Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Dialogue and persuasiveness are required of effective global communicators
NUMATA Sadaaki / Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

December 26, 2017
In speaking with foreign counterparts in business, diplomacy and other fields, you need to engage in a two-way dialogue, not a monologue. This entails the following five factors: expressing yourself in a common language, most often English, thinking about your listener, having clear messages and sending them logically, and thus persuading those who are listening to you.

From this viewpoint, I was impressed to hear Foreign Minister Taro Kono interviewed by Christiane Amanpour of CNN on November 30, 2017. He engaged in a crisp, quick-tempo dialogue with the veteran journalist. Like an experienced debater, he started with delivering his key messages clearly. For example, on North Korea, he said, “the international community should not ‘budge’ from pressuring Pyongyang” and “totally disagreed” with the suggestion that we may have to live with a nuclear North Korea. On trade, he expressed his clear preference for the multilateral TPP by saying “bilateral trade agreements create winners and losers and do not work that well.” He also said, “we may say something that the U.S. does not want to hear --- for example, leaving TPP was a mistake.” His incisive and candid comments delivered in fluent English were persuasive.

As a non-profit, voluntary organization, The English-Speaking Union of Japan (ESUJ) seeks to help aspiring global actors overcome the communication challenges they face in business and other transactions and negotiations. For that purpose, it has played a trail-blazing role in the promotion of parliamentary (impromptu) debate in English through hosting university and adult competitions.

Last October, ESUJ held its 20th anniversary commemorative symposium on the mindset and skills required for effective global communication. The keynote speaker, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, former Undersecretary General of the United Nations and other prominent panelists compared notes on the basis of their respective experiences in diplomacy, academia, media, business and education.

The key takeaways are as follows:

Japanese learners need to overcome the culture of shyness when speaking English. Many tend to be preoccupied with perfectionism, especially in pronunciation, while neglecting the substance and persuasiveness of their speech. In contrast, speaking up is the foundation of democracy for “The Argumentative Indian” portrayed by the Nobel Economics laureate Amartya Sen.

The English language teaching at Japanese schools has focused on reading and grammatical structures in lieu of communicative skills. If you adopt the British Council approach of the four systems of language of grammar, vocabulary, phonology, and discourse, the least attention is given in Japanese classrooms to “discourse” which can be paraphrased as thinking in English and expressing it in words. For that matter, there has not been much “discourse” taught even in Japanese either. Debate is a highly effective way of developing this habit of “discourse”.

To remedy such deficiencies in language education and enable Japanese teachers to teach these communicative skills, it is desirable to send them abroad for training.

Social media plays an important role as a platform enabling global English language conversations. It is bringing a voice to the previously voiceless around the globe from Black Lives Matter in the U.S. to activists in the Middle East. Twitter has been used widely in Japan, especially at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. Social media is also enabling increasingly sophisticated methods of shaping public opinion. It is a highly competitive arena in which Japan should participate more aggressively.

The panelists placed high hopes on the younger generations. They may feel less constrained by the culture of shyness and less afraid of making pronunciation and other mistakes. They are strongly encouraged to “step out of their comfort zone”, “go abroad”, “chase their dreams”, and “develop empathy and understanding for people who are suffering around the world”. In doing so, they will come to appreciate that learning a language means learning a culture or history; we are enriched through mastering languages.

The world of today requires the willingness and ability to engage in dialogue and persuade people. I do hope that more and more Japanese, especially the young and including political leaders, take this to heart and make conscious efforts to equip themselves with the mindset and skills to communicate effectively on the global stage.

Sadaaki Numata is a former ambassador to Canada and Pakistan and a former Foreign Ministry Spokesman.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田貞昭 / 日本英語交流連盟会長

2017年 12月 26日








ソーシャル・メディアは英語でのグローバルな会話を可能とする場として重要な役割を果たし、米国のBlack Lives Matter (黒人の命は重要)運動とか中東の活動家の例に見られるように世界中で声なき人々に声を与えている。Twitter (ツィッター)は、2011年3月の東日本大震災の時をはじめとして日本国内で活発に利用されている。ソーシャル・メディアは、また、ますます高度な方法で世論を形成することを可能にしており、日本は、この有望な分野での競争により果敢に加わるべきである。



一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Dialogue and persuasiveness are required of effective global communicators