36.3% of Japanese people responding to a Nikkei Business survey in November 2017 say that they have felt a dramatic increase in the need to communicate with non-Japanese people at work or because of work in the past few years. A further 32.1% have felt a gradual increase.
Only 18.9% say that English has become or may become the official or unofficial corporate language, however. 39.2% say there is a connection between performance and being able to speak English and a whopping 82.4% say they feel the need to improve their English speaking ability. The main reasons chosen for feeling this way are:
- be able to do my job better (>70%)
- improve my relationship network (>40%)
- increase my career choices (>40%)
- be able to work overseas (>30%)
- improve my performance evaluations (<10%)
- look as if I’m high potential (<10%)
The article makes an interesting point that those Japanese over 50 are actually quite good at English, often having worked overseas or been involved in export related jobs and benefitted from corporate budgets for English classes. Those in their 20s take it for granted that they need to be able to speak a good level of English, as this was important when they were on the graduate recruitment circuit.
So the generation that is suffering the most are those in their 30s and 40s, who did not have a chance to work overseas or study overseas in the Lost Decades of the 1990s and 2000s and also suffered from budget cutbacks on language training.
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