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Posted at 09:44 PM ET, 08/06/2012

English as a second language: Could you pass the test?

For Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani, converting his e-commerce company to an English-speaking workplace was a matter of survival.

Japan ranks 27th out of 30 among Asian nations in English-language proficiency, according to Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. The low ranking puts it behind even such troubled nations as Afghanistan and North Korea.


Yoshihiko Iwasaki from Japan, right, speaks during a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) class at Kaplan, a test-prep school, in Boston in this 2005 file photo. (Chitose Suzuki - AP)
As the Post’s Chico Harlan reports, Mikitani made his company, Rakuten Inc., English-only two years ago, a move he says has allowed his business to compete in the global marketplace.

However, executing such a move in Japan – a country with both a widespread dread of English and an attachment to its ornate business traditions – was far from a painless process.

Rakuten employees submitted to regular English tests as part of the transformation and even faced demotions for poor test scores. Many workers quit because of the process.

Imposing a strict language policy in a country that is generally monolingual begs a question: How accurate are language proficiency tests, such as TOEFL, in determining one’s mastery of a language?

We took some sample questions from TOEFL-like tests. Think you could pass one of these tests?

Go ahead, try your luck:

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By Benjamin Gottlieb  |  09:44 PM ET, 08/06/2012

Tags:  World

 
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