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.
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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