Trends in Japan > Lifestyle > Learning The Lingo
Japanese Language Learners on the Rise Worldwide
(March 29, 2007)

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test for non-native speakers of Japanese was held in December 2006 in 47 countries and regions worldwide, including Japan, and roughly 437,360 people took the test. In China (including Hong Kong), where Japanese anime has helped make the Japanese language a popular subject of study among young people, the number of examinees increased by 30% from the year before to 177,574. China contributed the largest number of test takers by far - more than double that of South Korea, which was home to the second largest contingent of candidates (70,495).


Chinese students take part in a quiz on Japan. (The Nippon Foundation)

Global Expansion
The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test has been administered annually for the past 22 years by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. Among other uses, the test serves as a yardstick for gauging the linguistic ability of international applicants. Looking at some of the countries other than China and South Korea, 2,350 people took the test in the United States, 1,086 in France, and 690 in Britain.

In China, demand for Japanese-speaking personnel is rising amid rapid economic growth and the arrival of a succession of Japanese firms keen to expand into the Chinese market. Dramatic increases in university enrollment continue to spell difficulty for young job seekers, moreover, and many are taking up the Japanese language in the belief that it will give them an edge in their quest for employment. More recently, the popularity of Japanese anime has been contributing further to the boom in Japanese language education. The result is that the number of learners of Japanese has increased 57.8% since 1998 to approximately 380,000 in 2003.


The quiz attracts many spectators. (The Nippon Foundation)

Speech and Knowledge Contests
Given the heightened interest in the language, a nationwide Japanese speech contest was held in China for the first time in 2005. Also popular is the intercollegiate quiz contest on Japan that the Japan Science Society has been organizing in China for the past three years. The contestants smoothly reel off the names of historical figures and places, such as Kamo no Chomei, Shoheizaka Gakumonjo, and Saicho.

The current boom in the Japanese language in China is actually the third of its kind. The first came on the heels of the 1972 normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, followed by another wave in the 1980s. There are strong economic undertones to the current wave, and the areas with the largest numbers of proficiency test examinees in 2006 included Huadong, where Shanghai is located, as well as Guangzhou and Dalian - all of which are host to many Japanese firms.

Page Top

Copyright (C)2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.