Typical 2channel ALT thread banter:

"JETs are a waste of tax money; they can even invite their spouses to live with them tax-free and then our tax money pays for medical care when the spouse gets sick...

They work 35 hours a week to get paid 3.6 million a year plus airfare, and any airhead college grad can do it; only white-loving Japanese people could be so dense. Er, wait, not just white people. Anyone from an English speaking country, no matter their background or accent. When the government sets a standard for English education, I wonder what kind of Engrish they have in mind? And how do they expect classes of 40 students spending 3-4 hours a week with an uncertified native speaker to improve anyone's level of English?


Anyway, in the end the ALTs go home and tell other people that the job's easy money. So come next hiring season the lines are always teeming with lazy idiots. They don't care that it's tax money paying their salaries. The whole program is just a money laundering front to move tax dollars from Japan to the US. If the ALTs' presence isn't improving English in Japan, the program should be cut.


Oh, and all the post timestamps in threads on ALT forums? They're like entirely between 9 am and 5 pm." [translation in quotes is from multiple posts and significantly reordered, or a summary of ideas in the thread; all further posts in this article have been translated with intent of preserving their original presentation]

Then, what started as a sarcastic retort:

Interesting. Lets reveal all the welfare cases in this country together with exposing all the Zainichi Koreans. This represents trillions of yen! Poster #1, you're of course with us, right? Let's push all these tax-wasting foreign parasites out of Japan!

seemed to remind someone else of a more interesting claim:

None of you criticizing ALTs here are wrong. That is to say, I think it's probable that inviting ALTs to Japan was decided and promoted as a response to economic problems, and it's certainly possible that there are fundamental problems with any undertaking that entertains those kinds of motives. Even moreso if it's true that the program was created in order to resolve an economical problem rather than improve students' scholastic ability, and if it was implemented without any real plan.


But, and I could be wrong here, aren't ALTs hired in Korea as well, and aren't results being produced accordingly? There are people that say in Korea the ALT takes half the class. Then the Korean teacher reinforces the grammar side of things and follows-up on parts that were communicated incompletely. It's real teamwork with both parties contributing. (This is talk from the ALT side of things, by the way, from the site ALL ABOUT.) 


In Japan's case, they're just being used as a pronunciation machine. Teaching English through English is an effective method that's gaining wide application around the world. This country, regardless of whether the teachers have got qualifications or not, isn't even making space for that to happen. This, despite the tragedy of schoolteachers' general English ability, which is clear to anyone who looks at Japan's TOEIC test scores.


The fact that even NHK's radio programs have a standard of putting the Japanese teacher on center stage and using the foreign teacher as a pronunciation machine just emphasizes an identical set-up for everyone else. On NHK and other programs that have wide influence, the native speaker should be leading the program. And I think in a grassroots English study movement, Japanese people should be polishing their English together with that pattern as a basis. Native speakers need to be positioned upstream with great big jars of English so they can send a flood of it down river. The teaching method as it is now, in both Japan and Korea, is just Japanese and Korean teachers trickling water they got from the native speaker into a stream. It's obvious we can't hope for any increase in English capacity from that. School classes are something historically situated upstream. Skillfully employing a native speaker there is not a bad idea. What I'm trying to say is that it's necessary to reaffirm and redefine our goals, then search for a method to overhaul the workings of the system and gauge improvement.

Though the poster brings up a lot of points, there's that kernel in there that says, "Korea's doing it better than Japan." Though anecdotal, I've heard this opinion in my own conversations with Japanese people (and Korean people) before: Some people think Korean students in general graduate from school speaking better English than their Japanese counterparts. Have you worked as an ALT in Korea and Japan? What's the difference in the role ALTs play? Do you feel ALTs in Korea are more productive than in Japan? As usual, we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

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