Many Japanese say they hated sitting through English classes in school. Yes, grammar lessons can be boring, textbooks can be difficult and teachers may not be engaging enough. High school English teacher and TikTok English coach Kengo Tateishi is no exception.
“Back in school, baseball was my passion. I wasn’t interested in English at all,” says Tateishi, whose TikTok account has about 40,000 followers. “But when I studied English literature at university, everything changed. My English skills took off. I got a near-perfect score on TOEIC. I passed Grade 1 in Eiken.”
The man responsible for Tateishi’s metamorphosis was his professor, who taught him a read-aloud method that was systematic and scientific.
“By reading out loud, the sentences start registering in your brain. It’s an organic process that lets you understand how phrases work and sentences are structured. The grammar starts to make sense, and in the process you learn a lot about the culture of English-speaking countries, and Japanese culture as well.”
Upon graduation, Tateishi got a job with a trading company but quit when he realized that his enthusiasm for English linked directly to a love of teaching it.
“I reentered university to get a teaching license and come to terms with why I wanted a teaching career so much in the first place.”
His motivation stems from a desire to change the Japanese education system in a way that will benefit both teachers and students.
“Right now, public school teachers are underappreciated by society and their students while being overwhelmed by their workloads. I’m convinced that it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Currently, Tateishi teaches English at a Tokyo metropolitan high school while his TikTok videos have launched him on the fast track to English educator-cum-rock star.
“Kids today will not be motivated to study unless they understand the how, what and why of studying English. In other words, teachers must take a more systematic approach and explain to their classes how exactly their teaching methods work and the effect this will have on the students’ grades.”
English speaking (and teaching) still has a long way to go in Japan, but Tateishi is hopeful. He endorses a method called yoshuku, which means celebrating in advance.
“Athletes use this method before their competitions. Picture in your mind the celebrations you’ll savor once you’ve reached a specific goal. For athletes, this could mean the applause and the cheers. Having a celebratory scenario can make all the difference in your motivation levels.”