I believe it is common knowledge that the rate of Japanese English bilingual is rather low in Japan, but how does the situation compare to the rest of Asia, for example with Korea? Benesse’s research center had made a survey in regard to English language capabilities in South East Asia focusing mainly on High School students. The responses of the Japanese students about their English capabilities shows a huge gap compared to the same age range high school students in Korea. When Japanese high school students were asked whether they can:
- understand a spoken English weather forecast, 8.6% Japanese agreed (in comparison 54.1% Korean High School students)
- read an English newspaper 14.1% (60.8% Koreans)
- write a diary in English 22.5% (73.8% Koreans)
- read an English written blog or home page 20.9% (79.4% Koreans)
Let me point out that I fully understand the challenges of learning to switch from an Asian based language to a Latin based language, plus the limited attractiveness of how English is actually taught at school in Japan. My point here is that due to the ongoing economical challenges I expect Japanese parents or other members of the society to demand higher awareness for the need of multilingual capabilities. Due to the size of the country and its local market, Korea has learned early on that the only long-term choice for survival is export. I believe the same applies for Japan, but where is the push for the first requirement for global business: communication capabilities in English? If Korean students can do it, I see no reason why a higher level of English communication learned at schools should be impossible in Japan.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)