My business gets business because Japanese are not so good at English.

With apologies and respect to those Japanese who are fantastic speakers of English, my business eSolia gets business because Japanese speak English poorly. We act as an ombudsman between overseas businesses and their branches based in Japan, and I tell you, it’s a challenge to find Japanese people who can fit our service model of having fluent English and technical skills.

Having watched my kids grow up in the school system here in Japan, there is such a strong focus on memorization, still, that there is just no way they could end up proficient in English.

You have to learn a language like a baby does - through sound and repetition. That’s always where to start, not by slogging through soul-crushingly long, eyesight-destroying lists of English vocab. Kids in Japan got vocabulary, but it’s all in their head. They mostly can’t speak, because they don’t speak in class. Their Japanese teachers are no better, with some foisting their awful, embarrassing pronunciation on their classes. I’ve seen that nonsense first hand.

There are periodic articles in local English newspapers stating that English proficiency is poor, or scores or down, and so on. The Gov’t of Japan has been paying lip service to better learning of English since I came here in 1987 (blergh, getting old here), but I’ve seen only modest improvements. It’s because of the irrational focus on rote memorization in my opinion.

When I have conference calls, I always wonder why other S.E. Asia countries’ English speakers are doing fine, and why Japan’s mostly aren’t. People from Singapore, Hong Kong, India all have “accented” English, but speak it fluidly and with confidence, generally.

I myself have an accent I reckon: an American one (or by now, maybe a Japanese one!). Monbusho just never change, do they? I think my business will still have opportunities from now and into the future.