Living in Japan, teaching English and also using Japanese everyday, I sometimes wonder why learning English is important for Japanese people. Japanese is a rich and excellent language that is really all Japanese people need to go about their normal daily lives. Of course people have all kinds of personal reasons to learn English, but it recently dawned on me that Japan’s self-sufficiency rate is only 39%. Although the Japanese government is now looking at ways to increase the rate of self-sufficiency, Japan is very dependent on the world to provide its daily needs. To do this, many people working for many Japanese companies are using English every day to conduct business that will assure the continued supply of Japan’s vital needs.
Although the general public rarely thinks about the precariousness of this situation, it is extremely important especially in today’s world in which people in countries around the world are competing more and more to assure their own continued access to and supply of vital foodstuffs and raw materials to run their businesses.
So where does English proficiency fit into this picture? Well I think it should be obvious that business transactions between Japan and most other nations in the world are conducted in English, so there is a real and growing need for more Japanese to be better able to use English, both spoken and written in their work.
That said, does this mean that there is a need for more English Conversation Schools in Japan? The answer is an unequivocal “yes”. The recent demise of the largest such private English school which accounted for 60% of the market has opened the door for many new schools to start up and thrive. On top of this the tendency of Japanese public schools to emphasize only written English, grammar study and translation also has left the door wide open.
This is where we, the owners and teachers of Smith’s franchise English Schools can play a very important role. Being school owners, we understand that providing good quality lessons that assure our students a steady and solid path to English proficiency is essential to our success as teachers and business owners as much as it is to our students. Knowledge of this symbiotic relationship between ourselves and our students, assures that we will do our best to help our students to succeed. And in turn, our students can understand the important difference between learning from us, business owners, or from a mere temporary employee of one of the large Japanese corporate schools. The extent of the difference is up to us but our success, pure and simple, depends on the success or our students.
We must not lose sight of this important relationship or the reasons that mastering English is necessary for our students. We are playing an important role in assuring Japan’s continued success and perhaps even a small role in it’s survival. Food for thought, don’t you think?
Time to get back out there and help your students! And that;s what it’s really all about!
Al Bartle (Smith’s School of English – Okamoto)