Should Japanese speak English in Japan?

I woke up to a strongly worded comment on my blog this morning. To quote:

For me, Japanese, what you described about the people at the immigration office offended my feeling pretty much. Because the nuance of your story is telling me that the people at the immigration office should or must communicate with non-Japanese in English. What on earth are you talking about. Why can’t you speak some more Japanese besides “visa wa” or “godochosha”? Do you look down on us? I strongly believe that if Japanese had the same situation, some or more than half of them would try to speak in their language in spite of wrong grammar or horrible pronunciations. Simple question for you. Are you a racist?

Interesting.

My response was that, of course, I’m not a racist. I just think that in a place such as an immigration office, which deals with foreigners on a daily basis, there should at least be English signs, if not someone who can speak the language. Or, in Hamamatsu’s case, I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had found Portuguese and no English – and that would have been understandable (there’s a huge Brazilian population in Hamamatsu).

When living in Japan, I think it is SO important to learn Japanese. I don’t think you have to speak it fluently, but if you want to get by without constantly having to ask someone to help, you’re going to need some Japanese. I often find myself frustrated when I’m put in important situations though, because I lack the vocabulary or grammatical structure to be able to express myself well, and my Japanese comes out broken and probably sounds silly (like yesterday at the immigration office).

Anyway, the reason for this post is to get your opinion. Should Japanese speak English in Japan?

In my opinion, no. Why should they? However, if someone chooses to work in a job where they will be dealing with foreigners on a daily basis, I believe it wouldn’t hurt to learn a few key phrases at least. In big cities, where many foreigners live, I would expect to see signs in English (and other languages), hear announcements in various languages, and find people who can speak languages other than Japanese. That is the case already, in many places.

As you know, my job is to teach English to Japanese students. My students range from college students looking for a job, to bored housewives, to retirees. Everyone has their own reasons for learning English, but generally speaking they seem to be:

  • I need it for my job/I might need it for my job
  • I need it for school/college
  • I want to travel
  • It’s my hobby

In the first category, some of these students almost never have to use English at work, but they know how important it could be. So they make the effort to come to English conversation school once a week to try to learn a few phrases. I really respect them. Not only are they trying to improve themselves by learning a new skill, but they are also trying to help others.

Come on fellow foreigners in Japan, admit it, you’re often slightly relieved when you go to an official office, the doctor’s office, or a hotel and find that someone speaks to you in English, right? Or is that just me? I love the challenge of speaking Japanese, but sometimes, just sometimes, isn’t it nice to find someone who can help you in English?

Well, that’s how I feel anyway. How about you? Please take the poll below and also leave a comment. If you leave a comment, I’d be interested to know how long you have been living in Japan (if you are) and what you would say your level of Japanese ability is. I’ve been in Japan almost three years and I would say “intermediate”, or JLPT (old) 3 Kyuu.

Thanks for joining in! 🙂

45 thoughts on “Should Japanese speak English in Japan?

  1. I always try to learn a little of the language before I go to another country. It seems arrogant not to, and it really annoys me when people say “everyone should just speak English!”… however, it’s pretty hard to become fluent in a language – especially one so different from English, like Japanese – in a short amount of time. People who seem fluent have been studying for at least 5 years. The Japanese should NOT have to speak English… but it is surprising how little a lot of people can speak after the amount they study it at school! However, I think it’s often shyness or a reluctance to speak it rather than an inability, and I have met a great deal of Japanese people who have excellent English. Also, yes, I’ll admit I feel relieved when I find someone who can speak English – it takes a lot of stress out of the situation!

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    • Thanks Gwynnie – I’m glad it’s not just me who sometimes feels a little relieved when someone can speak English!

      I like to try to learn a little bit of the language before I go to a country, too. The first time I came to Japan I came armed with my Lonely Planet phrasebook and the two words I had managed to memorise “sumimasen” and “arigatou”. I managed with a lot of pointing and gesturing for two weeks! Haha! However, when I went to Prague, I remember arriving for my long weekend and then suddenly feeling shocked at myself because I realised I had completely forgotten to pick up a phrase book. I felt horrible, and would never do that again!

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    • I know I’m totally late to the bandwagon here, but in a lot of cases it IS an inability. For all the years they spend STUDYING English, Japanese students are almost never encouraged to use it. And by the time they enter high school, when their English level should be at least conversational, they begin learning the language IN Japanese from ethnic Japanese teachers who can’t speak English either. The only English that Japanese people outside of places like Narita airport would ever encounter is in the form of “gaidaigo”, that is, english loanwords (such as biiru = beer, eaakon = air conditioner, manshon = condo.) So then you get a population of students who *kinda* know the Latin alphabet, but can’t speak for crap, nor even understand because they are learning from someone who never speaks English to them and whose accent is just as hidoi as theirs is.

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  2. Hey Ali,

    To be honest, I think the fact that people all over the world speak English makes us native English speakers lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly lucky that English is my first language as it makes travelling and living abroad so much easier. Also, I have built my career out of teaching the language!

    On the other hand however, now I have intermediate level Japanese, I find it frustrating when I try to communicate in Japanese, and people reply to me in English. Now, before I go somewhere like the doctors or immigration, I learn how to say the important words in Japanese and then I get upset if I don’t get a chance to use them! It makes improving my Japanese much more difficult.

    Of course, it is often a relief to be able to communicate in English but I think my Japanese and French (I lived in France for a few months before Japan) would be a lot better if people in both countries spoke as much English and British people speak Japanese and French! Or maybe I’m just useless at languages!

    Finally, I think foreign languages are an amazing skill for anyone to have and they are immensely difficult to learn so I have huge respect for anyone who can speak one, but I wouldn’t judge (that word’s a bit harsh but I can’t think of an alternative) anyone who can’t…even if they work in a job where they come into contact with foreigners.

    Meg

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    • Thanks for the comment Meg! 🙂 Actually, I totally agree. I always try to learn some phrases or vocab before I do something, so I can try to speak in Japanese. I guess I was being lazy yesterday because, as I went into the immigration office, I realised I had no idea what I was supposed to say!

      I also feel… frustrated maybe… when I try to speak Japanese and someone replies in English. But when it comes to the important stuff, like immigration or doctors, I would still prefer to speak in my native language if possible.

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  3. I think there is a segment that is being missed in all of this. If Japan wishes to have tourism from other countries, then it is a smart thing to have people available who can converse in other languages.

    Of course I live in California where it’s a given to have people who speak various languages at most government offices and elsewhere. So yeah I agree with you that it makes a lot of sense to have someone who understands English and Chinese and Korean and other languages at least in immigrations at the airport and in major cities.

    I know a lot of people who travel and would love to go visit Japan but they are afraid it is too difficult. That’s money I’m sure Japanese businesses would love to see.

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  4. As a foreigner who does speak/understand Japanese at a pretty high level (not fluent, but “advanced”), I do tend to get annoyed when shopkeepers, waiters, and the like assume I don’t speak Japanese. Sometimes they’re just genuinely trying to be helpful, and I do appreciate that (just like my efforts to speak to Japanese tourists in Japanese here in Hawaii); but, for the most part, in regular everyday interactions, I really would much prefer to have the “real” language immersion experience and to interact with people in the primary language of the land I am visiting.

    That said, I don’t think it is racist or inappropriate at all to suggest that a place like an immigration office should be looking to hire people who speak English. It’s just good business on their end; it makes sense. If you were the manager or supervisor or whatever at the immigration office, and your staff was constantly telling you, “oh, I had such a hard time today, trying to talk to people who only speak English or Spanish or Korean or Chinese.” It makes it easier on you and your staff, and easier on your office, your institution, to have staff that speak another language, whichever language that may be that might be the most useful in that case. (e.g. Portuguese for Hamamatsu, Korean for Fukuoka)

    I don’t think it’s a matter of thinking or saying “you should learn Japanese”. That’s what you’re doing in Japan. You’re trying. You’re working on it. You’re there (in part) to study and practice and learn. An immigration office is, by definition, an office that deals with foreigners, and (almost?) exclusively foreigners. It just makes sense that such a place should be more easily found, navigated, and interacted with. When you enter Japan, the customs and immigrations agents, and most other people you interact with in the airport, will speak to you in English (or at least that has been my experience). So, why should the experience stop there? By the very fact that you need to renew your visa, the very fact that you need to go to the immigration office at all, you are assumed to be someone who is not a native speaker of Japanese, essentially by definition. So, whether it be French, Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog, Chinese, or Korean (doesn’t have to be English), immigration officers, by definition, by the very fact of what their job entails, namely interacting with foreigners, should be expected to speak another language in order to do their job most effectively. Period.

    The only reason it should be otherwise is if the Japanese government is consciously and intentionally following a policy of deliberately ensuring that it is difficult for foreigners to navigate visa procedures.

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    • Japan has only been open to other countries for a fairly short amount of time. I don’t think this excuses the fact that people in places that *should* cater to foreigners linguistically do not do that, but as the Japanese are a very traditionally minded people, it may explain the speed of their progress (or lack of it :P.) They still teach a grand total of 1 and a half languages in schools…yes you heard me, one and a half…. the ONE being “Japanese,” and the half being English, because they TEACH English IN Japanese…. hahaa 🙂 I dunno about you, but if I had tried to learn Japanese by speaking and hearing English all the time, it would never have stuck. They could do a really great service to their people by offering a greater variety of languages from competent native speakers, but knowing the Japanese attitude towards such suggestions (i.e. dismissing me because I am a foreigner,) I don’t think this is forthcoming.

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  5. What a ridiculous comment… (I’ve been a bit annoyed lately at these kinds of comments).

    People that work in immigration should speak other languages, or at least have the resources to help foreigners communicate with them. I don’t see how that’s “racist.” Not everyone is fluent in a language when they come to Japan, and often those people come to do jobs that the Japanese won’t do, or can’t do, due to the decreasing native labor force. (Nursing/caregiving, anyone?)

    In the US, people make a huge deal all the time about providing more resources for immigrants, and so now, particularly in areas with a higher number of immigrants, there are many resources for them, including workers at various facilities who speak multiple languages (Spanish being the main one). In fact, I would say Spanish speakers would have a far easier time in many places in the US than most foreigners would in Japan. Japan shuts itself off to foreigners – wouldn’t such an action imply, in the words of the commenter, “racist” behavior?

    I do agree that people should do their best to learn a language as quickly as they can. But it’s not easy or always fast. Some people simply don’t have the resources. Japan should make itself more foreigner-friendly, because it’s going to need the help in the coming years.

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  6. I lived in Japan for more than 3 years. Living in Japan has improved my listening ability, my kana reading ability and of course I know some phrases and words. But I don’t speak Japanese.

    Before I left for Japan I had certainly intended to learn Japanese, but once I got there and was working full time I just didn’t. So I was very happy when someone spoke English. But I was quite content trying to communicate with the few phrases I knew and loads of gestures. It was part of the adventure of living in Japan.

    I agree that in some situations I would expect people to speak some English like at the immigration offices. In my country and also here in the States, they speak several languages at places like that, because they mostly deal with foreigners so it’s only logical.

    Actually, the immigration office in Osaka has English speaking staff, the one in Nagoya didn’t though. But both of them did have huge signs in English and Portuguese (and Chinese and Korean in Osaka) of where to go, starting in the train stations. That was very helpful!

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  7. Yeah, I agree that at an office where they EXPECT to deal with foreigners, at least some multi-lingual signs would be very beneficial. Also, having some bilingual staff isn’t such a big thing to expect to find in that situation. I wouldn’t expect my supermarket to have anyone who can muster some English, but I would at an immigration office that expects to deal with English-speaking foreigners.

    I don’t think that you were intending to say that Japanese people must speak English or that you look down on them, as the commenter inferred. What it sounded like to me is that you were just stating that, given the context, you were surprised. You didn’t seem angry, just surprised. And you ended with “another reason to learn Japanese” and not “Japanese people need more English.” So, I agree 🙂

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  8. I know you are not a racist. I, Japanese, feel so bad that some unscrupulous Japanese wrote a thoughtless word. You just described about public services. I strongly think people who work for immigration should be able to speak English at least. We have to consider there are a lot of people who has a lot of handycap each other. Can’t speak Japanese is the same as can’t see, can’t hear, can’t walk, and so on. Governmental services should take care of those people. I don’t think that all of Japanese should speak English, but most of Japanese learned English during compulsory education using taxpayers’ money, I think we must use English a little bit more. Do you agree with me?

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    • I’m not sure if I agree that it is a handicap exactly, but I do agree that most people learnt English with taxpayer’s money, so there ought to be a little more English in places where it’s needed. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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  9. Hi,

    I’m german and my wife is japanese. That’s why we had to contact the local immigration office in our town. No small town, by the way, but not too big either. But, and that’s what I want to point out, I don’t think that anyone in this office would be able to speak much english. The normal conversation language is german. If you can’t speak german you will have to ask a (german) friend to join and help you.

    Therefore I’m not surprised to hear that there is not much sign of english language in your immigration office at Hamamatsu. But there is a little difference compared to germany/europe. I’m talking about the kanji. Only few foreigners will have reached a level high enough to read those characters, especially when it comes to some bureaucratic topic. That means, here in europe, you will be able to manage your way through the office signs with the help of a dictionary. This seems to be impossible in japan.

    So I definitely would expect the signs to be bilingual, but I would not expect the office worker to be able to speak more than a few english phrases. And, finally, I do have the impression that Japan does not really encourage foreigners to immigrate, or am I wrong?

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    • Thanks for your comment, Mike. I totally understand about the normal language in your town being German – actually, here in Hamamatsu it’s quite often Brazilian Portuguese. If there had been Portuguese signs, even though I don’t speak a word of the language, I might have been able to guess my way around because at least Portuguese uses the Roman alphabet. You’re right, using a dictionary or phrase book in most countries can be enough, but with the kanji in Japan it can be baffling!

      As for Japan not really encouraging foreigners to immigrate… well, you’re not the first person who I have heard say that, but I have no experience of it myself.

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  10. I am not a native English speaker and I am certainly not good in Japanese. While I make the effort to learn Japanese (as I did with any other language), when visiting Japan sometimes it’s a relief to find a middle ground and have English spoken to me rather than being totally clueless swamped in Japanese.

    People forget that not only English speaking native would appreciate English spoken to them when they are in Japan esp when attending to something important/life saving/life threatening/whatever but those who weren’t (we folks in other Asian countries for instance) find English speaking Japanese a big help too!

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  11. I am not certain whether or not sakura who left nasty comment on your blog is really a Japanese since it’s anonymous. I find it unfair. Sadly, it is highly likely that, when it’s anonymous, Japanese change their personality and become so mean.
    I, as Japanese, believe that Japanese should learn foreign language. Sure, there are plenty of foreign languages in our world but learning English would be the easiest choice for most of the Japanese because they study English at school.
    What I think is that speaking English is just a method. It’s not a goal. The objective of learning foreign language is to spread your horizon (or say wide-open your eyes). Reading news related to Japan written in English would give a broader point of view. Or just talking with foreigners would be another opportunity to know how other people with a different background interpret the subjects. I assume that foreigners would find Japanese’s point of view quite uniform, which could be attributed to the monolingual environment that is largely brainwashed by mass media – TV.
    I sincerely hope the younger generation in Japan would tackle this issue.

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  12. It sounds like a universal debate. How much should a host culture accommodate immigrants? My experience of it in the UK is they’ve decided on “not so much” here. (and feels increasingly xenophobic) I wouldn’t like to be a Japanese trying to navigate it alone. I know my wife couldn’t. (although I do believe it is a right to have an interpreter for important interviews. And I had a Japanese friend who occasionally did interpreting for the NHS in a maternity unit.)

    Yes it makes sense that government facilities dealing principally with foreigners should have people who can speak other languages, or have written information in a variety of languages. If only to make things easier for the government employees. In Japan I would think that Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Portuguese would be more important than English though. ( I’m not sure if even any EU nation accommodates other member states in this way, and we’re meant to be one big happy union.) Only 1.5% of the population are non-Japanese. The majority of these are Korean and Chinese. Only 50 thousand Americans in the 2005 census, so I’d expect even less numbers from other English speaking countries. (I would also guess that a majority of English speaking immigrants are short term rather than long term residents and so even less likely to have high level Japanese skills. Maybe that’s an argument for more English. )

    For an amusing flip side to your situation, the security staff who are the first point of contact at the Japanese Embassy in London can’t speak Japanese and yet ask what your business is there. (I couldn’t get Yuka to only speak Japanese to them. She didn’t think I was being fair)

    I think there is also an onus on the major employers of immigrants to help them navigate Japanese bureaucracy. Either by having people to go with the employee or by having detailed crib sheets and situational phrase books.

    However I wouldn’t expect English (etc.) in doctors offices unless offered as an additional service to cater to a foreign clientele. Nor would I expect it in DMV offices, or ward offices. It’d be nice though, and I was always grateful when I did find someone who would speak English to me when I was in Japan, and also grateful for those who were patient with my Japanese level.

    I think on the tourist level Japan does unexpectedly well actually, particularly in the main urban centres. Again oddly concentrating on English, when much more tourism is coming from Korea and China, rather than the UK, North America and Australia. They’ve really bought into the idea of English as a lingua franca.

    Given that English is compulsory at school it’s surprising that Japanese seem to have such poor English ability. Until you look at how it’s taught. They don’t teach communication they teach written translation and how to pass an exam. (My nephew for instance can do complex grammar questions but can’t speak much beyond some very accented simple phrases or understand much spoken English.) If I were in charge of the Japanese Ministry of Education I’d stop having English as a compulsory subject. I’d make a foreign language compulsory though, and give equal weight to Chinese, Korean, Spanish, French, Hindi, whatever. I’d also divert all the ALT budget into training teachers and giving them grants to study TFL overseas. (I knew a Japanese teacher of English who had never been outside Japan.) I’d also adopt more modern communicative approaches to learning languages.

    (apologies for the length of comment)

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  13. me again!

    two other anecdotes.
    On my first trip to Japan one morning I was feeling very culture-shocked. But a waitress at a café spoke to me in English, and that small gesture really lifted my spirits and bouyed me up the rest of the day.
    Recently on going to Ireland the immigration official greeted my wife with a friendly konnichiha. The complete extent of his Japanese but I thought it was a very nice way to deal with a foreign visitor.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Robert.

      I guess I wouldn’t expect to find English in doctor’s offices etc if it weren’t for the fact that there is so much English in other places already. My city, Hamamatsu, is covered in English and Brazilian Portuguese signs, but when you enter the immigration office it all vanishes. Seems weird, doesn’t it?

      As for English education in Japan, well that should all be changing over the next five or so years, I’ve heard. Hopefully before long kids will be being taught English in English at school. I hope it works…

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  14. Oh, the arrogance. Not surprising though. I encountered many English with your attitude whilst living in Spain.

    “there should at least be English signs, if not someone who can speak the language”.

    Where do you get off? I wonder how many peeps in sunny Bognor speak Japanese.

    Why English? Why not signs in Basque, German, Flemish, Norwegian, French or Welsh or Afrikans?

    I was in Austria last week with a group of English speakers. Most of them spoke a few words of German when interacting with the locals, even though they struggled to communicate effectively.

    There was a large group of native Welsh speakers carrying on conversation in Welsh in a bar we were in (I could only tell by their accents, I don’t understand Welsh). What was impressive though was how well they spoke German when they were placing their orders on the table next to us.

    Let me guess, you’re from the entitlement generation.

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    • Hi Connie

      Thanks for stopping by, commenting on my blog and calling me arrogant. I’m glad you shared your opinion.

      If you had read the entire post and comment thread, you might have picked up on some of my other comments… For example, the fact that many people in Hamamatsu speak Portuguese, and quite often I find I am listening to or attempting to read Portuguese because there is no English – and that I have no problem with that because the Portuguese speakers quite probably out-number the English speakers here.

      I’m not sure why you mentioned my hometown, Bognor Regis, when this is a post about Japan. Yeah, I’m sure there are very few Japanese speakers (or speakers of any other languages) in Bognor, but… that’s not what I’m talking about. What I was originally talking about, if you read it all, was that in a country like Japan, where the written language is impossible to read if you haven’t studied it for a really long time, I would expect places like immigration offices to have signs in other languages. I picked English because apparently between 50 million and 1.8 billion people in the world speak it. It would be lovely to have a huge sign with a multitude of languages on it, but that might be a bit impractical.

      I’m also impressed by the Welsh speakers who ordered in German while in the bar you mentioned. Last weekend I went to a bar here in Japan and ordered in Japanese. Are you impressed by that too?

      Ali

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    • Wow Connie, you are an extremely ignorant person.

      It has nothing to do with the fact that she is English or that she speaks English, but with the fact that, like or not, agree with it or not, English IS the international language.

      When a French person and a Brazilian person get together in another country, please tell me which language they end up speaking to each other in? English, of course – people that travel often usually speak pretty okay English because when they make international friends during their travels, they will speak English amongst each other.

      Therefore, alot of people that go to “international” places LIKE AN IMMIGRATION OFFICE, will most likely try to speak English.

      Think of an Airport – i’ve been to some countries before, and people from all over the world, when they get to an Airport, they will talk to the customs officers in English because it’s just assumed that a customs officer will speak ENGLISH – doesn’t matter if the person is from Germany or Thailand – and it doesn’t matter if the Airport is in China or Argentina – A german isn’t goign to assume that a customs officer in Thailand is going to speak German – but he will assume the person will speak English.

      Like or not, this is a fact.

      So, yes, anyone dealing with international customers, be it an aiport, or an immigration office, should speak English – it’s the international language used to communicate worldwide – if you don’t like the reasoning behind this fact, too bad, but that doesn’t make the blogger arrogant, it makes you ignorant

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  15. Dear Connie,

    I loved your addition to this thread, I found what you had to say not only educational but eye opening as to how supercilious people can still be in this day and age. You mustered up just enough of a counter argument to keep me awake, even though it was only a few paragraphs long. You call Ali arrogant but why did you choose to answer the topic in English? Instead of , say perhaps Basque, German, Flemish, Norwegian, French or Welsh or Afrikaans? Simple, because you assumed that we all read in English… and we both know when you assume, it makes an asshole out of you.

    English is the second most spoken language in the world bar Mandarin and that’s by default due to it’s mass population. That is why all European countries teach English and all over the world in almost every country children are taught it. I bet you a million pounds some kid in the middle of the furthest regions of Godknowswhere, will be able to say at least one word in English… even if its something like ‘sh*t’. Do You think they know that in Flemish??? I think not. Point being, pull your head out and join the rest of us. I’m not trying to promote one world, one language but reading Japanese is a bitch, even to people that are native to the place. Therefore it’s not racist nor unreasonable to want simple instruction in a popular syntax in a place where you would expect a motley crew, with a probable knowledge and understanding of English ( be they French or Zulu) rather than Japanese. If you would like to retort, I’d advise against it as you have been made to look enough of a fool…. So… I’ll expect a reply 😉

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  16. Hey there, it’s me!!
    Interesting discussion happening here 😉

    Many people are touchy about the subject of English and whether or not one SHOULD know how to speak it if they’re not a native speaker.
    Whether people like it or not, English is the #1 international/universal language. Period.

    I personally don’t think that Japanese people should have to speak English in Japan…however in saying that, their government obviously thinks it’s a good idea because they want it taught in schools. Corporations obviously think it’s a good idea, because English eikawa’s are found on virtually every other corner.

    But really…what harm would it do them to learn another language? In my opinion, that is just bettering oneself.

    And yes, in a government office that deals with foreigners (which immigration does strictly deal with foreigners), they should have some staff members that speak other languages, not just English. It is logical to look for potential staff that can communicate with clientele.

    If a city has a high foreign population of a certain cultural group, I think it makes perfect sense to staff offices that deal with those foreigners with employees that can communicate a bit with them.

    Because face it: Japanese is not an easy language to learn. It takes time. So, in the meantime, while foreigners are learning the basics, and learning to read and write and learning about the culture, they will need help, until they are at a level where they can communicate in the language.

    And depending on the situation, some lingo is very difficult to learn and not always practical to expect of people to know. We may know a language very well but sometimes even in our native tongue, it is difficult to grasp complicated legal scenarios and lingo!

    It’s a give and take…

    If someone chooses to move and live in another country, they should be open minded enough to give it a fair shot at learning the language.

    And if a country is going to open their doors to foreigners, they should understand that the integration process takes time and they should encourage their people to broaden their horizons and learn other languages as well.

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  17. No problem! I just read that girl’s comment about you and burst out laughing!! I mean, seriously: YOU arrogant??!! That’s gotta be the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time…just following your blog, it’s obvious you’ve embraced your experiences with open arms and an open mind and you honestly share the amazing and not so amazing aspects. THAT is someone who’s openminded and well-lived. Hats off to you, girl!! It’s too bad we only met when I was leaving, because it would’ve been nice to have more friends like you in the time I was living there. 🙂

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  18. I’d been meaning to comment on this ages ago but forgot. However after having a similar discussion with Japanese friends I was reminded of it.

    Basically if you have ever studied sociology or social policy you could see how simple it is.

    Basically here are some key points as I see it.
    #japan and Japanese society is a racial based nationalist society where the idea of being Japanese is closely ties not only to culture and language but also race.
    #japan needs non-native workers for various reasons and occupations.
    #japan requires no level of language proficiency before attaining a visa.
    #Japanese is not a global language.
    It is fair to say that whilst it is an excellent idea to learn a local language wherever you travel it is also easy to assume that it would be far more difficult for japan to lure the needed international workforce if there was a language requirement.
    Therefore, it is clear that in a way the Japanese government has established a system by need which encourages people to come to japan without any Japanese skills.

    Japan needs non-Japanese workers. A vast majority of non-Japanese workers would not come to japan if there was a language requirement. Therefore there is none. If there is no language requirement then te government must assume that a large proportion of it’s non-Japanese residents are not proficient in Japanese. Which means the government must provide addequate support for the non-japanese in their native language.
    This comment is convoluted because it was typed on my phone.
    What do you think?

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  19. Hi there,

    My name is Rodrigo and I’m one of the many Brazilian who lives in japan. I d just like to add the reason for many Brazilian not speak japanes, the reason is because many of them come here just for working in factories and because of long hours working which sometime is 12 hrs a day and with the plan of going back to Brazil within 2 years or after saving some money makes the Hamamatsu changed a little the way japanese see thing and I appreciate that due to I m japanese s son and I don t speak so.

    I honestly think that not only the japaneses government is aware about foreigner difficulties but also, as exemple, they help a lot the Brazilian comunity here in Hamamatsu because besides of the Imigration office they also offer a translator in hospitals.

    By the way, I m sorry for my English mistakes

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  20. Actually I find it absolutely weird when Japanese want to speak to me in English in Japan. Especially when they just assume I cant speak Japanese and treat me as an idiot foreigner.

    I often ask Japanese people if they visit do the United States do they want people to speak to them in Japanese whenever possible?

    This may be the ultimate factor for me leaving Japan. I feel like when Japanese see me they think Oh I chance to practice my English! We are in Japan and I feel this is rude. I don’t want to practice English all day with people who are just whoring an English lesson out of me.

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  21. Honestly it’s really annoying because I always worked hard studying Japanese so my Japanese is decent (but not fluent, it’s enough to make friends and talk about stuff but not anything intelligent like science lol) but I go to a school in Tokyo (study abroad) where EVERYONE has to learn English. And it pisses me the FUCK off because I came to Japan to learn more Japanese and all day people speak to me in English because I’m white. Now who is racist? -__-

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