In Japan, non-native English-language instructors from South Asian countries are challenging cultural stereotypes and putting a new face on the industry. And it hasn't been any easy task.

In Tokyo, North American-English and British-English have long been the standards taught in schools, and language testing is dominated by American exams such the TOEIC test, which attracts 1.5 million test-takers per year. This preference carries the assumption that only native speakers — specifically from Western countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain — can teach the language.

When Jeevarani Angelina (who goes by the name Sanku Rani for ease of pronunciation) opened the Little Angels English Academy in the western Tokyo suburb of Mitaka in 2004, the idea of hiring non-native English teachers was still a radical one.