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ALTs keep English alive outside the classroom
Most of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program participants work as assistant language teachers (ALTs) in the nation's public schools. Inside Japan's education system, they team-teach with Japanese teachers of foreign languages, using their expertise as native speakers.
But ALTs, which now number more than 5,400, do not confine themselves to the classroom. They offer students an invaluable opportunity to interact with native speakers outside.
Currently, ALTs are drawn from 15 countries, proving to the students that "foreign nations" is not limited to the Group of Eight nations. ALTs also bring their own cultures to schools, in addition to their native tongues.
Through their teaching, ALTs also have firsthand access to Japanese culture and local customs.
The participants learned of the program from various sources.
Ernest Borchini, 39, from Baltimore, Md., heard about the program in a public service announcement over the radio.
Borchini started out as a primary school teacher. He then took a part-time job teaching English as a second language at a private business school in Washington, D.C.
"I was thinking of finding a new job and also wanted to travel," he said.
He applied for the JET Program, passed the screening and came to Japan …