Japan and Globalization

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Japan and Globalization

English: The Global Language of Business

Interview with Yukuo Takenaka

TJ: How important is it for Japan’s future that Japanese people learn to communicate in English?
TAKENAKA: Extremely important. As the Japanese birth rate is declining and the aging population is increasing, Japan cannot rely on domestic business alone in this shrinking market. Japanese companies must go outside and increase business on a global basis. In business and in most professions, English has become the preferred global language. Chances are that if you speak English, you will be able to find someone in any country who can communicate in English.

Language is a tool for communication. Japan’s problem is that they teach English not for the purpose of using the language as a communicative tool, but for the purpose of passing exams. Learning how to communicate conversationally in English is imperative. I believe the greatest benefit you will gain by learning English is the ability to communicate face-to-face. It is acceptable if you speak broken English, as long as you get the message across. With the current Japanese English education system, they may learn some fundamentals but on average they cannot communicate effectively.

TJ: How important is globalization?
TAKENAKA: Every country needs globalization. The best example of a country that has isolated itself is North Korea. People are starving. I am certain that if North Korea opens up, their lives will improve immeasurably. Why is China better off today than 30 or 40 years ago? Because they have become a part of the global business community. Japan recognized that they greatly improved after opening up the country as compared to the Tokugawa period of isolation.

TJ: Are people in Japan exposed to international news?
TAKENAKA: Yes and no. Most Japanese media mainly covers domestic news and only some international news. The depth of the international news is not comprehensive; hence, Japanese business men and women need to read international newspapers—Financial Times and Wall Street Journal—to gain a better understanding of global business. By doing so, their general understanding of the business world is greatly enhanced. Personally, I would like to see the Japanese media increase their coverage on international news. Remember that by taking the extra step to be more interconnected in our global thinking is key to future growth.

TJ: Besides English skills, are there other important business skills that a young Japanese person needs?
TAKENAKA: You have to understand culture, the business environment, competition, and the local market in the country you are doing business. The best way to gain this knowledge is to go outside the country. I advise my clients that their top management personnel need to go outside of Japan and visit other countries to see business with their own eyes. A picture is worth a thousand words. Experiencing life firsthand—seeing, hearing, touching—that is how
you learn. You can’t do that by staying in Japan. Gaining global exposure is priceless. tj

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Written By:

Yukuo Takenaka

Yukuo Takenaka is Chairman, CEO and President of the Takenaka Partners Group. Prior to forming Takenaka Partners in 1989, he was a partner and National Director of KPMG Peat Marwick's Japanese practice. He also served as Chairman of Project Japan for the parent company, KPMG. A graduate of the University of Utah's Bachelor of Science in Accounting program and a Certified Public Accountant, Mr. Takenaka is recognized for his expertise in crossborder M&A and joint venture transactions. On both sides of the Pacific, he serves as a senior advisor to companies in a wide range of industries including technology, electronics, manufacturing, financial services and real estate. He is the author of the Japanese best seller, Merger and Acquisition Strategy.


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