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

Digitalization in Japan and Japanese-language Education
TANAKA Yojiro / Assistant Team Leader, Japanese Language Department 2, The Japan Foundation

December 8, 2020
The spread of new coronavirus (COVID-19) shed a light on an issue Japanese society has, other than the need for measures to fight the new virus. That is, “delay in digitalization”. It had long been pointed out that Japan will face a serious shortage in IT human resources required for promoting national digitalization. (Please refer to “Study on Supply and Demand of IT Human Resources” published by METI in March 2019). The COVID-19 pandemic helped turn the issue, long a subject of debate on paper, into reality. Confronted with such a situation, the Japanese government is working on the development of domestic IT human resources. However, such human resources cannot be cultivated overnight, and there is a need to rely on foreign workforce to make up for the shortages. Under such circumstances, there is a specific country Japan should turn to, and that is India.

IT human resources of India have always been attracting attention in the global IT arena. Today, some of the world’s biggest IT companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Adobe Systems are reigned by Indian CEOs, and they are leading the digitalization of the world. Their outstanding performances have intensified the competition to acquire computer science graduates of India. It once became a hot topic when Oracle offered an annual salary of 20.3 million Indian Rupees (about 40 million yen) to a student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

If we look at how successful Japan has been in securing those Indian IT human resources, Japan is far from being successful even in this field. Unfortunately, majorities of Indian IT human resources are selecting Western countries, mainly English-speaking countries, as their destination for overseas study programs/place of employment, and Japan is rarely included as an option. However, with some ingenuity, there is a winning chance for Japan as well. One such way is to convey the appeal of Japanese society and its culture to the people of India. Currently, the University of Tokyo and Ritsumeikan University have set up their respective satellite offices in India and are working towards securing Indian students. The universities are extending support for students visiting Japan, and as a result, many Indian students have visited Japan and returned home as fans of Japan through coming into contact with the high level of public security in Japan and the warmth of Japanese people during the visit.

Such attractiveness of Japanese society serves as an advantage over competitors in the IT labor market of India where competition is becoming fierce. Further, Japan is making its appeal to Indian students through supporting Japanese language education in India. One may think the need to study Japanese would become a bottleneck for securing Indians who are active in the global arena. However, this is where opportunity lies for promoting Japan. Looking back at your own experience of studying a foreign language, you would probably understand how one naturally is tempted to use the language once it is learnt. Hence, providing opportunities to study the Japanese language and learn about Japan lead to evoking a spontaneous motivation to visit Japan. Therefore, assistances provided for Japanese language education in India is connected to acquisition of highly talented human resources of India. Such an endeavor has been undertaken by a coordinated effort of the Japan Foundation, an incorporated administrative agency, and many other institutions.

When teaching the Japanese language overseas, it is sometimes likened to “miso (fermented soybean paste) soup”. This is because Japanese education, a miso-soup, goes well with any kind of Japanese food (program). It may not become a main dish, but will fit with anything and not get in the way either. What is more, as one becomes familiar with the taste of miso-soup, known by some to be an acquired taste, it will become a familiar taste along the way, and finally becomes an unforgettable flavor. Using this approach, the Japanese language can consistently appeal to Indians across all layers of its society about Japan.

Having said that, taking into account that cultural exchange always calls for interactivity, simply appealing to the talented Indian personnel with the Japanese language and Japanese culture is not enough. We must also ask for ourselves if we are prepared to accept them once they actually arrive in Japan, and question how ready we are to establish future Japanese society together with many foreigners who will be coming to Japan, not limited to Indian people. It goes without saying that what is required of Japan is a preparation not only of institutional systems, but also of our mental set.

Yojiro Tanaka is Assistant Team Leader, Japanese Language Department 2, The Japan Foundation.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

田中 洋二郎 / 国際交流基金日本語第2事業部チーム長補佐

2020年 12月 8日






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) > Digitalization in Japan and Japanese-language Education