When it comes to using English in the business environment, many Japanese companies lag behind, despite the fact that Japan is the world’s third-largest economy.
Compared to Japan, other countries such as China, South Korea and even Iran do better when it comes to English language skills, the media comments. And that is despite the fact that Japan’s main corporations, such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda, have externalized most of their services and kept only a small part of their business in the country.
It is the same thing for consumer electronics and heavy industry, drugmakers and brewers, who are all seeking to hire foreign employees for growth.
English is thus a more and more required language by local companies such as Bridgestone, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Fast Retailing and Rakuten.
However, some employees question the wisdom of forcing native Japanese speakers to address each other in a language that they find difficult and suggest that while companies seem like they are embracing it, behind closed doors the reality is rather different, according to the international press.
“[Speaking English] does get trotted out a lot,” says one British employee who has worked for a Japanese multinational for a decade. “But in terms of real productivity, it is not practical.”