The Most Difficult Student to Teach in Japan

I spent over fifteen years teaching the English language full-time or part-time to Japanese people and I have to say teaching is a very rewarding experience. Japanese students are generally enthusiastic, polite, on time for lessons, and they are nearly always interested in what you have to say as an ESL (English as a second language) teacher.

In my experience, most Japanese students take an interest in how you conduct the lesson, they are really keen to learn the English language, they want to hear your opinions, and they’re definitely committed to self-improvement.

Comic Updated Confidence

There is, however, a certain type of student who is always really difficult to teach. Some of you will read this and think that type of student might be someone with strong political or religious views, but in my opinion most Japanese students have a gentle, non-aggressive nature. Some of you might presume I had problems with sleazy Japanese businessmen because I’m female and I was a 外国人 gaikokujin (foreigner in Japan) when I lived and worked in Tokyo, but I can honestly say I’ve never had those kind of problems. I think that if you dress and act appropriately in Japan then this should never really be an issue.

For me, and I’m sure a lot of ESL teachers in Japan would agree with this, the most difficult student to teach in Japan is definitely the quiet and indecisive student.

Your job as a teacher is to interact with students and improve their conversational English language ability. You really need to make sure the conversations in the classroom include all the students. You have to ensure there is plenty of two-way communication or interpersonal communication, meaning everyone in the room needs to have ample time to speak.

It’s more difficult to spot the quiet and indecisive student if you’re teaching group classes where teachers rotate on a regular basis, but if you’re conducting a private lesson it will only take a few minutes for you to recognize this more introverted student. You’ll also realize it’s going to take a lot of effort on your part to fill the rest of the fifty minute lesson when you have a student who just doesn’t want to talk.

In my experience, these quiet and indecisive students are often dressed very nicely but conservatively and they are always very polite, but every question you ask them is nearly always littered with blank stares and conversation fillers that show lots of hesitation. When you start speaking to them and if you ask them to talk about a certain subject you’ll hear them say ええ Ee, あのう Anou, まあ Maa, or ええと Eeto several times, which translate as Um or Let me think about that in English, but that’s probably all they’re going to say before they switch to silence. Other Japanese people will think of an answer quite quickly after these conversation fillers but the quiet and indecisive student will just bite their lip and look down. It’s at that point, you’ll realise it’s going to be an excruciatingly long lesson. In fact, these students will sit quietly and say nothing for the whole class if you don’t find ways to build their confidence and get them to talk.

Every student needs to feel they’re getting value for their money at their 英会話学校 eikawa gakkō (English conversation school). So how do you cope with the quiet and indecisive student and fix the situation so the student talks?

If you lack experience as an ESL teacher, it would be very easy to talk non-stop for the next fifty minutes and not worry about your student saying more than one or two words, but schools are now asking their students to evaluate their teacher and their lessons and although the student might not be happy to speak with you in English they may express their opinions very clearly and succinctly when they are talking to one of the Japanese administrators at the school. The professional ESL teacher will always take a different approach and think of ways to make the class interesting and get every one of their students talking.

Here are 8 helpful tips for dealing with the quiet and indecisive student:

1. You could write down three topics and ask the student to read all three out loud and then pick one of the topics. Ask them to expand on this as you ask them easy questions.

2. You could ask the quiet and indecisive student questions about famous places in Japan or even your own country and ask them if they have been there and what they saw, as well as how they felt when they were there.

3. When the indecisive students start to talk write down key adjectives like “interesting” and “beautiful” and ask the student to use these words in their descriptions to help them keep the conversation going.

4. You could also talk to the quiet and indecisive student about Japanese food. Everyone in Japan loves at least two or three famous Japanese dishes and this can be a great way to get the conversation flowing.

5. You could ask them to ask you 5 questions with the “5 W’s”: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

6. You could make the class fun by mentioning several 外来語 gairaigo (Japanese words based on a foreign language, in this case English) and ask the student to repeat the pronunciation after you, first with a Japanese accent and then properly in English. Common gairaigo are garasu or glass, handoru or handle, miruku or milk, and bīru or beer. There are many more gairaigo but if you live in Japan you’ll know quite a few of these already.

7. If it’s a group lesson you teach regularly, you could always tell the quiet and indecisive student you want them to prepare a short speech on three subjects related to the Japanese culture (or any other subject you think they would be interested in) for the class the following week. Tell them you would like them to talk to the class for just one or two minutes at the start of the next lesson about this without any interruption from the other students.

8. At the end of the class, you could also briefly but sincerely praise the quiet and indecisive student for trying so hard to speak English. This should help to build their confidence and they will most probably look forward to their next class with you.

Comic updated McDonalds

Although quiet and indecisive students can be the most difficult students to teach, they can also be the students who provide you with the most rewarding teaching experiences. Remember, just because a Japanese student is unwilling to talk in a lesson this doesn’t mean they’re stupid, nor does it mean they’re quiet by nature. English language education is mandatory at high schools in Japan so every student has some knowledge of English even if it is limited and remember, students pay large sums of money to attend eikawa (English conversation) schools because they really want to speak English with confidence.

How Much Money Does a Writer/Author Really Earn?

I published my first book, Tokyo Hearts, in 2012. Over the past three years, I’ve also published a set of short stories in Tokyo Tales and a futuristic sci-fi novelette Tokyo 2060, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. However, the question I get asked the most about writing books from strangers and potential authors is: How much money do you make if you write a book? Or basically the same question but one that demands more specific information is: Can I earn enough money to give up my full-time job if I become an author?

If you’re reading this and you have no aspirations to become a writer and if you’ve never felt the urge to write a book or if you don’t know me personally, then you might think this is quite a rude question for people to ask me. Well, I don’t think about how rude it is anymore because I’ve been asked the question too many times. Another reason I don’t angrily type a nasty response in capital letters is because I try to put myself in the shoes of the person who is asking the question and for all I know this person could have five children they need to clothe and feed and therefore money is a priority. Or maybe they’re just sick of their dead-end job in an office but they’re worried about paying their mortgage. For many people, working from home seems very appealing, especially if you live in the UK like I do and the weather outside can look like hell has frozen over when you exit your front door at 7:30 every morning in the middle of winter. Or maybe the person asking me about my income is really serious about writing and they have a story they’ve been dying to tell the world or they could simply be responding to their creative urges but they don’t want to waste their time or any other investment if they think it might drain their resources.

There’s also another reason why people might want to know how much money I make. Whether you realise this or not, it’s not that difficult for me or anybody else to work out approximately how much you earn if you work in an office or a factory, if you’re a doctor or a dental technician, or if you’re a manager or the chairman of a company, but I do know it’s much harder for people to work out how much a writer makes and therefore it makes people curious. But it seems to me the main objective and the only question everyone wants answered when they ask me about writing a book is if they can make a million dollars or hopefully a lot more money than they’re making right now. I’m sorry but if this is the only question you’re going to ask me then I’m not going to be able to provide you with an answer and nor is anyone else!

The reasons I’m not going to answer this question about income are:

(a) I’m under no obligation to share this information with you even though the blog title suggested I would.

(b) Most people don’t tell me anything at all about their book when they ask this question and I don’t have a crystal ball so it’s very difficult for me to look into the future and see what life has in store for you and your writing.

(c) Every single writer has a different publishing experience because all authors write a different book and no one can predict its success, even if the title is Fifty Shades of Trash.

If you’re thinking about writing a book and you’re looking for basic free advice, I can tell you you’re probably going to make more money if your book has a great cover and if it’s polished to perfection. Your book could also benefit from a professional editor and a proof-reader and it’s possible to build a strong fan base if you’re active on social media and if you connect with your followers and your readers.

But getting back to the question at hand, there is another point I want to share with you which kinda bugs me. There’s an issue here that really surprises me and disappoints me at the same time whenever someone asks me about my income. Why is the question “How much money does an author/writer really earn?” the only question that wannabe authors want to ask me? Why do I never get asked other questions like:
How can I create better, deeper, and more popular characters?, What are the most important elements of a good plot?, What is the ideal chapter length?, Should all Young Adult books have a happy ending?, What books should I read if I want to write a great book?, or Should I write a series?.
I do get asked these questions if I’m being interviewed by book bloggers about my books and they kindly share this information with their readers, but for some strange reason I’m never asked these questions by people who seem interested in writing their first book. Don’t you think these potential writers are jumping the gun a little bit? They seem to have missed the whole point of writing a good book if they’re concentrating more on how much their book might make rather than how to write a bestseller that has the potential to be recognized as a masterpiece in years to come.

I’m not a world famous writer and I still have a lot to learn, but I have picked up a lot about writing books in the last few years and I’m always more than happy to share these experiences and help other people become authors. I can promise you I don’t write my books in a week. It takes me a lot longer. I also spend my time reading and examining the classics and popular fiction as well as books from relatively unknown authors, and I’m often doing research on grammar and writing styles in the relentless struggle to become a better writer.

So please don’t ask me this question about money or my income if you want to become a published author. Please think more about the quality of your books and the whole writing process, because this is the best way you’re going to make a lot of money in the future and get respect at the end of the day.

I can, however, end on a very positive note because there’s definitely a silver lining to writing books and it’s such a wonderful gift it should actually be a golden lining. Here it is: On top of the money you earn, I can guarantee you’ll gain more than you’ve ever imagined personally, spiritually and emotionally if you write books, because it’s an extremely rewarding experience. Also, once you start publishing books you can rest assured you’ve made a positive contribution to the world because your paperbacks and even your eBooks will be here for many years to come, even when you and I are long gone.

Tara Kamiya: A Wonderful Wife and Mum Sharing Her Love for Japan

I’d like to introduce Tara Kamiya! Tara is an African American mother from New York, living in Nagoya. She’s married to a Japanese man and she has three gorgeous children, two boys and a girl. I first read about Tara and how she met her husband in an article in The Japan Times and I thought it was such a charming story! I was also impressed by Tara’s honest personality and how committed she was to marrying her husband and living in Japan. I decided to get in touch with Tara to see if she’d be interested in reading and reviewing my book Tokyo Tales. When Tara replied almost immediately, I was more than happy to send her my book and I was delighted when I eventually read her 5-star review on Amazon.

Tara Kamiya

I also discovered Tara loves to share her experiences in Japan on her website and her YouTube channel. Her videos are very popular and you’ll enjoy watching every one of them. When you start reading Tara’s blog or if you tune in to her YouTube channel, you’ll quickly discover Tara speaks Japanese, she loves living in Japan, she has a wonderful understanding of the Japanese culture, she has a generous personality, and she’s a devoted wife and mother. Tara is also stylish and fashion-conscious, and she offers really great advice on Japanese brands. Her popular videos such as “What to Bring to Japan”, “Japanese Washing Machine Demo” and “Japanese Drugstore Skincare Review” are all great resources if you want to find out more about life in Japan and which Japanese brands to buy if you live in Japan or if you’re just visiting the country.

The standout YouTube video for me, which Tara produced, is titled “How I got my Driver’s Licence in Japan”. When I lived in Japan, I never had the courage to get my driving licence. It just seemed like an impossible feat. I’m sure most people are aware of the terrible congestion on the roads in Japan, so I was really impressed when I watched the video and I could see just how dedicated Tara was to getting her licence so she could drive her family around. If you watch Tara’a very popular video below I’m sure you’ll be impressed as well and if you live in Japan it might give you the confidence to get your own driving licence.

Now you’ve watched the video, which I’m sure you all enjoyed, please support Tara and subscribe to her YouTube channel, follow her on Twitter, and find out more about her life in Japan on her fascinating website.