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The Future of Conversation Schools

What will be the future of English conversation schools in Japan? This is not a new question. I made a bet with another school owner back in 2014 about whether or not children would still be learning English in ten years, due to the developments in machine translation. (I look forward to my Guinness in four years. 😉) The sudden move to online learning as a result of COVID has sped up the discussion, however.

Some owners I’ve spoken with say they are using this as an opportunity transition to fully online. They may keep their in-person lessons going, but only until their fully online options can take over. Some other owners I’ve spoken to can’t wait to just get back in the classroom and teach how they had been before.

For me, technology is simultaneously both over- and under-emphasized. The effect the internet has had on our lives is profound, yet travel agents were making a comeback pre-COVID because sometimes it’s better and easier to work with a professional and interpersonal connections are important.

Our two-month experience with online lessons leads me to believe that my school could utilize technology far better than it is, but that it will be a loooooooong time—if ever—before children do as well online-only as they do in person. The job for us now is to start developing our technology systems in such a way that they enhance and improve what is happening in the classroom—and that we do it before we get left behind.

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