When teaching abroad, keep in mind that your students have been brought up in a culture different from your own and thus you may notice that students respond to materials in unexpected ways.
This is true for many people, cultures, and countries so keep a close eye on students, see how they react, and be willing to adjust your teaching styles to better suit their needs.
Here are some of the things you might notice if teaching in Japan.
How to Teach Japanese Learners
Japanese students are generally very well behaved. If you are from a country such as America, the amount of discipline and self control displayed, even by middle school students, may come as a shock. They are typically studious and hard working. Students in Japan must test into their high school so if you teach at a high school, the type of school you are at will determine to some extent how your students behave. For example, a very academic school which prepares students for college tends to place a lot of attention on test scores while a technical school could focus more on mechanical or electrical skills and finding jobs for students. Obviously in the first school, English would have a higher priority than in the second and students would behave a little differently too but still, compared to students in many other countries, they are better behaved which makes managing your class much easier.
Although Japanese students in that very academic school above might be quite driven individuals, their focus is often on grades and performing well so they can be reluctant to speak up or participate in activities or games that are not perceived as helping them prepare to exams. Some students are just extremely shy to the point where teachers will not even require them to participate in activities. Other students just take a while to adapt to having a new teacher and warm up to your methods. Japanese learners also tend to rely on dictionaries, usually electronic dictionaries or translators on their cell phone. Students in Japan will often simply use a translator rather than try to rephrase what they are attempting to say.
While Japanese students are very motivated to do well in school, attending classes during the day and sometimes taking extra lessons at night can also lead to a lot of stress. High school students especially are under a lot of pressure regardless of what type of school they attend. As a foreigner you might disagree with this kind of system however the only thing you can really control is what is directly related to your class. If you think students are too stressed out during exam time, you can play games during the class period and assign little to no homework but you still need to make progress on the course material and prepare them for the tests they will inevitably have to face. Keeping these things in mind will help you tailor your classes to your students and understand where they are coming from better.
Know your students and how they will react to certain activities. It could take a Japanese class a while to warm up to you so be willing to start off slowly. If students are used to being lectured in their English classes, it will take them a while to change their behavior and start speaking English in classes. If students seem reluctant to speak aloud, start with choral repetition so that no one person is singled out. This can get students accustomed to hearing themselves speak English and the extra pronunciation practice will build their confidence. As you progress, you can include more and more individual speaking practice. If you notice that students are using their dictionaries far too often, you can ask them to complete short, fast-paced synonym activities or to practice describing things. This will give them the skills to express themselves in situations when a dictionary is not available and they may be surprised at how well they can do without a reference. Try not to add to their stress. Obviously you will have to administer tests but by preparing them properly and having review lessons, you can thoroughly prepare your Japanese students to do well and have the confidence they need to remain calm.
Every country has its own unique characteristics and as such, learners will be different too.Learning to alter your approach to suit your audience is something that will ensure you excel as a teacher in any learning environment.
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