Tokyo Olympics is just around the corner, and people in Japan have increasingly become aware of the importance of learning English. On the other hand, it is apparent that many Japanese people still struggle to communicate in English, as japantimes.co.jp suggests that “the English level of Japanese is ranked 35th out of 72 countries”. This raises a question of why Japanese people struggle to reach a sufficient English proficiency level even though they are required to learn English for at least six years at school. It is safe to say that solving this issue would not only lead to success in the Olympics, but it also assists Japan in taking the lead in promoting globalization.
Japanese People Struggle with English
Since Tokyo is hosting the Olympics in less than half a year, Japanese tourism authorities have called on travel agencies to correct their English signs and directions targeted to an increasing number of foreigners in the nation. According to dw.com, the number of tourists in Japan is rising rapidly, which can be supported by the fact that “a mere 7.1 million foreigners visited Japan in 2011, a number that soured past 30 million in 2018, and the nation is on course to hit the target of 40 million set by the government for 2020”. Although the number of tourists seem to rise ceaselessly, Japanese travel regulations are not caught up to assist the tourists with navigating the country’s accommodations and transportation systems. In fact, Japan is infamous for their inaccurate foreign-language signage, as dw.com indicates that “One transport company refers to children as ‘dwarfs’ in its signs while another includes the instructions, ‘What happens to the children fare from what age?'”. Mistranslations and grammatical errors in signage are evident throughout the country, and this can be blamed on ineffective ways English is taught at schools.
The Introduction of Eikaiwa Apps in Japan
On the other hand, eikaiwa (English Conversation) apps are quickly gaining popularity among young generations, and they seem to be sufficient enough to substitute English classes at schools. According to App Ape, eikaiwa apps such as Mikan and Duolingo are most popular among young males in their 20’s, who have the motivation to learn foreign languages such as English to advance their careers.
These statistics suggest that all English learning apps that are popular in Japan are disproportionately used by young population sectors, which include teenagers and people in their twenties. This signifies that the country has undergone globalization successfully and set new international standards in the society; hence, it is certain that English language has become an essential tool for the Japanese people to survive in such newly globalized nation.
Benefits of Eikaiwa App
The eikawa apps enable the users to learn what they feel relevant in their lives at their own pace. Unlike the typical English classes at school, the users do not have to adjust their pace with their classmates who come from different backgrounds, often contributing to different aptitudes and attitudes. Therefore, users can learn a new language in a stress-free environment without any distractions.
For instance, 8-bitcolor.com describes that eikaiwa app called Mikan can personalize the service for each user by tracking individual’s wrong answers to respective problems. Mikan also includes many vocabulary books, such as for TOEFL and university entrance exams, allowing users to learn from various sources.
Duolingo also provides enjoyable experience to users, who often treat the app as though it were a game. In fact, users may find themselves devoting much of their time and energy into getting rewards for each correct answer, which is one of the addictive natures of Duolingo. Many people are also attracted by the fact that the app has the feature to pronounce each vocabulary and sentence out loud to learners.
The Increasing Number of Eikaiwa Apps in Japan
It is apparent that these eikaiwa apps are gaining popularity in Japan, slowly but surely. App Ape suggests that the number of installs of Mikan are gradually increasing over time.
Similarly, Duolingo has gained a substantial number of MAU over the last 5 months as shown below. The app was ranked 11 in education category monthly usage chart.
Hence, it is safe to say that eikaiwa apps are starting to play a big role in people’s lives as they can be regarded as the more efficient way to learn a new language compared to taking classes at schools. With the Tokyo Olympics coming just around the corner, Japan must prepare to take a lead in globalizing the world economy.
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