Japan’s leading entrepreneurial companies, Rakuten and Uniqlo, are taking a no-nonsense approach toward going global by adopting English as the official workplace language.
Speaking the Global Language of Business
Drastic times call for drastic measures
Two of Japan’s top entrepreneurial companies have adopted English as the official language of their workplace. This is in a country with companies known for avoiding risk whenever possible. So why would Rakuten and Uniqlo take such atypical measures at a time when English-language proficiency is low in the country? TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) score data from 2004 to 2005 placed Japan second to last in Asia in terms of English language skills with 191 points, only one point higher than North Korea. Not helping, the collapse of two of Japan’s largest English language school chains, Nova and GEOS, over the past six years has reduced the number of opportunities for adults to study English at private language schools. So this ‘sink or swim’ approach by Rakuten and Uniqlo to speak English in the workplace is a bold but strategic maneuver at a time when they are expanding to compete in the global marketplace where the official language of business is English.