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Language Barrier With Coworkers


This short article will look at the language barrier we all experience at some some point teaching in Japanese schools. It goes without saying that most of the teachers at any regular Japanese school will not be able to freely converse in English. However this does not mean that the Japanese teachers don’t want to converse with you. In fact, it’s all too common for shyness to be mistaken for rudeness.


My interview with Gary (name changed) a few of weeks ago confirmed my thoughts about the language barrier in his school when he told me that the simple act of trying to communicate with the other teachers is the key to feeling a part of your school.


For the new arrivals among us of course, this can be very difficult (and nerve racking!), but a simple greeting, thank you or how are you can go a long way in breaking the ice with the teachers around you. Once this ice has been broken though, it can open up all kinds of doors!


The best thing about trying to do this is that it not only shows the school that you are really making an effort, but also gives you an opportunity to improve your Japanese language skills.


If your Japanese is of a higher level you may also be able to participate in school and department meetings. This will allow you to understand the workings of the department in more detail, and even participate in decisions regarding the structure and development of the English course.

So, fight the nerves, and stay positive in communicating with those around you, regardless of your level of Japanese.



There are times when you may have encountered coworkers who are curt or unhappy to speak with you. This could be a little upsetting since you’re doing your best to communicate. However, you may come to realise that it usually means that they are just busy, or having a rough time that you’re unaware of. Try not to let it get you down. You might see them the next day with a big smile for you - unless of course, you give them reasons to avoid you!

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