Regarding the May 4 editorial “Test problems here and abroad“: Despite frequent criticism of the TOEIC and TOEFL, their results usually give a fairly good idea of examinees’ English skills. Those exams at least provide a motive to study.

English education in Japan leaves much to be desired, but one of the more overlooked reasons that so few people reach a high level of English fluency is the lack of market incentives to take their studies seriously. University graduates enter a job market where many of them rarely have a need to use English.

Even where companies or the government could employ and reward those who achieve a high level of English proficiency, they often do not. People called on to translate for foreigners are usually paid nothing extra for their efforts.

Not having sales staff to help the 1 percent or so of customers who can’t speak Japanese results in lots of lost sales. Any major retailer ought to keep that in mind.

It’s often hard for newcomers to communicate at the ward office or even at immigration. Japanese people who live abroad learn English incredibly fast.

Reward and employ more people in Japan for making the effort and see how fast they learn.

gary henscheid

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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