What Is It Like to Teach English in Japan?

This video about every ALTs first lesson at a Japanese school is so relatable it hurts.

By 2 min read

Out of all the lessons you teach as an ALT in Japan, whether it be “This is a Pen,” to the infamous “Mysteries of the Relative Pronoun,” there is one lesson that stands out as the most nerve-racking: the “Self-Introduction” lesson.

“Just introduce yourself! It’ll be fine!” they say. And for the most part, a self-introduction lesson is basically you just talking about… yourself. But what those famous last words we hear from sempai ALTs never seem to touch on is that part after the introduction phase—the terrifying 10 minutes left until the bell where students get to ask questions.

Japan is a small island, and despite the power of the internet, most kids I’ve come across don’t know much about what goes on beyond these shores.

So, you’ll need to brace yourself for questions ranging from the generic to the downright WTAF. Answering “Where are you from?” is easy enough but then you’ll also have to field abstract existential questions like, “Why did you become a foreigner?”

What is it like to teach English in Japan ALT Self-Introduction Lesson

The question and answer period is when your decision-making skills are put to the ultimate test. Do you answer the questions honestly? Yes, I have a girlfriend. Lie through your teeth? No, I have sworn off all interaction with the opposite sex for the rest of my life. Or keep up the facade that you can’t speak or understand Japanese and just ignore the sound coming from that corner of the classroom? So… who likes Justin Bieber?!

How to get through your first lesson as an ALT in Japan

However inappropriate they may be, I’ve got one rule for you, be patient with them. They’re just kids.

I’m from Canada, and I remember being asked, well actually, told, by a student that, “Canada = America,” and because I speak English, and without a British accent, that I must be American. This is an example of a situation in which you learn to Keep. It. Cool. Again, they’re just kids! Maybe they really don’t know, maybe they’re trolling you hard. The fact is, you need to educate them, laugh it off, remain vigilant and above all—be patient.

If you take anything away from this as you sit at your desk compiling awkward family photos and cheesy postcards from your hometown it’s to remember that one word: patience.

And also that this is only your first lesson and there’s plenty more where that came from.


Stay tuned for our next video on life as an ALT in Japan. You can check out Mason’s YouTube channel maydaysan in JAPAN.



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