Is it important for Japanese to learn English? Why?

2016.06.30

In order to raise global citizens, the Abe Government has decreased the starting age for English education in public schools.
From 2011, 5th and 6th graders in elementary school are required to participate in 35 hours of English education a year.
There are rumors going around that the government will lower the starting age of English education.

However, some people point out that “starting English early does not guarantee that one will be able to speak the language” and in addition, learning a second language so early may lead to a decrease in the language ability of their mother tongue.
There is also an issue of finding enough teachers who can teach English for all the public schools

Even in today’s global society, one a small percentage of Japanese people are using English in their daily lives.
Is it really necessary for Japanese people to study English?

Less than 10% of Japanese people can speak English

Research shows that the number of Japanese people who can speak and understand English with no limitations is less than 10% of the population.
This means that 90% of Japanese people cannot speak English.
For the majority of Japanese people, not being able to speak English does not cause them any problems on a daily basis.

English education has existed before the war.
Given the long history of English education in Japan, why do so few Japanese people speak the language?

As long as they are in Japan, they do not need to speak English

According to research by Facebook of countries where English is not the mother language, there was a non-English speaking country where more than 90% of the population could speak English.
In contrast, Japan where only 5.5% of the population can speak English was ranked # 138 of 141 countries and was the lowest ranked in Asia.

Countries where more than 90% of the population could speak English were [British colonies or protected states] [countries with poor economies where those who wanted work had to search abroad].

Japan does not fit in either of these categories.
In addition, Japan has a high domestic demand so the majority of sales for goods often take place domestically.
Of course, the number of companies that sell abroad has increased but compared to the total number of companies in Japan this number is still small.

Since Japan is quite far from America and Europe, the number of foreign visitors is still quite low.
As a result, as long as Japanese people are in Japan most of them do not need to speak English on a regular basis.
This is one of the main reasons why the English ability of most Japanese people does not improve.

Even so, there are reasons why Japanese should learn English

As mentioned above, while living in Japan not being able to speak English does not affect one’s daily life. However, there are still advantages of learning the language.

These advantages are not only “it is easier to communicate when travelling abroad” or “it is beneficial when looking for a job”.
Knowing how to speak English (or another language) enables us to learn about the people’s way of thinking and system.
As a result, your way of thinking and vision expands.
When you decide that you want to do something, there is no need to limit your options domestically which lowers the hurdles that you have to overcome to achieve your goal.
Also, the domestic demand in Japan is decreasing with the population so in order to maintain one’s space in the company it is becoming more and more important to look for opportunities abroad.

Although speaking English is not required for everyday life in Japan, it is definitely does not hurt to be able to speak and understand the language.

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