Studying Japanese is great for ALTs. It allows us to walk a mile in students’ shoes and furnishes us with the vocabulary to give directions, explain cultural differences and teach English better. So I thought I would start to intermittently share some tips and tricks I’ve learned.
This first one is about finding people around you at work and in your daily life who can help you learn Japanese.
One frustrating fact that I’ve encountered studying Japanese here is how infrequently people will correct my mistakes when speaking Japanese. I thought hard about this problem the other day and realized that I needed to actively search out those individuals who would correct my Japanese mistakes, preferably in a friendly and casual way.
You can perform this search actively or inactively. If you really want to find a Japanese teacher fast, I realized I could purposefully make simple mistakes that I am aware of with the Japanese teachers in my office and see who corrects them — and how they correct them. Do they say nothing? Do they stop the entire conversation? Or do they say something to the effect of “Oh you mean to say…” in Japanese?
One lesson I’ve learned after 2 years of living here is that just because someone is Japanese and I’m talking to them doesn’t mean they are interested or capable of teaching me Japanese. So whether you try to purposefully make some mistakes to actively search for someone who will correct you or just casually take note of what people do when you speak Japanese, it is nice to find the people around you who will gently correct your mistakes and are able to provide simple explanations and examples. Not everyone can do it, but if you can find those hidden Japanese teachers your Japanese will be able to progress faster.