“When I was called ‘the alien’ I was resigned to it, realising that the people around me didn’t understand what I was trying to do. However, recently it seems as if what I was saying then is gradually becoming understood.” Minoru Makihara, former President of Mitsubishi Corporation, recollects the time when he tried to make English the second corporate language in 1992 and was criticised from within and outside the company [disclosure – I had just been posted to Mitsubishi Corporation Japan HQ at the time, and later worked with Mr Makihara to deal with the fall out from these policies]. “It was partly a misunderstanding – I was saying that ‘Bad English’ should be the corporate language. Because if you do not express yourself, no matter how poor the English, then you cannot have a dialogue.”
“English is the international language of business, not just because it is widespread, but because it is most suited to business. English can be vague when necessary, and precise when needed. Nobody thinks Japanese is suitable for business – it’s far too implicit. However, even though English is a necessity, it is not sufficient for listening globally. You need a sense of your own roots, your own “-ism” to understand someone who speaks a different language to you.”
“I have proposed a third ‘Opening up’ for Japan to the government. Japan is lagging behind in globalization. By ‘Opening up’ I don’t just mean the issue of whether there should be more immigration, but that we Japanese are the problem.”
“Ultimately it comes down to education – a liberal arts type education. To work globally, you need be able to gather data and knowledge for yourself, and make your own independent judgement. So to open up Japan again, you need to start from there. Without this, Japan will be isolated in the world.”
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