I am looking back at some of my writing on eikaiwa and it is pretty cold-hearted, Internet Toughguy stuff (calling them pathetic and useless only to halfheartedly apologize later). I guess as someone the same age as many of these eikaiwa teachers I had trouble seeing the forest for the trees, but forgive me for only just appreciating that:
(a) for a lot of these eikaiwa teachers it is their first time in the work force, so it isnt really fair to lay their industry’s shortcomings at their feet; and
(b) the service offered by eikaiwa schools isnt that much different from the borderline-deceptive practices of a lot of businesses, but you don’t see me calling moisturizer salesladies a bunch of charlatans for peddling dubious claims, or insurance salespeople scheisters for convincing salarymen to gamble their life savings on risky annuities.
Part of the reason eikaiwa can come off so ugly from the Westerner perspective is because, often for the first time, we are only looking at the dark underbelly of the business instead of the neat and polished exterior. Usually we are happy to be fooled into thinking we need cold soda and DVD recorders, but when Westernness and dreams of a better life are being so clearly deceptively sold, it turns our stomachs.
Imagine if our first experience with the circus was to see a clown with his wig off, makeup smeared, and sipping from a flask? I think we might have a hard time enjoying the show after that.
Even without deception, the fundamental principle of selling something is to create demand where it might not otherwise be. That may be hard for me to appreciate as someone who sits at a desk and translates all day. My job seems to have limitless demand that almost literally falls in my lap, and more importantly I have never had to convince someone to have something translated. But were I to lose my job I’d be back in the business of marketing myself as the right person to turn your Japanese documents into proper English.