I very much enjoyed the March 13 editorial, “Japan’s ambivalent English,” and I strongly agree with the argument that awareness of one’s cultural identity comes as much from comparison as from knowledge of oneself. I know this is true from the years I spent in Britain as a postgraduate student and as an interpreter. Having said that, however, the reasoning behind the main idea of the editorial is fundamentally flawed, mainly because it is apparently based on the idea that multilingualism is a panacea for many of Japan’s problems.
The rapid economic development of India, particularly in the computer industry, was cited as an example of the great economic success of the English-speaking developing world, but India is not representative of the English-speaking developing countries. A short glance at the economic situation in Pakistan, India’s neighbor and archrival, enables one to verify that. There are dozens of countries, mainly former British countries, where people from different tribes use English as their common language, including some African countries such as Botswana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. How many of these countries are developing as rapidly as India? In fact, few are.
A country needs more than a good command of English to achieve economic development. Although India might not have developed as much as it has without fluency in English, the Indians owe their economic prosperity to many other factors also, particularly its supreme education system.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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