Business expansion overseas forces Japanese businessmen to master English language
Like it or not, synergies gained by the strong Yen and March's disaster in Japan are forcing more Japanese companies to venture out of the country to expand their business.
Probably connected to this overseas expansion is the trend of an increasing number of Japanese businessmen attending English language classes as English is the lingua franca of international commerce.
This trend is best exemplified by the decision last year by Rakuten, one of the biggest online retailers, to make English its official language. Rapidly growing apparel retailer Uniqlo also announced that it would switch its official language of Japanese to English by 2012 as part of its global strategy.
Reuters news agency, in a report on Sept 22 of this trend, quoted Ms Tsurumaki, a recruitment agency spokeswoman saying: "The move by Rakuten to make English its official language has great impact on domestic manufacturers that, too, are under pressure to consider global business because their home market is shrinking."
She added: "Not all Japanese firms have overseas ventures for many years, so they have never thought of brushing up their English. Responding to the current trend of looking out of Japan, almost half of Japanese companies now require 'Business English speaker' as a recruitment condition."
As a consequence, the demand for English language education is on the rise in Japan.
Reuters cited the case of a 39-year-old software engineer who had to wake up at 5 am so that he was able to attend English class before starting work.
Although Japan is the world's third-largest economy, its people's mastery of English is the third poorest among 30 countries in Asia, below Mongolia and Turkmenistan.
The Japanese people must accept the inevitable reality of the need to embrace English. To obtain jobs successfully, we need to have the ability to use English in our business dealings.
Those of us who stay and work here in Singapore appreciate the country's English-language environment. The news that Japanese companies now realize the importance of English only serves to motivate us even more to improve our current skills in speaking and writing in English.