The internship was great and Japan was amazing. In high school, I had considered the possibility of teaching English abroad but wasn’t really that attracted to it. Even before departing for the summer I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like work itself. To my surprise, it turned out to be really fun and fulfilling, at least in the short term. One of my favorite parts of this experience was that my students were all the same age as me. Teachers are usually a generation removed from their students, but being the same age gave me a lot of common ground to work with in class.
Having finished my internship, I can honestly say that I’ve gotten a lot out of it. For example, my future plans have changed – I’ve started to lean more heavily towards the idea of joining the JET program after graduation. I’ve learned a lot about English and Japanese grammar, ESL teaching, and Japanese culture. As I’ve mentioned before I was also exposed to some really cool subjects at the school – ceramics, calligraphy, architecture and urushi lacquer primarily. But overall, being immersed in another culture for two full months really gave me a fresh perspective and a larger appreciation for cultural differences/backgrounds.
Notes for any future Japanese – English teachers:
Auxiliary words are pretty difficult for Japanese speakers (Ex. I want to go to XYZ vs I went to XYZ, or when to use the)
The verb “to like” isn’t a verb in Japanese, so the sentence order is often mixed up by students when translating. (Ex. I would be asked something like “What do you like movie?” instead of “What kind of movies do you like?”
The same word translates differently in different contexts. (Ex. the words How and What can get switched easily. to see / to watch were mixed up a lot too, to see / to meet / to hang out with / to play with was also a big trouble spot. I would hear things like “I want to meet my grandma” which makes it sound like they’ve never met before. )
Many students weren’t aware that we use Japanese words in English sometimes – like manga, anime, origami, ramen etc.
It’s a good idea to give students some way to ask questions privately. In general, Japanese people tend to be a bit more shy in uncomfortable situations. After class, we gave everyone a sheet of paper to write down questions or comments about today’s topics, which we would then correct, answer, and hand back in the next class. Very few people asked questions in class, and yet practically everybody had something they needed help with on paper.
And for any non-native Japanese speakers traveling in Kansai – learn a little Kansai dialect. It will make your first week or two a lot easier.
My main takeaway would just be that Japan is pretty awesome. I studied the language for a while simply because I thought it sounded cool, without knowing whether it would ever actually benefit me. But now having lived in Japan for 2 months I know that studying the language is something that will help me throughout my many future return trips in my life. In fact, I’m actually heading straight back to Japan in less than 2 weeks.