As the population shrinks and a stronger yen swells companies' buying power for overseas acquisitions, the need for better international communication is growing in Japan. The economy slowed to an annualized 0.4 percent in the second quarter, from 4.4 percent in the previous three months, allowing it to be overtaken by China as the world's second biggest.
He forced all executives to take the Test of English for International Communication, or TOEIC, a standardized business English test, in April. "I want the company to be internationalized because we can't remain 'Tokyo's Asahi' forever," Izumiya said. Globish was started in 1995 by French native Jean-Paul Nerriere, a retired marketing executive at IBM Corp., according to its website. The first book on the language was published in 2004.
At Rakuten, Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Mikitani, a Harvard Business School graduate, is pushing for the use of English in internal documents and meetings. He spoke English at a news conference for mostly Japanese reporters Aug. 5 when the company announced its first-quarter earnings. The rush into English has raised concerns with some executives in Japan.
At Honda Motor Co., which sold 82 percent of its vehicles in overseas markets in 2009, Chief Executive Takanobu Ito said the enforced use of English is "ridiculous." He said companies should use English only when appropriate, not in meetings attended only by Japanese people.
Yanai has told his employees to study English for two hours every day for a year and offers a program to acquire English skills. Fast Retailing is also working on a global system to produce 1,000 internationally competent managers every year. English conversation schools in Japan are recording spikes in enrollment.
The number of new corporate clients jumped 50 percent in the three months through June 30 from a year earlier, said Jun Nakagawa, a spokesman at Berlitz Japan Inc. Interest in Chinese has also increased, overtaking French in terms of numbers of students to second place, he said. Employees who are fluent in English will be essential for overseas expansion plans, said Naomi Fink, a strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. "There's more emphasis put on English and English as a communication language for business in Asia as a whole," Fink said. It's needed "to communicate with the maximum amount of potential clients or potential business partners."(The Japan Times)