with these great group of students. Next thing you know, we parted ways as I wrapped up the classroom and did my usual post-class meditation, pondering about some of the pros and cons of the lesson that day.

A few more days go by, I get a LINE-call from teacher B—who is a talented Australian ESOL instructor by the way—that goes along the lines, “Bro! What did you do to my students? They are all friendly now! They are talking with one another a lot more than before…anyways, what is your secret? Please don’t tell me is only your Brazilian charm” “Hahaha…” I burst laughing, “of course it’s ‘cuz of my Brazilian charm. What are you talking about?”

“Come on, tell me, seriously, how did you do it?” He insisted.

“All right, I will let in it but, only through my blog,” I said. “If I can share some classroom management ideas with you, why not make it ‘open-source’ and share it with all other teachers out there as well?”

Hence, the inspiration for this blog entry. Here are some of my tips for unraveling the true energy potential of your ESOL university classroom.IMG_4104

The Rationale: why did I decide to transform my classroom into a more “entertaining” environment?

Many of the ESOL teachers I meet in Japan are frustrated when it comes to teaching English at the tertiary level here. Reasons being some of the ones mentioned above and:

  1. University students in Japan are very different than university students in Western universities. Most of them go to university as part of a “life-stage:” “all Japanese people go to university, and so should you!” Type of mindset permeates academia in Japan—especially when it comes to the humanities. Thus, most students do not attend university to acquire the skill they need in order to perform the job of their dreams…they do it out of social duty toward their family and the community around them. Furthermore, until very recently, most companies in Japan were hiring based on the rank of the university their employees-to-be attended, not based on the type of degree they had acquired. This meant that you could become a manager of stock-brokerage at the Sumitomo brokerage firm by graduating with a history degree from Waseda University. Looking at college education from this perspective, in turn, can easily generate students who are passionless about their studies—who attend college with the only intent of taking a break before the hard “salaried work life” begins (things have been changing rapidly in recent years and I do plan to write comprehensively on current tertiary education trends in Japan—please stay put for that).
  2. Institutions tend to spend little time investing in their ESOL programs. Courses have very little, to no stream-lining, which creates a lot of difficulty in tracking students’ level of progress during the first 4 semesters of required ESOL education that most university students must compulsorily take in Japan. This leads to not only the “mismatched” levels of English in the same classroom I mentioned above: it also causes students to lose interest in the monitoring of their own progress. Besides TOEIC standardized testing, Universities do very little in terms of giving their students a clear outline of the ESOL goals students must aim for while in college—leading to further lack of motivation in the study of the English language.
  3. Japanese students have mostly been battered with drills on how to “dissect” the English grammar, translate it, and memorize it since (at least) their very first year of Junior high. By the time they get to university they either: 1. hate English to death for all the horrible experiences they had with it in the past; 2. want to learn how to TALK in English and have very little concern for conducting grammar related exercises, listening, reading and any other “book-focused” activity.
  4. A college classroom in which your students are not engaging with the lesson content is, in plain and simple terms, a horrible place to be. I am sure some of you have already experienced (just as I did), the horrors of having to constantly tell students to pay attention, to stop looking at their smart-phones, to wake up and so on. I strongly believe it is much better to have a classroom that might be a little unconventionally loud, but in which the students are excited to be a part of, rather than the former.

For these reasons, it became very clear that Japanese University students need all the motivation they can if they are to generally enjoy their experience in the college ESOL classroom. If you think your classroom could get an energy boost from some of the following ideas, why not give them a try?

The environmental changes: it all starts with the right atmosphere

Have you ever thought about the kind of environments that are used by stores we often go to promote an atmosphere that facilitates communication and comfortability? Think of your favorite coffee shop, for instance. Have you noticed how the seating is set up within that coffee shop? How about the musing playing? Doesn’t it make you feel at ease to build a conversation with that right person of interest just by being seated in a locality like that?

The “environmental” suggestions I have to offer pretty much follow this same “Starbucks-like” model: focus on creating an atmosphere that facilitates people interaction—use lights, music, media, food, everything you have at your disposal to make your classroom more conversation/discussion/debate friendly!

It sounds more difficult than it actually is. Just follow some of the steps below and you IMG_0585will have the right ambiance within your ESOL classroom in no time:

I. Greet your students with a bright smile!

A bit of a cliché, but it is extremely important to have a very strong first impression on your students. I would hate to go to Starbucks if the Senoritas at the counter would greet me with a frowny face and tired look—and yes, this rule also applies when you are teaching that 5th-period class followed by the 4 others you had before it.

II. Have yourself a pc with some “party” music playlist ready!

You know what they say, “a little party never killed nobody…” And NO, this does not mean that there has to be any dancing or singing at the classroom—this is not the set up for a High School Musical movie, it is still an accredited college class. What is meant by this entry is that you could use your laptop as the entertainment center of the classroom, as well as its knowledge base. I already had some music from iTunes ready on my machine, all I needed to do was to hook up the right cables to the classroom’s PA system and, voila! I had myself and entertainment center ready to go! From my PC I can have either PowerPoint, videos, as well as all sorts of music for all sorts of moods thanks to YouTube!

You might be thinking, “but I don’t have a laptop…how do you suppose I get started?” Not to worry, when I started I did not have a laptop either. I had a USB with all that information and I would usually borrow the school’s laptop and use that as my entertainment center (nowadays with cloud services such as OneDrive, you can have your classroom with you anywhere you are by just having access to the internet). I also always requested for rooms that have this sort of technology hooked up to them (most universities in Japan have these—I have thought in 7 different universities and all of them had a room or 2 with this kind of technology available). So, all it takes is a bit of effort and creativity to create the classroom atmosphere of your dreams.

As for music selection—I have tried a bit of everything. I have tried “Bossa Nova,” instrumental rock, classic, straight out hip-hop and rave music, “epic music (featured on youtube in channels like Pandora Journey @ https://www.youtube.com/user/Dendera91),” game music, etc.: Anything that would fit a particular mood I wanted to create during a particular activity within a particular class. Use your creativity, know your students and selecting music that fits your classroom should come naturally.

Oh, and here is the last piece of advice concerning music: avoid things that are overly popular or mainstream at the moment—it will get your students to focus on listening/singing to it and take their attention from the class entirely.DSC_1094

III. Use PowerPoint and videos in class for both information and décor

Just as mentioned above, go wild on visuals! I usually have a PowerPoint with the entire lesson plan and PLENTY of discussion questions to be used for the particular class we are having. Usually, my ESOL classes are thematic and based on each weekly theme we will have a different Ppt ready. If you use a textbook, you can still have some extra discussion questions, vocabulary or a grammar point ready on the Ppt. Your students will be more willing to take in grammar presented to them that way.

I will wrap this post right here because it is getting a bit too long. I have plenty of more classroom environment hacks and will be posting them soon. Stay put until the next post!

Getting some training before your arrival

ITTT will help you acquire the teaching skills you will need if you want to become an ESOL instructor here

DSC_1094

Hey guys! Interested in teaching English internationally, traveling around the world and meeting people from across the globe?

ITTT is a gateway for you to go that. Getting a TESOL certificate allowed me to teach ESOL in 3 different countries and it has given me the opportunity to visit at least 16 countries on business, teaching English to locals wherever I went.

Sign up for a course today and get a 15% discount with the links below. Come and join me in spreading the knowledge of the English language to people all over the world.

https://www.teflcourse.net/?cu=FBEIT2018G
https://www.teflcourse.net/apply/?cu=FBEIT2018G

blog142629_3147538481779767503

Achieving greatness as a foreigner in Japan

20141017_182255_Android

From ESOL instructor to Salary-man: hacks that will make it easier for you to reach the top at any industry in Japan – an introduction

By Hyuga Higuchi

A quick overview of how some foreigners end up here in Japan

So there you are! Just finished with your BA in English Literature and carrying a 50K plus large backpack of debt that needs to be paid at all costs. Things at the local economy don’t look very promising for educators within your English speaking country and you have decided to travel for a while, acquire some experience and that much-needed cash flow while enjoying the pleasures of mastering a new culture and language. You, being a geeky hardcore anime fan, conducted a thoroughly biased search for jobs within Asia and felt like the heavens were pointing you to the land Ninjas and cute maid cafés, the legendary island of the Rising Sun.

You quickly started applying for ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) jobs online through the famous JET program, or through the to-go-to website for foreigners looking for jobs in Japan: gaijinpot.com (or was it daijob.com?) Regardless of the tools you used, you were successful in your quest for work in Japan, packed your things, got the tickets, worked out the VISA, followed what Tim Ferris taught you at that masterpiece of a book “The 4-hour work week,” took action and followed your heart.

You felt awesome for having accomplished a feat that, perhaps, less than 10% of those who graduated from the same class as you were able to accomplish: that of venturing into the unknown; of living in a land far from home and loved ones. Everything seemed to be going really well for the first couple of weeks. You have made some English-speaking Japanese and/or expat-friends, and you are settled at your tiny but clean apartment near the train station at a very convenient location somewhere in Osaka.
Salary seems promising, the booze is cheaper than back at home, Japanese people seem to worship you for the good looks you never thought you had and the first month feels pretty much like you are Chris Hemsworth in his first Marvel standalone movie, “Mighty Thor:” you literally feel like a demi-god who just fell from Asgard, enjoying the extra level of attention people all around you have to give you.

1501485316298

And very much like that same “Thor” figure, you notice that you do not have your
Mjölnir with ya. Yes, you got your GPS tracking app and can get around just fine, but you still kind of feel lost in translation: relationships take longer to build and to keep; it’s hard to know exactly how to impress people in a way that allows them to see you for who you are. Back home, the ins-and-outs of basic communication felt a lot more natural to conduct. You were able to handle your communication “weapon,” your Mjölnir, to your greatest advantage and with a great deal of ease.
Unfortunately, for many people in Japan, they arrive here without knowing the language and, even when they do understand it, they are incapable of utilizing it to the same degree they would their native tongue (in other words, they have Mjölnir, but seem unable to “lift it”).

What the lack of language adaptation can cause

The consequences of this inability to fully integrate in Japanese society can be tough on the heart, although, for some, it does not really bother them that much in the beginning: they are able to work an English teaching job without any problems, they might have built a circle of faithful friends who will keep them company in times of trouble, etc. But in reality, they miss on all the other opportunities they would have if they were able to speak the lingo with a high level of fluency. Furthermore, these non-Japanese speakers tend to fall prey to them gaijin-hunters, & free-English-practice riders who are a group of “dark side” Japanese opportunists seeking to befriend foreigners simply for the sake of leeching out on their foreign-like attributes (physical, mental, emotional), and English speaking capabilities. Simply put, the gaikoku-jin who does not aspire to become fluent in Japanese will have a hard(er) time building relationships that are profound and truly meaningful.

How I can help

Within this blog series, I hope to give you tips on how to quickly master the Japanese Language, while making proper use of the same to navigate the culture in a way that will assist you in becoming anything you want to be in Japan: not only the default ESOL instructor that many English speaking foreigners do here for lack of options.
Here you will learn how to:

1. Choose the right school and courses to attend in order to learn Japanese quickly—on a full-time basis—while maintaining the ability to work full-time hours: granting you the income you need to study and enjoy your life here at the same time.
2. Practice the language and places where you can go to in order meet the people that will help you master Japanese while avoiding to encounter people who are just after you because of your native English speaking ability and your different looks.
3. Get jobs in Japanese companies without the need of a JLPT.
4. Navigate within the world of Japanese indirect communication to improve your ability to handle communication mishaps and increase your chances of building long-lasting and genuine relationships with the Japanese people.
5. Find love/an ideal partner in the Land of the Rising Sun for those interested in building their “nest” here.

1501558079298

About the author 

Currently going by Hyuga Higuchi, I am originally a Brazilian born, American raised immigrant to Japan that has had to adapt many times to a variety of different cultural situations. After spending most of my childhood in Brazil, my mother, being divorced and with very little job prospects available in her home country decided to look for employment opportunities elsewhere and chose the United States as the most viable option. She was able to climb through the ranks of the house-cleaning industry in the US and that finally granted her the chance of bringing my younger brother and

in class2 (2)

me into our new home up north. We fell in love with the US instantly but were always faced with struggles to understand American culture and how it applied to our daily lives as we grew to eventually become full-fledged Americans.
After completing my undergraduate degree in New York, I felt like it was time to search for new adventures elsewhere and decided to come to Japan and a quasi-Working Holiday scheme, where I found employment teaching English at Berlitz Japan one month after my arrival in 2007. I have since taught children classes, Junior and Senior high school classes, classes for the elderly, and at 5 different universities here in the Kansai region of Japan. Since arriving here, my ability to master Japanese quickly has granted me the ability to quickly climb through the ranks within the real of Japanese university education, where, for the most part, I was able to teach for there for about 5 years without having an MA (through this blog, I hope to assist you in doing the same).

Acquisition of the Japanese language has also helped me visit 10 different countries on business, acquire positions that range from working within the IT industry in Japan to translating Australian & Kiwi coaches at a professional Rugby team.

DSC_1202 1

Knowing the language has helped me find the love of my life, my wife whom I love, who is the most wonderful woman in the world. She was not interested in being with a foreign man and has had me as her very first international guy. The fact that she was into me because of who I am and not because of my “uniqueness” here is one of the many things I love about her and our relationship. Moreover, knowing Japanese has also helped me teach classes fully in Japanese, and within these, I felt I had a greater chance of truly being a force of positive influence on my students.

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I can speak 4 languages fluently and have lived in 4 different countries. Let me share how some of my cultural know-how can help you be more successful in your current, or future, Japanese endeavors.

 

Observations and limitations of the ideas in this blog

**This blog doesn’t, in any way, aim at downplaying the roles of ESOL instructors in Japan, nor is its aim to diminish the value and importance of being an English teacher in Japan. I personally have built my entire career on the ESL industry and I still see ESOL education as one of my passions. All the ideas here contained are aimed at assisting people who actually want to or at least try to, do something different than teaching English but, at the same time, they feel that, as foreigners, teaching is the only thing they can do in Japan.
**Unfortunately some of the advice here contained can better benefit individuals who are just starting their career, rather than the latter. I believe that people from all walks of life can find something beneficial in the contents of this blog. However, since Japan is a country very much concerned about age and its role in the development of work-related relationships here, some of the advice might be more helpful to those fresh of the plane in Japan.

 

Fusing Economics and ESOL

Using of Supply Decision Rules to Improve English Classes

Hyuga Higuchi

Some of the benefits of studying economics

Class of 2018

There were many things about the studies of economics that I thought I could never apply to my daily life unless I became an economist. Understanding the rules of supply and demand, graphing a demand curve, learning how price can affect demand and influence suppliers to produce either more or less were topics that I believed could never be effectively applied in managing an English conversation class. For example, my concept about economics was that this was a topic to be used by those who work in the stock exchange: business people that need to constantly read the signs of the economy in order to increase their companies’ revenue or to help their corporation avoid serious financial trouble amidst an economic crisis. Language instructors, I thought, could never really benefit from understanding the complexities of the economy around us.

Studying economics has helped me realize the opposite of what I just stated above. Upon studying economics, I finally came to realize that the economy is like a living organism. It is part of everyday life and not simply a system that involves the graphing of data and some out-of-reach number analysis. In fact, just by studying the basics of such, I enjoy my shopping “dates” with my wife a lot more than I used too because now, like Neo could see the “coding” taking place behind the “virtual matter” on the movie The Matrix, I can perceive the amount of labor placed behind bringing a dress into a store, understand how the supplier feels by placing only 10 units of that dress at that specific place in the store and I can even somewhat understand why the manager of that store decides to have only 5 sales representatives working on the main floor of that store instead of 6: all of these decisions are supply decisions related to the rule of capacity—rule which pin-points the constraints our (labor) capital place on a store’s potential output. Before studying economics, I would have never been able to look at a clothing store from an angle as analytical and academic as this. All this wonderful information would have passed me by without me even notice it.

Thanks to such study, I can now spend over 5 hours of window shopping with the wifie without suffering any brain-spasms from the boredom (she will kill me if she reads this!) of just looking at different clothes sets: understanding how supply and demand work makes me think of the entire process involved in bringing a certain item at a particular price to the store—and that, my friends, is where the true fun in shopping for (most) males begins.

This same shopping advent I was able to experience with my wife led me to think: would it be possible to use the economic principles of supply and demand in order for me to provide my students with better English courses at our school? Recently, I was glad to find out that the answer to this question is: “yes.”

How did Economics help me improve classroom management

Class of 2014

First, I decided to research a little bit more about utility* so that I could draw the pattern behind the kind of utility my students get from classes. My classes are fully discussion based, which means that students spend more time talking about themselves and their own ideas (in English), rather than listening to me teaching them about English grammar. I noticed that students get a tremendous amount of total utility from discussion based, rather than lecture-based classes: but also, that marginal utility will tend to go down quite fast if the discussion is maintained between the same small group (without allowing the students to constantly shift groups within the same class).

How can I help marginal utility stay positive for longer within that 1hour and 30minutes period I am with my students per week? It was when asking myself this question, while I read a book about economics, called Principles of Microeconomics, that an idea stroke me: “If I am able to allow the students to share some of the same ideas they have with as many different people as possible, I might be able to maintain their marginal utility positive for much longer than I currently could.” Before making any changes to my classroom organization, I used to have the students sitting in small groups of 4-7 people and they would be given a theme of discussion that they could use in order to share their thoughts about how the topic personally related to them. I usually have different questions on a PowerPoint slideshow to help them formulate conversation about the topic in a more fluent manner. Students would then talk for a good 30-40 minutes about the issue; which is followed by a game that helps select a few individuals to share their ideas with the whole class, which is sometimes followed by a mini-grammar lesson, with some written activities and a listening/video activity. This is then topped by some more discussion—which is supposed to be held all the way until the end of the lesson.

Since the groups, in this situation, would stay static, the amount of ideas students could discuss would be somewhat limited. Some students would start the activities really energetic but after 20 minutes in, they would start yawning. Though my course evaluations would stay always very high (an indication that total utility acquired through my class was high), I felt that marginal utility within my class time was falling too fast. Principles of Microeconomics briefly mentions that diminishing the amount of a good, or service offered will have some effect on how many “servings” of it somebody can have (Rittenberg and Trigarthen 2009). Thus, I decided to help my students diminish the rate of decrease they got in their marginal utility by making the group activities I used less of a group effort: now students would stay seated in pairs and every 5 minutes or so they would be shuffled around (meaning they would get a new pair) and would have to talk as much as possible about the (same lengthy) topic(s) within the limited amount of time they now had (of 5 minutes—which compared to the previous 30 minutes they had before is a huge difference).

Making these tweaks in classroom management has greatly improved the dynamics of my class. Right now, I am able to see my students smiling and excitingly talking with each other for a much larger time span (the yawning problem has definitely been solved)! It seems that this principle of marginal utility has greatly helped me in better preparing my students for their English communication endeavors. It has also caused an improvement in the overall utility they are deriving from my course. This much classroom movement, however, has brought to me another issue that I think economic theories can also help me solve but that will be my next challenge from now on: moving students around in this frantic manner works great if you have between 20-30 students: I am having the hardest time doing that in classes that have more than 50 students because of space constraints I have within each classroom. My next mission is to find a way to deal with capacity issues within the supply line of my English class.

Final thoughts

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In conclusion, understanding economics has given me an entirely new point of view when observing how economics actually affect me in one of my areas of expertise, that being TESOL. I encourage all educators out there to do the same and try to “fuse” different kinds of knowledge bases with their ESOL curriculum. It will not only help you become a more versatile educator, but it will also assist you in finding out ways to stay innovative in an industry where monotony is simply cannot be present. Let me know how ideas like this could help you, ESOL instructors, in developing your academic content.

Extras for those interested

Here is a short documentary about my classes. It is up on my YouTube channel. Feel free to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33b_bEQ63qM&t=224s (this documentary is in Japanese but translation for it will be up soon.

For those interested in becoming teachers: Interested in teaching English internationally, traveling around the world and meeting people from across the globe?

ITTT is a gateway for you to go that. Getting a TESOL certificate allowed me to teach ESOL in 3 different countries and it has given me the opportunity to visit at least 16 countries on business, teaching English to locals wherever I went.

Sign up for a course today and get a 15% discount with the links below. Come and join me in spreading the knowledge of the English language to people all over the world.

https://www.teflcourse.net/?cu=FBEIT2018G
https://www.teflcourse.net/apply/?cu=FBEIT2018G

*find out more about utility at https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/utility.asp

Recommended reading

Rittenberg and Tregarthen. Principles of Microeconomics, Flat World Knowledge, 2009 (find it @ http://a.co/4CrHBzL

Achieving greatness as a foreigner in Japan

From ESOL instructor to Salary-man: hacks that will make it easier for you to reach the top at any industry in Japan – an introduction

By Hyuga Higuchi

A quick overview of how some foreigners end up here in Japan

So there you are! Just finished with your BA in English Literature and carrying a 50K plus large backpack of debt that needs to be paid at all costs. Things at the local economy don’t look very promising for educators within your English speaking country and you have decided to travel for a while, acquire some experience and that much-needed cash flow while enjoying the pleasures of mastering a new culture and language. You, being a geeky hardcore anime fan, conducted a thoroughly biased search for jobs within Asia and felt like the heavens were pointing you to the land Ninjas and cute maid cafés, the legendary island of the Rising Sun.

You quickly started applying for ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) jobs online through the famous JET program, or through the to-go-to website for foreigners looking for jobs in Japan: gaijinpot.com (or was it daijob.com?) Regardless of the tools you used, you were successful in your quest for work in Japan, packed your things, got the tickets, worked out the VISA, followed what Tim Ferris taught you at that masterpiece of a book “The 4-hour work week,” took action and followed your heart.

You felt awesome for having accomplished a feat that, perhaps, less than 10% of those who graduated from the same class as you were able to accomplish: that of venturing into the unknown; of living in a land far from home and loved ones. Everything seemed to be going really well for the first couple of weeks. You have made some English-speaking Japanese and/or expat-friends, and you are settled at your tiny but clean apartment near the train station at a very convenient location somewhere in Osaka.
Salary seems promising, the booze is cheaper than back at home, Japanese people seem to worship you for the good looks you never thought you had and the first month feels pretty much like you are Chris Hemsworth in his first Marvel standalone movie, “Mighty Thor:” you literally feel like a demi-god who just fell from Asgard, enjoying the extra level of attention people all around you have to give you.

1501485316298

And very much like that same “Thor” figure, you notice that you do not have your
Mjölnir with ya. Yes, you got your GPS tracking app and can get around just fine, but you still kind of feel lost in translation: relationships take longer to build and to keep; it’s hard to know exactly how to impress people in a way that allows them to see you for who you are. Back home, the ins-and-outs of basic communication felt a lot more natural to conduct. You were able to handle your communication “weapon,” your Mjölnir, to your greatest advantage and with a great deal of ease.
Unfortunately, for many people in Japan, they arrive here without knowing the language and, even when they do understand it, they are incapable of utilizing it to the same degree they would their native tongue (in other words, they have Mjölnir, but seem unable to “lift it”).

What the lack of language adaptation can cause

The consequences of this inability to fully integrate in Japanese society can be tough on the heart, although, for some, it does not really bother them that much in the beginning: they are able to work an English teaching job without any problems, they might have built a circle of faithful friends who will keep them company in times of trouble, etc. But in reality, they miss on all the other opportunities they would have if they were able to speak the lingo with a high level of fluency. Furthermore, these non-Japanese speakers tend to fall prey to them gaijin-hunters, & free-English-practice riders who are a group of “dark side” Japanese opportunists seeking to befriend foreigners simply for the sake of leeching out on their foreign-like attributes (physical, mental, emotional), and English speaking capabilities. Simply put, the gaikoku-jin who does not aspire to become fluent in Japanese will have a hard(er) time building relationships that are profound and truly meaningful.

How I can help

Within this blog series, I hope to give you tips on how to quickly master the Japanese Language, while making proper use of the same to navigate the culture in a way that will assist you in becoming anything you want to be in Japan: not only the default ESOL instructor that many English speaking foreigners do here for lack of options.
Here you will learn how to:

1. Choose the right school and courses to attend in order to learn Japanese quickly—on a full-time basis—while maintaining the ability to work full-time hours: granting you the income you need to study and enjoy your life here at the same time.
2. Practice the language and places where you can go to in order meet the people that will help you master Japanese while avoiding to encounter people who are just after you because of your native English speaking ability and your different looks.
3. Get jobs in Japanese companies without the need of a JLPT.
4. Navigate within the world of Japanese indirect communication to improve your ability to handle communication mishaps and increase your chances of building long-lasting and genuine relationships with the Japanese people.
5. Find love/an ideal partner in the Land of the Rising Sun for those interested in building their “nest” here.

1501558079298

About the author

Currently going by Hyuga Higuchi, I am originally a Brazilian born, American raised immigrant to Japan that has had to adapt many times to a variety of different cultural situations. After spending most of my childhood in Brazil, my mother, being divorced and with very little job prospects available in her home country decided to look for employment opportunities elsewhere and chose the United States as the most viable option. She was able to climb through the ranks of the house-cleaning industry in the US and that finally granted her the chance of bringing my younger brother and

in class2 (2)

me into our new home up north. We fell in love with the US instantly but were always faced with struggles to understand American culture and how it applied to our daily lives as we grew to eventually become full-fledged Americans.
After completing my undergraduate degree in New York, I felt like it was time to search for new adventures elsewhere and decided to come to Japan and a quasi-Working Holiday scheme, where I found employment teaching English at Berlitz Japan one month after my arrival in 2007. I have since taught children classes, Junior and Senior high school classes, classes for the elderly, and at 5 different universities here in the Kansai region of Japan. Since arriving here, my ability to master Japanese quickly has granted me the ability to quickly climb through the ranks within the real of Japanese university education, where, for the most part, I was able to teach for there for about 5 years without having an MA (through this blog, I hope to assist you in doing the same).

Acquisition of the Japanese language has also helped me visit 10 different countries on business, acquire positions that range from working within the IT industry in Japan to translating Australian & Kiwi coaches at a professional Rugby team.

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Knowing the language has helped me find the love of my life, my wife whom I love, who is the most wonderful woman in the world. She was not interested in being with a foreign man and has had me as her very first international guy. The fact that she was into me because of who I am and not because of my “uniqueness” here is one of the many things I love about her and our relationship. Moreover, knowing Japanese has also helped me teach classes fully in Japanese, and within these, I felt I had a greater chance of truly being a force of positive influence on my students.

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I can speak 4 languages fluently and have lived in 4 different countries. Let me share how some of my cultural know-how can help you be more successful in your current, or future, Japanese endeavors.

Observations and limitations of the ideas in this blog

**This blog doesn’t, in any way, aim at downplaying the roles of ESOL instructors in Japan, nor is its aim to diminish the value and importance of being an English teacher in Japan. I personally have built my entire career on the ESL industry and I still see ESOL education as one of my passions. All the ideas here contained are aimed at assisting people who actually want to or at least try to, do something different than teaching English but, at the same time, they feel that, as foreigners, teaching is the only thing they can do in Japan.
**Unfortunately some of the advice here contained can better benefit individuals who are just starting their career, rather than the latter. I believe that people from all walks of life can find something beneficial in the contents of this blog. However, since Japan is a country very much concerned about age and its role in the development of work-related relationships here, some of the advice might be more helpful to those fresh of the plane in Japan.