I may soon be trying my hand at teaching English for real

I have a Japanese neighbor who runs a business that mostly caters to other Japanese. I mentioned that I was helping people online to learn English. Next thing I know she is trying to get me to teach English to her Japanese customers, some of whom know almost no English.

I explained that I don’t actually teach English. I just answer questions, mostly from people who are already well versed in English. I explained that I had no clue where to even start. Knowing how to speak a language doesn’t mean I know how to teach it. Since they would be paying me, I didn’t think it was right to charge for something that I really didn’t know what I was doing.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had no idea where to start. I did some digging into it, and read a few practical tips that were helpful. But mostly I read a bunch of academic theory that didn’t say a damn thing that was practical. Like, “Where the hell do I start? Especially when I don’t know Japanese?”

Anyway, my neighbor persisted and talked me into it. I have my first student scheduled for next Friday. There will probably be 2-3 more in the near future. The one this Friday might not be too bad. She mainly needs help with pronunciation and accent. Apparently a lot of Japanese learn English, but from Japanese native speakers, not native English speakers.

I was told that Japanese can’t pronounce TH, F, R, a couple of other sounds. I asked my neighbor “What about Mount Fuji?”. Apparently the F is silent.

OK, so I already knew the Japanese words for “Thank you” and “Yes”. I just learned “Verb”, “Noun”, “Adjective” and “Correct”.

Not much of a start. I’m sure I could eventually figure it out, but I don’t know if they will keep paying someone who obviously isn’t really an English teacher.


Good luck!

The U.S. Department of State has a website containing resources for teaching foreign languages to their employees. It turns out they also have a site for teaching English as a foreign language.

I don’t know how good this is, but I glanced through it and some of the resources seem interesting.


Have a nice time with them; all the best! @NearlyNapping


That’s wonderful for you.


Thanks for the replies guys. I still have almost no confidence, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I guess I’ll find out on Friday how well the first person likes it.

I came very close to turning this down completely. I still might. I’ll meet this first person, but after that I don’t know if I’ll continue.


Hello @NearlyNapping, congratulations on your job offer! I can assure you that you will make a great English teacher, because you have proven that you possess the most important quality that a good English teacher needs: a genuine interest in helping people learn English.

In addition, you have an excellent understanding of the English language as well as an outstanding track record in answering specific questions from a variety of English learners.

I am sure you will enjoy teaching English face-to-face, and we look forward to you sharing your experience here on the forum.


I endorse your views @Torsten.


Well I finished with the first meeting. I have to say that I loved it. I really enjoyed myself and I think the student did also. I was surprised that her English was much better than I was led to believe. Her vocabulary was very limited, but her pronunciation was very good. She had a hard time with some pronunciations, like ‘R’, depending on the placement in the word. But for the most part her pronunciations were good.

We had a translator with us this time. She won’t be with us next time. This time the translator helped the student learn English phrases that will help us in the future. The student learned things like “I don’t understand”, “What does that mean?”, “repeat”, etc.

I tried to encourage her as much as possible. I sincerely told her that her pronunciation was very good. I only lied a little when I said that I thought she could communicate with native speakers - she really can, but in a VERY limited way. She needs encouragement to get out among native speakers. She lives in the US but hides at home and literally never speaks English. She needs enough confidence to get out and actually speak to people.

We met at the library and I showed her books at different levels. The “teen” books were too advanced for her, so we worked with children’s books. She was able to read, pronounce and understand most of it. I think she could read the teen books, but she doesn’t have the confidence yet.

We’re meeting again next week. We won’t have the translator with us this time, but I think we’ll get by.


Do you guys think this is a good exercise for beginning English learners? I don’t want polite feedback, but honest feedback about what is good for my students. My goal here is repetition, but with enough differences so they understand it, and can apply it in slightly different ways.

My secondary goal is to find their interests so that future learning can be about topics they are interested in. Here is what I have so far.

Write how much you like each thing.

For example you can write:
“I like music a little.”
“I love music.”
“I don’t like music.”

Use any words to describe how much you like each thing.

Video games
Growing plants


Yes, this is a very good exercise because it does not overwhelm beginners and at the same time gives them enough freedom to create their own sentences. It also gives them an overview of vocabulary that they can use to describe their own interests and to ask about the interests of others.

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They will almost certainly be using a translator. They don’t know enough to do this without one. The idea is that with repetition they will use it less and less.


Hi Dan,

I may be bit late with my answer. But here it is. I completely agree with Torsten, but, I think it’s important to say that you should believe in yourself. You can do it, I’m absolutely sure about that. So keep up the good work.

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