Screw English, It's All About C

This month, Japanese online retailer Rakuten.com decided the language that was used internally by the company would no longer be Japanese.

By 2012, the company's official in-house language will be English. That would mean all meetings would be conducted in English and all internal documents would be in English. English, English, English!

Rakuten has been making the transition to an English working environment by doing things like putting the menus in its staff cafeteria in English.

Earlier this month, Rakuten president Hiroshi Mikitani gave a press conference (in English) detailing the company's intentions and pointing out that English is widely used in cyberspace. Rakuten aims to have overseas business account for 70 percent of its transactions conducted through its online shopping sites, reports website Japan Today.

Square Enix president Yoichi Wada has chimed in on this — with a joke. Square Enix, best known for its Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games, currently uses Japanese as its in-house language.

"Instead of making English in-house language," Wada joked, "I'm going to make it the C programming language!"

So then, maybe something like this, Wada?

while(YOICHI_WADA_IDEA != GOOD) {
NEXT_GAME = randomize(FINAL_FANTASY, KINGDOM_HEARTS, FIRST_PERSON_SHOOTER);
}

Wada is not entirely being serious, but there is a push for Japanese companies to use English as their corporate language. Since Square Enix recently acquired European developer Eidos, which is now Square Enix Europe, one wonders if there isn't such a push at Square Enix.

Sony was one of the first companies to do this in its bid to become a truly international corporation. That doesn't mean that Japanese disappears. Take a look at the Japanese Sony Computer Entertainment website and see...Japanese. (There's also an English page!) But what English does do is provide an easier and smoother entrance for Japanese companies onto the world's stage.

This move by Japanese companies echoes what a handful of Japanese educators and bureaucrats said in the late 19th century: That Japan should abandon Japanese and use English as its official language to become truly international. This, of course, will not happen. Language is embedded in Japanese culture, and it is embedded in Japanese business culture as well. Even if English is the official corporate language, Japanese won't disappear. Too many people speak it, too many writers write it and too many little kids are learning it.

What it will do is give Rakuten a way into the international market just as it has given Sony.

スクエニ和田社長「社内公用語を英語にするくらいならC言語にしてやる!!」 [オレ的ゲーム速報@刃 Thanks for the C, Jason!]