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Why Your Answer To The Question “Can You Speak English” Ought To Be “YES.”

Hello to those of you who have newly entered ICU as so-called “24 April students”!! For those who don’t know, 24 April refers to students who enter ICU in the spring and will be graduating in 2024. Congratulations on your matriculation and I am really looking forward to meeting you all and hope you might enjoy this article and consider joining our Her Campus team!

I wanted to write something specifically for those of you who entered ICU recently and feel nervous about your new life here.

To begin with, let me ask a question.

Can you speak English?

I think many people, including myself, have been asked this question and those who are not confident with your level of English, might have struggled to answer. You may have wondered “can I say I can speak English with confidence?” 

But, now you’re an ICU student and I am certain that all of you can answer, loud and proud, 

“Yes! I can speak English!!”

Maybe some of you are still skeptical of my answer, so here are the reasons why I—a typical Japanese public school student from elementary through high school—want you to confidently say “I can speak English”!


You actually can speak English.

Yes, you can speak English even if you’ve never taken a class in English before or have only been a Japanese public school student like myself! To touch upon the shortcomings of the Japanese education system, many teachers have told students, “you shouldn’t say that you can speak English unless you can speak native-like English or can fully understand what other English speakers say.” 

Well, of course not! If so, nobody in the Japanese public education system could become an English speaker, and this “native speaker myth” is irrelevant to how we use English day to day. Don’t be the believers in such a myth. Just recall when you have conversed with someone in English. It could even be a small conversation, like giving directions to a foreigner. You successfully communicated with them, didn’t you? Even though you can’t say perfect collocations or explain with perfect grammar, the person you spoke to could understand what you said—that’s what I mean by “communication.” If you once have experienced “communication” with someone in English that means you can speak English. This is not a badge exclusively worn by those who have been educated outside of Japan, but for those who have only been educated in Japanese public education system as well!

You are not 純ジャパ (pure Japanese) anymore.

At the ICU, there are numerous courses which are taught in English (called E Kaikou or English class). Those who are not native level English speakers must take at least 18 credits of English classes by graduation, which means you are required to make practical use of all four English skills to get credits and graduate from ICU. I might’ve scared those who have never taken a class in English, but all these classes will definitely change you from 純ジャパ—a Japanese word which indicates Pure Japanese, or Japanese people who live in Japan, never having experienced a long-term stay overseas, and cannot speak English fluently) to non-純ジャパ. I personally have come to dislike using the word 純ジャパ after having taken some classes about bilingualism which taught me that “if you can take a class in English and use your English to get credits, you are not a 純ジャパ anymore”. 


Now that you’ve become an ICU student, you can at least become the level of bilingual necessary to get the credits you need. In other words, even if there is initially a difference between someone who has only been educated in Japan and someone who has been educated abroad, that doesn’t mean one or the other will be better through your four years of university life. There are advantages to having a Japanese education—for me, it’s a chance to learn Japanese classic literature in detail—just as there is an advantage to having a foreign education. So don’t hinder your possibilities by being shy or looking down on yourself for your educational background. Don’t let your background be an excuse. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new! ICU will definitely help you to see a larger world. Today’s COVID-19 situation really sucks, but it could be a good opportunity to rethink what you can do, or what you want to do. Why not give something you gave up on doing because of your fear of English a chance?  

Yukiko Takei

ICU Japan '22

Hi, I am Yukiko and am currently studying at the University of Gothenburg as exchange student remotely, majoring in public policy.
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