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Interac Japan

About

Interac teachers enrich the lives of hundreds of thousands of school children every year by delivering interactive and exciting English lessons. Commonly known as ALTs, which stands for assistant language teacher, Interac’s teachers, working in the Japanese school system, enrich children’s lives by sharing their knowledge of English and communication skills and giving insights into other cultures.

Founded in 1972, Interac is Japan’s largest private provider of professional foreign teachers to the Japanese government through its ALT program. Interac is also a significant player in providing professional teachers for commercial and government organizations.

Founded
1972
Headquarters

Ginza Six
Chuo, Tokyo
1040061
Japan

Reviews

Default avatar
Maria
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I worked with Interac for a year and a half. I found them by doing a google search. The application process went very smoothly and from the beginning to end, the staff were very friendly, optimistic, and supportive.

After accepting the position, they were very good at keeping me up to date in a timely manner, regarding my placement and schedule before arriving in Japan. The first week of training was a bit overwhelming, but the staff and trainers worked very hard to prepare us for our schools and living in Japan. They were also very accommodating when setting us up at our new destinations. I was placed in a small city within Ibaraki.

When I arrived, they had an English speaking assistant help me move in and set up my bank account, cell phone, and everything else in between. It was incredibly helpful as non-Japanese speaking foreigner, who was moving into a new town far away from Tokyo. I really appreciated all of the help and support the company gave me.

I ended up working at an amazing Junior High School, and I helped prepare my students for the Ibaraki interactive forum competition. For me this was the most rewarding and life changing experience for me, and I have Interac to thank for that.

Interac will continue to support you through ongoing training, online resources, and with a great team of people who will answer any questions you have about living in Japan.

I am very grateful for my experience with this company, who has opened many doors for me. They showed me that I was capable of doing amazing things and enriching people's lives.

What would you improve about this program?
I think having more staff in each branch may help, as they can reach out to more people, and therefore have more chances to talk and communicate with each ALT. I also feel that they should really communicate with the ALT's in terms of finding the right type of school assignment that best fits their profile. I was transferred to an elementary school position, but I felt junior high school was a better fit for me. I think more thought needs to go into the process of assigning ALT's to their schools, so that they are satisfied with their assignments and therefore stay with the company longer.
Response from Interac Japan

Maria,
Thank you for you review of your time at Interac and we are really glad you had a good time with us. The photos of your town, school lunch, and school look very much like the kinds of photos we see from many teachers across Japan. As for your feedback, we will take these points and review them, especially with an eye to further improving our method of placing teachers. Thank you again for your review and your kind words.

Regards,

Interac Head Office
Tokyo

Default avatar
Jon
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I worked for Interac for 2 years. The salary and benefits are more than adequate because the cost of living is very low. The managers and staff at the Interac head office are extremely professional and helpful. My concerns were always addressed promptly. Working in the public schools in Japan was amazing. The kids are extremely polite and courteous and respectful, far more than kids in America (at least from what I recall from my days as a student).

The best part is making the kids laugh and being able to play sports or play on the playground with them. It's also rewarding being able to help tweak their pronunciation mistakes.

If you're looking for adventure before you start 4 decades in a corporate office, this is a good place to go. Interac is a huge company which is almost doubling it's teaching staff because of the upcoming Olympics. Very stable company, honest bosses. No surprises.

What would you improve about this program?
Create an Interac employee social media website so everyone can get to know eachother and organize events.
Default avatar
Misael
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This is one of the biggest ALT dispatch companies in all of Japan. They have many contracts all over the countries and are likely to accommodate a specific location.

I've worked for this company for a few years now and have never had any major issues. They help their teachers settle in and provide a great deal of support after the initial training (car, housing, local area information, etc.)

Employees always have access to English speaking emergency contacts in case the need should arise and are never left alone without anyone to call.

Default avatar
Graham
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I worked with Interac for 1 and a half years and I can honestly say that it was the best job that I ever had. The staff and managers are friendly and exceptionally helpful, always willing to go the extra mile to help you with any concerns that you have.
Living and working in another country is a challenging experience but Interac endeavors to make the transition easy and comfortable. Interac helped me find an apartment and rent a car. When I first arrived in Japan I did not know much Japanese but I was placed in a school where I could speak English with the staff.
Every day was an exciting adventure and working with the kids was fun in itself. They always added to my day and made me laugh.
In my travels during my time off I was able to explore the culture of Japan. I participated in festivals and visited big cities and ancient shrines. I made many friends who I am still in contact with today. It was the adventure of a lifetime!
I thoroughly enjoyed my work and highly recommend Interac to anyone interested in teaching as an ALT.

What would you improve about this program?
My experience with Interac was nothing but positive. I can't think of any faults to point out.
Default avatar
William
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The interview and pre-departure process is probably a little nerve wracking for first-time expats since most communication will happen when there are developments on the Japanese side. They do, however, give fairly good information if one reads the materials provided. The hard part is managing expectations. Interac was pretty straight with me on the timeline they were working from once they decided when I should arrive. I still knew several months in advance when I would need to go and could make plans regarding my apartment and then-current employer.

As an Alternate Placement without an assigned placement on arrival in Japan, I went through the same training as the rest of my cohort and was kept in reserve. During that time, the staff of the branch I was temporarily assigned to helped me get settled as far as bank accounts, moving in papers, apartment setup, and the like went. (No one went with me to get a mobile phone but some of the other staff did give me some advice on contracts and a key vocabulary words so I could ask the carrier staff.)

My assignment came in mid-to-late December with a ticket on the Shinkansen to meet my MC and get a ride up into the mountains with one of our Japanese staff members. We only had enough daylight to go to a few of my schools for introductions and to get the keys for my apartment and car. Mr. H. made sure we had enough furnishings in my partial furnished flat to make sure I'd be fine until the weekend. Few things feel quite so lonely as looking outside your window at a town where you don't really know anyone and can only see about 50 feet out due to the snow (disclaimer: the San Francisco area doesn't get snow). If you can make it past that first night, it gets much better and quickly. Ms. I and some of the local ALTs met up with me over that weekend, helped me get my bearings, and how to contact folk in the area.

I'm in my early thirties and most of my ALT colleagues are in their twenties, so that does occasionally keep us separated. We do, however, tend to pass the word for an informal rendezvous or two each month. Due to the scheduling, our book club usually also has a chance to meet before the ongoing training sessions for our region. That being said, if you have a hobby or (school-appropriate) interest, you can find it helps as an ice breaker with some of the Japanese teachers, students and parents. (I was particularly flattered when the parents marked me as an honorary part of the baseball team after the end of the season.)

I'm currently living and working in a town that's very different (half the population, eight times the space) from my home town. There are some things where it's still largely the same, however, like transit time to major cities (trains are slower than highway buses or driving only due to the routes to my semi-rural town). There's not much for nightlife venues here but the town associations are good about having events every few weeks and most people are reasonably friendly.

What would you improve about this program?
While definitely better than what my upperclassman remarked about on the JET program, initial training doesn't feel adequate for initially going into the classroom as far as facing real kids (not adults pretending to be kids) is concerned. It does get easier very quickly in the field but a little more demo practice as time allows probably would have been helpful. That, or an early observation to see how we're settling in and to correct early bad habits, could probably provide early reassurance we're on the right track.

Since I work at the Kindergarten, Elementary, and Junior High School levels, a list of suggested titles from the current year's curriculum (as far as it can be standardized) would have helped in knowing what to pack before coming to Japan for those assigned to those levels. ("The Very Hungry Caterpillar" or "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" for Kindergarten examples.)

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Nav Tumber

Nav Tumber was born and raised in London and educated in Wales. He taught ESL in Japan with JET from 1999-2001 and became a language/managing consultant with Interac from 2002-2010. He is currently FX Analyst at ICAP Plc in the UK. Nav enjoys a little bit of everything, but a lot of football (soccer.)
Nav Tumber - English Teacher in Japan

What inspired you to teach ESL?

Following university, a lot of my friends went on round the world trips coupled with 6 month working holidays in Australia or New Zealand. I wanted to immerse myself more in one country and use it as a base for further travels. I narrowed down the options to Japan, Venezuela and South Korea and of these, Japan held the most interest for me from my interests in video games, motorsport and new technology. ESL was the best way to earn money while experiencing the country.

Why did you choose Interac?

I wanted to work in schools in order to experience the culture and language more than in eikaiwa. It seemed a natural choice.

Describe your day to day activities as a teacher in Japan.

Everyday is different. The weekly schedule is rarely adhered to and there are so many things going on in the school that I could always have someone or something to tag into. You need to be proactive, if you just sit at your desk you will never be approached, so you have to get on with things yourself. In most of my spare time I would prepare lesson plans and do prep for my Elementary school classes where I ran the whole show. Eventually the lessons you plan for Junior High School also get used by the teachers and further from that in my 2nd year I was trusted to plan for one of the 4 lessons in the week with each class.

Each class is different and although you shouldn't, you do end up having your favorite students and classes. I would spend a lot of time with the kids between lessons and after school, if I didn’t join in with club activity I would watch them practicing, invariably gravitating to the students I got on well with, but trying to build relationships with others. Lunch was always my time and I asked to eat in the staff room and not with the students, after eating I would walk around the school and meet more people.

How has this experience impacted your future? How did you get promoted to Managing Consultant at Interac?

I work in financial services now on a Japanese desk. I don’t think the job itself made any difference but learning the polite levels of Japanese meant when I interviewed for my current role, I had the base language necessary to operate in what I do. Working in a Japanese school taught me a lot about interacting with others in an environment where you have to be proactive and start things yourself. If you don’t do that you will be left alone and that impacts negatively on your development and your general feelings.

That proactive approach and also being able to ignore negative events and not get bothered by them, or bother others is the way to help yourself. I always just got on with my own business and through performance was noticed by Interac management, who promoted me steadily through the rungs.

What is one piece of advice you would give to others thinking about teaching abroad?

Do it. When you get homesick, remember that in a few years time you will have had the biggest character building experience of your life and something you will remember forever.

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Ryan

Job Title
Managing Consultant, Kita Kanto Branch
male headshot

What position do you hold at Interac? What has been your career path so far?

I am the Managing Consultant (MC) for the Kita Kanto Branch which covers the Gunma, Ibaraki, Saitama and Tochigi prefectures. I started off as an ALT in September 2007 with Interac and spent my first three contracts until March 2010 in Ibaraki working as an ALT in two elementary schools and one junior high school.

After that, I moved to Tokyo and worked at two elementary schools, one of which was a special school in Shizuoka prefecture and I commuted by bullet train every Friday. I had to wake up at 4:30 in the morning for that assignment but I really enjoyed working with the students and staff at the very small school in the mountains.

In my second year in Tokyo, I was promoted to the position of Head Teacher for my particular board of education and during the year I started taking on training responsibilities as well. From April 2012 I was a full-time trainer for the Tokyo branch and in charge of nine boards of education.

From September 2013, I became the Managing Consultant and still remain in that position to this day. I currently am in charge of 163 ALTs living and working within the four prefectures listed previously.

Did you teach abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

My only experience teaching abroad is within Japan. I spent a week here along with a week in Taiwan visiting friends in late December 2006. It was within 36 hours of going around Tokyo that I found I really wanted to stay and learn more about the people, culture and language. I also had been working in schools for the previous three years in America so the chance to experience more of Japan and still work with children made Interac a perfect fit for me. A little over eight months later I was working with Interac in Japan and have been here ever since.

What does the future hold for Interac? Any exciting new programs to share?

The Japanese government is strongly pushing for expanded programs within English education. With the Tokyo Olympics coming up in 2020, the country is ready to add nearly 8,000 additional ALT positions in the next few years in an effort to allow Japanese students to speak English at the same level or better than their Chinese and Korean counterparts. This means that along with the growing ALT market, Interac will continue to expand even more than the average of over 100 positions a year since I joined in 2007.

There are many new exciting developments we are working on such as a new set of lesson plans to match the textbooks being released next year as well as a standardized phonics program. On top of that, we are completely redesigning the initial training program and allowing for additional training to be done overseas before coming to Japan as well as after the initial training is finished to give our ALTs the smoothest transition possible into their new schools.

The next five years will be very exciting for the ALT market!

What's it like teaching in Japan? And what's one tip you'd give newbie teachers there?

I really enjoyed my experience teaching and many times when I am observing my teachers at their schools wish I could return to the position. I could speak for hours on end about the wonderful experiences I had and amazing people I met along the way. That's not to say that there were no difficulties along the way, but that should be expected when moving to a country as different as Japan is.

If I had to give one tip it would be to soak everything in and be as outgoing as possible. Even if you come to Japan with less than conversational Japanese ability, you are the one that has to make the initial move. If you do that, nearly everyone will reciprocate and include you in their lives, whether that's the staff in the schools, Japanese friends elsewhere or even the friendly man waiting at the bus stop. Japanese people tend to be a bit more shy than most westerners, especially when considering that communication has to be done in a foreign language. I can guarantee that my simple advice will make your experience in Japan much better.

What's the best story you have from your time working at Interac?

Wow, well there are so many as I alluded to earlier. If I had to choose one, I would mention one of my Tokyo schools. I had the pleasure of teaching at the same school for two years, meaning I taught the same children for those two years over two grade levels. One of my fourth grade classes in my final year actually invited me back along with their homeroom teachers from the previous five years to their sixth grade pre-graduation shaonkai (thank you event).

Not only that, I was asked to make a speech to the students and parents and then again to only the parents at a separate party to thank me for my work as their English teacher. It was an emotional day and one I will never forget. I sometimes still run into my students on the train in Tokyo!

Besides bringing a fun and educational experience to the Japanese classroom, my goal as Managing Consultant and the reason I still work here is to give others the chance to have experiences similar to mine that will change not only their lives forever, but the lives of their students as well. From speaking with my ALTs, many have been able to do that and some even go on to become teacher's in the home countries. That to me is truly rewarding.