Pi Attitude Zone: Flexibility

Say Eet Een Eengleesh

When Japanese firms first brought their technologically superior cars, cameras and smartphones to the international market, many industry observers predicted they would sweep the world before them. 

The fact that they didn’t, say sadder-but-wiser business-owners in Japan, has much to do with Japanese firms’ slowness in advancing a process they are calling ‘Englishnization’

According to Hiroshi Mikitani, ceo of the giant Rakuten e-commerce group, “We Japanese could have set the global standards for all those things, but a lack of global aspirations and poor English language skills prevented us from becoming the global leader”.  Rakuten now trades in 25 countries across the globe, and already a third of its employees are non-Japanese.  Mr. Mikitani has imposed ‘Englishnization’ as a mandatory standard across his entire empire.

Softbank, another Japan-based corporation, recently acquired 70% of the Sprint-Nextel telephone business, and has been incentivizing Japanese staff to raise their English-language proficiency scores.   Softbank’s simple pronouncement is that “the [English] language is required to do business”.

Adopting English as your company’s lingua franca extends to more non-Anglo-Saxon countries than just Japan.  Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Nokia, Renault and Samsung all now officially work in English, according to the Harvard Business Review.  “It will become more important for middle managers and employees on international assignments [to have] a common language, in order to interface with others," says the Harvard Business School. 

Pi worries about three aspects of ‘Englishnization’.  The first is that it provides the perfect excuse for British, American and Australian businesspeople who are too lazy to learn foreign languages.  The second is that ‘plain vanilla’ international English is too bland to allow the recognition of national cultural peculiarities, which to a large extent are what make those countries tick.  And the third is that English increasingly becomes the language in which people give orders, rather than making friends.

Think we’re exaggerating?  Next time you’re in an international meeting and you hear the big boss say “Well, the way we do that in Chicago is…” …you will know what Pi is talking about.

Zone: Flexibility Country: Asia / Pacific Product – Business / Professional