The following websites and resources are provided for informational purposes only. The TOMODACHI STEM @ Rice Program, Rice University, and the U.S.-Japan Council is not responsible for content contained on any external sites.
English Language Competency Required for Japanese Students
The language of research host labs at Rice University is English and all selected participants must have the English-language ability necessary to successfully complete a research experience in the U.S. While you are at Rice, you will speak in English within your lab and on a day-to-day basis. All seminars and workshops will also be conducted in English.
To Apply: The online application for the program must be written in English and program interviews in English will be conducted with all program finalists via Skype.
If Selected: If you are selected as a program participant, you will be required to provide proof of English language ability in one of the following ways as part of the J-1 visa documentation process at Rice University.
- Option 1: Pass an English Language Interview with the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication (CWOVC) at Rice University; conducted via Skype.
- Option 2: Provide Proof of IELTS Score of 7 or above
- Option 3: Provide Proof of TOEFL Scores of:
- TOEFL Paper-based: 600 or above
- TOEFL Computer-based: 250 or above
- TOEFL Internet-based: 90 or above
More information on proof of English language competency will be provided to selected program participants.
English Conversation Clubs in Japan
We strongly encourage all potential applicants and selected participants to speak in English as much as possible – even while you are still in Japan. Check with your university International Programs/Exchange office and ask if there are any English Language Tables or Conversation Clubs that you can join at your home university. These programs may enable you to interact with international students in Japan and practice/improve your English conversation by speaking with your new international friends!
Online Resources for Learning English
The following online resources may be helpful to your English language learning and speaking goals. You may want to ‘Like’ the U.S. Embassy Tokyo Facebook page or the Facebook page of your nearest U.S. Consulate in Japan to learn more about various programs and events they may host for students interested in speaking in English or study/research in the U.S.
- American English at State: Materials for Learning English
- EF Resources for Learning English
- 5 Ways International Students Can Improve Conversational English Skills
- 8 Best Interactive Websites for Adults to Learn English
- 11 Free Websites to Practice English at Home (NY Public Library)
- American vs. British English
See also 'Academic Writing & Presenting for Non-Native English Speakers' on our Presentation and Poster Development Resources page.
- American Slang Words and Idioms You Need to Know (Smartling)
- EF: The Most Common Idioms
- Idioms in American English (Learn American English Online)
- Videos: American Idioms (American English @ State.gov)
- 15 Business Idioms Commonly Used in the U.S. Workplace (Spoken English Practice)
- 20 Essential English Idioms for Sounding Like a Native (FluentU)
Language Learning at Rice University
All TOMODACHI STEM students will be required to sign up and attend at least one of the OISS Volunteer English Conversation Classes each week during your time at Rice University. You may attend more than one class if your research schedule permits.
- OISS Volunteer English Conversation Classes
- More information on how to sign-up for these classes will be provided to selected participants in mid-to-late January.
While you are at Rice University, you will also have the opportunity to meet and connect with both undergraduate and graduate students. These may be students working with you in your research lab, Rice students who are studying Japanese, or Rice students who have previously studied or done research abroad in Japan. If you have questions about English, in particular colloquial English, slang, and idioms, your student friends at Rice would be great people to ask!
Undergraduate Lab Members: There will also likely be undergraduate students working in your research lab on a part-time basis. Ask your professor or graduate student mentor to introduce you to the undergraduate lab members. Ask them about undergraduate student life at Rice University, doing research as an undergraduate in the U.S., and their future goals. Undergraduates typically do research part-time while attending classes so you may not see them as often as the graduate student lab members.
Sitting in on Your Host Professor's Classes: While this is primarily a research experience program, some host professors may be currently teaching undergraduate classes at Rice University. You can ask them if you could 'sit in' on this course. This may or may not be possible due to the class size and content. If the answer is yes, you could learn more about classroom culture in the U.S. and expand your English language skills to include classroom conversation and discussion.
Attending Department/Center Research Seminars/Talks: You will see lots of announcements about departmental/center seminars or talks in your research building. These may be posted in the elevator or on bulletin boards or you may receive announcements about special talks/seminars via email or from your Academic Department/Center's Facebook page. These seminars/talks are usually free and open to the public so be sure you plan to attend a few while you are at Rice. Undergraduate students are always welcome and you can ask your graduate student mentor to invite you to join them at any seminars/talks they are planning to attend.
You will also have the opportunity to meet current Rice University students who are learning Japanese through Ozaki-sensei's Japanese Language Lunch Table Discussion sessions. Typically, there will be 1 – 2 lunch table discussion meet-ups during the time you are at Rice University. You will have the option of purchasing a lunch ticket in advance that will enable you to eat in one of the Undergraduate College Servery (cafeteria) on the day the discussion session is held. You will set in the Private Dining Room with other native Japanese speakers (primarily Japanese graduate students at Rice) and undergraduate students who are learning Japanese. During lunch, the Rice students will only be allowed to speak in Japanese.
These sessions give you an opportunity to meet other Rice undergraduate students, other current Japanese students at Rice, add experience a little bit of undergraduate college (dormitory) life at Rice University. While you won't be speaking in English during these sessions, you will be building your intercultural communication skills and making new friends!
Due to the timing of the TOMODACHI STEm program you won't be able to participate in this programs but, if you return to Rice University as a graduate student, you may be able to participate in the future.