On language schools and weirdo ads

Recently I mentioned "weirdo language school ads" with an apparent bondage theme, and quoted a reader who had taught English in Japan and offered some psycho-sexual interpretation of the ads. Two updates:

First, the latest entry in this category, from a billboard in Beijing yesterday. Speaking personally, nothing could give me greater confidence in the quality of English language instruction than the slogan, "Talenty English, Talenty Education."


(Yes, "Talenty" appears to be the name of the school, but I'm not sure that helps.)

Second, a letter I received from an official of the Gaba Eikaiwa (English conversation) school in Japan. He objects to the way the school's reputation was characterized by the reader I quoted. In the spirit of fair reply, his letter follows:

Dear Mr. Fallows,

I happened to recently read your blog of April 14th 2009, entitled "More on weirdo language school ads (updated)". As the person in charge of recruiting new instructors at Gaba language school, I was somewhat disturbed by the several inaccuracies referenced as "testimony from a 'former English teacher in Japan". I would like to bring these to your attention.

Firstly let me mention that the ad pictured is not reflective of current Gaba advertising. It was a poster that last ran over 6 years ago. Current Gaba advertising is significantly different in theme. Please see the J-peg attachment of our current advertising as a sample. While the ad certainly was "unique" and I won't quibble with the fact that some might even find it 'weird', I would hope that the fact that this ad is from 2002/2003 could be mentioned somewhere in the copy.

Here is Gaba's current ad, featuring its "Man to Man" (マン ツー マン) teaching approach. Underneath that, as a reminder, the previous ad; then, after the jump, the rest of the letter:

Recommended Reading

New ad


Old ad

The letter continues:

Regarding the "testimony from a former English teacher in Japan", the suggestion that Gaba's business model is predicated on "fraternization as their key selling point", or the more extreme idea that we have a reputation as a "high end escort service eikawa", is completely inaccurate. We are in fact the only publicly-listed eikaiwa in Japan (listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange). Our business is to provide the highest quality English lessons for a diverse range of clients, focused largely on professional business people, but also including demographics such as children and college students. Additionally, 49% of our clients are male.

Having been involved in Gaba's instructor recruiting process for over 7 years, I can unequivocally state that we have never hired anyone based on nationality, race, gender, or physical appearance. The idea that we target the "good looking" is non-factual. Additionally, the idea that we encourage fraternization is not only incorrect, but would be nonsensical for us. We focus on providing one-to-one (rather than group) lessons, and there is a risk in our business of instructors setting up private arrangements to teach clients outside of our schools. This is something we obviously discourage and try to prevent.

I am providing this information to you in order to correct the distorted viewpoint mentioned by the "former English teacher in Japan". I hope that my response could be posted, or referenced, as information for your readers.

Finally, if you have a chance, please feel free to take a look at our instructor recruiting website, which provides some additional information on our company and corporate culture (http://careers.gaba.co.jp). Thank you for your time and understanding.


Bruce Anderson
Executive Officer, Service Quality Division
Gaba Corporation