This was just a small piece in an Oregon paper, but it’s indicative of a huge problem.

There was a marathon in Portland over the weekend. The winner for the men’s race is from Japan, 29-year-old Makoto Ozawa. Great news, right? But read this excerpt from the article:

“Ozawa, 29, is a veteran marathon runner but details about his career are mostly unknown as he doesn’t speak English and there wasn’t an interpreter available to the media.”

They didn’t even spell his name correctly in the title:

First of all, I see a problem with the Oregonian. They should have tried a little harder to find an interpreter. There are Japanese speakers in the city. I’ve met some.

Secondly, I find it hard to believe that Mr. Ozawa speaks no English at all. Did he tell them “I don’t speak English?” And if so, was he just being modest but they believed him? I find it hard to believe that they would have taken no for an answer. Reporters aren’t such pushovers.

Or, did they try to speak to him and find it too difficult to communicate?

In either case, it’s pretty clear that, in the long run, his 6 years of compulsory English in junior high and high school were a waste of time.

He’s 29 now. Unless he kept up with his English at a company (many companies provide TOEIC and conversation classes to employees) or on his own, his 6 years of English study ended more than 10 years ago. That’s probably long enough to forget most of what he learned. But this story illustrates what’s wrong with the Japanese English education system.


Yes, it does seem to be a word you can use in English now (though not as well known as certain other Japanese words). This is from Wikipedia:

Mottainai (もったいない) is a Japanese term conveying a sense of regret concerning waste. The expression “Mottainai!” can be uttered alone as an exclamation when something useful, such as food or time, is wasted, meaning roughly “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste.”

At this rate, is Tokyo going to be ready for the 2020 Olympics?


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