Prior to starting school in September, you will have to introduce yourself multiple times: first to your co-workers at your Board of Education (BOE), to the staff at each of your schools, and then again for each class you teach.
If you have little or no Japanese, don’t worry. This page will give you some ideas for a basic introduction in front of your colleagues, as well as ideas for your more thorough self-introduction lessons for students.
Self-introduction Speeches (自己紹介/Jiko shoukai )
As you will probably be taken to your office and schools in just the first few days after you arrive, you should prepare a short self-introduction in advance.
In Japan, establishing relationships is very important, and you can’t really interact with people from your school/town/etc. until they know who you are. However, you don’t have to give a long introduction! Your name, hometown, and a positive greeting will go a long way toward establishing your new relationships.
If you can’t speak Japanese you can say it in English. Keep in mind, though, that a good faith effort in Japanese will open up a lot more doors at your schools and BOE! Here is a (rather long) sample:
Nice to meet you, everyone.
Mina sama, hajimemashite.
My name is ~ .
Watashi wa ~ to moushimasu.
I come from (city) in (country). (City) is in the north / south / east / west of (country).
Watashi wa (country) no (city) kara kimashita. (City) wa (country) no kita / minami / higashi / nishi no hou desu.
I came to Japan in July / August.
Watashi wa shichi-gatsu / hachi-gatsu ni nihon ni kimashita.
This is my first time in Japan. / I have been to Japan before.
Nihon wa hajimete desu. / Watashi wa mou Nihon ni kita koto ga arimasu.
My hobby is ~ and I am also interested in (and would like to study) ~ while here in Japan.
Watashi no shumi wa ~ desu ga, Nihon ni iru aida wa ~ ni kyomi motte benkyo shitai to omoimasu.
I am proud to be working with you and I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can. I hope that our relationship will be a happy one.
Mina sama to issho ni oshigoto ga dekiru koto o kouei ni omoimasu. Ouku no katagata to oshiriai ni nareru koto o tanoshimi ni shite orimasu. Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu
In addition to your short speech in front of your teachers (which will probably take place in the staffroom at school), you may be asked to give a short introduction in front of all the students in the school gymnasium (if you work in an elementary school). You can choose whether to give this in English or Japanese or a bit of both, but again something quite short is fine.
Keep in mind you will be giving self introduction lessons for each of your classes, so there is no need to make your intro to the students lengthy. Save something for the lesson!
Self-introduction Classes with Students
The good news about your self-introduction classes is that you should have tons of time on your hands to prepare whatever it is you intend to say and do before classes start in September.
Planning your self-introduction lessons is probably one of the best ways to use your time during August, since no matter what school level you are teaching at you will definitely need to give some kind of introduction.
Once September rolls around, things can start to get busy very quickly with the start of the school semester, and you will most likely deliver your self-introduction ‘spiel’ anywhere from 6 times (a conservative estimate in the case of just one small school with 2 classes per grade) to as many 50+ times if you work at multiple schools. Needless to say, it definitely gets easier and better with practice, but how do you engage and delight that first classroom of students?
Get ideas: First, get ideas from other sempai (senior) ALTs if you can. It’s easy enough to read the tips below, but seeing a demonstration of another ALT’s introduction can really show you how it works in practice. Usually at Saga’s New JET Welcome Orientation there is a session on self-introduction lessons which will hopefully give you some insight into how other JETs go about their introduction. You may also have a chance to attend a session at Tokyo Orientation when you first arrive in Japan.
Timing: Second, think about how you can vary the length of your introduction to suit the class. In some cases, you may be asked to just to give a quick 5-10min intro, whereas in other classes (especially at elementary school and senior high school) you are likely to be asked to fill the entire 45-50min class period. So depending on the length of time you have, you may like to prepare several different versions, or think about what are the extra things you will say or show if you have more time.
Audience: Third, consider your audience. Regardless of the level you are teaching, pictures, flags, regalia from your home country or anything the students can touch is likely to go down well. If you can, try to get them involved somehow in your lesson, rather than just passively listening (see below for more ideas on ‘getting students involved’). Find common ground with your students – they will likely respond well if you show them similarities between your country and japan or examples of Japanese culture that you enjoy/are known/popular in your country e.g. Ghibli movies, Pokemon, Japanese food, etc.
Keep the English simple: Fourth, try to look through your textbooks and talk to your JTEs to get a feel for the ability of your students; often the biggest mistake new ALTs make is over-estimating the English level of their students, which leads to confused and bored classrooms. The biggest turn off for your students will be if they want to know about you but can’t understand anything you are saying. Also bear in mind that while games might be appropriate for elementary and junior high school, at senior high school the teacher may want you to incorporate some kind of writing activity, quiz, or other more ‘educational’ component to the lesson.
Why English? Fifth, consider including a slide/activity about why students should study English. Often this isn’t covered, students are just expected to take English because English. Talking about yourself is great, but also try to chip away at the idea that English is hard/impossible/boring/not useful to a Japanese person. Doing so could help focus some students or give others reasons to engage more fully than before.
At a basic level emphasis the greater opportunities to meet and communicate with more people, see the world, gain a better understanding of Japan and its place in the world and the chance to better enjoy things like foreign boy bands, foods, pop stars and other aspects of foreign cultures.
Depending on your class’s level/age you could also highlight things like:
- the increasingly competitive job market and University entry
- English as a common global language (1.2 billion speakers)
- the English proficiency of Japan and other countries
- Japanese corporations like UNIQLO, Honda, Bridgestone, and Rakuten moving to make English their primary language of business and English ability a key component of job progression
- international events in Japan like the 2020 Olympics
- opportunities to study abroad during senior high school (note that Saga Prefecture and other organizations have financial assistance available)
- greater access to information and resources on the internet
- showcasing well-known Japanese people who have a good grasp of English and use it in their day-to-day lives could provide some helpful role models e.g recent Noble Prize winners, Kei Nishikori, musicians like Miyavi, and sportspeople like Keisuke Honda and MBL baseball players.
Content: Ultimately, you can include whatever you like in your introduction and decide how you will present it, but it should basically be about you and/or your country.
Here are some ideas:
- your name, age, country
- your family
- pets you have
- your likes, dislikes
- your hobbies/interests
- your house
- your friends
- your home town
- your country
- why you like Saga prefecture (or your town).
Getting Students Involved
Whatever content you choose for your self-introduction, try to make it interactive somehow to involve your students. Consider using a game, quiz, or some other kind of activity. This is an area that may change depending on your year level.
Some ideas for ways to involve your students include:
- Jeopardy game
- True/False quiz
- Numbers quiz – put random numbers up on a screen and have students ask questions to guess what the numbers mean (your age, height, # of times visiting Japan, CDs you own, etc)
- Comprehension quiz – spoken question/answer or on a worksheet
- Question time – students can ask you questions either in English or Japanese depending on the grade level
- Name card introductions – prepare simple meishi students can fill in with their name, age, hobbies and have them walk about introducing themselves to you and other students
- Pass around tactile items such as money (or pictures) for students to touch and see up close.
If you can’t or don’t want to fill the whole lesson with just stuff about you, another alternative is to tack on a short (possibly related) lesson at the end of your self-introduction, or have the students introduce themselves to you, either verbally or on a prepared worksheet.
- Be enthusiastic. Bring your genki!
- Speak slowly and clearly. Especially if you are from a different country from your predecessor, your students may have trouble understanding your accent at first and will take some time to get used to your English, even if you are using words they understand
- Try and show your JTE or HRT your presentation before so they can give feedback and decide what they might need to help translate
- Include things for students to look at or touch. If you haven’t brought anything with you, don’t worry. Most schools have very good printers that you can use and probably laminators too!
- Whatever pictures you show, make them BIG! At elementary school, use bright colors
- Hang on to your self-intro lesson and materials. Not only will you be giving it A LOT, but each time you get fresh students (i.e. new 1st grade students) you will need to pull it out, dust it off, and give it again
- Be flexible about the timing and flow of your intro depending on the class. Always have something up your sleeve in case it doesn’t go according to plan
- Download any videos/songs you want to share in class on to a USB stick incase you don’t have internet access on the day, or the internet you do have is incredibly slow. Just Google to find websites you can use to achieve this. It will save a lot of time and you can keep a few videos up your sleeve incase classes want to see more or if you have time to fill, etc
- Learn from your first few classes and don’t be afraid to modify the intro for subsequent classes if something isn’t working.
- Just talk at students for the whole lesson. This will be boring, no matter how cool or funny you think you are
- Rely on technology (see note below).
A Note About Technology
Although smartboards and interactive TV screens (denshikokuban) are now installed in many classrooms throughout Saga prefecture, there are many that still rely on just a standard old-school blackboard. Even in cases where you have access to technology, remember that many computers in Japanese schools use older versions of software and you may find yourself with compatibility issues if you try to bring a presentation on a USB stick. You could be lucky enough to find yourself in a language lab with computers and internet, but of course there could always be some kind of technology malfunction that leaves you high and dry if that is your only prepared option.
So, be sure to check beforehand to see what kind of technology may be available for you to use in your classrooms, but ALWAYS have a back-up plan. For whatever presentation or game element you want to include in your lesson, consider having both a hi-tech and lo-tech version. For a jeopardy game, for example, you might have a PowerPoint file on a USB, but it would be wise to also take a paper version that could be used.
Similarly, you might want to prepare a PowerPoint (or similar) presentation with transitions, animations, embedded video etc, but as a lo-tech back-up you could also carry a set of printed and laminated pictures (that would normally be shown in the presentation) with stick-on magnets on the back (ask at your school or BOE office for these little gems).