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English language in Japan

The history of the English language in Japan spans much of the 20th century. Throughout that period, and at the present time, English-language study is a required part of Japanese education system for any junior-high-school student who aspires to high school or college education in Japan (Kitao, et al. 4ff). Primary-school English study was introduced in Japan in 2002. But it has been noted that Japanese use of English is highly variable and that because the respective structures of the two languages are so different, Japanese learners and even fluent speakers of English frequently have trouble with English pronunciation conventions (Childs). Kobayashi attributes this to the fact that, until recently, Japanese children did not begin learning English until middle/junior high school, at age 13.

The perception of deficiencies in the Japanese system of language education has fed a rather abundant linguistic-instruction industry in Japan. That industry has also been fed, for nearly 15 years, by certain realities of corporate industry more generally--in particular the explosion of the Internet, which is overwhelmingly dominated by the English language and which continues to expand as a means of doing business internationally. It is also the case that, over the course of the 1990s and into the first decade of the 21st century, the linguistic stakes have been raised for Japan, which has floundered economically in a long-term recession.

In 1990, Japan was still considered an economic powerhouse, although it was just beginning to decline. London's Economist was forecasting that the country's busy manufacturing sector would achieve an annual economic growth of 3%-4% (Valery 75). At that time, the Japanese-English linguistic discourse in business focused on what was called "Japlish," the name given to English loan words adopted but also adapted, particularly for use in the business community. Among them (Valery 76; Matus 15):

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English language in Japan. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:54, May 29, 2020, from