Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 12

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

NEWS | REAL ESTATE | HOTELS | FRIENDS | INSIGHT | CLASSIFIEDS | JOBS

NATIONAL

31
Tweet

12

CRIME

ENTERTAINMENT

POLITICS

BUSINESS

TECH

SPORTS

WORLD

FEATURES

REGISTER/LOGIN

'Englishisation' - Is it working?
By Elliot Silverberg for EURObiZ Japan
LIFESTYLE MAR. 16, 2015 - 06:20AM JST (

70 )

TOKYO Yuki Wachi and her husband cannot speak


English, but they send their five-year-old daughter
Tamami to a preschool where English is the primary
language of instruction. Once Tamami finishes
kindergarten and enters the Japanese public school
system, Wachi and her husband will commit an additional 100,000 per month to after
school English lessons for their daughter.
The ability to communicate in English is more important these days, says Wachi. We
dont want our daughter to miss out on her future just because she cant speak English.
The Wachis focus on English reflects Japans growing concern about its populations
ability or lack thereof to communicate in a language widely regarded as the
international business worlds lingua franca. The Shinzo Abe government announced in
2013 a major educational reform program aimed at improving the English proficiency of
Japanese students by 2020, just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. Japanese companies
such as Nissan, Fast Retailing (Uniqlo) and Rakuten are investing millions to teach
their employees English and making proficiency a term of employment. International
schools, such as Tamamis preschool, are also in high demand by parents who believe
that learning English is the key to ensuring their children are successful in the global
economy.
Without English, its very difficult to compete on a global level, said Hiroshi Mikitani,
co-founder and CEO of Rakuten, during a press conference at the Foreign
Correspondents Club of Japan in 2012. Mikitani, who coined the term Englishisation
when he ordered his firm to adopt English as its company language, added, Lack of
English communication skills really prevented us [Japan] from being a global leader, so
we really need to wake up and open our eyes.
It is not for lack of trying that even white-collar workers in Japan struggle with English.
The language has preoccupied Japan almost ever since it first opened its doors to the
United States a century and a half ago.
Shigeki Takeo, dean of Meiji Gakuin Universitys Faculty of International Studies, traces
Japans difficulty with English to after the Meiji Restoration of the late-19th century,
when the Japanese were able to adopt Western culture while maintaining their native
language. Because the Japanese no longer need an adequate command of English to
appreciate a Hollywood film or purchase a McDonalds burger effectively
domesticating Western culture they cannot easily acquire the motivation to learn
English, says Takeo.
As a result, Japanese students tend to score comparatively low on English-language tests.
According to an official summary of scores on TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign
Language) in 2009, out of 30 Asian countries Japan (67) ranked second from the bottom
in mean score, behind China (76), North Korea (75) and South Korea (81).
Even as Japans quarter-century economic recession has hastened a tide of xenophobic
nationalism spurred by fears that neighbouring rivals, China and South Korea, are
surpassing it Japans Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

CAREERS

REGISTER

MORE JOBS

Accounts Payable Clerk


Destination Asia JapanTokyo
Salary: 2.6M ~ 3.3M / Year

Relocation Consultant
H&R GroupAichi
Salary: 240,000 ~ 290,000 / Month
Based on skills and experience Performance bonus
PR()
Whisk-e LimitedTokyo
Salary: 3.5M ~ 6.0M / Year
Negotiable
IT Help Desk Specialist
TS Planning Inc.Tokyo
Salary: Salary negotiable

Marketing Communications Director


(Vietnam)
TS Planning Inc.Other
Salary: Salary negotiable

MORE IN LIFESTYLE

High-tech sensors help children


keep eye on aging parents
MAY. 08, 2015 - 05:43AM JST (

2)

(MEXT) has tried three times in the past 15 years to revise its English-language
curriculum for the elementary through high school levels.

The art of giving and receiving


change in Japan

MEXTs most recent attempt centres on three fundamental changes to the existing
curriculum, said Takashi Katsuragi, who began working on the governments education
reform program in 2014.

Extreme surfers chill with Arctic


waves

MAY. 07, 2015 - 06:16AM JST (

First, elementary school students will be introduced to English earlier, in the third grade
instead of the fifth grade. Second, students from the fifth grade onward will be subjected
to frequent evaluations based on a combination of objective and subjective criteria, such
as scores on EIKEN (Test in Practical English Proficiency) and GTEC (Global Test of
English Communication), as well as teacher assessments of students. And third, middle
and high school students will be expected to practice using English in simple
information exchanges and high-level linguistic activities [presentations, debates,
negotiations] designed for them to achieve fluency by the time of graduation.

54 )

MAY. 05, 2015 - 06:08AM JST (

3)

Blogger lists three things foreigners do that


impress the Japanese
MAY. 04, 2015 - 05:42AM JST (

64 )

Japan tops list of countries with


shrinking population projection
MAY. 04, 2015 - 05:40AM JST (

5)

View all

The learning experience, often a tedious process, must be interactive and enjoyable for
any subject whether mathematics, science, history or English to be
comprehensible, according to Saburo Kagei, headmaster of St. Marys International
School in Tokyo.

Oita mayor says no name change for


Charlotte the monkey

38

Learning is a whole lot easier when its fun, says Kagei. Many teachers will call it the
hook, and youve got to have a hook if you want to lure in your students.

Japan's 'Pornaldo' keeps scoring as


male actors fizzle

26

Japans attempts to improve its peoples understanding of English extend far beyond the
countrys public sector; the private sector is also making efforts, albeit with mixed
results. Rakuten may be the most well-known example. But Nissan, owing to its 15-year
alliance with the French car manufacturer Renault, has long demanded of its senior
employees a fixed level of English proficiency, too.

Woman, holding newborn baby, jumps


from building

19

Toyota zooms to record Y2.17 tril


profit on U.S. sales, weak yen

16

Pelosi receives Japan award

16

We want to continue raising the average TOEIC [Test of English for International
Communication] score of our Japanese employees from 600 where it is now to
700, 750, and finally 800, which we feel is a good enough score to work in Nissans
global business, says Hirokazu Takebata, a manager in the automobile giants human
resources division. To this end, Nissan offers employees who are underperforming on
TOEIC a variety of English-language training courses and specialised seminars on
cultural diversity.

MOST POPULAR

RECENT COMMENTS

View all

SPECIAL OFFERS
Continuing Education: Apply
Today!
Temple University, Japan Campus

MEXT, like Nissan, has made the promotion of cultural exchange a priority in its efforts
to prevent Japan from lagging behind in todays globalised world.
One of the main reasons to study English is to explain and exchange ideas, adds
Katsuragi. If Japanese people can speak English more fluently, they will have more
opportunities for work abroad.
Takebata is of the same mind.

Italian for Beginners


Italian Chamber of Commerce in
Japan

Enjoy Traditional Festivals in


Shitamachi
Jarman International K.K.

Before entering Nissan, Japanese workers should have a lot of cross-cultural experience
using English, he says Cross-cultural or cross-company business will be
expanding in the future so our employees will need to be comfortable communicating
with people from other parts of the world.

March Madness
Yours Corporation

Do You Have May Sickness?

External Link: http://eurobiz.jp/

Coto Language Academy


Back to top

70 Comments

( LOGIN TO COMMENT )

Order by Time

Order by Popularity

Burning Bush MAR. 15, 2015 - 07:15AM JST

Robots: Safety and Efficiency May 19 at ICCJ


Italian Chamber of Commerce in
Japan

This article couldn't have been written in Scotland 300 years ago.
Where is the Gaelic language now?
-15

Stewart MAR. 15, 2015 - 07:42AM JST

22

The biggest shake up will come from introducing a speaking test in the Centre Test for national
university entry. Then every high school in Japan will have speaking courses - until then nothing will
change and MEXT can go whistle in the wind.

oikawa MAR. 15, 2015 - 08:09AM JST

Wachi and her husband will commit an additional 100,000 per month to after school English
lessons for their daughter.
5

Lol, that is stupid, if not impossible even. They should invest in some common sense lessons for
themselves.

Toyomototire
KK Tokyo Nihon Rubber Corp promotes Toyomoto brand
tires in international markets. Toyomoto products cover a
full range of UHP, PCR, SUV, LTR, TBR, & OTR.
Toyomototire
KK Tokyo Nihon Rubber Corp promotes Toyomoto brand
tires in international markets. Toyomoto products cover a
full range of UHP, PCR, SUV, LTR, TBR, & OTR.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 08:41AM JST


Lol, that is stupid, if not impossible even.
Definitely not impossible. And what makes it stupid?
4

Burning Bush MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:21AM JST


The biggest shake up will come from introducing a speaking test in the Centre Test for national
university entry.
-3

Never happen.
Logistical nightmare to mark, they'd have to outsource all the thousands of spoken responses India
for assessment. And of course not objective.

oikawa MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:28AM JST

Strangerland are you kidding??? 100000 a month for English lessons could get you 5 private lessons
a week, let alone group lessons!! For a 6 year old???? No-one does that. It's "impossible" because you
just wouldn't have enough time if you were living a normal 6 year old's life. And it's stupid because
instead of wasting this much money on English lessons for years you could just go abroad for a year
when you're older, become equally fluent and spend 10% what you'd have blown on English
"lessons".

Stewart MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:30AM JST

Yes - I believe STEP Eiken estimate they need to recruit about 22,000 examiners for this purpose Aoyama, Sophia and Rikkyo Universities are starting this system soon - Google TEAP test with STEP
Eiken

Yubaru MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:41AM JST


GET RID OF THE EIKEN STEP TEST NOW! Shudder.......
8

Eiken is one of the biggest reasons kids can not improve. It is a writing based test (joke) multiple
choice test focusing on grammar and if they pass the "written" portion from Grade 3 and up, the
have an interview that and extension of the writing, but they have to do it verbally.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:47AM JST


Strangerland are you kidding??? 100000 a month for English lessons could get you 5 private
lessons a week, let alone group lessons!!
-10

With some guy whose only qualification is that he speaks English. Quality English education with
certified teachers costs a lot more.
It's stupid because instead of wasting this much money on English lessons for years you could just
go abroad for a year when you're older, become equally fluent and spend 10% what you'd have
blown on English "lessons".
First off, 100,000/month isn't a lot of money. Next, doing things as cheap as possible doesn't
necessarily mean that it's better. Third, maybe they also intend to send their kid overseas for a year
in the future. And finally, gGoing abroad for a year isn't realistic or desirable for many people.
You ridicule their plan because it doesn't match how you would do it, but that doesn't mean it's
wrong.

cevin7 MAR. 15, 2015 - 10:36AM JST

13

How can a person explain and exchange opinions in English when they have almost no experience to
do so? Japan really should put importance on English communication competency, instead of
understanding of complex structure of grammar. Otherwise goals mentioned in the article are not
achievable.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 10:39AM JST


What kind of lessons and teachers are you envisaging?? How much do you think private lessons
are, or you are imagining??
-4

I know that I pay 50,000/month for my kid to go to Saturday school, at an international school with
certified teachers, and it isn't one of the top international schools. They charge even more.
Just because you only know eikaiwa, doesn't mean that eikaiwa is all there is.
100,000 a month isn't a lot of money??? That make me think you have no idea of the industry you
purport to know about. Makes me wonder if you're just trolling
You're the one talking about 'the industry', not me.
And money is all relative. For many people, 100,000/month isn't a lot of money.

gaijinfo MAR. 15, 2015 - 10:52AM JST


Nonsense, all of it. Learning English guarantees nothing. What happens when their daughter
becomes fluent in English and decides to become a housewife?
11

The people that want to learn English as a TOOL to help them achieve their LARGER GOALS (like
international business, etc) figure out how to learn English. And they speak English WELL.
Most people aren't interested in English because most people aren't really interested in ever leaving
Japan.
Until Japan sees itself as one country among MANY in the Global Village, and not some super unique
special private island that no foreigner can possibly understand, few people will put in any effort to

actually learn English.

klausdorth MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:00AM JST

First of all the folks at the education ministery should come up with REAL teaching plans and decent
teaching material. What I have seen and used so far for public 5th and 6th grade elementary school
students is just BS.
As far as EIKEN goes ..... well, I have seen better, I have seen worse testing material.
Concerning sending your kids to some Eikaiwa school .... oh well, once or twice a week for one hour
will not turn them into native or close to native speakers. But maybe still better than nothing?
In reference to the fee you have to pay, well, I always compare it to driving a Dai... Minica and a Merc
..Be.. 500. Both have 4 wheels, seats, and so on ... but there is this "slight" difference. Same with the
fee for English classes: you get what you pay for.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:01AM JST


What happens when their daughter becomes fluent in English and decides to become a housewife?
4

Maybe she'll marry an English-speaker due to her ability to speak English. Or maybe her husband
will be Japanese, but will like her due to her education, and ability to speak English. Or maybe she'll
just use her English when traveling.
All sorts of reasons.

cleo MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:10AM JST


frequent evaluations based on a combination of objective and subjective criteria
10

This is more than a waste of time and resources, it's off-putting and likely to make kids hate English
even more.
What happens when their daughter becomes fluent in English and decides to become a housewife?
Then her kids will have the advantage of a mother who is able to teach them English from birth,
rather than having to send them for expensive private lessons. And they will grow up thinking of
English as something that is entirely normal and a part of everyday life, not just something that
happens outside the home and that they have to swot at for 'frequent evaluations'.
The idea that people don't (need or want to) learn anything unless it leads to a 'larger goal'
(=professional career) is rather sad and depressing. Stuff you learn for fun, because you enjoy it,
because it gives you an immediate 'high', because it strengthens the bond with significant people in
your life, is easier to learn and assimilate. And even if you never ever use it to achieve a 'higher goal',
you've already achieved the goal of enjoyment in the learning of it.
You may as well say only people who want to be body-builders or Olympic athletes should/need to
eat healthily. We can all enjoy our food, regardless of where it settles in our body.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:20AM JST


You may as well say only people who want to be body-builders or Olympic athletes should/need to
eat healthily. We can all enjoy our food, regardless of where it settles in our body.
1

I wonder if it's an internet thing, or a 'these days' thing, that people seem to have an 'all or nothing'
stance on everything.
Regardless, good post cleo.

acidrainbOwsinthesky MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:21AM JST

I learnt english when I was in Kindergarten. My family always thought it was a great invertion for me
and for my future. At the beggining I didn't understand why was I so pressured to learn another
language, I thought I could learn it when I was older. Years passed by and went to collage and found
out that most guys on my class where struggling with the language barrier, most of the articles our
teacher presented us were in english, when they found out they needed the language to take a Ph.D
most of them went to Canada or London to learn the language as fast as they could, they never
learnt the language, thousands of dollars spent in those trips and they never learned the language
because they found it complicated to learn. In my personal expierience, I grew learning english, I will
never know how it happened, it came all "natural", they keep asking me why do I found english so
easy, well I think it's because I grew learning it, it became part of my life. Now that I need to learn a
new language I can understand their struggle. It's not easy learning a whole new language from
zero. I think it's a good call to invest their money in their kid for learning a new language, it doesn't
matter if it is english or german. If they have the money now then why don't do it? Maybe tomorrow
it won't be as easy as it is right now or maybe it will be harder for the kid to learn. Investing in
education is the greatest thing you can do for your kid. As most Mexican's parents tell to their
children: "La nica herencia que te dejar ser tu educacin" "The only inherence I will leave you it's
your education."

bruinfan MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:28AM JST


In many cases this money paid doesn't get results so much as it gives the parents a sense of
prestige, or a chance to "feel good" about themselves if you will.
1

Tamarama MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:28AM JST


A couple of observations.
8

The attempt to improve English language skills is Japan isn't really working very well at all. I have a
couple of nephews and nieces who study English in Elementary school and one in Junior high school
and they can not speak or understand English in any kind of meaningful way at all. If I deviate out of
very, very basic predictable language structures they are gone. Can't respond at all. I think this is
because the systems of language teaching and learning are effectively useless or long outdated, and

the teachers - especially the foreign teachers employed to teach it know absolutely nothing about
the pedagogy of teaching and learning in any subject, let alone English. Being an English speaker
doesn't mean you know anything about the language or how to teach it - part of the reason groups
like NOVA dissolved: a vary flawed business model.
My other observation is a general objection to the idea that the majority Japan need to be
'Englishized' in any way, unless certain sections of the population need, or want to. If it's purely for
business - then let the business take care of it. Businesses are very efficient at undertaking
programs or improvements to suit their needs. Perhaps they need to partner up with Universities
whom they draw candidates from to outline the kind of skills in candidates they need. These
Universities may in turn, set requirements of certain schools and so on.
Perhaps English language need only be a specialised skill for those who are inclined or motivated,
not some dull, lobotomised subject in schools that strangles any kind of love for the Language.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:33AM JST


In many cases this money paid doesn't get results so much as it gives the parents a sense of
prestige, or a chance to "feel good" about themselves if you will.
0

The kids at my kid's international school seem to speak English to some degree. I can walk in and
talk with them when I pick him up.

gaijinfo MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:46AM JST

The idea that people don't (need or want to) learn anything unless it leads to a 'larger goal'
(=professional career) is rather sad and depressing. Stuff you learn for fun, because you enjoy it,
because it gives you an immediate 'high', because it strengthens the bond with significant people
in your life, is easier to learn and assimilate.
You're missing my point. My point is this: If people in Japan want to learn English, they'll learn
English. If their goal is to have fun, then that's the "larger goal."
I seriously doubt there're anybody in Japan who wants to learn English, but doesn't, because Japan's
educational system isn't "Enlishized" enough.
The mistake is thinking that if they are FORCED to learn English, then they'll magically become more
global and have a better career.
People aren't robots. You can't force them through an English education factory. If Japan is lacking in
English skills, it's because Japanese don't want to learn English.
You guys make it sound like everybody in Japan is dying to get international jobs and become
globally competitive, but they shrug their shoulders and give up since they aren't taught English in
public schools.
Maybe it's because foreign English teachers in Japan see themselves as saviors of Japanese society.

HongoTAFEinmate MAR. 15, 2015 - 12:01PM JST

English is just one part of the education puzzle. My kids picked it up naturally in the home
environment and it basically gave them a 200 point start when sitting for their university exams.
That alone might have been the differences between success and tears.

M3M3M3 MAR. 15, 2015 - 12:37PM JST

It's a tough choice. There are huge opportunity costs for anyone studying a second language. Those
countless hours might have been better spent on studying to be a tax accountant, albeit a
monolingual one. I think everyone should make the most of what they have. If you're not good at
languages, then try something else. If you are lucky enough to have an English speaking parent (like
Strangerland), then you should make the most of that unique advantage.

GW MAR. 15, 2015 - 12:55PM JST


2nd language education in Japan is a mess, needs to be stopped. Reinvented from the ground up
otherwise we just continue to see these dismal results.
4

Glad I don't have kids growing up here, those that do I hope your ensuring your kids have a 2nd
language to give them some better advantages the young people of Japan are going to need it big
time!

Commodore Shmidlap (Retired) MAR. 15, 2015 - 01:18PM JST

For a lot of young people they get 2 English classes a week in junior high school with a native
speaking ALT if they're lucky and then end up in high school learning English directed towards
producing the expected results on entrance exams rather than focusing first on communication
ability. Some of them may very well be taking conversation classes as well as studying the language
at cram schools. But it's always going to be bumped down in priority in favor of passing those tests.
So unless the kids are lucky enough to have a grade head teacher who really wants them to speak
English and gets the ALT on board with providing extra opportunities for learning and practice or
else the system itself gets a complete overhaul, slapping personal quick fixes here and there is
about the best any parent can do if they're really serious about their kids learning English that will
help them in the real world.

Mocheake MAR. 15, 2015 - 01:31PM JST

10

We want to continue raising the average TOEIC [Test of English for International Communication]
score of our Japanese employees from 600 where it is now to 700, 750, and finally 800,
which we feel is a good enough score to work in Nissans global business, says Hirokazu
Takebata, a manager in the automobile giants human resources division. To this end, Nissan
offers employees who are underperforming on TOEIC a variety of English-language training
courses and specialised seminars on cultural diversity.

Most people here seem to think you can learn English from staring at a book or taking a test. They
are dead wrong. It's been my experience that many people with high TOEIC scores cannot hold a
very functional conversation in English. Scores can't help you when you are on the street and have to
think on the fly. They look nice on a piece of paper but functionality speaks volumes. They need to
revise all these tests and focus on speaking. Communication is key.

Jimizo MAR. 15, 2015 - 01:57PM JST

I've been hearing tongue flappings about improving the standard of English in Japan from chocolate
teapot ministers (most of whom probably couldn't ask where the bank is in English - let alone
understand the reply) ever since I got here and not something to be taken seriously. It's pretty much
at the level of pronouncements like 'Beautiful Japan'.
Companies are in a far better position to improve English standards ( and other languages - I attend
Chinese classes ) by offering courses and incentives to improve. My department also has a rule that
all staff must converse in English with native-English speaking staff. This isn't the case in other
departments where English isn't necessary and they get along just fine without needing to speak it.
The majority of Japanese people do not need English. I work for a large manufacturing company
doing business in many countries and I'd estimate only 20-30% of the staff at our office can speak
reasonable English and far less than that at business level. Reasonably smart, open-minded ( a very
important factor ),motivated people who need English improve quickly and I can't see the point in
wasting more resources at school with results very likely to be similar to those we have now.

Yubaru MAR. 15, 2015 - 02:47PM JST


chocolate teapot ministers
What is a chocolate teapot minister?
3

cleo MAR. 15, 2015 - 03:27PM JST


gaijinfo - Sorry if I missed your point, I think you threw me with the dig at housewives and
references to larger goals like international business.
3

My point is this: If people in Japan want to learn English, they'll learn English.
It's much, much easier to learn a language when you're young. If parents can give their kids (who
let's face it, aren't on their own bat likely to be interested in learning a second language when they're
barely fluent in their first, or even conscious of the existence of other languages) a bit of a leg up,
why wouldn't they? The kid can choose later whether they want to use it, ignore it or build on it.
I made sure my own kids grew up bilingual from birth, in an age when it was frowned upon (they
won't learn Japanese properly...). While neither of them are in international business or currently
using English directly in their jobs, their ability to use and communicate in English is nothing but a
huge plus in their lives.
What is a chocolate teapot minister?
Never heard the saying, as useful as a chocolate teapot?

turbotsat MAR. 15, 2015 - 03:32PM JST


M3M3M3: Those countless hours might have been better spent on studying to be a tax accountant,
albeit a monolingual one.
2

Kindergarteners, elementary schoolers, junior highers not really eligible to study for tax
accountancy. High schoolers could but not much use without a work-worthy certificate at the end.
cleo: Never heard the saying, as useful as a chocolate teapot?
Nope, and still not getting it. :(

cracaphat MAR. 15, 2015 - 03:58PM JST

One thing I've found with a lot of parents here reminds me of my dad's attitude.He loved to
say,"Don't do as I do,do as I say." Some of my students' parents can't even hold down a how are you
small talk convo,yet extoling on the kid to speak English.Along with the usual suspect of reasons to
improve,parents leading from the front, in even some small capacity would help.

RealityofFake MAR. 15, 2015 - 04:17PM JST

Point #1: For the majority of Japanese people, they will never really need English in their lives. Why is
there such a big focus on it? Yes, it's helpful for international business, but how many people do
they honestly expect to end up in this field?
Point #2: If they really want to raise a generation of bilingual Japanese people then English has to be
incorporated into the culture. The reason why European countries are able to do so well learning
English is because they constantly come across it in their own countries. They don't only use it in
school.

DenTok2009 MAR. 15, 2015 - 04:43PM JST


Hi Cleo,
3

Just wanted to comment on your post; "Then her kids will have the advantage of a mother who is
able to teach them English from birth..."
My neighbor's ex-wife is fluent in English. She loves to travel and visiting foreign countries yet she
doesn't tutor her own daughter who is struggling in English and all her subjects. The daughter is
sent to juku but it doesn't seem to help as she's been going for quite a few years now and still is not
able to read or write or speak English or perform well in her other subjects. My neighbor wishes his
ex-wife would tutor their daughter instead of berating and belittling her.
So, some children will learn and love to speak in English but whether they grow up to instill a love of
learning a second language by teaching their offspring is questionable. Weeell, perhaps most will but

some might not...

harvey pekar MAR. 15, 2015 - 04:55PM JST

According to Education First's English proficiency index (some 2m people took identical tests online
in 44 countries) Japan isn't that bad, middle of the pack. They consistently rank higher than France,
Italy, and Mexico to name a few (based on results from the 2million who took EF's test, not school
scores). The top 5 shuffle in order every year since the first survey in 2011, but the Swedes are
always at or near the top, and according to a Swedish article...
"So why are Swedes so good at English?"
"There are several reasons," explained a Swedish participant. "We learn early in school, there are TV
and radio shows in English (not dubbed in the foreign country's native language like most are in
Japan), even commercials... but even outside of school English is considered to be a high status
language, kids think it's cool. And it helps that English is also Germanic-based."
Here's the EF's test: http://www.ef.edu/test/#/ and the Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EFEnglishProficiency_Index
The test is a half-hour adaptive exam online, meaning questions are adjusted based on a
participant's previous answers. You can also try it in a few other languages. I thought it was
interesting.
Basically, those who consistently rank high on English tests are those who enjoy it.

cleo MAR. 15, 2015 - 04:55PM JST

DenTok2009 - Yeah, being able to do something doesn't mean a person will do it. But at least the
choice is hers; with no English ability not even the choice is there. Personally I feel sharing English
books and cartoons with kids from an early age and instilling the idea that a second language is
enjoyable, rather than berating and belittling them for their failure to do well at juku and instilling
the idea that English (or any subject) is something that makes life more difficult, is the way to go: it
appears your neighbour's ex sees things differently.

harvey pekar MAR. 15, 2015 - 05:10PM JST

Japan isn't nearly as bad as people think in English ability. It's kind of sad considering how much
pressure they put on learning it and how much money is spent developing their poor curriculum, but
still, anyone who's travelled around Japan and around the world knows Japan's alright.
There is no secret to learning a second language. Expose yourself to it, study with other motivated
students is best, and have a great teacher. And study, study, study using music, books, movies,
friends, the net and so on. I personally don't believe you need to spend 100,000 yen a month.

Jimizo MAR. 15, 2015 - 06:15PM JST


'Japan isn't nearly as bad as people think in English ability.'
9

I think an important point is many Japanese people think their English ability is very poor which can
contribute to the blind panic and ensuing loss of common sense when dealing with an English
speaker. I remember my brother visiting me in Japan after going to Thailand, Vietnam and China (
his first visit to Asia ) and saying he found Japanese people's pronunciation of English the easiest to
understand of those 4 countries but found the Japanese the least likely to engage in conversation
with him. I find many Japanese have a self-defeating attitude towards English.

kiwiboy MAR. 15, 2015 - 06:38PM JST

A few years back I helped out at a friend's English School's summer classes. Toddlers were there that
needed help eating their lunches, they certainly couldn't speak English - they couldn't even speak
Japanese! But older kids that had been at the pre-school daycare for a few years had native-level
English. They'd tell jokes, muck around, play and study all in English. Almost all students were 100%
Japanese, and usually from families who couldn't speak English. It was inspiring to see.
If they have the money, they should spend it. If their child grows up and doesn't NEED it, so what.
That's their choice, but it helps forge who they'll be and gives them opportunities that they wouldn't
otherwise have.
I wish the Wachis well!

cracaphat MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:04PM JST

Point #1: For the majority of Japanese people, they will never really need English in their lives. Why
is there such a big focus on it? Yes, it's helpful for international business, but how many people do
they honestly expect to end up in this field?
So why are parents spending good money on their children learning it if there's no need for it?

Steven C. Schulz MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:38PM JST

Point #1: For the majority of Japanese people, they will never really need English in their lives. Why
is there such a big focus on it? Yes, it's helpful for international business, but how many people do
they honestly expect to end up in this field?
In a more globalized world, Japanese companies will need more employees speaking English.
Companies like the ones mentioned above will either hire English-speaking Japanese, or outsource
everything but top-level managers out of the country.
What's going to happen to Japan - especially once TPP is ratified - when its great companies
offshore themselves to compete in the world?

talaraedokko MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:44PM JST

What if we had English programs during prime time? Wow. Kids would find it kakko-ii. I know my
kids were quite against English until we visited family back home. I believe kids have to enjoy the
language if not they'll never do well in it. It's a problem also of a narrow education. The gov't
pressing English education is not the same as leading. TV in English would really put their money
where their mouth is.

Strangerland MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:55PM JST

The whole argument against not ever needing English was a lot more relevant before the internet.
Japanese people who don't speak English can't read this site - which is relevant to Japan. Japanese
people who don't speak English are limited to information that can be found in Japanese - which is a
lot less information than can be found in English. They may not need English, but English can open
up a whole world of knowledge without ever having to leave their phones.

zurcronium MAR. 15, 2015 - 09:57PM JST

The point about some Japanese people not needing English so therefore it is not important to teach
all students is just plain stupid. When was the last time your used calculus? Or someone asked you
about the Heian period? Learning is a process that builds on itself and leads to a complete person. If
English skills are increased for all students in Japan that has value in it of itself. Furthermore if only
20 percent of Japanese end up using English you do not know which 20% that will be at age 6 or 16.
But you do know that more will use English in their careers than calculus.

Jimizo MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:12PM JST

@zurcronium I'm not saying English isn't important and I think all students should be taught English
up to high school where it should be an option. The general standard of English in Japan is poor
despite it being compulsory in high schools and it is clearly educational time that has been wasted
for very many. Japan has been flogging this dead horse for ages and it's time for a new approach.
This is more a question of being practical and making better use of lesson time rather than making
value judgements about the ability to speak English. Six years of English lessons producing a
majority who can't hold a conversation about the weather or tell you the way to the station? Idle talk
from the government about raising English standards to the level of presentations and debate in
high school gets dusted off every few years and amounts to absolutely nothing.

sf2k MAR. 15, 2015 - 11:50PM JST

-3

Maybe learn Esperanto, a much easier language and then with that context go and learn English or
whatever. Too often English isn't respected and by the time the kids will use it, no English speaker
will have a clue what they're saying. Learn the language as it really is, not how they want it to be.
Other countries don't have this problem to the extent of Japan. 6 years has been an utter waste of
time. Start over

lucabrasi MAR. 16, 2015 - 12:01AM JST


While speaking is clearly a problem, I've found that after six years in junior high and high school,
first-year university students are pretty competent.
3

Every year I ask them, in the first class, to spend five minutes writing a self-introduction in Japanese,
making it as lively and interesting as they can. The following week I return their efforts and ask them
to translate them into English, without a dictionary or any other help. Ninety per cent do an excellent
job.
So they learn plenty in those six years. The trick is overcoming shyness and panic when asked
actually to communicate....

Ah_so MAR. 16, 2015 - 01:42AM JST


Lucabrasi - what are they studying and what level university are you at?
2

The fact that you are at a university says a lot about your sample size. But I doubt you could say to
history majors that most of the books on the reading list were in English only and assume that the
class could just get on with it. In many countries in Europe, this would be expected - a university
level student would be expected to be fluent in English, much as they would be expected to ride a
bike or know how to swim.
In Japan, having some English fluency is usually seen as unusual, particularly if gained from only six
years of study. It is not an expectation.
I appreciate that it is not fair to compare European and Japanese English ability, but I am always
struck by the lack of ambition.
'English is difficult. Japanese cannot learn English. We must perfect our Japanese first before we try
and learn another language. Japanese do not need English. '
The list of excuses for not succeeding is ingrained before they start learning. They expect to fail.
What chance have they got?

Elizabeth Heath MAR. 16, 2015 - 06:26AM JST


@Burning Bush - You'll find Gaelic on BBC Alba TV and radio, and in many Scottish schools.
0

sighclops MAR. 16, 2015 - 07:41AM JST

I have a friend who works at Rakuten and let me tell you - things aren't changing simply because
attitudes aren't changing. 99% of Rakuten employees would avoid English if they could, and this is
by amd large the attitude across most of corporate Japan. Multiply that by a factor of a hundred for

the education system.

kibousha MAR. 16, 2015 - 08:54AM JST


My daughters speak English, but the parents of her friends would rather send their kids to "English
courses" than make friends with my daughters (stay away from the foreigners!).
5

Upgrayedd MAR. 16, 2015 - 09:50AM JST


99% of Rakuten employees would avoid English if they could
1

This is very surprising considering that close to 20% of their employees in Japan are non-Japanese.
Surely you mean 99% of the Japanese employees right?

noypikantoku MAR. 16, 2015 - 09:52AM JST

Japanese always say THEY WANT TO SPEAK ENGLISH. but the truth is , they DON'T...it is part of the
SHAKOUJIREI culture here, where they just say "EIGO HANASERU TO II NA~" but they don't really
mean it. The number of parents like the Wachis are very very rare. I am currently working in a
foreign company and my colleagues are all fluent in English, however they always avoid to use it,
they think English is Mendokusai. So I still end up improving my Japanese skills to communicate with
them.
I think all these English education capmaign is just because of the Olympics,after the Olympics I
don't think things will change here.
look at the bright side...this is good for expats and translators ;-)

dcog9065 MAR. 16, 2015 - 10:14AM JST

It's definitely tough, but as the guy mentions I think the biggest problem is lack of motivation or
need to learn English. People can get by with just Japanese in Japan without any issues at all, so until
there are some real-life examples of being heavily disadvantaged without English, the motivation to
learn won't arise I don't think..
Of course, those willing to put in the hours of learning English and attaining proficiency will be the
ones who make it to highest paying jobs

Strangerland MAR. 16, 2015 - 10:21AM JST

-1

I don't know that this is correct - I've known lots of English speakers who don't have particularly
high positions or salary. I'd say it's more accurate to say that those who make it to the highest
paying jobs will often be those who have put in the time and effort to learn English.

CH3CHO MAR. 16, 2015 - 11:37AM JST


talaraedokkoMar. 15, 2015 - 09:44PM JST
What if we had English programs during prime time?
0

I have been learning English more than 3 decades, lived in the US for 2 years as a graduate student,
passed Eiken 1 kyu, scored 990/990 at TOEIC, and still cannot fully understand dramas in the
English language. Learning a second language is a never ending job.
Watching TV programs in English would be boring to most of the Japanese for they cannot
understand a bit, and would not contribute their English skills.

MissingCylonModel MAR. 16, 2015 - 12:40PM JST


We didn't have this problem where I come from, because we never forced it and never called it
"Englishization". If it sounds like a disease, of course people will avoid it.
2

NZ2011 MAR. 16, 2015 - 05:30PM JST

One thing can't wrap my head around is the amount of time Japanese students seem to spend
"studying" and at school yet seem to be no better informed or educated, no more intelligent and
certainly less empowered than my half arse effort at a very normal high school where I barely made
the very generous minimum attendance.. like most of the other people I grew up with, and the large
majority of people I meet from elsewhere.
What are they doing all day, stretching into the evening and large parts of the weekend?
My point being there seems to be a fundamental cultural issue, and its very difficult to make a huge
change from inside that fundamental issue.
I don't profess to have an answer, I don't pretend to understand something I don't understand, but if
my day to day interactions, when they happen in English, are an indication of often 10+ years of
education in a subject its pretty clear its quite broken.

Thunderbird2 MAR. 16, 2015 - 06:02PM JST


'Englishisation' - Is it working?
Not with that weird word it isn't. Wouldn't 'Anglicisation' be a more appropriate word?
0

Wc626 MAR. 16, 2015 - 10:29PM JST

You don't truly learn any language by taking a friggn' class once a week. Then being too damm
culture-shy or "embarrassed" to actually use it. That is a reason it ("englishisation") aint' happening.
Wanna speak real English? Go to the UK, USA, AUS, CAN, or NZ a couple times.

JoiceRojo MAR. 16, 2015 - 10:50PM JST

The idea that people don't (need or want to) learn anything unless it leads to a 'larger goal'
(=professional career) is rather sad and depressing. Stuff you learn for fun, because you enjoy it,
because it gives you an immediate 'high',
I think this is the issue here, it's not the quality of English Lessons/Teachers in Japan, you can
improve all that and still youths would not learn English, you have to motivate them into learning
English, even if they are not going to leave Japan ever.
If you could inspire people to learn English, they will learn, as Gaijinfo said:
The people that want to learn English as a TOOL to help them achieve their LARGER GOALS (like
international business, etc) figure out how to learn English. And they speak English WELL.
Take my Nephew, for example, his mom and dad don't speak English, and the only source for
"inspiration" comes from me that I do speak English. Still, I don't force him into reading books,
taking lessons online or that stuff, I simply put a mix of his interests with English, for example on
videogames, he alone goes to internet forums and sometimes in English, with music, I encourage
him to look his favorite bands on the internet and he looks up the lyrics and ask me what they mean,
although I don't make the translation for him, i explain the main point of a song and I tell him if the
music itself matches up with the lyrics, sometimes yes, others don't, but now he concentrates on
"absorbing" English in terms of comprehension and communication tool.
Last time he had to give an speech in English for his class, so I helped him only picking the topic,
some grammar sentences and some pronunciation, he easily scored the best grade.
He's motivated alright, but some of his classmates aren't, causing some disparity at school because
my nephew often gives the impression that it's so easy and for some it isn't and there is when a
good teacher has to step up.
As for paying 100000 yen gosh that's a lot of money, for some people maybe little, but i think it is
exaggerated for a 6 year old, in that case it's easier when the child is exposed everyday to the
language and not once or twice a week (have you noticed that in some parts, when the household
has international help (nanny, or cook, etc) the people in that house start to pick up their language?
in a child it is even easier... )

proteus7 MAR. 18, 2015 - 09:49AM JST

A big part of the problem with English teaching in Japan is the quality and professional development
of Japanese (and, foreign) teachers of English. In short, the quality of teachers is low and
professional development is almost non-existent. Most Japanese teachers of English (elementary, jr.
and sr. high schools) and some foreign English instructors (at some large private English schools)
are generally the lowest academic performers in their teaching programs, disciplines or may have no
teaching credentials at all. They may have had a few classes or studied abroad; but they cant speak
(or write) English with any real fluency. Students, taught by these ill-prepared teachers, quickly pick
up on this fact and it both discourages motivation and provides a negative role model for English
acquisition. In terms of professional development, Japanese English teachers are required to take
classes to improve their teaching, but the type of classes are dependent on the teachers interests
and schedule and may have absolutely nothing to do with teaching or classroom management. And,
unless one belongs to a professional association, there are no professional development programs
in place to support foreign teachers of English.

Fadamor MAR. 19, 2015 - 02:56AM JST

Without English, its very difficult to compete on a global level, said Hiroshi Mikitani, co-founder
and CEO of Rakuten, during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in
2012. Mikitani, who coined the term Englishisation when he ordered his firm to adopt English as
its company language, added, Lack of English communication skills really prevented us [Japan]
from being a global leader, so we really need to wake up and open our eyes.
Less than a year ago I ordered something from Rakuten's online store. Since then ALL
correspondence from them has been in 100% Japanese despite my account clearly indicating my
residence is in the U.S. Apparently Rakuten has yet to "wake up and open" their eyes.

Badge213 MAR. 19, 2015 - 04:36AM JST

Their *business side is conducted in English, their retail side is still in Japanese. Not withstanding,
Rakuten doesn't actually sell anything but rather is a marketplace (online market) for Japanese
retailers to sell their items (rakuten provides the venue), no regulation on those retailers being able
to speak English.

Fadamor MAR. 19, 2015 - 04:52AM JST


I understand that, but the emails I'm talking about are from Rakuten, not the store I actually did
business with.
0

Igor Hideo MAR. 20, 2015 - 12:40PM JST

I don't understand why some people can't learn another language, I barely went to school, and I
know my english isn't good, but i can read everything on this web site and understand it, I only had
english lessons from a public school in a 3rd world country... if people want to learn something they
will, I can't put "english speaking" on a job application cause I don't have a degree or anything as
proof, even though I can't use it for work, I'm glad I can see websites and talk yo other people that
don't speak portuguese.

lucabrasi MAR. 20, 2015 - 12:58PM JST


@Igor
It's down to need. People who are required to use a foreign language will do so. Those who aren't,

won't
As the song goes "You'd work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day."

NathalieB MAR. 22, 2015 - 12:41AM JST


@Igor - if you had not said English was your second language i would never have known from that
post. Your English is better than many natives I could mention.....!
0

Whatever it is you did - keep doing it. And import it to Japan.

stormcrow MAR. 22, 2015 - 04:13AM JST

A 16th century Jesuit missionary, Saint Francis Xavier, described Japanese as the devil's language
because it was so difficult to learn. I suppose from a reverse perspective, many Japanese might have
similar feelings about English.

lm25cl MAR. 22, 2015 - 08:54AM JST

Learning any language comprehensively is a difficult task in itself. Reading, writing, speaking, and
listening are the basic skills to learn in any language - including English. However, the learner can
only excel depending on some factors - but not restricted to: - To extend on Kagei Kouchou's
statement*
"Learning is a lot more fun.." "Many teachers will call it the hook, and you've got to have a hook if
you want to lure in your students"
-- May I humbly add; the teacher must have the correct bait at the end of that hook as well in order
to retain and enhance the learning experience of the students. - The environment shapes the
human/person; With opportunities, support/mentoring, Government legislations/programs,
transparent and productive community and economic opportunities, any student can excel. -Importantly.. Practise! Learners require all opportunities to practise their newly acquired skills.
I have a family with three languages spoken in the household; English is the second language. We
communicate as much as we can in English to "better survive" in this time and age. Additionally, the
other two languages are bonus for the entire family.
I look forward to what Japan as a nation can offer to increase the English literacy level. Not only that
the 2020 Olympics is around the corner, but also to better its economic opportunities and status in
the Global Market.

Ishiwara MAR. 23, 2015 - 07:27AM JST


I am starting to suspect the whole debate about English in Japan is missing its point.
0

When it comes to English, there are three types of Japanese: 1. People who actually need it and use it
for work; professionals, doctors, scientists etc; usually speak it pretty well. Small group. 2. Large
group of people who can speak more than they admit, have maybe stayed abroad for some time, but
have so few opportunities their English gets very rusty, to put it mildly. 3. Vast majority of Japanese
people who learn it in school as if they were studying Latin. Never use it because they only meet
Japanese people, only do business with Japanese people.
I don't think this is that different from other countries with a language very different from English.
(Thai people in the cities speak better English because they actually use it.)
I don't see any reason why anyone should expect that all Japanese people, including group 3, will
become good at English. It is simply not necessary. And it is also not possible.
Back to top

LOGIN TO LEAVE A COMMENT


Facebook users
Use your Facebook account to login or
register with JapanToday.
Facebook connect

Login with your JapanToday account


OR

Email
Password
Remember Me

LOGIN
NEW USER REGISTRATION

Forgot Password?

HOME | NATIONAL | CRIME | ENTERTAINMENT | POLITICS | BUSINESS | TECH | SPORTS | WORLD | FEATURES | CAREERS | EVENTS
LIFESTYLE | ARTS & CULTURE | KUCHIKOMI | NEW PRODUCTS | HEALTH | FOOD | TRAVEL | EXECUTIVE IMPACT | COMMENTARY | OPINIONS

2015 GPlusMedia Co., Ltd.

Privacy | Terms of Service | Moderation Policy | /Advertise with us | /About us | /Contact us |