14 thoughts on “So, you want to teach English in Japan?

  1. Deciding to read one more random Facebook post before sleeping, I skimmed some of the comments at ‘The Philippines; The Most Dangerous Land on the Planet’ and then somehow ended up on your blog. And wow, was I very happy to see this article of yours.

    Being an avid aficionado of Japan in its cultural entirety since I was a kid (and yes, it’s safe to say it’s not just because of anime and whatnot), I’ve been planning on going there for awhile now- it’s either I roll the dice in applying as a government-sponsored MBA scholar (researcher) or taking the IELTS and applying as an ALT or English teacher at Gaijinpot. The problem is, I’m not really sure what awaits me there if I do so. And of course going there as I am now (financially and career-wise) means leaving behind everything here in the Philippines- even the business that I own, not knowing whether it’s worth it makes me get cold feet. Yet your post somehow made the blurry picture I have in mind a bit more clearer now. Big thank you for that!

    Anyway, looks like I’ll be reading your articles in the same Japan-related categories after my good night sleep to help me decide whether I should really pursue that dream or not. イカルウェウェすばらしいです!:)

    • Thanks for your reply Chad. If you have a business there, why would you ever want to come here? We all dream of owning our businesses someday. がんばってください。

      My contract as an ALT just expired. The company seems to want to renew me, but it doesn’t start until April 2014. Even then, I am not sure if they will take me for another 6 months or for one year. I prefer a steady job but the competition in Tokyo is so stiff, I doubt I’ll get anything more than another contract. The fact is, English teaching is mostly given to “native speakers” and the market is over-saturated already. (At least in Tokyo) Unfortunately, many Filipinos are classified as non-native (rightly so) and non-native English speakers get only 6 months contract. Still, I would have appreciated it if they took the time to assess my skills instead of automatically lumping me together with the other “non-natives” because of the color of my passport.

      As an ALT, I worked a maximum of 14 days a month, so the pay is really bad. I wouldn’t have survived on my own. Now that I am looking for a new job again, I can’t help think how Japan is one of the hardest places to emigrate. to. There are a lot of work available (http://jobstep.org/、http://townwork.net/) but you need Japanese skills. The more decent the job/pay, the higher the Japanese skills required. And in most cases, even in English teaching, foreigners don’t become regulars (it states blatantly during the hiring). The big companies in English teaching/English conversation “Eikaiwai” only hire teachers as contractors, albeit a better one than mine.

      If you really want to come to Japan, there are less picky areas for English teaching like in Fukushima or where winter is harsh up in the north. The farther away from Tokyo, the lesser the minimum wage. The minimum wage here is ¥763 (7.63 USD), but most pay from ¥900-1000. English teaching, if you are native, can range from ¥1500-¥4000 per hour within the Tokyo ward. I have no idea about places outside Tokyo, but if you get a monthly contract, instead of a per-hour one, you should be OK. Also, because some areas are desperate, they provide housing support. But you may also need a local driver’s license because there are no trains.

      Anyway feel free to ask me more questions. I know some things I write here are not exactly pleasant, but hey, it’s the reality. Have a great day and please be safe.

  2. Oh wow. I just attended an orientation seminar in a dispatch company in Makati and, apparently, I found it a bit uninformative – almost useless. I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog. Made me skeptical if I should take next month’s personal interview and English test. pffft.

    • Hi Rex ,thanks for your comment. If they are a real dispatch company, here are some relevant questions : 1) Where will you be sent to? The location would be nice so. The type of school would also be nice. 2) Is it a guaranteed income? How many hours do you need to work per week? 3)How much will you be earning? The range is Ok but if the range is too big (150,000-250,000 JPY) it’s not very helpful 4) Are there housing and transportation allowances ? 5) What about insurance?

      Asking number 3 may sound a bit too ahead of yourself in the Philippines and you’d get frowned upon, but it’s just atarimae (natural) here in Japan – after all, the salary is a big factor in deciding if you want to apply for this job or not. They should be able to answer that.

      Btw, what is the dispatch company called, if you don’t mind me asking? Is it owned by a Japanese?

  3. Interac. Sorry, I forgot to mention the name. I may have trolled a couple of forums and watched other foreigners in YouTube about Interac and many seem to be satisfied with the pay. I like the brutality of your blog about Filipino ALTs receiving less pay than those from the inner circle because even my students in the online English school that I work in affirm that. I have taught English to JTEs through this online job and even they get lesser pay compared to the 250,000 Yen that inner circle ALTs in their schools get.

    My biggest fear is that I don’t know much about Interac’s treatment to its Filipino ALTs. I’ve been digging around but I can’t seem to find any sort of online documentation about the matter.

    And I quote the job ad where I sent my application to, “Most unusually, the compensation package on offer for this exciting opportunity is exactly the same as that provided to western, native English speaking language teachers.” Well, that seems to good to be true.

    • If it’s the real Interac, then I guess they’d understand why you’d want to know the salary. I went to a group interview by Berlitz yesterday, and the first thing they mentioned was the pay scale. The managers explained, “So you’d know if this is the job for you or not.”http://teach.berlitz.co.jp/requirements/contract.html
      ( It’s only in the Philippines where information such as salaries and pay grade are such a one-way secret, and from experience, I think it has always worked against a workers’ favor!)

      The good thing with working in a public school vs Eikaiwa is that you get Sat-Sun off, plus holidays. The Eikaiwa works pretty much like the hospitality industry – the busiest days on weeknights, weekends and holidays because the clientele they cater to are working on regular days. Berlitz said yesterday,”If you don’t want to work on weekends, then this job is probably not for you.” Fair enough.

      On the other hand, if it is a public school, you may get smaller amount than working for an Eikaiwa (the trade off is having a life or not vs a good pay).

      One “inner circle” friend I have get as much as JPY300,000 per month (gross) working for an elementary school ( can’t remember if it’s private or public). This is unheard of in dispatch companies, but I think he was hired directly. In my dispatch company, the “natives” get paid 12,500 per day (I have no information whether or not their fare is subsidized), they also work more hours per week and they get assigned to richer wards (Shinjuku, Setagaya, Suginami etc). To top that off, they also get a 1 year contract. The non-natives only got JPY 9000 per day without fare subsidy, and we worked only 18-28 hours a week and we were assigned to poorer wards (Adachi, Arakawa) for a half a year contract. Why ? It seems like the wards are governed by the Ward Education Board (called the Board of Education or BOE) and they decide if they want natives or non-natives for the whole ward. It’s better if you ask them where the openings are – is it in the middle of nowhere? (Pro : lower standard of living! Con : No life. Driver’s license needed) Or is it in one of the big cities? (Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka).

      I hope Interac’s system is better. It doesn’t hurt to ask. As long as they don’t try to collect fees, I suppose it does no harm to go to their recruitment seminars. Ganbatte kudasai!

  4. Thanks a million! That really helped. I do believe that Berlitz is an ok company to work for as I know a couple of JTEs who are somehow happy with their system. I do hope that Interac is better. What about Altia? I’d like to know your insights about them.

    • Hi again Rex,
      I don’t know if Altia recruits non-natives. So far, all the ads I see are recruiting “native-level” only. Salary seems decent, ranging from ¥240,000 ~ ¥255,000 / Month. From some reviews I read before, it seems like Altia is one of the better dispatch companies. Some claim they even pay during summer/winter breaks and give bonus if you stick with them the following year.( The dispatch company I worked for offered no paid leaves, no pay during breaks, no transportation allowance, no health insurance, nothing!) Information like this is important – because summer break is a month long or so (mine was from july 12-august 31) – too short to look for another work and too long to subsist in a month’s salary.
      I have high hopes with ****(name of company deleted) but they are only hiring part-timers for now. It’s getting frustrating, sometimes. Much of the work for foreigners are pretty stagnant with hardly any opportunities for advancement. I don’t see teaching English as a career I’d like to dedicate my life to, you know. But with language barriers, we foreigners are stuck – English teaching or arubaito such as waiting on tables etc. Lately, I’ve been seeing some white people doing “genba” work (construction). Sure, there are high-ranking foreigners here, but it’s either they own the company themselves or were sent by the powers back home. It is very rare that they went through the usual channels – and even then, being a Filipino, one probably won’t get far (there is a Filipino CEO I know of, but he’s backed by the powers of the foreign capital that sent him here). They are not exactly equal-opportunity employers, these Japanese companies! Ask yourself if you want this is a stepping stone to something else or a long-time gig. If it’s the second, better think again. There are easier countries to emigrate to, those that will even welcome you as a citizen. Japan is not one of them.

  5. Hi! I am very happy to have read your article with regards to being an ALT in Japan. I am off to a seminar in Makati on January 21. The dispatch company is Interac and the agency is Chesham Recruitment. I would like to know how much usually does an applicant need to prepare for the application process? What I would really want to know is that is there a need for us to pay the placement fee? I really have a lot of doubts regarding working in Japan since I have read a lot of bad reviews in the Internet but I still want to try my luck and be in a new environment and maybe just make it a stepping stone for a Western country someday. I look forward to your response.

    • Thank you for your comment, Liz. Sorry, I have been incredibly busy. I’m afraid I don’t know how much it costs. Most bad reviews are from westerners (and me, lol) but I still think, compared to working in the Philippines, it’s much much better to work in Japan. You have to consider that many westerners *cough Americans cough* are comparing Japan to America and not all places can be America!! Considering the high tax rates in the Philippines, the traffic, the crime rate, the pollution, the lack of decent infrastructure, I say living and (working here) is a breeze! Personally, I would use ALT as a foot-in-the-door technique to enter eikaiwa, which can offer more pay and more flexibly schedule. just my two cents. How did the orientation go?

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