English Café at Otemon(E-CO) English


About E-CO

English Café at Otemon (E-CO) is a social learning space and self-access center established in April 2013. It has sites on both Ai and Sojiji Campus, and also offers online services.

With highly qualified and experienced academic and administrative staff, including a learning advisor, E-CO is the ideal environment for students looking to become autonomous and effective learners of English and other languages, or those interested in learning about different cultures. Our supportive community welcomes all students, regardless of background or proficiency level.

Due to coronavirus prevention measures, some changes may be made to E-CO Support Services. Please contact E-CO directly for details.

Mission Statement

English Café at Otemon aims to develop:

  1. positive attitudes to language learning and intercultural exchange
  2. intercultural awareness and intercultural communicative competence,
  3. life-long self-directed learning skills, and
  4. communicative proficiency in English and other languages

among Otemon Gakuin University students, in order to prepare them to be successful participants in a global society.

We do this by providing:

  • a safe, multilingual environment for informal target language use at a variety of proficiency levels (Goals 1,4)
  • opportunities for people of all nationalities to meet and make connections, in any language (Goals 1,2,4)
  • opportunities for students to learn with and from each other (Goals 1,2,4)
  • structured language learning advising programmes, both individual and course-based (Goals 1,3,4)
  • explicit instruction in English and other languages through communication-focused individual and group sessions, and custom-made courses (Goals 1, 4)
  • customized language and culture focused support programmes for study abroad (short & long term programmes) (Goals 2,4)
  • career development opportunities through student job and volunteer programmes (Goals 2,3)

E-CO provides a forum for those interested in English and global issues to meet and interact in English and other languages, and to improve their skills and awareness of other cultures. Students can identify and focus on their learning needs and develop their English skills in a personalized way by choosing from the wide variety of support services available.

A flexible learning environment

E-CO aims to cater for a variety of student needs through offering a flexible learning environment, which each student can use differently according to their goals. A learning advisory service run by a full-time learning advisor is provided to help all students use E-CO effectively.

Those interested in English conversation can use the Cafe Space with friends, or join staff and student-run services such as Easy Chat, a group conversation time held everyday, or have a 20-minute focused conversation with an instructor using the English Practice service. Others may want to study using E-CO’s materials, or expose themselves to English through watching English movies from around the world. On Ai Campus, private study spaces are provided for quiet study or group work. E-CO has something to suit everyone’s learning style and goals.

A supportive community

E-CO is a social learning space. Students who use E-CO share common goals and interests. The friendships and support networks that students develop through taking part in activities and using E-CO spaces support them to keep their motivation high and achieve their goals. Our student volunteer group members and conversation facilitators act as informal mentors and role models to other students and keep our community vibrant and dynamic.

Support Services


E-CO runs a Learning Advisory Service to help students become more effective and autonomous language learners. Through an intentional reflective dialog with E-CO’s learning advisor, students can become more aware of their learning needs, set goals and find appropriate materials and strategies to achieve those goals.

English Practice

This service helps students deepen their knowledge of the English language and practice their skills. In this one-to-one session, teachers give guidance on anything from grammar questions to presentation practice and provide speaking practice.

E-CO Speaking Program

As part of the English Practice service, students can opt to join the E-CO Speaking Program, a multi-level series of worksheets that helps them to develop their English speaking proficiency in a variety of topics and situations.

Group Conversation Sessions

Small group English conversation sessions are held regularly at E-CO. We have short Easy Chat sessions for beginners, run by Japanese and international students proficient in English. Games are often used to create a relaxing environment. For more confident users of English, there are more academic discussion sessions using popular TED talk videos where students can learn about and express their opinions on a variety of topics. In both kinds of sessions grammar and vocabulary support is given to help students understand and speak confidently.

Teletandem - Online Language Exchange Program

E-CO facilitates an online language exchange program, called Teletandem. Students learning English or other languages are matched with students from Otemon’s partner universities who are learning Japanese. Once matched the pairs then meet online once a week to practice their languages and get to know each other. It’s a great way to experience genuine international exchange without having to travel overseas.

E-CO Workshops & Courses

E-CO holds regular one-off workshops and longer courses to support students’ English language learning and develop cross-cultural awareness. Topics include English conversation, cultural understanding, test-taking (TOEIC® and IELTS™) and strategies for effective language learning. Workshops and courses are open to all students and staff, regardless of department.

Support for Other Languages

E-CO also caters for students wanting to learn languages other than English. As well as resources for a wide range of languages, including Japanese, we also hold sessions for more popular languages such as Korean, Chinese, French and German. Let us know which language you are learning and we’ll see what we can do to help!


E-CO has three full-time staff members:

Katherine Thornton

Associate Professor, Institute for General Education
E-CO Program Director and Learning Advisor

Katherine is from Leeds in the UK. She has over 20 years’ experience of teaching English, and a Masters degree in TESOL from the University of Leeds. She has nearly 10 years’ experience working as a Learning Advisor, first at the Self-Access Learning Centre at Kanda University of International Studies, and now at Otemon Gakuin University, and has published widely on self-access and learner autonomy.

In addition to her role as Program Director of E-CO, Katherine runs the Learning Advisory service, offering one-to-one consultations with students about their English learning needs. As a learning advisor, her aim is to help students develop self-directed learning skills so they can learn languages in an effective way, and to spread the joy of learning and communicating in different languages. In addition to Japanese, she speaks French and German and loves learning new languages.

Chris Phelps

E-CO Teacher

Chris Phelps is from Brighton & Hove in the UK. He has a B.A. in Japanese Studies. Before starting at E-CO he had been working as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Hiroshima, Okayama & Osaka. He has various interests including sports, music and movies.

Chris runs one on one and group speaking sessions with Otemon students, and regular workshops on topics such as cinema, culture & effective learning strategies.

Atsuko Imatani

E-CO Assistant Manager

Atsuko Imatani is interested in various cultures all over the world. She has experience working at universities and a museum. She lived in Scotland, the U.K. as an exchange student. She loves watching movies, especially romance and Sci-Fi. You’ll meet Atsuko at the E-CO counter, so please feel free to talk to her in either English or Japanese!

E-CO student volunteer group (E-CO-to)

E-CO also has a dynamic group of student volunteers who support E-CO and create a friendly learning environment. They work at the E-CO counter and support online sessions, organize events, and promote E-CO on social media. The group is made up of students from all departments, and often includes people from both the undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and international students.

Conversation Facilitators

Conversation sessions at E-CO are run by student facilitators, either exchange students or Japanese students with high levels of English proficiency, many with study abroad experience.They support English learning at E-CO through running our Easy Chat conversation service.

E-CO Online

E-CO isn’t only a physical space; it also has a good online presence. Students can join online individual and group sessions, and interact with other students and E-CO staff from the comfort and safety of their own homes. See the current E-CO schedule for details of online and on campus sessions.

E-CO Website

E-CO’s website is the portal to all online E-CO sessions and activities. Find information about service and workshop schedules and make reservations  here. You can also find a variety of links to different language learning sites and mobile apps. Use it to find different ways to continue your study even when you’re not in E-CO. Similar information can be found on our WebClass (LMS) page, along with direct links to online sessions.  


E-CO also has an active social media presence. You can keep up with E-CO in the following ways online:

We post regular updates about upcoming events, reports and pictures from E-CO. It’s the best way to find out what’s going on, and connect with others who like E-CO.

Like us on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.
Follow us on Instagram.

Opening Times & Location

Open for Inquiries: Monday - Friday 09:00 -17:00. Specific activities may also take place outside these hours.

Please be aware that E-CO may not run activities occasionally during summer and winter vacations or when classes are not in session due to events such as entrance examinations. A limited selection of online activities continue throughout the vacations.

Sojiji Campus: A131
Ai Campus: 2nd floor, Central Building
Check the schedule for activity times on Ai Campus.

Tel : 072-697-8162