We Japanese know that English is the world’s de facto standard language everyone in the world needs to learn to communicate with each other in this fast-globalising society. Mastering English is, nevertheless, one of the greatest hardships for most of Japanese who were born in Japan and raised by Japanese parents within Japan. They learn English as a mandatory subject in middle school, high school, and even college for up to eight years, but very few of them have a good command of it.
Quite a few analysts have given comments on why most Japanese are weak in English. Some say it’s because English’s structure of language is quite different from that of the language they usually speak. Others point out the problem with Japan’s English education policies, relying overly on teaching translation techniques from English to Japanese rather than communicative English.
It is also said that English isn’t necessary for Japanese people’s everyday life. Even if English is taught in school, it’s what they can forget after managing to pass the entrance examination of their highest education facility at long last. Once they finish studying for exams, they can do without English for life as long as they stay within Japan. Rather, showing off English is considered in many cases as rude, affected, and disgusting behaviour by other average Japanese, especially older people who have less chance to learn English.
Why do average Japanese living in Japan hate such people who speak English fluently, though they may neither feel rude, affected nor disgusting to good painters, professional musicians, skilled karate masters, or those who are good at something other than English? Japan has been subject to America’s control in business, economy, military, culture, and everything else since WWII, and various kinds of things have been brought into Japan. People in Japan have been mesmerised by such American-style things and, because it has been noised about especially for the last 15 years that all examples in America are the global standard they should follow, they have done their best to try to incorporate them in their daily life. However, a few things are what they can’t manage to do it —- English is the one. Affection to what they try to get in vain turns into hatred over time and the hatred will be expressed at those who successfully have it. Due to such nature of Japanese people, most of them don’t or pretend not to speak English well so that they won’t generate unexpected resentment among people. Because it’s considered affected to show off speaking English in public, they have less motivation to use it.
In my humble opinion, one of the important attitudes to master English is to stop admiring America too much. English is not a language for Americans only, but a lingua franca everybody in the world learns whether or not he is a native English speaker. You’ll find out that American English mainly taught in Japan is not dominant in the world if you travel to countries in Europe, Middle East, or Southeast Asia, where British English is widely used in conversation and signs in public. People in the UK, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia use their own local English. Even within the United States, you’ll see various kinds of people from businesspersons to hotel clerks, taxi drivers, and newsstand workers who speak in various kinds of accents. Nothing is right, and nothing is wrong. Nothing is fashionable, and nothing is dowdyish. They are all in English.
We should be a master of English, not a slave of it. We should learn it as not so much one of American cultures as an interface language to get our views over anybody in the world, regardless of his mother tongue, representing the nation we stand. The more Japanese can do it, the more they can influence in the world, resulting in the benefit of our country.