Recently, we have been moving forward in cooperating with Japanese companies, and as a result, I have been visiting the country over half a dozen times the last two years. I would like to share this as an observation which I hope we can capitalize and change.
ON these various trips to Japan, I have meet there Filipinos and Chinese. There are many Filipinos working in every major city in the world as they look for employment and opportunities. Ditto In Japan. On the other hand, there has been a boom of Chinese tourists visiting Japan which number over 10 million a year recently. Since Chinese tourists are active shoppers, they have easily become the major buyers for many shops. The Japanese stores, and restaurants have tried to capitalize on these tourists by hiring Chinese speaking sales clerks and restaurant servers. Most of the Chinese I have meet in these establishments are visible because they have a small China flag in their lapel. There was also one notable difference – although they were hired to speak mainly to Chinese customers, many also knew how to speak Japanese. However, many of the Filipinos I meet, even when they have been to Japan for some years, still could not speak Japanese. Why this difference?
Because the Chinese know that if they want a job or business, they need to adopt to the culture, and learn the language. Whereas the attitude of the Filipino would be – do you need English? I know English. It’s the universal language, so why bother to learn your language?
Learning a different language seems to be something that is not a palatable choice for many Filipinos. Even as we enjoy a Korean tourist boom the last ten years, and the number of Koreans in the country number in the hundreds of thousands, while millions visit every year, there is a shortage of Filipinos who can speak Korean. It does not seem to be our cup of tea.
It is surely quite striking that while Koreans, japanese, and the Chinese are coming in droves to learn English in order to get high paying jobs, the filipinos are not taking the opportunity to learn Japanese or Chinese to get their high paying jobs. Why not?
English skills may make us easily attractive and obvious choice for English speaking countries, but is obviously working against us in tapping the European, Japanese and the growing Chinese markets. A few years ago, I went to Dalian, China, and practically there were hundreds of Japanese companies setup there serving the Japanese market, employing tens of thousands of programmers, and earning well over billions every year. And this is only due to one practical reason – Dalian used to be under Japanese rule for some years before world war II, and since some population already know how to speak japanese, the young have taken over and continue to study the language for a very practical reason – the ticket to better employment and economic opportunities.
In the realm of pursuing better economic opportunities, how many has it that to learn a foreign language will increase our chances?