Teaching English in japan/germany
April 18, 2008 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Looking for information about teaching English abroad, specifically in Japan and Germany.

I applied to the JET program but was unfortunately turned down. Now I'm looking for alternatives. I will graduate with a B.A. in English this May along with minors in German and Japanese. I'm considering TEFL/TESOL certification, but only if it will help me to further my goal of teaching English abroad.

Any advice on programs, jobs, websites to search on would be wonderful. Anecdotes are of course also welcome.

posted by thekak to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Can't speak for Germany, but regarding Japan:
If you don't already have some teaching experience, then TEFL would be a big help (although not usually required).

Read up on sites like IThinkImLost, ELT News, and check out jobs at OhyayoSensei, JobsInJapan, etc..

Probably in your situation, the easiest to get into would be an eikaiwa place like GEOS or AEON, but those are generally not the best jobs in terms of working environment, benefits, etc.. I would definitely try for alternatives first (or concurrently).

Also, I'm on JET right now - it looks like their federal budget is hurting and the overall number of positions will shrink next year. This is partly due to the population growth problem - shrinking schools, but also because JET now has competition from private ALT companies. The biggest one is probably Interac, but I've heard some negative things about them - you might try looking into some other smaller private ALT companies though.
posted by p3t3 at 6:52 PM on April 18, 2008

I went straight out of college to Tokyo in 1992 (I, too, had what amounted to a minor in Japanese and it was most useful).

Somewhat different world back then . . . there were TWICE the number of kids / young adults than there are now. Here's a picture of the projected population pyramids. Brutal, but somewhat deceptive since the main population drain is happening out in the sticks and not the major cities.

Back then job seekers were able to pound the pavement in Tokyo (Monday Japan Times) on a tourist visa, work on that temporarily, and then make a quick trip out (I went to Guam . . . in December . . . it was sweeet) & come back on a proper work visa.

If you're adventurous the best plan is to save up $8000+ and just head over to Tokyo. Stay in a gaijin hotel, and keep looking until you find something. Being on the ground is worth a lot more than trying to arrange something remotely.

The recent NOVA implosion has increased the number of job seekers, but in the eikaiwa market there's still a premium on youth & beauty, not necessarily in that order.
posted by tachikaze at 3:46 AM on April 19, 2008

I am not an English teacher, but did look into the details before landing a research job instead. p3t3 and tachikaze's comments mirror the things I learned last year and hear from people doing it now. A couple things I wanted to add:
  • Add Dave's ESL cafe as another place to look for jobs
  • The Monday paper thing still works, apparently, but you can also walk into any schools and just ask. The thing with coming and looking for jobs here is that you really have to be here in person to convince someone to hire you and sponsor you. Also check out local area English language magazines (e.g. Kansai Scene)
  • Don't forget to look at places other than the heart of Tokyo. Sure, school density is high there, and so is popluation density, but it's sort of the "obvious" place to go look, especially for the recently landed. You might consider other high-density, high-ambition locations like Osaka or Yokohama.
  • The above comment about easily-landed-low-benefit jobs with the giant corps (GEOS and AEON) is spot-on. The pay is lower, with more hours and less vacation. Also, these companies DO NOT HIRE LOCALLY. They only do hiring from overseas, NOT in Japan. So when you're doing leg-work, punt them.
  • If you come to do job-hunting on foot, BRING your ORIGINAL official diploma. You WILL NEED IT to get your working visa made.
  • FWICT from the newspapers and just around town, the NOVA issues have subsided somewhat since people have either found their new jobs or given up and left the country (to get unemployment, it was expected you would wait six months or so. ouch!)

    In any case, especially with a smaller school, you'll be making a very competitive salary and work a lot less than your local friends. It doesn't have to be a "dead-end" either - I know a few people who started out in teaching English and now have "real careers" in a variety of fields (business, importing, TV...).

    Like others above, I can't help with the Germany bit but would expect it to be a lot more difficult to find the job.

  • posted by whatzit at 5:20 AM on April 19, 2008

    I know a couple people who teach English in Berlin (technically one teaches *in* English in an international school), and both taught english as a foreign language and studied teaching before teaching ESL in Germany. I was told that there is a German certification process in which being qualified as a teacher is important. Teaching without that certification is much harder.

    My distinct impression is that the expectations of an English instructor in Germany are such that just being a native speaker is not quite enough. However, if you wanted teach English more or less as a career, or seriously for a time, then there certainly is demand.
    posted by cotterpin at 6:20 AM on April 19, 2008

    I did Erasmus in Germany, but a lot of my friends took a teaching post out there for a year instead of Erasmus. It's also quite common for English speakers to offer private study support or nachhilfe. Doing this is as simple as making a poster and sticking it all over town; notice boards in university campuses and supermarkets are the best places to advertise, but Germans love notice boards and you'll find them in some student bars, cultural centres and even laundrettes.

    My friends who taught in German schools went with the programme organised by the British Council. If you don't meet their eligibility requirements, there may well be a similar organisation in your country which promotes cultural exchange and could organise a similar placement for you.

    Alternatively there are several German cultural exchange organisation who you might be able to get help from; these are the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD and the Goethe Institut . Many German organisations welcome English speaking Graduates who are looking for work placements, often part of the role involves give their employees help with their English - both formally and informally. So if that was of interest to you, it may be worth Googleing some international German companies and sending off some polite emails.

    The one thing I would say about living abroad is pick somewhere that fits the lifestyle you want. Teaching in a traditional black forest village may sound great, but it can also be very isolating. Equally, Hamburg and Berlin are big, vibrant cities; but though generally very safe, often their social problems are all too visible.
    posted by munchbunch at 8:34 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

    Apparently, even with your degree in English, it will be easier to get a job with a TEFL qualification and you will be paid more. Your college may well have useful links, and there are dedicated job-finding websites for people with some TEFL qualifications.

    It isn't clear how much you know about the usual pitfalls of teaching EFL. There is a hilarious roundup about Korea, much of which applies elsewhere as well, on theEmpty Bottle.org website of stavrosthewonderchicken. There are plenty of re
    posted by Idcoytco at 1:16 PM on April 19, 2008

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