Japan

By Nakasako, Shun-itsu | Business Communication Quarterly, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Japan


Nakasako, Shun-itsu, Business Communication Quarterly


This article discusses research developments in business communication in Japan from the initial stage in early 1900 until now. Papers from the Annual Studies, published by The Japan Business English Association, provided much of the information, particularly Shigeru Ozaki's (1981) paper titled "The Study of Business English and the Course of History of The Japan Business English Association." Reviewing both historical and current research trends and noting related pedagogical developments become the basis for projecting where Japanese research endeavors seem to be headed.

Early Interest in Business English

Two interrelated public initiatives contributed to interest and research in business communication: the work of The Japan Business English Association, beginning in 1934, and the institution of the Official Examinations of Business English, which began in 1956. Under the auspices of the Economic Section of the Science Council of Japan, which is authorized by the Japanese government, The Japan Business English Association, since its origination, has been devoted to the study of business fields with a focus on language, most particularly Business English. Over the years, this focus has been reflected in the Association's published papers, which have examined language issues related to export/import businesses and associated agreements and contracts; law, insurance, and technical terms in international trade; and relevant theoretical and applied linguistic analyses.

When The Japan Business English Association was founded in the early thirties, the export-driven Japanese economy was booming. As prosperous as the export/import business was, Japan's business leaders were eager to make it even more so. Even in the thirties, English was the dominant language of trade. Not surprisingly then, the Association was established to promote more effective, efficient, productive, and safe ways to further Japan's export/import interests by presenting research related to trading transactions and by apprising the Japanese public of the theoretical and practical uses of Business English.

As a consequence of the dedicated research and scholarly contributions of The Japan Business English Association and in answer to eager requests from Japan's business leaders, the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry initiated the Official Examinations on Business English, which have been administered nationwide and sponsored by the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry twice each year. In fact, every year since 1980, a total of more than 5,000 individuals have taken the examinations.

Four different classes of Official Examinations are offered, each requiring a different level of English proficiency as follows: The A Class Examination targets examinees who hold college degrees and have at least two years of working experience in the export/import business; the B Class Examination is for those who have graduated from college with a degree in business or in economics and who have studied Business English; the C Class Examination is meant for college students majoring in business or economics and who are studying Business English; and, finally, the D Class Examination targets that population of commercial high school graduates who have studied Business English.

All of these Official Examinations consist of two sections: one section tests the English skills needed in the export/import business; the other section tests knowledge of the export/import trade itself, including specialized technical terms. These examinations and the work of The Japan Business English Association both focused on export/import business and provided fertile ground for the growth of business communication.

Emergence of Business Communication

Although research on language and export/import issues predominated The Japan Business English Association's early years, communication studies have increased since the early 1990s. In Japan, top management at the headquarters of multinational enterprises regard effective business communication as central to remaining competitive in the ever-changing global economy. …

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