May 2013 issue

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Business in Japan

With Japanese companies keen to recruit more overseas employees, business Japanese is a growing area of provision in the language sector, as Matthew Knott discovers.

With Japan’s declining population and companies eager to tap into global markets, there has never been a more favourable time for foreigners to find work in the country. This is fuelling demand for business Japanese courses, says Munezai Yo of Tokyo-based Kai Japanese Language School “Kai started a regular business Japanese course last October after a year’s preparation in response to growing opportunities for foreign students getting a job in Japan.”

The government is actively encouraging this trend, Yo says, by providing budgeting for the training of overseas recruits. A benefit for the industry here is that language schools are often the final destination, rather than a stepping stone to higher education. Students that have graduated in their home country can find employment in Japan after completing a language course, Yo explains. Yoshifumi Kobayashi of Ehle Institute, Osaka, says that it is not just the large multinationals looking overseas. “Small/medium companies want to recruit foreign students as they need to expand the market and need someone who can be a bridge between two countries.” Ehle’s one-year business programme, which includes the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), practical business language and internships, had a 100 per cent job placement success rate in 2012, Kobayashi adds.

Mitsuyoshi Taguchi from Akamonkai Japanese Language School, Tokyo, agrees that Japanese firms are increasingly looking overseas, and as such the school’s Japanese business programme receives more and more attention. Over 25 students in this year’s cohort received job offers. “Our ultimate goal is to help all the students in this course with a working opportunity in Japan, and this course is designed to prepare students for job hunting and support them every step of the way.” The content of the one-year programme includes preparation towards JLPT Level 1, useful business skills including manners and knowledge of Japan’s honorific language, and IT training. Individual counselling in areas such as resume writing, job research and interview practice is also provided.

Arc Academy in Tokyo has an increasingly popular business course for students aiming to enter a Japanese company in Japan or back home, says Konomi Sasaki “We teach the methods of job hunting and the Japanese language needed in the workplace,” she explains, adding that most graduates of the programme successfully find employment, although some go on to further study in graduate and vocational schools.

Although Kai’s dedicated business Japanese course is relatively new, Yo says that the school’s Director, Hiroko Yamamoto, has been actively involved in the development of this study area, including participation in a joint ministerial training programme to enable government-sponsored foreign students to get hired in Japan. Understanding culture is essential for communication, Yo says. “Especially, in order to play important roles at Japanese companies, not only understanding Japanese culture including company culture and a particularly deep understanding of the background of Japanese hospitality, but also business person basics (skills that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry propound) are required.” The course, therefore, covers these needs, he says, with business skills including reading, listening, collecting information and presenting as part of the content.

“We also provide the opportunity of company visits, visitor sessions and an internship programme so that students can actually try experiencing what they’ve learned in lessons,” says Yo. Exit support is a major part of the course and Kai partners with employment agencies specialised in foreign recruitment and offer seminars, consultations, briefing sessions and information on job openings. English lessons are also available to non-English speakers.

Sendai Language School provides tailored business courses that cover areas such as telephone answering, written correspondence and role playing, says Miyuki Shiratori; she notes an increase in enquiries from companies and from overseas graduates from nearby Tohoku University looking to stay in the country. Masaki Izumi at Yokohama International Education Academy, meanwhile, says that although the school doesn’t have a standalone business course, the elective business classes for advanced level students are very popular, and the number of students wishing to work rather than move into further studies has been rising.

In terms of markets, China is a mainstay at Ehle Institute, says Kobayashi, although South East Asian students are increasing. Taguchi sees similar trends at Akamonkai: “We are anticipating students from Vietnam, Thailand and Nepal next year.” While there are many Chinese students on business courses at Arc Academy, Sasaki notes Western applications are rising. At Kai, meanwhile, early intake trends are one third Asian and two thirds European, says Yo.

A selection of business Japanese courses

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