Is it good or bad for the Japanese to be bilingual?

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Aug 21, 2011 16:59
Hi, everyone. In this entry, I try to deal with quite controversial issues. I may be totally wrong. I may use stereotypic expressions unwittingly. If so, I'm sorry. I welcome your corrections and comments.

I've been thinking that being bilingual is simply a good thing. Speaking more than one language is probably better than being able to speak just one language, isn't it?

However, after seeing the videos of the recent riots in London and other cities in the UK, my opinion on language education may have changed slightly. Although people say that the riots can not be simply attributable to races or immigrants, at least for me, most rioters on the videos looked like children of immigrants.

No shame, no limits: Has the behaviour of the mob destroyed the idea of British civility for ever?

This article is on the Independent. I found the article contains some rather 'prejudiced' or 'stereotypic' expressions, but the point of the essay lies, 'what united them (= multi-racial rioters) was the abandonment of all restraint and that the cultural norms which had once been so powerful in British society were irrelevant to them'.

My interpretation is that partly because English language is now so popular, the UK attracts many immigrant people from all over the world. Those immigrants learn to speak English, but may not necessarily follow the traditional British cultural norms because they have their own cultural backgrounds.

If English education in Japan were revolutionized and every Japanese person became able to speak English fluently (although I think it's just impossible), would it be simply good? That's my question now.

People could enjoy Hollywood movies without translation. People could study or work abroad much easier than now. All these sound great.

However, the less there would be a language barrier between Japan and other countries, the more foreign people would want to live and work in Japan. Those immigrants could be necessary for economy, but It is easy for me to imagine the Japanese cultural norms would be abandoned by them.

On top of that, if everyone in Japan can speak both Japanese and English, what's the point of using Japanese? For the sake of efficiency, Japanese language could be gradually disappeared from public education or administrative offices. Then, Japanese language might become merely a hobby or something.

A language is just a subject in school while you're only a beginner and while other people can't speak it. However, once you become proficient in it, or once people around you start using it, it's no longer a subject of school, but a culture itself. The more you become fluent in a foreign language, the more you absorb its culture. Yet, you're only a mixture. At some point, however, your main cultural background may be overtaken by the new one. This may not happen at individual level, but could happen at population level.

I had considered a 'language barrier' as an obstacle to be destroyed and overcome. However, it may be literally working as a 'barrier' from foreign cultures. Many Europeans speak more than one language fluently. I think we need to learn how they set the goal of English education in their countries.