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2010年8月26日 (木)

企業の国際化 英語が社内公用語となる時代

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 26, 2010)
English necessary to cope with globalization
企業の国際化 英語が社内公用語となる時代(8月25日付・読売社説)

The United Nations has six specified official languages: English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic; but in the world of business, English has effectively established itself as the common language.


Recently, some Japanese firms have decided to make English their official language.

Internet company Rakuten Inc. announced it will adopt English as its official language by the end of 2012.

Fast Retailing Co., operator of Uniqlo, the nation's largest clothing chain, and with several outlets around the world, also announced a policy of using English at meetings where non-Japanese staff are present.

Both companies are aggressively expanding their global operations by increasing overseas bases and taking other steps. They are also reportedly planning to drastically increase their number of non-Japanese employees.

Such moves are vital to make best use of a workforce with diverse mother tongues and enable smooth communication.

English ability will be an important attribute for employees of global firms so they can share the latest information instantly through e-mail and efficiently take part in negotiations with clients.


Adapt to a changing world

As society becomes more globalized, Japanese companies must respond to the changing world by using English as their official language. Such efforts are needed to meet the needs of the times.

Rakuten said it will ask Japanese employees to use English when communicating about work-related matters.

At a press conference earlier this month to release its midterm financial report, Rakuten President Hiroshi Mikitani spoke in English to reporters and analysts from around the globe. Simultaneous interpretation was provided.

The company is making a thorough effort to promote the use of English inside the company, with even its cafeteria menu written in English.


A wake-up call

However, some people have criticized the language policies as going too far, saying, "It's absurd to force people working in Japan to use English."

It is, of course, necessary to treasure the Japanese language, which represents our sensibility as a people and is the basis of our culture.

Attempts to make English the official language of a company may seem like an extremely radical idea. But it can be looked at as a kind of "shock therapy," to completely change employees' state of mind.

How much English needs to be used at each firm is debatable, but individual companies should be left to make this decision in consideration of their specific circumstances.

Apart from Rakuten and Fast Retailing, more than a few companies use English at board meetings and other occasions to cope with the growing diversity of their board members.

Companies trying to access the global market likely have no choice but to introduce English, or some other foreign tongue, as an official language.

Rakuten's moves to make English its official language is symbolic of the changing environment Japanese companies face.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2010)
(2010年8月25日01時31分  読売新聞)


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