Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I won't blame it on racism when ignorance suffices

Japan, Inc.’s Communication Gap - Project Syndicate:
Indeed, although Toyota claims to be “global,” its board of directors is exclusively Japanese. Toyota Europe’s executives felt that making English the working language would contribute to improving trust, communications, and efficiency, and also to retaining high-quality staff. But this was not adopted.

If Toyota and other Japanese companies want to become truly global, their managers must learn to communicate effectively with all their foreign stakeholders. In this global age, the language of business is English. In a recent international test of English proficiency, Japan ranked 136th, well behind South Korea, at 89th, and even North Korea, at 111th. While journalists in South Korea used this survey to demand reforms to improve English instruction in their country’s schools, the same survey hardly received any coverage in Japan.
Maybe because this was hardly a surprise, and maybe because the author could hardly tell a big from a small coverage in Japan. The reforms are already in course in Japan. The Japanese society is investing a lot of effort in improving its general english knowledge. And the government (at least the previous ones) invested a lot of money on it, from international english-only research institutes - I think it appeared on Nature or Science in 2008, it was something like 8 billion US dollars per year just for these centers - to a special JSPS program of postdoctoral grants for native speakers of english only - in which they must make a commitment of teaching at japanese high schools.

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