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ESL as an ALT, Part 1

Written by Donna Frances Angel G. Imperial

Who wouldn’t be excited to explore and live in a new place with a different language, culture and people? Of course! Everybody would! It is a true sense of blessing once you have a reputable work and have the capacity to travel in a foreign country. But remember, challenges or triumphs – EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE, especially when you’re not in your native land. Take note that in every step we take, a new world welcomes us.

I am Donna, a third year Shizuoka JET ALT, born and raised in the Pearl of the Orient Seas, the Philippines. Bisaya is my mother tongue; Filipino is my national language. English is my second language and when I started learning Japanese since high school, it became my foreign language. I acquired Bisaya, Filipino, and English languages since the day I started recognizing words and Japanese when I was in college. Others are quite amused whenever they learned that I am multilingual and curious how I can easily code switch. Even I, myself, is still puzzled with what’s the correct answer. Indeed, human brain works in a mysterious way. I can really say that language is one of the most fascinating human characteristics.

Donna speaking on stage.

While living here, I got to experience a lot of things which I did not expect to happen. Japanese people are truly heart-warming and thoughtful, especially the older ones. Once they felt like you need help, they won’t hesitate to help you. Sending you dinner, snacks, souvenirs or gifts at your doorstep is a truly bizarre experience for me.  One of my Filipina neighbours brought me to 12 prefectures to see how beautiful this country is. The support of my Japanese uncle and Filipina aunt is truly commendable as well. Without them, my first phase of adjustment will become drastic. Japanese, Filipino, and other nationalities are so welcoming to the point that you will feel that you never left home.

On the other hand, being a multilingual has also its cons. With my proficiency in English language and my knowledge in Japanese language, these paved way to make one of my dreams to come true – to teach in a foreign country and explore its places. One day, I stumbled upon the JET Programme. I had doubts at first, but my college professor encouraged me to apply on this programme and was blessed to get accepted. Working at a new environment let me realized how difficult “adulting” is. Earning your own money, buying your own necessities, paying your bills, washing your clothes, cleaning the house or even fixing personal or professional matters– everything is on “you”. This opportunity, on other hand, helped me to be more open-minded and embrace people’s differences. Not only improving my teaching craft as a professional licensed teacher, but also improving and discovering my real self.

Along the way, challenges exist. As you know, I am not a native speaker of the English language. Some people thought that you can only be hired as an English teacher once you come from a country where English is the first language. I looked upon this mind-set and realized that it’s a void. I am so grateful to the JET Programme for opening its doors to ESL speakers like me and be accepted as an ALT. As an adult, I am seizing these challenges to make me holistically stronger.

Coming Soon: Part Two