No Degree

No Degree

This letter came from an Australian reader several months back, and talks of a problem common to many who marry a Japanese spouse.

TS: I recently arrived from Australia with my Japanese wife and started looking for a job. Although I have been in the workforce in Australia for a number of years, and most recently was a manager in a customer service business, I have not been to university and therefore don't have a degree.

I've been making approaches to numerous English schools, but can't find anyone interested in hiring me because of my lack of a degree. When I point out that I have a spouse visa and speak daily conversational Japanese, they don't seem to value these skills at all. Will I see my days out here washing dishes? Going back to Australia at this point is not an option. I'm currently attending a Japanese school to bring my Japanese-language skills up to scratch.

TL: International marriages go through a real test when the partners decide to move to Japan and the foreigner in the relationship is suddenly faced with finding a job in a tight labor market. While trying to get something to help with the monthly expenses is a natural reaction, TS is doing the right thing in arming himself with Japanese language skills before going out into the market again.

However, there are indeed English-teaching jobs out there for people with no degree. English schools are all going through a tough time at the moment, due to the downturn in the economy and loss of wages among younger people, so it's only natural that they want to differentiate by and choosing teachers that they think will keep their students coming back. One of these differentiating points is the teacher's experience (as a teacher) and their qualifications.

But there may also be other contributing reasons why TS couldn't get a favorable response. One of the most likely problems, and something many people don't like to talk about, is his possible accent. Japanese go through their school years mostly listening to ESL tapes recorded in American or British English. Other accents make it difficult for the basic student to understand what is going on, and introduce an unwanted barrier to learning what is already a difficult language.

It could be that TS needs to work on "internationalizing" his accent. I found exactly the same thing when I first came to Japan and people kept saying to me, "What did you say?". I swallowed my sense of linguistic identity and pride, and within months had managed to create some kind of US-British-Australian fusion that has stuck with me ever since. Now my family tell me that I sound like a "Yank" or a "Pom" (in the friendly sense) - which is just fine with me.

The other point of differentiation in English schools is price and flexibility (i.e., whether you're willing to travel a lot or mix conversation with entertainment, etc.). These kinds of schools typically don't pay much, so you're pretty much on the lower rungs of the job food chain. We're talking a monthly salary of JPY250,000 here. However, it's a start, and over your first year, they will help you figure out the market better and move up into something better. If you find yourself in this situation, contact us here at DaiJob, Inc., we have a few such clients looking for teachers. One of these schools is actually looking for Australians who don't have a need for visa sponsorship (i.e., spouses of Japanese are desirable), and who can speak some Japanese and play the piano!

Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob, Inc. He also writes a weekly newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people about business and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at

For further contact with Terrie, email him at