Japanese as Identity

We have to think that there is the possibility that encouraging people to use English may destroy Japanese identity. I am Japanese. One of my identities as Japanese is that I speak Japanese. The nature of this language, I think, is related to Japanese traditional feature. Japanese people beat around the bush by using various Japanese expressions, which can be connected with the fact that they are very sensitive to the situation. I feel, although this kind of Japanese national character is often criticized by foreigners and even Japanese, this is good character of Japanese, and the language, Japanese, plays a important role in protecting Japanese cultures.

On the other hand, as internationalization, English is in the important position all over the world. Of course, in Japanese Society, the ability to speak English is significant. In fact, Japanese school gives high priority to English education and many companies like Rakuten encourage workers to speak English.

Taking account of the above, I would like to consider the relationship between English and Japanese in Japanese Society. Yukio Tsuda, the professor in Tsukuba University, will insist that Japanese government should enact the legislation of protecting Japanese at work. By making English the common language in workplace, he points out, some problems are caused. These are the lack of right to use Japanese and the social disparity by the ability to use English. Some people speak English well and can apply themselves to this environment, and other people strongly refuse English and cannot do this. He implies that it is strange that those who are lack of English ability can mean people who cannot keep up with the globalization or internationalization. He also thinks that protecting Japanese means growing up our patriotism. For many people his suggestion may be extreme example. But it is certain that the increase in the opportunity of using English causes something we have to deal with.

I like English and speaking English is vital in various environments. However, I think the time is coming when we think carefully about our languages in Japanese society. Working environment has influence on daily life like home. In the future, that the conversation at home by Japanese family is filled with English can be not rare. Moreover, talking in English may be more normal than that in Japanese in the long run. Will it be natural? What do you think about the position of English and Japanese in our society? Japanese people who will speak Japanese in Japanese society are originally not minority, but international society could make them minority in the future.

by Shinya Shimatani

2 thoughts on “Japanese as Identity

  1. I think Japanese people, particularly university students, tend to persist in English. For sure, learning English is very important to live in this era, but comanding English very well shouldn’t be the goal. The thing is what you do using English.

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