American Triumphalism

With great interest did I read the article "Why Japan Needs to Speak English." In your analysis concerning the problems that Japanese normally have in communicating with the outside world, you are absolutely right, I think. But in one respect I cannot follow your argumentation: you state that 80 percent of the Internet is in English -- this is definitely not true. As serious investigations show by now, it is at most 50 percent in English, with a dramatically decreasing tendency. As more and more people join the Internet worldwide, the Net gets multilingual. In the near future, only a rate of 40 percent will be in English, as studies show. At our institute, we work on a research project that analyses Japanese-language Web sites. Our results are clear: data on Japan in English is of minimal importance compared to respective data in Japanese. This, for example, is true for Germany, too, as it is for France, Denmark, or any other country in the world. Although I agree that the world needs a lingua franca for international communication, it is the problem of most Americans that they are not willing to learn foreign languages. So of course they get only information openly presented in "basic American," but any kind of more subtle data is hidden to them. From the article a sound of "American triumphalism" could be heard; this is regrettable to me, since I absolutely agree that Japan needs to open.

Klaus Antoni
antoni@japanologie.uni-tuebingen.de

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