Language in Japan
Japan is currently undergoing several crises: a language crisis, a globalization crisis, and a youth identity crisis. All three of these topics are heavily intertwined around one root issue – competition. For starters, Japanese law requires that all Japanese students take at least six years of English classes in middle and high school, before taking an official exam to enter university. As stated by “Japan Today”1, only certain concepts are physically taught in the classroom, and never the language as a whole. The key is to pass the English exam, and not to actually become a fluent speaker. By no means are Japanese students being adequately prepared for the globalizing Japanese world, but are merely being misled into thinking that they are on the path to a brighter future. As seen in the TOEFL score chart2, Japan’s performance is dead last when compared to other Asian countries in similar situations as it is.
As a dying population, Japan has been struggling to keep up with the quickly globalizing world. The current job market in Japan, as fierce and competitive as it is, has encouraged middle-aged workers to return to school and brush up on their English, as firms try a new over seas approach in hopes to globalize their companies3. Many businesses around the country have begun incorporating English into their logos, business plans, and business cards4. They have learned to westernize their method of outreach so that they can be easily approached by foreigners; thus making business more globalized. Throughout the heavily populated, urban cities of Japan, you can readily find street signs and safety signs5 written in both English and Japanese in order to appeal to the growing population of foreigners coming to work in local industries.
Even slight differences in language and spelling between various types of English can cause an up-stir of emotion and identity clashes6, now imagine the identity crisis one would experience between Japanese and English. Canadians and Americans, for example, identify themselves as separate nationalities, despite the shared language. Though most words and phrases are shared, they each have specific terms they identify with individually. An American may not understand a Canadians word choice and identification towards a concept or idea, similarly to how a Japanese speaker and English speaker would have an even harder time cross identifying. This problem would even further stem if the same person were to speak both English and Japanese, especially when they are still growing from a young age and beginning to formulate an identity of their own. As seen in “Japan Times”7, children who are encouraged to be bilingual through developmental stages are prone to identity confusion, and often times can result in hostility against learning any new language. Aside from solely verbal language identity crises, the Japanese Sign Language community can also suffer from identity crises when learning American Sign Language8, and vice versa. This cross-cultural correspondence constructs communities capable of competently communicating, and contributing, to the class system.
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