Kim Christian Botho Pedersen is an enigma in all good sense of the word. He is Danish by blood, born in Denmark and moved to Japan at an early age. Instead of attending an International school – where most of the instruction is in English – Kim`s parents decided to send him to Japanese school. He is one of only a few foreigners who have attained “Native-level” Japanese in reading, writing, and speaking.
Kim runs his own consulting firm mx2 where he focuses on bringing technical and consumer products from Denmark and Europe to Japan. The company also offers a number of value added services to the Japanese market, including; market-research, Japan Country Manager, and inter-cultural communication consulting to bridge some of the gaps and misunderstandings that may arise from doing business between the East and West.
FirstPoint Japan's Advisory Board member, Kim Pedersen, was just interviewed by Asia Biz's Howard Lim. This is a very fascinating interview as Kim is one of the few foreigners to have been educated in the Japanese public school system rather than shipping of to the English-language curriculum's found in the international schools.
This article is super long, so here’s a Cliff’s Notes. There’s a total of 3 parts.
Part 1 is a brief history of why people still talk smack about Sinoxenic (kanji-using) languages, leading to
Part 2 where we realize that when dealing with any language, Sinoxenic or otherwise, what we are dealing with is not a foreign language problem, but an adult illiteracy problem; finally, in
Part 3, we find that Pedro will make all your dreams come true, and also solve your adult illiteracy issues…
Part 1: Pens, Swords and Missionaries
Back in the day, the various nations of the western peninsula of the Eurasian landmass had just gotten done recovering from a massive thousand-year hangover after a drunken party in which they had destroyed their only stable nation-state, along with all its accumulated knowledge and human expertise, and proceeded to brutally brawl amongst themselves using weapons inspired by S&M movies.
Finally able to stand on their own feet, they set about sharing their extensive experience in violence with the world, with anyone and everyone they met. Theirs was a three-pronged approach, perhaps the most comprehensive offensive in human history, making use of the pen, the sword, and a cadre of highly trained psychologists called “missionaries”.
With the domestic market stagnant, Japanese firms are increasingly looking to raise their profiles abroad. To help achieve that, proactive corporations have realized the importance of employees who have mastered English.
SoftBank, one of Japan's largest mobile phone companies, knows the importance of being able to communicate.
The company has purchased a 70-percent stake in the US cellular phone firm Sprint Nextel as part of its strategy of embedding itself more deeply in overseas markets, but management in Tokyo has decided the firm needs to bridge the language divide if the new venture is to prosper.
English is an indispensable business tool for Japanese, who must compete globally as the domestic markets shrink. This especially applies to young people.
So says Tadashi Yanai, president of Fast Retailing Co., operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain.
"Just think about Japan in 10 years' time. People who can do their jobs only in Japan will not be able to survive," Yanai, 62, speaking in Japanese, told The Asahi Shimbun in an interview. "Japanese students must think that they are competing with students from other Asian countries."
Fast Retailing will make English its official language for business from 2012.
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