The Mitsue-Links UX Blog shares some of our insights and opinions about UX in Japan, experience design and cultural differences between user research in Japan and the world.
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Bilingualism in Japan: Why Most Locals Don't Speak English (Part 2)
In part 1 of this article, we discussed why we rarely recommend recruiting English-speaking Japanese participants for UX studies in Japan. We looked at some numbers that suggest that bilingual Japanese make up less than 20% of the population and talked about how the English education system in Japan has largely been blamed for the low numbers of Japanese who can speak English fluently. Here in part 2, we'll look at how Japan's history has also contributed to the nation's ambivalent attitude towards needing English proficiency in today's global society.
Bilingualism in Japan: Why Most Locals Don't Speak English (Part 1)
When it comes to interviewing participants for ethnographic research or usability tests in Japan, two questions we often get asked by clients are:
- Can we recruit native Japanese participants who can speak and/or read English well?
- Can one of our own researchers moderate in English with the help of an interpreter?
When asked the reasons why clients would like to do the above, the most common answers tend to be:
- We have a website or mobile app prototype that is in English only, and we want to test the concept for the Japanese market before we move ahead with translation and localization.
- We are doing a global study across several countries and want to keep the same moderator to ensure research and reporting consistency.
- We have a limited budget, so we are hoping to use our own researcher to interview English speaking participants to eliminate costs associated with local moderation and simultaneous interpretation.
While these are certainly understandable reasons, we usually don't recommend this approach since bilingual participants are rarely representative of the general population. Apart from recruitment feasibility issues, interviewing those who represent only a very small minority of the nation may result in skewed local insights; Japanese who speak English fluently enough to be interviewed in the language usually have some experience living, studying or working abroad, so their attitudes, motivations and behaviours may be very different from those who have not benefited from similar exposure.
So how small of a minority are Japanese bilinguals in Japan? And why do Japanese generally have low English ability, especially when it comes to speaking? In this two-part article, we'll aim to answer these questions by looking at Japan's English education system as well as the country's history.
Combining Imagination with Social Video: Promoting Japan's Regional Areas
What do surfing, heavy metal, a ninja grandma, and a hot spring amusement park share in common? They're all themes employed in Japan's most recent local travel destination awareness campaigns.
As the summer holiday season goes into full swing, and related to Jon's previous post (Differences in Japanese Design: Online Hotel Platforms), we'd like to share some unique examples of Japanese-oriented destination video-marketing. With the rapid growth of online video as a means of promotion and generating awareness, it's essential that content piques consumer interest and ensures a positive start to the customer journey. The videos in this post, aimed primarily at the domestic market, combine entertainment with destination highlights to deliver memorable initial experiences.