Monday, April 12, 2010

The eternal question. (永遠の質問。)

I wonder if that translates properly. Hm.

ALT or 英会話?

Assistant Language Teacher or English Conversation School, for those of you not as desperately immersed within the culture as I.

ALT is what the JET programme would employ you as; basically, you work for the public school system, "assisting" the Japanese national English teacher. It's very likely that you'll simply wind up being a human tape recorder, but at the same time, you are, more or less, a part of the school, and interacting with people outside of your "customers." (How willing your fellow teachers are to accept a gaijin in their midst, however....) You're also, supposedly, better linked with the community in general; after all, you're a public school teacher entrusted with the welfare of the chillins of the nation, not just some schmuck trying to sell English abilities to the highest bidder, so people are far more inclined to, you know, speak with you. And, say, invite you to dinner. Give you some nice fruit. Things along those lines.

It sounds lovely on paper. Unfortunately, it tends to be the less financially appealing of the two; hooray for public schools. (Unless, of course, you're with JET. Their pay grade is OBSCENE. OBSCENE, I tell you. Which makes being an alternate hurt all the worse.... sigh.)

英会話 has a somewhat unsavory reputation, as most of us who hear it immediately think of the NOVA scandal (to put it mildly) and other horror stories of gaijin English sweat shops. Not to mention improper visa sponsorship, oh my. However, they aren't all bad, especially, as I've been lead to believe, if you avoid the "Big 4" (NOVA, Aeon, Geos and... Blitzen? I think.) The pay is, of course, better than you would receive as an ALT; it's a private company. However, you're a salesman, first and foremost, and often wind up having to treat your students as customers, especially with Aeon, apparently. ("Hey, you know, you should really consider buying our textbooks. And signing up for another year! Hell, make it five! By the way, if I you don't bite, they dock my pay for three months and force me to scrub the bathrooms with my toothbrush, so please, think of the starving whitey!") A number of places will provide you with an apartment at varying expenses, something which most independent ALT contractors simply can't do due to monetary concerns.

(Neither of these are full descriptions, obviously, nor are they exactly unbiased. Just a little disclaimer there.)

Pros and cons both ways is the conclusion I come to, and I must admit to being swayed by my capitalist desire for, you guessed it, cold, hard cash. Not to mention the fact that 英会話 schools tend to be more conveniently located, leading to (theoretically) an easier path to future employment. But then again, you are alone, and is money enough to keep your psyche from cracking under the sheer weight of your lonely gaijin existence?

(Have you guessed that I'm dubious of 英会話 schools that offer friendly support staff? Yea, right. You're their English monkey, they're willing to support you only as far as they can stretch the banana. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Bananas are expensive in Japan.)

I must note, that latter point really is important. If it's any indication, despite my desire for all that cash and future mobility, I remain dubious about 英会話 in general and sorely tempted to continue searching out a reputable ALT position. Even if it means eating a little less...

As always, I am eager to hear comments from you, my loyal readers. Admittedly, in this case, I'm also open to any advice, experience, or horror stories you'd care to share. Really. Hit that comment button. It beckons you.

If only game companies were more willing to interview over Skype. Oh, sigh.

This is Edo, signing off as her stomach churns over her uncertain future.

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