Amid a struggling economic environment following the extraordinary challenges of the catastrophic March 11 quake and tsunami, Japanese who used to avoid an English-speaking environment are now in a rush to learn the language.
A number of Japanese firms are shifting overseas production and opportunities because of the continuing surging of the yen that poses dangers to domestic industries. This has stirred a sense of urgency among many businessmen and employees to learn the English language should they want to stay in business, find or retain their jobs.
The online retailer Ratuken, for example, has decided that it would make English their official language. Likewise, Fast Retailing, the operator of the Uniqlo apparel chain, has plans of making English their official language by 2012 and would test proficiency of employees.
Recent figures show that 50% of Japanese companies would require new employees to be “business English users”, an overwhelming leap from the 16% in 2009.
While Japan boasts as the world’s third-largest economy, the ability to speak English is said to be poor in this nation. The average score of Japanese taking TOEFL iBT, a computer-based test of English as a foreign language, is ranked 27th of 30 Asian countries in 2010, lagging behind Mongolia and Turkmenistan.
The growing pressure among Japanese to learn English has led to the growth of Japan’s foreign language education market by 1.6 percent to $9.8 billion in 2010 compared to previous year, according to Yano Institute of Research. The growth is predicted to rise by 1.8 percent this year.
Photo by: Everyones Idle