Honda Motor Co. has decided to switch its official corporate language for international communications within the company to English by 2020, the company announced publicly in its annual sustainability report.

The automaker had worked to make English an important part of its operations over the past several years, but its decision to make English the corporate lingua franca recognizes the future of Honda's operations as more fully international in scope and character. By 2020, senior executives will have to prove their English fluency before taking up their positions, and internal documents that need to be in English will be written that way rather than translated from Japanese.

The new English policy is more than just a practical measure; it is a sensible response to business realities. That comes none too late, since an increasingly large portion of Honda's global sales are in the largest English-speaking country in the world, the United States. Honda became in 1982 the first Japanese automaker to start manufacturing cars in the U.S. and remains the fifth-largest automaker in America. Though sales are down slightly from their peak of 2007, North America still accounted for 47 percent of Honda's revenue in fiscal 2013.