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Why do Japanese People Have Difficulty Speaking English?

English fluency has become a global necessity, yet many Japanese individuals find themselves facing hurdles in mastering spoken English.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many Japanese learners, myself included for a while, grapple with spoken English fluency. But why is this seemingly straightforward skill so darn difficult to master?

This article explores the reasons behind this phenomenon, delving into the linguistic, cultural, and educational factors that contribute to the challenges faced by Japanese learners.

By understanding these challenges, we can equip ourselves with the tools to overcome them and become confident English speakers.

Linguistic Disparity

At its core, the significant differences between Japanese and English grammar pose a substantial obstacle. Japanese, an SOV (Subject-Object-Verb) language, stands in stark contrast to English’s SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) structure.

This fundamental divergence demands a mental shift for Japanese speakers, often leading to grammatical errors and awkward phrasing in English.

Furthermore, the sheer volume of vocabulary in English dwarfs Japanese. With an estimated one million words compared to Japanese’s smaller lexicon, learners grapple with this vastness, coupled with the nuances of pronunciation and idiomatic expressions.

Cultural Constraints

Cultural values also play a significant role in shaping spoken English proficiency. The concept of “omote” (public face) and “ura” (private face) in Japanese society often leads to a reluctance to speak English in public settings.

The fear of making mistakes and losing face can be a powerful deterrent, hindering learners from actively engaging in conversations and practicing their speaking skills.

Additionally, the emphasis on group harmony and conformity within Japanese society can discourage individuals from standing out or making errors.

This cultural norm may contribute to a hesitancy to speak English, as learners may fear disrupting the group dynamic or drawing unwanted attention to themselves.

Educational Shortcomings

Traditional English language education in Japan has faced criticism for its emphasis on rote memorization of grammar rules rather than fostering practical communication skills.

This focus on theoretical knowledge, coupled with limited opportunities for real-world interactions, leaves learners ill-equipped to engage in spontaneous English conversations.

Limited exposure to native-speaking instructors can further exacerbate the issue. Without consistent interaction with authentic English accents and conversational patterns, learners may struggle to develop a natural grasp of the language and its nuances. With the business English course in Manchester, you can overcome every shortcoming as the teachers ensure that you receive the right learning lessons. 

The Path Forward

Despite the challenges, Japanese learners have a path towards fluency. Immersing oneself in English media like movies, music, and books can significantly enhance listening comprehension and vocabulary acquisition. Additionally, engaging in regular English conversations with native speakers or fellow learners provides invaluable practice for refining pronunciation, grammar, and conversational skills.

Seeking guidance from experienced オンライン 英語 tutors or joining オンライン ネイティブ conversation sessions can offer personalized instruction and tailored feedback to address individual learning needs.

English Proficiency in Japan

While specific data points for spoken English fluency are unavailable, trends from various sources provide insights:

TOEFL Scores: Average TOEFL scores for Japanese test-takers might show a slight upward trend over time, indicating improvement in reading and grammar skills necessary for the test.

EF EPI: Japan’s ranking in the EF EPI might remain moderate, potentially showing a slow improvement as younger generations, exposed to more English media, enter the workforce.

Who Learns English in Japan?


English is a mandatory subject in Japanese schools from elementary to high school. Students aiming for universities often take additional English courses or prepare for standardized tests like the TOEFL.


Many businesses require English proficiency for communication with international clients or colleagues. Professionals might take business English courses or attend conversation clubs.


As international travel becomes more accessible, some Japanese individuals might learn basic English for communication during trips abroad.

It’s important to note:

  • The data might not fully capture spoken English fluency, which is a complex skill encompassing listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
  • The focus on standardized tests might lead to a situation where students score well but lack practical speaking skills.


While the challenges faced by Japanese English learners are real, they are not insurmountable.

By recognizing the interplay of linguistic, cultural, and educational factors, and by embracing effective learning strategies, Japanese individuals can bridge the gap in spoken English proficiency.

This journey towards linguistic empowerment will open doors to global communication and a wider range of opportunities.



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