Find Private English Students in Japan.

Published: 26th May 2011
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Teaching private English students is a rewarding experience for any English conversation teacher in Japan, whether they are in the big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, or smaller places such as Kumamoto. Not only can private English teachers wear what they like, teach what and where they like, and get paid what they like, but the money received is often cash, and therefore under the radar of the tax office (donít quote me on that though).

The first hurdle with teaching private students is, well, finding them. People everywhere want to learn to speak English, but nobody has the courage to approach that foreigner sitting on the same train everyday and ask about lessons. I believe one of the reasons for this is Japanese society in general, and not wanting to make a scene. However, the other reason is that these potential students are just too shy to make the first move. You could wear a T-shirt advertising free English lessons for the first person to talk to you and I could guarantee you wouldnít get a hit for at least 30mins.

This is one of the reasons that the big English school chains like Nova always succeeded (until recently). They sold English lessons with foreign teachers as a "product", the teachers themselves being like the property of the company. The large chains were then able to market these "products" with intensive advertising campaigns, and lock students in with Japanese sales staff busting to reach their monthly sales quotas. Nova itself sells lessons in the form of tickets, where buying more tickets at once is cheaper per ticket, a common form of price discrimination. With these types of textbook business practices, Japanese people are able to become "customers" instead of "students". Whether you have bad feelings for Nova or not, you must admit the system was effective. It allowed Japanese students to remain anonymous and not have to leave their comfort zone too much by doing things such as asking for help.

Fortunately things have changed a little, and Japanese people are becoming more accustomed to English conversation schools and foreign teachers, and they are beginning to think outside the box in a sense, by looking for alternatives. This had made it more possible to find private students than before.

The best way to find private students in my opinion is still by word of mouth. If you have a friend who has a friend who wants to study, you should have your first student already. They are less shy because they have been introduced by a mutual friend, they probably have a similar personality to yours, or you wouldnít have the same friend in the first place, and they wonít complain about your lessons because you are a friend. If you have any teacher friends who also teach private students, you should tell them you are looking for students too. You are not competing with your friends for students like the large schools, simply because there are enough students for everybody and your schedules donít always match, so chances are your friend has had to reject a few offers before. I have gotten a few private students from other teachers who have either left Japan, didnít want to teach that class anymore, or didnít have the time. Likewise, if you canít teach one of your classes/students anymore, you should see if you can find another teacher for them. You will be helping all parties involved.

Another proven method is to advertise yourself. Little flyers on public notice boards are useful, as are business cards, public messages and websites. If you leave business cards or flyers with a restaurant, bar or cafe you frequently go to, you will find that the staff will recommend you to their customers.

Lastly, there is the flock of websites out there that introduce students to you (actually they introduce you to students). While they donít cost you anything to join, in most cases they charge unreasonable prices to students just for an introduction, or charge a monthly or yearly membership fee, even after you have commenced teaching that student, yet they have nothing to do with you and you lessons.

Some of the websites I use are Orangutan English and Kyushu-teacher ( They charge one off fees to the students for your information, not an outrageous price considering they help the students to find you. Orangutan is Japan wide while Kyushu-teacher is based in Kyushu only. Both have free registration for teachers and are simple to use. Just enter the required information into their database and wait for someone to "buy" you.

Another new site I found recently is 41Eigo ( It is a free message board for anyone to post contact information. It has no registration or fees for teachers or students, so Japanese people are more likely to contact the people on there. It looks like a potential winner for Skype based English lessons. Please tell me if you have had any success with it.

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