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Why do most Japanese people not speak English?


Japan is a country known for its rich culture, traditions, and advancements in technology. However, despite being a global economic powerhouse and having an education system that emphasizes English education, most Japanese people struggle to speak English fluently. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why most Japanese people do not speak English.

Historical Factors

One of the primary reasons why most Japanese people do not speak English is because of the country’s historical isolationism. For many years, Japan was closed off from the rest of the world, which allowed it to develop its unique culture and language. This isolationism continued until the Meiji period in the late 19th century when Japan opened its doors to the world. However, by then, Japanese was already established as the primary language, making it difficult for English to take root.

Japanese Snack Box

Cultural Factors

Another factor that contributes to why most Japanese people do not speak English is cultural differences. Japan has a collectivist culture that emphasizes conformity and group harmony over individualism. This cultural mindset can make it challenging for Japanese people to learn a new language since they may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when speaking in front of others.

Educational Factors

The Japanese education system places a strong emphasis on academic subjects such as math and science, rather than on language learning. Although English is taught in schools from an early age, the focus is often on grammar and reading comprehension rather than developing practical speaking skills.

Language Barriers

Learning a new language can be challenging at any age, but for Japanese people, there are specific language barriers that make it even more difficult. For example, English has a different sentence structure and pronunciation than Japanese, which can be challenging to master.

Lack of Exposure

People learn best by doing things in real-life situations. Still, unfortunately, many Japanese people are not exposed to English-speaking environments regularly. Unless they travel abroad or interact with foreigners regularly, their exposure to English is limited.


Japanese culture places a high value on perfectionism, which can be both an advantage and disadvantage when learning a new language. While striving for perfection can motivate learners to work harder, it can also lead to excessive self-criticism and fear of making mistakes.

Alternative Language Options

Japanese people tend to prioritize learning other languages such as Chinese or Korean over English since they have more practical applications in their daily lives.

Lack of Motivation

Learning a new language requires dedication and motivation. For many Japanese people who live in a society where speaking fluent English is not necessarily essential, the lack of motivation can be a significant barrier to language learning.

Job Market Demands

Although Japan is a global economic powerhouse with many multinational companies operating within its borders, many Japanese companies operate primarily within their local market or in Asia. Therefore, there may not be as much demand for English speakers compared to other countries where international business is more common.

English Proficiency Standards

While most Japanese people do not speak fluent English, there are still varying levels of proficiency. The government has implemented measures to improve English education in schools and encourage students to study abroad to gain practical experience.


In conclusion, there are several reasons why most Japanese people do not speak English fluently. Factors such as historical isolationism, cultural mindset, lack of exposure and motivation contribute to this phenomenon. However, as globalization continues to push countries closer together, it is becoming increasingly important for Japanese people to master the English language if they want to participate fully in the global economy and society.

Why do Japanese don’t speak English?

The declining level of English proficiency across the country can be attributed to the shortage of English-speaking language teachers and the limited opportunities for practicing English in real-life situations outside of the classroom.

Is it common in Japan to speak English?

Is English widely spoken in Japan? While Japanese is the primary language spoken in Japan, studies show that around 13 to 30 percent of Japanese people can speak some level of English. However, only about 9 percent feel comfortable using English.

What percentage of Japan speak English?

‘ Well, according to the survey, there are only 30% of people in Japan who speak English. Though Japan is a vast and strong country, it is still behind in English literacy as compared to other countries.Dec 25, 2022

Why is English so hard for Japanese?

When compared to English, Japanese has a much smaller number of distinct vowels and consonants, with only 114, versus the approximately 2100 different pronunciation mechanisms found in English. Because of this difference, even if a Japanese speaker can read English fluently, correctly pronouncing English words can be very difficult.

Why do Japanese struggle to learn English?

Japanese people struggle with English due to the limited range of sounds used in the Japanese language. Unless foreign pronunciations and nuances are learned at a young age, the human ear and brain can have difficulty recognizing them.

What do Japanese speakers struggle with in English?

Japanese speakers often struggle with pronouncing certain English consonants such as /l/, /r/, /f/, /v/, and ‘th’. This is because Japanese only has 5 vowel sounds while English has 20. Additionally, English long and double vowels can be difficult for Japanese speakers. Word stress in English also tends to be more varied than in Japanese.

Furthermore, there are efforts being made to improve English language education in Japan. The government has implemented policies to encourage more English-language teaching in schools and to promote study abroad programs for students. Additionally, there are numerous private language schools and tutors available for those who wish to improve their English proficiency.

Moreover, the rise of technology has made it easier for Japanese people to access English-language materials, such as movies, TV shows, and online courses. This has helped to increase exposure to the language and make learning more accessible.

It’s also worth noting that despite the challenges faced by Japanese learners of English, there are many who have achieved fluency and even mastery of the language. Many Japanese people have become successful in international business, academia, and other fields where proficiency in English is essential.

Ultimately, while there are many factors that contribute to why most Japanese people do not speak English fluently, it is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach. Improving English education in schools, increasing exposure to the language, and promoting a culture of language learning are all important steps towards achieving greater proficiency in English among the Japanese population.

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