Softbank offers employees Y1 mil incentive to master English


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I know a guy who has a very high TOEIC score, completed a masters degree at a British university - but cannot speak to me at all in English.

I have another student who consistently scores around 780 for his TOEIC but has no problem on the phone, speaks really well, and gives complicated presentations and completes detailed negotiations in English as part of his job (his writing and grammar sucks but he is very understandable).

It`s the same old story - the Japanese love what can be measured and tested easily. Speaking ability cant so they just kind of skip over it - and this is the result.

I have heard though that one of the tests now has a speaking test - is that TOEIC or TOEFL? I know that IELTS does, as does the Eiken from level 3 upwards.

I have to give credit where its due though - I know some guys who work insanely long hours and yet still cram in English study dilligently every day. Got to admire their determination!

9 ( +13 / -4 )

I'm sorry, but it is useless. I've met many students who have a high TOEIC score but struggle when it comes to making an overseas call.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

um... my Japanese wife has a perfect 990. We are both English teachers. Softbank: Do you need some help?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

makes you kind of want to apply for a weekend job =)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I was a bit surprised how high my TOEFL was after university, considering I barely passed the test 3 years earlier. If one possesses good English skills, one can score high easily, but a high score doesn't mean that one possesses good English skills. Just like JLPT, many high scoring people stumbled and felt awkward when talked to.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

On a related note, about 150 years ago, Mori Arinori, the first Minister of Education for Meiji government, advocated for adoption of English as the language of education and commerce.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

TOIEC helps, heck anything helps when learning a language as an adult.

my company definitely saw a difference in the Tokyo Office with those who passed the test. I can agree with comments regarding speech interaction- however many office interchanges are by email or instant message.

and the conversations are getting better - but both sides need to work on it, not just the Japanese. How can i expect the Japanese to understand 3 US accents, 1 British, 1 Welsh, 1 Scottish and the Indian all in English from our office with perfect clarity?

I don't sometimes......

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Not gonna master English with TOEIC methinks. Still, 1,000,000 yen is a nice incentive....

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I am not sure what the reason is for Softbank to incentivise their employees to master English. It is a great motivator no doubt. However, I wonder once they do well on their TOEIC are they going to be using the skill on a daily basis or often enough to justify the investment. It would make some sense if these employees were trainers to go to the United States to help Sprint with their awful customer service culture. I sure hope Mr Son's gamble pays off. Good luck!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I must add a note for those who are going to be taking English for Soft bank's bonus. When you take lessons do not shake your head yes as if you understand when you do not understand. The teacher will think you understand and it will not help you or the teacher. As a teacher I have learned that if a Japanese student is shaking their head yes then they do not understand what I am saying. TOEIC is an OK test but is rather elementary and from what I have seen is that most people do not do well on the listening portion, there is no speaking portion of the test. The biggest problem with the speaking of any other language in Japan is Katakana, it blocks the Japanese from pronouncing things correctly.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's pretty common knowledge that we're better at learning languages than the Japanese.

Really? Cause you know a lot of bilingual people back home? I come from a supposedly bilingual country where half the people can't even speak one language correctly, so excuse me if I doubt your "common knowledge".

Every foreigner I meet picks up this language quite fast.

Hmmm. Most foreigners I meet have terrible Japanese skills. They do have a tendency to over-rate their own ability from what I've observed, so maybe that's what you're talking about?

I hate Softbank, but I'll give them props here for placing a clear objective and a worthwhile incentive in front of their staff.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Well you can't say they aren't trying

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It's about time a Japanese company take some initiative to move in a direction that will only bring improvements and not failure. Although they are or will be studying for a test of English scores, it is a whole lot better than going to a dysfunctional home town eikaiwa that has very low results in producing good English speakers. Best luck to everyone that takes advantage of this promotion.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I think I will say more on this topic. What is it that companies actually want? They want employees who can read and answer emails, letters, write reports, make presentations and people who can talk over the phone, conduct face to face conversations, negotiations and so on.

The problem with the TOEIC test is that study of it does not develop these skills to anything more than a marginal extent and it does not discriminate beetween people who can do these things and people who can't either, let alone make judgements as to level of competance. That being said, people who can in fact do these things generally score well on the test. So using TOEIC test scores as a hiring tool makes some sense. You can choose to interview people with only high scores and then find out at the interview stage what they can and can't do according to the needs of your company.

However, telling people that you have aleady hired to study for better scores on the TOEIC test, when you could instead be encouraging them to develop usable skills that the company actually wants makes no sense at all to me.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

haha more important is that all Japanese employees will need to learn the western mindset if they expect to win more western customers. being fluent in English is pointless if your still using the Japanese mindset to do business in western countries. and as we know getting Japanese to change is like pushing poo uphill.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

An interview to supplement the TOEIC would be good. So I guess some people would rather use the "Eiken", the GTEC or the MIchigan test? Not too much in the way of constructive suggestions so far...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They need URGENT to improve their costumer service, too. It is the WORST among the mobile companies!! Now the softbank could be the number one in sells but It is only because was the first to offer the iPhone. With AU selling the same iPhone lets see what happens!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Where do bilinguals factor in? I think it's cheaper to go that route then depend on domestics. Or, bring in foreigners. It's pretty common knowledge that we're better at learning languages than the Japanese. Every foreigner I meet picks up this language quite fast. It's an attitude adjustment that they need here.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As a constructive suggestion, how about a reading/writing test where the student has to read emails, memos and letters and then has to write replies according to instructions. If they can do that they will be useful to a company on the reading, writing side. If they can't, then they shouldn't bother to take the test and do some form of relevant study first.

On the listening/speaking side, listening skill without speaking skill is pointless in most situations. A separate listening test has some point in an academic setting but not enough in business to warrant a full section. Therefore you could scrap the listening side of the test and add this component to a new listening/speaking test which can be taken if companies want more than just reading/writing skills. This test would be made up of practical tasks in business settings.

A test set up like that would give you a cheap option: reading/writing only to keep the cheapskates happy and an expensive one listening/speaking for those who really want all round skills.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I know other companies like Panasonic etc..if you DO NOT get say 800 on your TOIEC, you get salary cuts, and depending on your age, may even end up with a PINK SLIP, adios, sayonara, out the door buddy boy, it is a tough market out there so ENGLISH is a big part of the economic strategies companies need to not only survive but to move and groove in a GLOBAL economy, me thinks.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If I get hired at Sprint, would I get a bonus for scoring high on the JLPT2? ;-)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The newish TOEIC Speaking and Writing Test with marks out of 400 is a lot better, but it is considerably more expensive to take since the writing and speaking are marked by a native speaker.

Instead of spending billions on taking ETS tests it is about time Japan made, or Softbank made their own test. I could make them one for a million Yen. For 10 million they could have a properly standardised test, and then they could sell it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I can get their TOEIC scores up to 900+ but it will take some time and money. I estimate it will take about a year and, oh, a million yen.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Great idea provided they use the correct measuring stick, and I don't think TOEIC is it. I know quite a few people who have good TOEIC scores and flounder with English. My wife was a great example - she had a very good TOEIC score but on moving to Australia completely struggled with the language. Recently she took on the IELTS test and found it much, much more challenging and had to work really hard to attain a score for University entry. Her English improved out of sight as a result though, as it covers reading, speaking, listening and writing and is moderated by trained native speakers.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The TOEIC has some flaws, but for communicative English it is one of the better tests out there (better than the awkward Step tests and the TOEFL focuses on academic reading skills). There are also the CELT, CASEC and GTEC.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When SoftBank Corp. took over Vodafone K.K., the company had many employees skilled in English. Unfortunately, most of these employees left for better paying jobs as SoftBank Mobile lowered salaries and other compensation over the first few years of the company's existence.

If SoftBank Mobile wants employees skilled in English, it is going to take more than a one-time bonus payment. The company must compete on the open market for employees with English skills: this means paying a better annual wage, and coming up with other innovative incentives that adequately compensate workers with the skills the company needs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

now that's what i call incentive

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Brilliant idea, but it will take a long time to get clear knowledge. No employee should give up, after all this could be their bread and butter for life. 'There is always the beginning'.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@wtfjapan you hit it on the nose here, Japanese struggle with languages because they find it difficult to adopt a secondary personality. If I spoke Japanese directly as I speak my Kiwi/ OZ English I would come across as gruff and arrogant but I have learned to become somewhat Japanese in my mindset when speaking Japanese. Cultural barriers to acquiring any proficiency in English is something that very few Japanese manage to do. TOEIC is a passive way of learning and testing a level , which seems to be the way of learning that is preferred here. How many teachers feel that students would rather sit back and just passively listen to the teacher rant on about English, then come back next week for some more.

A change of mindset and motivation is needed for Japan to improve their English speaking skills. Throwing money at it doesn't work, if it did then a lot of Japanese who spent millions of yen at eikaiwa during the bubble economy would be in control of the English work environment today.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How is it going to work? I read the article, at least I think I read it properly. The staff would have to go to a school I guess, would that be right? I cant imagine many being self-motivated to do it by themselves at home. But if they go to school, the fees would come out of the staffs own pocket? School fees can be very expensive. So even if they get a good score, the reward seems to have very little motivating power. How many people would want to participate in that system? Not many I think.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The practical result of this incentive for Softbank will be a fair proportion of thier more motivated but less common sense employees spending inordinate amounts of time studying English in the wrong way (ie in amanner that is directly focused on the TOEIC test rather than on improving thier English) for many hours a week often wasting huge amounts of money and personal energy that could have been directed more profitably elsewhere. The final result of which will be - failure and frustration for the vast majority. A lose lose initiative by the company, I'm afraid.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

TOEIC is utterly useless when it comes to communication. Sure it will boost Japanese reading and writing skill but I have yet to meet a person with it that can actually hold a conversation that wasn't impaired by poor pronunciation or listening skills.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Another example of how bad TOEIC is. Universities and Colleges abroad want TOEFL scoring. It used to be that just the reading/writing was accepted, but people abroad at these facilities complained about the lack of ability to communicate verbally now everyone must pass a speaking/verbal test as well. Most Japanese people studying English avoid this like the Plague!

It's frustrating to see how companies here depend on this test. TOEFL should be the choice. Give the people the ability to be able to converse with a better understanding of English.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@ waltery I presume you learnt English with TOEIC. I think you have proved that Geoff Gillespie`s comment is correct.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Firstly, this just reeks of desperation and secondly wheb oh when will the Japanese ween themselves off their pathetic reliance on the TOEIC test. It is an utterly pointless endeavour that leaves you with a piece of paper and not much else...

-4 ( +11 / -14 )

TOEIC test. It is an utterly pointless. No it is not! It is what it is a test of English. You have no idea Geoff Gillespie at Jan. 14, 2013 - 07:33AM JST

-6 ( +10 / -16 )

not sure how they will "master" English when the language is continually evolving..... perhaps aiming for business level proficiency would be more realistic....

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

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