JIN-363 -- Draw the Wagons in a Circle: English Is Coming!

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Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
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Issue No. 363
Thursday April 6, 2006 TOKYO

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CONTENTS

@@ VIEWPOINT: Draw the Wagons in a Circle: English Is Coming!

French President Jacques Chirac stormed out of the opening session of the
EU's annual spring summit on March 23. The reason: Ernest-Antoine
Seilliere, a Frenchman who heads Unice, the European employers' group,
dared to speak in English. French, once the "lingua Franca" of such
forums, is rapidly ceding ground to English as the EU has welcomed
Scandinavian and East European countries. Seilliere rubbed salt in the
wound of French linguistic pride by explaining that English is "the
language of business." And so the hegemony of the English language
spreads.

Many of the world's estimated 5.000 to 7,000 languages are vanishing as
traditional cultures that have nurtured them are swept away by
globalization. They are being replaced by the "super language" of
English. What will be the fate of Japanese?

Against the background of the new school year, educators are debating the
pros and cons of the introduction of English to elementary schools. More
than 90 percent of nationwide elementary schools already teach English on
an extracurricular basis. What's more, grade schools in designated
structural reform districts are incorporating English into the official
curriculum. Meanwhile, a Central Education Council committee overseeing
the implementation of English as a mandatory subject in elementary schools
has begun amending Education Ministry guidelines.

But not all Japanese are willing to roll over and play dead in the teeth
of the English juggernaut. A recent opinion piece in the "Nikkei Shimbun,"
a major daily, demonstrated a siege mentality, speaking of the mother
tongue's "being surrounded by metastasizing English." The paper cited
as proof of the linguistic threat the fact that the National Institute
for Japanese Language felt compelled to recommend a list of native words
to replace loan words, most of English origin.*

In contrast to Gallic theatrics a la Jacques Chirac, the anonymous
Japanese writer holds forth a quiet hope: May the lava-like flow of
English not blind the nation to the sentiment of the mother tongue or
the depth of the national culture.

-- Burritt Sabin

*See JIN No. 341, "The NIJLA's 4th Midterm Report"
http://www.japaninc.com/manager/news/newsletter.php?list=jin&edit=0933)

================ANNOUNCEMENT=========================
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area to be simulated patients for new medical students.

April 13 (Thursday) from 12:45 - 16:40

Organizer and facilitators
Dr. Kazue Takayanagi, Dr. T. Saito, Dr. T. Shimura
Nippon Medical School
Phone: 03-3822-2131 (5411,5413) fax 03-3822-8144
Email: taka-y@nms.ac.jp
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EDITOR
Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

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