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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

Reviews

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

I had already taught before in Japan at a private preschool and an eikaiwa (private English school) and was looking for a more authentic experience. Interac's recruitment process was long, but not difficult if you plan ahead and follow instructions carefully. Once I was hired and got to Japan, I attending the teacher training. They taught a good lesson framework and some great activity ideas which I found useful, even though I already had experience.

Working in the public schools with Interac did give me the authentic experience I was looking for. You are really steeped in the culture there, and the Japanese teachers were really interested in helping me get along in Japan. The kids, of course, were a blast. I even miss the annoying kids! Interac encourages teachers to get involved in my community and I found friends and activities to be involved in the area where I lived and worked.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
1) As I mentioned, the recruitment process can be long. In addition, sometimes there are gaps between one step and the next. Be patient. Use your time wisely, preparing for the next step or brushing up on your Japanese language/culture/history/etc.
2) Don't worry so much about location. I wanted to be in Osaka, where I had lived previously. I didn't end up there, but I still loved it, and did things I couldn't do around Osaka (visited an all you can eat you-pick cherry farm; visited Nikko, which I'd never even heard of; attended a show where fireworks companies show off their new fireworks for the year, etc). And Japan isn't big. I still went to Osaka every couple months to visit friends or vice versa.
3) You get out of it what you put into it. Make the effort to explore non-touristy places, ask questions, improve your teaching skills, and so on.
Response from Interac Japan

Thank you for the review, Richelle. It is a pleasure to hear that you had a wonderful experience even with your past teaching experience. I believe teaching in public schools is different because it is not just about teaching. Working with teachers and joining the community would help you have a great journey here in Japan.

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

The company helps a lot for an easy transition into both teaching and into living in Japan. You're still expected to demonstrate a reasonable level of independence and good sense, but they can carry you through the rest. You should still take the initiative to research and understand what experiences you want to have during your time in the country. They give you a job so that you can support your own lifestyle in Japan, but you have to decide exactly what you want that lifestyle to be. In that case you should be fine.

Response from Interac Japan

Thank you for the review. We are happy to hear that we successfully helped you in coming to Japan and start your career as an instructor. As you said, we support our instructors, but, at the same time, each individuals need to think what they want to do in Japan. ALT would be the best choice to start a life in Japan as a foreigner.

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

Teaching in Japan was by far the best experience I've ever had. Like most people, I found the program online and was impressed right off the bat by the interview process and attentiveness of the recruiters in the States. My time in Japan was not without it challenges, but the staff in the branch offices are wonderful. I worked in the Nagoya branch for 4 years and thoroughly enjoyed by town, schools, and the people I met there.

An important thing to note is that Interac is not an exchange program - it's an entry-level teaching job. There is an expectation that you can live and work independently, and that you come into it with some basic knowledge of the country, culture, and language. You don't have to be an expert at Japanese, but if you put in some effort before you arrive, it will greatly enhance your experience!

The best thing about this job is the skills you will acquire. Not only did I gain a lot of teaching experience, but I learned about the importance of patience, cultural awareness and sensitivity, and much more. I've taken these skills and applied them to all the jobs I've had since. I highly recommend teaching in Japan and believe Interac is the right company to go with.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I ate a lot of strange things while in Japan, but the weirdest was fish sperm. I was at a hole-in-the-wall mom and pop izakaya sitting at the counter and gazing at everything in the sashimi case. I pointed to something and asked what it was, before I knew it the owner sat it down in front of me. It's rude to refuse, so I tried it. The texture was definitely the worst part, taste was so-so.
Response from Interac Japan

Thank you for the review. As you mentioned, we are not an exchange program. We offer jobs and want professionals. Instructors do not need teaching experiences or skills. Moreover, we would like a culture ambassador and person that would like to communicate with children and teachers. With professionalism, you would have a wonderful life in Japan.

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

I worked for the Hiroshima Branch for just about 10 years in various capacities. The job definitely stretched me to my limits at times, but I feel that it really helped me to get outside my comfort level and grow in ways that I never would have otherwise. The local team in the Hiroshima Branch was amazing to work with and they definitely wanted me to succeed. I will say that it definitely is a job, and you're expected to do your job. Go into it with that expectation and the knowledge that it is an entry level position.

Response from Interac Japan

Thank you for the review. Great to hear that you worked with us in Hiroshima for about a decade. Amazing! We support our instructors on their jobs and grow as a business person. We are happy that you had felt it that way.

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

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These 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.)

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

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

Ryan

Job Title
Managing Consultant, Kita Kanto Branch

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.