Englishnization and Rhetoric, Essay Example
Communication can serve many purposes, of which primary ones are to inform and persuade. These two separate functions can be seen as parts of the larger function of modifying someone else’s views on a topic. Informing can make someone aware of an issue, while also attempting to make them aware in a way that fits in with the goal of persuading the audience as well. These two practices of communication collectively compose rhetoric, the language art in which the speaker or writer attempts to communicate their ideas in ways that will perhaps change the perspectives of those he speaks with. Once rhetoric is understood, one can recognize its usage in many cases.
One piece of writing that is heavily rhetorical is “An Alternative View of Rakuten’s ‘Englishnization’” by Tom Redmond. As is common for works of this type, it begins by addressing a contentious and controversial issue. In this case, it is the process of Englishnization that the author wishes to address. This refers to the growing spread English as the lingua franca for global businesses, especially in business. The article specifically deals with Japan, as it is a country with great deals of business interests with the Anglosphere countries and therefore could more easily communicate with partners if they made a switch to English. However, these types of moves are controversial from a purely functional standpoint. They make companies with primarily Japanese speakers learn English and function in a language they are less proficient in. On top of that, people take pride in their native language and often resist changes that result in its importance diminishing.
Redmond looks specifically at a case in which a noted Japanese company, Rakuten, began switching their official company language to English, with a goal of completing the process within two years. The author seems to agree with the head of the company, Hiroshi Mikitani, that it was in the company’s best interest to change their communication methods, but he disagrees with the specific method of Mikitani. He argues that this singular goal of switching to English would actually prevent more beneficial reforms taking placed. For one, Redmond claims that Japanese companies do not have cohesive plans for communication the way that leading European and American countries do. Comprehensive reforms that make the entire communication system more unified and efficient are more important than the language the communication is in to Redmond.
Another weakness outside of this to Redmond is the way that Japanese companies often seem reluctant to speak about anything. They are very secretive and closed off towards the West, which the author sees as a failing. This means that the company is never controlling their own narrative, instead leaving it entirely to outsiders. One example is when Toyota had large recalls in 2010, it took their Chief Executive Officer too long to host a press conference on the event and it went poorly. By not wishing to engage in the story publically, they simply put public perception, a huge component for consumer goods companies, in the hands of forces outside of their own control. Redmond believes that this example can show how counterproductive a major Japanese company was in response to a crisis and how unique that sort of reaction would be in the West.
Finally, he says that there is no focus in Japan on effectively hiring people specializing in communications. Businessmen often spend a few years unwillingly in communications, where they give uniformly bland yet incomprehensible speeches and statements. One telling example featured a mother telling the businessman how to act, and her instructions being accidentally recorded. This is part of Redmond’s account of Japanese companies refusing to put the required resources into communication plans. It does not matter if they put more resources into learning a new language, if they do not fix their overall strategy they will be just poorly communicating in English instead of Japanese. Once they effectively communicate in their first language, they can begin to focus on communicating well in a second one.
Redmond focuses this story as three flaws within the Japanese communication systems, dedicating a section to each of them as he explains why Englishnization is a poor way to reform the various communication apparati. However, the paper still does not seem well organized. Also, there seems to be little reason to break Japanese companies not having communication plans and not having specialized communication employees. These seem like the same issue of a lack of emphasis. Redmond also begins using the Rakuten example to tell the story, although he hardly returns to it later, making its early introduction unconnected to most of the rest of the article. In fact, at times it seems as though Englishnization is given just as a hook for the author to give his opinions on Japanese corporate communication in general. Later he states that it will get in the way of more effective reforms by taking Japanese workers out of their comfort zones at work. It does feel somewhat like it was thrown on to tie the topic he proposed to the one he wrote about.
The audience for this article seems to be communication experts, or those whose business interests force them to consider proper communication. The author is a communications consultant for Japanese companies, according to the blurb at the end of the article, and is clearly giving this message to an audience with direct personal stakes in how to get a business to communicate effectively. His status as a specialist in Japanese communications makes his writing especially persuasive as he is able to cite examples no one without direct interaction with the workings of corporate Japenese culture would know. These specific, illuminating examples often work to increase the prestige of the author. His evidence is usually anecdotal, such as the singular Toyota brake recall crisis, but the readers is left to himself to conclude whether or not the stories he cites are representative, but the author certainly sells them.
There are flaws to the article though. It is often dry and mechanical, just as he accuses the Japanese communicators to be. There is no personality to his writing and the sentences fly by as one realizes the unlikelihood that the next one will offer a substantial viewpoint instead of just support for a position the writer has already lobbied for substantially. He never addresses why someone could not be for Englishnization and more comprehensive together, just forcing us to accept that they are mutually exclusive and never offering any potential counter arguments to what he has said.
Ultimately the article falls short when viewed purely as rhetoric. There are no particularly well given arguments for why we should feel that ineffective communication planning is a worse trait in Japan than not speaking the language of so many business partners. However, this is redeemed as the author clearly holds a great command of the subject matter. He can certainly be seen as trustworthy based on the expertise and knowledge he clearly shows for the topic at hand. There’s no reason to be sure about anything he says, the arguments just are not presented strongly enough, but a reader will certainly be inclined towards believing he is probably right because he is such an expert on the topic.
Redmond, Tom. “An Alternative View of Rakuten’s ‘Englishnization'” Japan Business Press. JB Press, 27 July 2012. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. <An Alternative View of Rakuten’s ‘Englishnization’>.
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