Pseudo-globalization?: Foreign students looking for jobs in Japan

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Japan Times Article : International students face job hunting hurdles in Japan

On Facebook, I saw a number of foreigners making comments (below). So, I thought I would make remarks.  Before I do so, I will explain (again) my background because I do not want people to think that I do not have any experience with this.

First, I graduated from a university in the U.S. with a degree in Japanese Studies and Linguistics. Then, I came to Japan as a research student to prepare for graduate school.  I worked day and night on my Japanese and research to make sure I got in to graduate school, and I did.  I went though the dreaded shukatsu, job hunting, process in Tokyo and entered a company. Working at a company was not for me, so I ended up teaching at an eikaiwa, English conversation, place until I found a full time position at a university. So, from my experience I can say:

Then why aren’t Japanese perfect in their use of English. I stayed at Crown Plaza over the weekend and I could not understand the front desk staffs English, so we used Japanese.

From Facebook

Well, this is JAPAN. Just like American companies need their employees to be fluent in English, Japanese companies want and need their employees to be fluent in Japanese.  The reason for this is because the majority of Japanese companies want their foreign employees to gain a strong understanding of their culture before these employees venture out into the world.  If all goes well, these young, foreign employees not only gain an understanding of the companies philosophies in Japan, but they also will be able to contribute to the company’s growth overseas.  However, in order to do so, foreign employees need not only Japanese language proficiency, but also high intercultural competence.

To be brutally honest, Japan is still in the beginning stages of becoming a multicultural society. This is apparent in the low English proficiency levels of Japanese people.  However, companies hiring a higher percentage of foreign employees is one of the first steps in the early stages of the process. Even in places, such as hotels, where Japanese employees should know English, they do not more often than not.

N2 helps but your probably not going to have that right out of college.

From Facebook

Personally, I NEVER took the JLPT exam, but I was able to get into graduate school, do my research in Japanese, and I have no problems with my Japanese. Many Japanese people compliment my English, which at times shows how un-global Tokyo is. As a university professor, foreign students need at least N2 to enter the university.  This means, the majority of foreign students will have their N1 by the time they graduate. However, the BJT (Business Japanese Proficiency Test) is more useful for those who want to work in Japan because it is more practical.

BJT Homepage

With this in mind, where are most of the foreign students in Japan from? The answerーASIA: China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam.  These students, especially those from China and South Korea, already have a high level of Japanese proficiency (N1 on the JLPT) before entering university.  So, these students are already clearing the N2 “requirement” that companies have for job seekers.

Yea their demand is BS plus some of the jobs I’ve seen requiring fluent English AND Japanese pay less than English teachers… What kind of incentive is that!?

Employees are company investments, but it’s also the other way around. Don’t forget that.

From Facebook

Being an English teacher involves much more knowledge on teaching methodology, second language acquisition, evaluation, and the list goes on. That is why the initial pay for English teachers is higher. However, those who enter companies will get training and proper (in most cases) instruction from fellow coworkers and their bosses.  Also, Japanese students might cry foul if companies start paying foreign students more right off the bat. In my experience, foreign students do have higher motivation because they have already left their homes to make a life for themselves in Japan.  Therefore, foreign students have the potential to climb the corporate ladder just as fast or faster than Japanese employees.

Yes, these foreign students are a huge investment for companies; however, it is also a gamble.  Like I previously mentioned, foreign students are more ambitious; thus, they are also more likely to leave their company for greener pastures.

Even if foreign students advance to the next step, they struggle with the recruitment aptitude exam, which is made for native Japanese speakers to demonstrate their basic academic skills, including a language test requiring strong vocabulary.

From Japan Times Article

I agree with this point. I was eliminated from the selection process countless times because I could not get a high score to the aptitude test.  The goal of the aptitude test is to eliminate applicants who have low scores in an efficient and low-cost way.

On the other hand, a number of larger companies do have separate tests for foreigners to take in the language of their choice (English, Chinese, Korean, etc). However, for companies to develop tests specifically for foreign students and also in a language other than Japanese costs money.

In my opinion, the Japanese government parades a vision of becoming global but the educational system and majority of companies are not ready to become global.

Yes, companies are actually hiring more foreign students each year, but what happens to these students when they enter a non-globalized company? I am sure there are more than a few intercultural misunderstandings going on.

Moreover, Japan has a tendency of making concepts like “globalization” into slogans to make the general public feel like Japan is changing.  Yes, change has been occurring (at a snails pace), but a lot of the programs and initiatives being carried out in Japan are very pseudo-global.


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