One of the best things about studying abroad is the chance to get to know a language and culture that you wouldn’t have otherwise. However, on the flip side, I’ve had the opportunity to help others understand my language and culture. Before coming to Japan, I decided to get my Teaching English as a Second Language Certification and since living here, I’ve been able to teach Japanese people English through the use of my new certification.
Tutoring English to other people is a really interesting experience. My students range in their language ability from knowing only a few sentences, to people who just want to keep up their fluency with a native speaker. However, no matter what level I find myself teaching I always find some sort of growth that happens with my students, and it’s incredible to witness. For example, one of my students could only speak broken sentences when I first started my tutoring sessions with him, but only a couple months later we can hold entire conversations that can continue on for the entire lesson, and I’ve personally been able to watch the improvement in his speaking ability. For someone who has constantly tried to learn new languages since high school, it’s so inspiring to be able to witness someone learning a language, and actually having an influence in that progress.
It’s also given me a lot of introspection into my own cultural values and the values of Japanese people. With my higher level students, we talk about difficult subjects like politics, racism, religion, and cultural norms. Being one of the main reasons I love to travel, I think I enjoy this part the most – hearing from other people about their culture and actively comparing and contrasting to different cultures. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about Japanese culture that I wouldn’t have otherwise, like political current events, and different cultural movements that are happening in the newer generations versus the older generations, and I have my students to thank for my deeper understanding of Japan.
Of course, teaching hasn’t been without its difficulties. It was pretty difficult when I was starting out. I have learned that language teaching takes a lot more skill than people first assume. Especially for my students who want to focus on more colloquial mannerisms and not so much textbook learning styles. Its made me think outside the box when it comes to how people learn differently from me, and its given me a lot of ideas about how I might want to approach language learning in the future for myself. However, with the months going by and with more experience, I’ve come to find that I enjoy teaching English, so much so that I’m starting to consider teaching English in a foreign country after graduating. This is quite ironic to anyone who knows my career goals of being a foreign service officer, a career that has nothing to do with teaching in a classroom. But the biggest thing I’ve learned from tutoring English so far is that you might actually really enjoy something you never thought you would for different reasons than other people enjoy it, and that’s exactly what’s happened for me while teaching English to others.