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New law states gov't responsible for teaching Japanese to foreigners

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Hit and miss policies by a government that is in truth, just paying lip service to a decades old problem.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

The amount of hot air coming out of the government could fill a squadron of hot air balloons.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

This is really good. It’s important for any government to work towards inclusion of its foreign residents. It only serves to make things better for all parties.

That said, Japanese cities are pretty consistent about providing free or very affordable Japanese lessons through city hall. Pretty much all of them have something on offering.

That's why it always disappoints me when I meet foreign residents who can’t speak and aren’t even studying. There’s little excuse for it, and in the end they’re only making their own lives more difficult. Every little bit you learn makes it a little easier to live here. As someone who speaks Japanese, I can tell you that while I’m of course not Japanese, I am accepted into and part of my local community, same as all the other residents. And the relevance is that in being a part of the community together, we’re not so foreign to each other.

Take the time to learn, even if you’re only here a few months. You’ll enjoy the country that much more with every bit you learn.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

Aside from saying the government should be responsive and assigning a group of people to look into it, they haven’t actually committed to any action.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There’s little excuse for it

I think you would be surprised, I got talking to a young Lebanese in his 20ties working in Lawsons, he told me life in Japan is hard, he works minimum 60 hours per week, there just isn't much spare times for socializing.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

This is an encouraging position taken by the government. How about they also outlaw replying to foreigners speaking Japanese in English? Seriously, that would go a long way to help people keep motivated to learn Japanese.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

roflmao another law thought up by bureaucrats and as functional as a chocolate tea pot.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is the same government that is responsible for teaching Japanese people English and other foreign languages. We know how poorly that worked out. Only 12% of Japanese people have a conversational proficiency in any second language and only 8% have an English TOEIC score above 700 despite studying the language for ten years or more. But, they expect all foreigners to gain a Japanese proficiency in just a few months? TIJ!

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Beneficiaries, businesses that can keep wages low by taking advantage of cheap foreign labor, should foot the bill, not taxpayers.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

@strangerland

Japanese cities are pretty consistent about providing free or very affordable Japanese lessons through city hall

Well I checked it in Musashino and it's not free, it's once a week and it's in the middle of the day. (And I had the same experience when I lived in Saitama, Setagaya and Tsukiji too). So as others have pointed out, most of the time local governments and the central government merely pay lip-service.

What working person has the time to go to a Japanese class in the middle of the day anyway??? Maybe some stay-home mothers can benefit from this. Or the pensioners. But for the rest of 99% that is not helpful in any way.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

you know what the funny thing is.

the government has been responsible for ensuring that the population be instructed in english for 60+ years now yet almost nobody can.

now we have this enormous influx of workers from the philippines who - wouldn't you know it - all speak english.

oh japan, if only you weren't so incompetent sometimes.

i'm not saying that english should be the default language to use for these people as obviously, it's japan so they should learn japanese, but you know, sometimes being able to communicate using the most common language on earth just makes things easier.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Well I checked it in Musashino and it's not free, it's once a week and it's in the middle of the day. (And I had the same experience when I lived in Saitama, Setagaya and Tsukiji too). So as others have pointed out, most of the time local governments and the central government merely pay lip-service.

What working person has the time to go to a Japanese class in the middle of the day anyway??? Maybe some stay-home mothers can benefit from this. Or the pensioners. But for the rest of 99% that is not helpful in any way.

I also concur with these statements. On top of that, the people teaching are usually volunteering retirees with no actual professional teaching experience, and they are geared mostly for foreign housewives. This and the fact that government buildings close early explains the daytime only courses.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Wow How generous this is. Any other countries which central governments do this much?

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

On the job language lesson surrounded by Japanese colleagues and customers for 60+hrs per week must be the best training for sure.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Very good, no matter the tears and moaning

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

You can imagine the enthusiasm for this golden new project handed to some poor bureaucrat who drew the short straw, especially when you look at the resounding success they’ve had with English instruction for their own nationals.

Cue

How do we make this one ‘look like’ it could work?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well I checked it in Musashino and it's not free, it's once a week and it's in the middle of the day. (And I had the same experience when I lived in Saitama, Setagaya and Tsukiji too). So as others have pointed out, most of the time local governments and the central government merely pay lip-service.

Tokyo is actually one place I've never looked into Japanese lessons.

But in a former job, part of my job was helping staff settle into their cities. I would always bring them to their city hall to get them lessons. I did this in many cities in many prefectures. As I said, most of them offer free or affordable lessons. Even your city hall does, it's just not at a time that is convenient to you.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I think you would be surprised, I got talking to a young Lebanese in his 20ties working in Lawsons, he told me life in Japan is hard, he works minimum 60 hours per week, there just isn't much spare times for socializing.

If you're working in the language, you aren't going to need as much time studying. I'm sure that kid speaks Japanese to a degree.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

they expect all foreigners to gain a Japanese proficiency in just a few months?

I don't see that anyone has stated that as an expectation. Where are you getting this from?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

When I first arrived in Japan I signed up to the free Japanese lessons in our city, but they weren't very good beyond the basics. The varying levels of ability in the class were never addressed and the quality of the teaching wasn't so good.

I ended up paying for an expensive course at ECC but had to stop after I couldn't afford it anymore.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

basic Japanese should be a requirement for any visa beyond a year with work possibility.

any 3+ year visa should have at least level 3 Japanese as requirement.

truest me it will be better for everyone involved.

-7 ( +5 / -12 )

How about they also outlaw replying to foreigners speaking Japanese in English?

I am doing this always unless they are in real trouble.

Some foreigners didn't like being talked to in English.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

About 60years of learning English in Japan and people still can't speak the language, this is totally down to the English speaking teachers who come here to teach. It's their job to raise the speaking level. The Japanese system has taught the students to read and write English to a very high level, in some cases higher than in English speaking countries. Most foreign English teachers have no qualifications and some don't even know how to explain grammar, so what do you expect.

@blaise-northey I totally agree with you, even if a Japanese person has a smattering on English they'll struggle to answer in English just because you're a foreigner. In any other country this is considered to be very rude.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

will set up a convention to be advised by a panel of experts.

(⌒▽⌒)

7 ( +7 / -0 )

basic Japanese should be a requirement for any visa beyond a year with work possibility.

any 3+ year visa should have at least level 3 Japanese as requirement.

It would depend on the job. In some cases it would be necessary but I don’t think all would need level 3.

Japanese isn’t necessary in my department where English is used and some foreigners stay for years ( average 2 or 3 ) after being transferred. Some don’t reach even a basic level of Japanese skills. One guy I worked with seemed quite proud of his lack of ability. As I’m planning to leave soon, I sometimes wonder if I wasted my time studying it to a reasonably high level. I wish I’d improved my Mandarin instead.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

The Japanese system has taught the students to read and write English to a very high level, in some cases higher than in English speaking countries.

Not my experience. Many of the documents written in English I receive from Japanese people, from engineers in particular, are total gibberish. Our translator tells me that most Japanese people are not particularly good at writing at length in Japanese, never mind in English, as this skill is not emphasized in education.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Interesting but extremely dangerous system where the government is held responsible therefore liable for educating foreigners.

It is 1) the responsibility of any foreigner to "learn" and "become proficient" in any contry's national language and 2) not that government to be responsible for "teaching" the language, but 3) to "require" that all including its citizens and foreigners to learn and use its national language. This opens up major problems of liability and abuse of the system, especially when Japan is allowing more foreign workers in.

Probably political maneuver by majpr corporations to shift such responsibility and liability to the government, in essense the people of the country (via taxes). Secondarily it is a good revenue source for abusive schools and teachers to make money off the government and not be held liable for the failures.

Such is the problem with socialism where individual responsibility is shifted to the society as a whole and forcing the society to pay for expenses which should be that of the individuals getting the benefit. Its similar to charging special freeway or bridge tolls to non users. It is like paying for NHK fees just because one owns a device that can receive all other stations as well as NHK. The difference is that this system is wide open to abuse, both by the foreigners and by those that hire those foreigners besides the schools and teachers.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

That said, Japanese cities are pretty consistent about providing free or very affordable Japanese lessons through city hall. Pretty much all of them have something on offering.

Indeed, my wife teaches in one such program funded by the ward government.

That's why it always disappoints me when I meet foreign residents who can’t speak and aren’t even studying.

It’s worse than that. I know several prominent academic “Japan specialists” who are frequently cited by foreign correspondents who are in fact illiterate in Japanese and have only limited Japanese conversation skills.

Only 12% of Japanese people have a conversational proficiency in any second language

Indeed, but is that unusual. What percentage of native born Americans or Brits have conversational proficiency in any second language?

Well I checked it in Musashino and it's not free

Musashino is not the only city in Japan. A sample of one is not a sufficient base for generalising about all cities in Japan.

On the job language lesson surrounded by Japanese colleagues and customers for 60+hrs per week must be the best training for sure.

Indeed. Foreign sumo wrestlers are another case in point. They become near native level speakers of Japanese in a matter of months.

Our translator tells me that most Japanese people are not particularly good at writing at length in Japanese, never mind in English, as this skill is not emphasized in education.

That’s the same way Japanese has been taught in the US/UK. I had to pay for my own Japanese conversation lessons because it was not part of my program in the US. When I was teaching in Britain, I tried to get writing included in our Japanese language program. All of the senior Brits opposed my proposal. They could not imagine a foreigner needing to be able to write Japanese even if they were working in Japan.

I ended up having to write a great amount in Japanese even though I had no training whatsoever.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Not my experience. Many of the documents written in English I receive from Japanese people, from engineers in particular, are total gibberish. Our translator tells me that most Japanese people are not particularly good at writing at length in Japanese, never mind in English, as this skill is not emphasized in education.

The Japanese school system does not teach them how to write a paper to make a given argument, starting with an overview, logically working through points outlined in that overview, and finishing off with a summary. Your translator is correct. I've done a lot of translation of Japanese by fairly elite people, that has been extremely hard to follow due to it being poorly laid out.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Interesting but extremely dangerous system where the government is held responsible therefore liable for educating foreigners.

That's a non-sequitur. It does not follow that they are liable if foreigners do not learn by their responsibility to provide the education. If they provide a poor system they are liable. If they provide a good system that foreigners do not use, they will not be liable.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Such is the problem with socialism where individual responsibility is shifted to the society as a whole

Except that it's not. You just said that, it's not actually based in how things really work.

forcing the society to pay for expenses which should be that of the individuals getting the benefit.

Um, better integrated foreigners is a benefit to society. You just clearly stated those receiving the benefit should pay, yet you're whining about society paying, even though it will receive that benefit.

Makes no sense mate. Just a bunch of "blah blah socialism evil" empty speech that doesn't actually match how the real world works.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

About 60years of learning English in Japan and people still can't speak the language, this is totally down to the English speaking teachers who come here to teach. It's their job to raise the speaking level. The Japanese system has taught the students to read and write English to a very high level, in some cases higher than in English speaking countries. Most foreign English teachers have no qualifications and some don't even know how to explain grammar, so what do you expect.

That is a nonsensical myth like all Japanese are nice and friendly. Most are not!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Indeed, but is that unusual. What percentage of native born Americans or Brits have conversational proficiency in any second language?

It would be higher than average because it is a nation of immigrants. If you are talking about the White population then that is a different story, and you may have an argument.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Indeed. Foreign sumo wrestlers are another case in point. They become near native level speakers of Japanese in a matter of months.

No, they don't. They study in 2 yr programs before joining a stable like other foreigners looking to work directly for a Japanese company.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Makes no sense mate. Just a bunch of "blah blah socialism evil" empty speech that doesn't actually match how the real world works.

kasutsukai's post reads like someone regurgitating what they previously read from the internet. There was not much critical thinking or incite involved.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The Japanese system has taught the students to read and write English to a very high level, in some cases higher than in English speaking countries.

This is so wrong and misguided it's actually funny. It's amazing how many believe this, though.

I once did some work for an advertising agency, they were producing English language guides for resorts in Japan. It was hard to read, difficult to understand and any information was lost in a maze of google translate and someone who had an extremely over optimistic view of their English proficiency. When I pointed out some of the most obvious problems, as they were paying me to do, I was told I was wrong and it was correct English.

I feel sorry for the businesses who employed this agency.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

This is Japan, if you want to stay, you learn Japanese. They have no obligations whatsoever to learn your language.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

What the Japanese need to do is learn English at a competent level like Singaporeans do, even though most of them speak Chinese as their first language. That way, the language barrier is reduced. Japanese always need somebody to blame and "eigo dekimasen" is the knee jerk reaction here whenever a foreigner is encountered. I learned Japanese for 2 years at a NPO and it was a very good school. I still have barriers put up, even though I thought I cleared the Japanese one. Teaching Japanese only keeps the incompetence circle game in play, and most Japanese know this. For me, its just laziness. Many of us diligently studied and enjoyed Nihongo, only latter to grow a disdain for it. This is mostly Japans fault. I wished now I would of studied another language and culture that was more inclusive, and I was innocent like before and didnt understand all the insults about gaijin I hear daily.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"Not my experience. Many of the documents written in English I receive from Japanese people, from engineers in particular, are total gibberish. Our translator tells me that most Japanese people are not particularly good at writing at length in Japanese, never mind in English, as this skill is not emphasized in education."

My experiences mirror this. Pages and pages and man hours spent on some report, only to have the title page introduce it in nonsensical English, and to the competent reader, disqualifying the whole thing. Bring it to the kantoku attention, only to be scolded, as its the contents that are most important to him. From my observation, Japanese lack a developed imagination; its crushed during their formative years. Creative writing, an essential subject during my elementary, high school, even college days, is not developed here. It is a rare find in Japan to find any such writer. Occasionally I do, but its rare, and usually that person has spend considerable time abroad. Its like they take pieces of this and that, disregard what they consider as trivial, but actually to others, important, and try to mesh it all together in some disconnected nonsense that fits their version of reality.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

indeed, but is that unusual. What percentage of native born Americans or Brits have conversational proficiency in any second language?

First of all, in the U.S. there is no need to learn another language. French and Spanish is taught in high schools, but many, including myself, never enrolled in those classes, there just wasnt a need for it to find work, join the military, daily life etc. The US, at least in those days, was a super power and a 1st world country; to learn another countries language was not necessary, but it does enrich your life outlook and experiences. If there was an obsession with French or Japanese in the US, you can be assured that those people would have mastered it by now. Japan, on the other hand, has spent decades, or even centuries? studying English and still cannot master it. I think that qualifies as an absurd obsession. They can master Japanese, however. So whats the issue? blame it on the gajin who come here to teach? Thats rich, but not suprising. Surrounding countries have mastered it, like the Philippines and Singapore. We all know it comes to down to fun and games. They arent serious about it. Its a hustle, it keeps the fun and games in play.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Strangerland is right. When I lived in Japan, I would learn a Japanese sentence in the morning and go and practice it in the afternoon. I couldn't understand a lot of the replies but it was really fun communicating in bad Japanese. They'd be many times when I would walk out of a shop and about 10 metres down the road I'd go "Oh, that word was receipt!" etc. It was a lot of fun. Without knowing Japanese, you can only experience 10% of Japan. I was 41 and I couldn't read! I felt like a 4 year old. I couldn't even work a photocopier when I was in Japan. I had to call the staff lol. On two occasions, I also ordered two white coffees in McDs when I only wanted one lol. The staff must have thought I was a caffeine junky. Sitting at a table in McDs with two coffees to yourself looks funny! In 1997, I lived in Denmark. After three months in the country, I was made to go to 'language school'. I tried it for a bit but it wasn't for me. The main problem being everyone in DK speaks perfect English so as soon as you opened your mouth and they heard you weren't Danish they spoke to you in English. Combine that with impossible to pronounce words and I bailed! Let's be honest, Japanese is super tough so anything that helps is welcomed. I think it's a good idea.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Inclusion makes sense only if the immigrant can have a hope to stay as permanent resident. The integration effort lies in both sides. What about Japanese learning proper English to deal with immigrants (most of them have the basics contrarily to even graduated Japanese)?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If every Japanese in this country , Japan speaks English as all other countries do, things will improve for the Japanese. If all laws are readable in English then Japan is ready to go forward. I hate to say this but speaking, writing and reading only in Japanese language is the sign of a country too frighten and too square to see the future of their lives. This is a major problem for the Japanese who has the attitude that this is Japan. Too bad for all Japanese. Even in remote peru, things are getting more advance. A country is ended when that country only operates in their own language.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The biggest problem (for me at least) is being unable to be in a "Japanese only" environment, as crazy as it sounds. I've been living in Tokyo for almost 3 years now, and while my Japanese isn't as bad as I tell myself it is, whenever I use it, I get so nervous the initial 20 seconds of conversation that I'm unable to speak coherently even though I know in my mind what to say and how to say it, and this is, ironically, just from a lack of speaking Japanese enough.

From english communication with my friends while I was at language school to using English primarily for my job, to my Japanese homestay family using english primarily (American and Japanese parents, both fluent in both Japanese and english), I've always wanted, and have been completely unable, ironically, to be in a place where english just doesn't exist. Any time I've been with actual Japanese (like the times I've gone to the countryside for work with Japanese colleges), and I've been in an 100% Japanese environment, I'm able to, after a few hours, start to naturally get a feel for speaking and hearing the language. The moment I get back to my normal environment, the path of least resistance kicks in, and the cycle repeats.

For me at least, If it weren't for the fact that I depend on my Job for Financial and Visa concerns, I would prefer to take a Japanese language experience in an environment where english does not exist, and I can't use it for anything. Where Japanese is a requirement for anything. Enough of that, and eventually it'll stick. This sort of thing, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't actually exist, so I'ld like to see something a little more restrictive in this sense.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Likewise, every time I try to speak Japanese, the reply is always in English. I have to speak English at work, and though my family encourage me to speak Japanese, in practice English is just more practical (they speak fluent English, I can't speak any Japanese). This is especially so after work when you are too tired and even the most basic sentences have to be lessons due to my low ability.

I study hard, and have done for years, and once I even managed a pass at N5, but I have no natural ability, I can't afford lessons, and I have no opportunity to practice the language. I went along to a local community class a few times, but the volunteers spent 90% of the time speaking to me in English! At the end I asked them why they teach Japanese and they told me outright - so they can practice their English! I felt jealous of those learners at higher levels that could keep the conversation in Japanese.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

vinarius@pm.catv.ne.jpJune 22  11:59 pm JST

If every Japanese in this country , Japan speaks English as all other countries do, things will improve for the Japanese. If all laws are readable in English then Japan is ready to go forward. I hate to say this but speaking, writing and reading only in Japanese language is the sign of a country too frighten and too square to see the future of their lives. This is a major problem for the Japanese who has the attitude that this is Japan. Too bad for all Japanese. Even in remote peru, things are getting more advance. A country is ended when that country only operates in their own language.

First of all, every single citizen of all other countries do speak English? Really? Even Canada, It's not rare French-speaking youth in the East comes to English schools in the West. What about it?

Secondly, What do all laws readable in English have to do with Japan being ready going forward?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Inclusion makes sense only if the immigrant can have a hope to stay as permanent resident.

Say what? I'm not seeing any logical basis behind this statement.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was surprised seeing Stragerlans comment getting a lot of dislikes. 

Choosing to live in Japan is your own choice, although it may not have been the best or easiest one to make. Language plays an important part, in any culture and country, in "belonging". I don't expect everybody to be fluent, but it is also unrelaistic to expect Japan to switch to English in a snap of a finger. Sadly, despite the avialability of free langauge classes offered by NPOs and municipalities, there are still some who choose not to study the usual  reason being too busy with work. However, an hour each week for language class is not too much if you are really determined.

Whether you are here for decades or for a year, learning the basics won't hurt. Also, volunteer teachers don't just teach the langauge they also teach you the customs, etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow How generous this is. Any other countries which central governments do this much?

Yeah...its truly amazing...lol.....If you spend a few minutes on Google you will know well places like Australia, NZ, Canada, EU do this and way way more.....inconvenient truth huh?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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