I love EducationWonk. He puts links together so we don't have to. Go over and read this, and all the linked pieces as well.
See, I feel I can actually speak to this, being that I taught in Japan for three years. From 1988-1991, I taught at a junior/senior high school in-between Osaka and Kobe. (I'm not going to name it here, because... well... the whole anonymous thing).
I am not an educational researcher; I don't understand it all. No, I'm a classroom teacher. I've been teaching for 18 years, and plan to do so for the next 18. I hope.
When I got off the plane at Osaka airport, I was 24, and other than "Domo Arigato" I didn't know a word of the language. I had signed a three-year contract with a private and very prestigious girl's school, and I was thinking "What the hell have I gotten myself into?"
Several times over the next three years, that thought would go through my head.
Many people have heard of the J.E.T. program, but I wasn't a part of that. I actually was credentialed by the Japanese government to teach English as a foreign language. Most westerners can only stay a year; I had a 60-month visa. Don't ask me how I got it. The school I worked for hired me in Chicago, took my passport, and it came back to me with the visa magically inside.
Actually folks, this might be a bit of a story. I'm not going to get to it all tonight. I'm bushed.
I'll write again tomorrow.