Trivia: Many Japanese people are hesitant to speak English. Why?

Oct 25, 2021

Q.

Many Japanese people are hesitant to speak English. What are a few reasons why this is?

A.

If there’s one thing that puzzles many visitors to Japan, it’s the lack of English speaking abilities despite Japan being such a developed country. There are a few reasons why Japanese people might be hesitant to speak English.

From a geographical standpoint, Japan is an island country which means there’s less opportunity for people to easily access other countries where they’d need to use English. It’s not like growing up in Europe where you can take weekend vacations to neighboring countries and use English as a common language, for example. This lack of exposure makes it harder to incorporate a new language in a natural way.

The second reason is that decades ago, public school systems lacked native teachers which shifted English learning from listening and speaking skills more to vocabulary and grammar skills. Today, most public schools have native English assists (ALTs) though the system of how language is taught might still very well be stuck in an older method.

And lastly, Japan has a culture of perfectionism and making mistakes is a great fear to many. This adds to people hesitating to speak when they are conscious of the mistakes they’re making.

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