Tokyo-based, global tire leader Bridgestone has adopted English as its official company language, becoming the first traditional manufacturing Japanese company to do so. This is part of the company’s move for globalization, moving away from the domestic market, despite Japan’s improving economy.
Bridgestone Chief Executive Officer Masaaki Tsuya said that for the company, especially the younger employees, mastering English is a requirement if they want to ascend the corporate ladder. For an “old-school” company like Bridgestone, this is indeed a big step, and one that many believe other traditional companies should also follow. Tsedal Neeley of Harvard Business School says that switching to English is a competitiveness issue, and that if they want to compete with other global brands, it is the language barrier that companies need to overcome. She has been studying the language transition of another Japanese company that recently decided to adopt “Englishinazation”: online retailer Rakuten. The other company that has decided to embrace English as their language of choice is another globally rising brand, Fast Retailing, which operates fast-fashion chain Uniqlo. And there must really be something to be gained from that as the two companies have become national and global powers in the past ten years. Fast Retailing chair Tadashi Yanai is Japan’s richest man while Rakuten’s Hiroshi Mikitani is number 3, just behind Softbank’s Masayoshi Son.
However, learning and speaking English isn’t something that comes easily for most Japanese. Even with a “progressive” company like Bridgestone, their CEO unveiled their new English policy at a press briefing…while speaking in Japanese and with no interpreters. Well, at least the company is willing to give it a shot, unlike 71-year-old Hoji Takahashi who sued public broadcaster NHK for excessive use of English words that have been adapted to the Japanese language, or “loan words“.
[ via Businessweek ]
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