Thursday, June 01, 2006

Teaching English in Japan

Teaching English in Japan: my own private students.

That's the plan.

My wife has been persistently pursuing this idea, which would see me teach from home, avoiding the problems of commuting. In particular, my wife does not want me commuting by night, because my night vision is trashed to the point where I am almost entirely blind if the lighting is dim.

I have been resisting the notion of getting my own students, because it entails all the hassle of running your own business. I'd rather have someone else take care of the management issues while I just do my work.

Also, I don't know what the market is like.

Various companies, both online and in the newspapers, are offering pay rates of about 3,000 yen an hour to teach students one on one, which means there must be at least a small reservoir of students who are prepared to pay at least that much.

Whether I can find the students is another matter, but I guess the easiest way to find out is to give it a shot and see what happens.

My investment would be zero so the penalty for failure would be more or less zero, and if the enterprise was a success then it would solve the problem of finding work.

In terms of economic rationality, the tutor teaching a single student one-on-one is the way to go because you have no overheads.

In New Zealand, I worked for a company for about a year in the 1990s, teaching English to foreign students in Auckland. At that time, there were a number of schools teaching English in that city, though I think the business has declined and that now most of these, if not all, no longer exist.

The man who ran the company for which I worked complained that these days, now he was running his own company, he was making less money than he had as a private tutor.

To me, it was obvious that he should close down his school and go back to what he was doing, but he did not see it that way. He had his dream, and his dream was to run his own English school.

He cut his overheads by persuading some young Japanese women to work for him for free as "volunteers". How they were sold on this deal I have no idea, but there they were, and he was always unsatisfied with them, complaining about their lack of initiative and the like.

So, over the weekend, I will put together a notice in Japanese, and post it on the public noticeboard near the local ward office, and maybe advertise in some other venues, and maybe make some Japanese-language web pages to accompany this teaching enterprise.

As I've been cleaning up my personal room, I've been making a stack of the stuff which might be suitable for one-on-one teaching. A lot of this is very simple but also very useful: interesting photos from newspapers on a range of subjects.

I also want to look online for English language teaching resources.

If anyone is looking online for information about teaching English in Japan, the site I would recommend is, which contains a lot of advertisements for work plus information about Japan and the like.

One idea I considered earlier was to find free-lance work on the Internet, since I had read a couple of print media articles indicating that this was possible.

Accordingly, I spent a few hours one day clicking around, searching for various terms such as "free lance writing", "editing" and "proofreading".

I soon decided that nobody makes money this way, excepting the people who are running the sites, which, typically, give you the opportunity to give them money so they, in return, can offer you the addresses where you can approach employers to try to get work.

I was reminded of something I read many years ago about the gold rush days in the United States. A lot of people made good money by supplying gold prospectors, but the prospectors themselves typically ended up making little or nothing.

After a few hours of this, I could hear a hissing sound in my ears, which I identified as the sound of valuable time decaying into nothingness.

I was persuaded that none of this would come to anything when I read the most glowing testimonial I could find online. The person praising the site through which she had found work seemed sincere, but the work she was praising struck me as being at the hobbyist level: getting to proofread a short Microsoft Word document for a particular company, for instance.

So I started and abandoned the freelnace idea in the same day.

That doesn't mean that some people don't make money at it, but I imagine that, if they do, then they invest years of effort in it. And the "years of effort required" market is not the market I'm in.


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