Commonly Japanese are not known for speaking English very well. How come?? Or is this an urban legend? — I do not know and it does not matter mostly, since the skill of each individual is quite different. But I think living in countries like USA, Canada, UK, NZ, AU, Ireland etc., whose official language is primarily English, for 6-13 years may be sufficient for one to become proficient in English. “Proficient in English” means that your life is constrained by your brain and capacity not by your English.
Learning a language, however, would never end. Writing in English or for that matter in any language demands constant learning since writing cannot not be separated from writer’s knowledge. For instance, how do you explain the life cycle of Leishmania in a sand fly, if you do not know enough about them? How do you make people understand an algorithm of computer simulations? The level of English proficiency required is so diverse that there is no easy way to measure the competency. One must build the knowledge and competency required in their own field in any language. I would rather be a good scientist, but good English would not hurt science either…
I, however, should say that Japanese may think other nationals may particularly better at English than they really are, though not many people are pointing this out. There are “sampling biases”. That is, Japanese only see people who can speak English very well since people who speak English speak more, obviously. If non-Japanese-non-English speakers come to Japan, they tend to know English better than average person in their own country; i.e, French farmers and scientists who have no interest in English will not likely to come to Japan and speak English nor come to the meeting in US and UK. A rather famous French scientist claimed that he would speak English only at a gun point. People who go to a MBA are likely to speak better English than average folks. They are social people with business in their mind and with strong intention to expand their social and business network. Intelligent people who do not speak English well tend to be quiet in English conversation. Also in conferences, English of some of Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian people is equally odd.
A lot of local shop keepers do not speak fluent English other than the words they constantly use in Antwerp and Trieste or shops outside of tourist districts. It is not uncommon that I suggest words for them when they cannot come up with English words during conversations with Dutch, Belgian and German etc. Surely they have correct pronunciation and grammar than mine but overall the level of English in Europe is lower than I expected. Partly because many European does not care and often look down UK and USA. Not so small number of European people do not care about English as long as they know “enough”. Normally conversation speed is 1.8-1.2 slower those of Brits and Americans, so many European do have troubles in communicating in English. Many people in Japan may be not realizing other’s difficulty so much.
Any case, a plenty of people are chatting about English proficiency of Japanese so I just selected some blogs. I may not particularly agree with the contents but they shed interesting light on.
These people provide interesting perspectives but read them with a grain of salt: many people including myself are often just selling themselves in their advice. Put everything on the table and think about it. Think once, twice and so on, and think one more time. If you decided to come out, you may see both heavens and hells which you have never imagined before. Either way, the world will engulf Japan sooner or later. People may have to compete with billions of people including Chinese, Indians and Africans etc who are eager to toil away to reach a better life.
Knowing English may help you out since the ability to communicate in English can convert “strangers” to information source and partners. Your playing fields can expand to many countries whose semi-official language is English. It is all up to you. But if you spread yourself too thin without specialized skills and just dreaming ever changing dreams, then you may literally hit a sudden death in the end. Some may argue that people should learn Chinese now since it might take over the coming decades. But as far as communication in science is concerned, English will be the dominant language in foreseeable future.
blogs on remotely related topics:
Each country can learn so many things from each other to improve their own country. The end of improvement and learning means the end of progress and competitiveness of society.
A strong advocate of a laid-back French life style: one of the most unique opinions and fairly convincing even if entries tend to be wacky. But he lives in France…
Un ardent défenseur de la vie d’un style décontracté français
Een uitgesproken voorstander van een laid-back stijl van het Franse leven (This is Dutch not German. Notice no Capitals. via google translate.)
This is very logical even though it looks illogical at first glance. If this is practical is another issue. I think this idea is a little bit similar to Amish and Mennonite who mostly reject convenience of modern life. I am not a historian but this type of ideas has been prevalent in societies with a limited amount of resources. In Belgium, people who do not take their holidays are already punished. One must use up certain holidays in a given year, otherwise he will lose the same amount of holidays he missed next year. That is why I asked a secretary to register my all unused holidays at the end of the year, even though I did show up at the office.
「日 本人はなぜ悲観論が好きか Media of any countries provide exaggerated pessimistic as well as optimistic articles. I am not sure if Japanese are any pessimistic than other nationals. Probably they are, right now.
フランス人から見た日本特集『Un oeil sur la planète: Japon : le reveil du sumo ?』（2/2）。”フランス人は基本的には日本のことを良く知らないので、問題も深刻に伝わってないのだと思います。逆にフランス 人はフランスの抱える問題について熟知しているため、日本の方が楽しい国だと想像する人もいます。”
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But the opposite is also true, like China, Japan, Korea, America, Iran, Iraq, Islam and Christian bashing etc … Distorted information is partly based on sampling bias and media who try to oversimplify complicated subjects.
Discussion on English education in Japan:
Interesting discussion is going on about English education in Japan. The author is in MIT MBA program. Some of her blogs are quite interesting, though she does not seem to know much about Europe and many other things. Any case, it seems that people defending the English education system had never really lived in other countries.
Good luck. I think this is a dead end discussion. Teachers can educate students a subject up to a certain level. But the required skills are too diverse in the current competitive global society so it is hard to find an optimal teaching method for all. Ultimately the responsibility rests on an individual; you can adjust faster and better than an organization or institution whose interest is directed toward majority and not to specific need of individual. It seems community colleges like in the US may harness educational opportunities for people who need or like to acquire new skills. Learning is fun after all when we know what we can do with it and are self-motivated.
He managed ESL programs in Fiji. The program seems to attract a bunch of unique people and drifters. It may give real game changing opportunities for some. But it is not kind of place I recommend, unfortunately. The overall standard seems to be so low since one of the most important factors of school is the quality of students and these students seemed to be marginal.