Teaching Japanese students

tutor-english-at-home-japanese-studentFind out what Japanese students find hard …

Japanese learners of English have usually studied English at secondary school. Some younger students may have had some lessons at primary school. However English is generally taught in a non-communicative way, with an emphasis on grammar and vocabulary.

This means that most Japanese come to the UK to improve their speaking and listening skills as well as to enjoy being in a different culture.

Teaching Japanese students can sometimes mean teaching at a slower more patient pace compared to teaching European students.

Coming to Britain may be a Japanese student’s first trip abroad and speaking to a foreigner can be a completely new experience for them.

At school, much of the vocabulary learnt is rather formal and not particularly suitable for relaxed conversation. You will probably need to suggest more informal alternatives such as phrasal verbs.

Japanese is quite different from English and having some awareness of the differences can help you help your students.

Word order
Generally speaking:
Japanese has a Subject Object Verb word order
eg Cats mice eat

English has a Subject Verb Object word order
eg Cats eat mice

Many of the other elements of language such as prepositions have a different place in sentences compared with English. Why not use your fingers to indicate correct word order. It is quick and effective.

What English has that Japanese does not:

  • Articles, plurals
  • Relative pronouns eg ‘which’, ‘who’
  • Diphthongs (two vowel sounds together as in ‘boy’ or ‘no’).
  • Various verb forms to show future meaning. Also use of auxiliary verbs eg ‘have’ in the present perfect.
  • Large number of vowels

What Japanese has that English does not:

  • Many verb forms to show degrees of politeness etc
  • A number of very frequent small words that indicate the grammatical role of nouns eg subject, pronoun
This entry was posted in Cultural awareness, Grammar, Lesson ideas and examples, Private Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Teaching Japanese students


  1. Toni Brodie says:

    Thanx for this Ian.
    This will really help me. I have not made as much progress as I think I should have with my French born, Paris resident Japanese parented student! English is third language.


  3. Jo Woodcock says:

    I am glad that you have found this post useful Toni and I hope that it helps your student to progress.

Leave a Reply