Japanese mangers tell employees to learn English


Japanese company leaders are telling their employees to learn as much English as possible. As the Japanese economy is slowly declining, managers think that learning English is the only possible way to communicate with the world. Rakuten Inc., a Japanese Internet company, has started a project in which it requires all of its employees to learn English up to a certain level. Those who do not are threatened with consequences. Some of the employees have rejected learning English and left the company. The order came from the boss of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani, a billionaire who studied at Harvard and speaks fluent English. When the project was introduced two years ago only 10% of Rakuten’s workforce was able to communicate in English. The company thinks that by meeting and communicating in English it will have the advantage of getting into new markets. Two years later, Rakuten expanded into ten additional countries. In the next few years it plans to expand to a total of 27 countries and boost its overseas sales from 10 to 70%.


Exercise 1
Match the expressions in bold in the text with their definitions:

1. __________ = extra
2. __________ = something that makes you better
3. __________ = to improve
4. __________ = not determined
5. __________ = slowing/going down
6. __________ = got bigger
7. __________ = very good at a language
8. __________ = started
9. __________ = instruction
10. __________ = foreign
11. __________ = decided not to accept
12. __________ = says something is necessary
13. __________ = amount of goods sold
14. __________ = said something wrong could happen
15. __________ = employees of a company


Exercise 2
Combine the expressions from both columns to form collocations as in the text:

1. company                         a project
2. certain                            sales
3. overseas                         level
4. to start                           new markets
5. to get into                      sales
6. to boost                         leader


I know English idioms!

The topic of this lesson’s reading text is learning English by Japanese managers. The concept of “learning” is often used in idiomatic expressions, like this one:

  •  to learn a lesson
    My computer crashed before I saved the document – I’ve learned my lesson and now I save everything all the time.

So what does it mean “to learn a lesson”? To understand something because of an unpleasant experience! How often we learn our lessons…


Phrasals, phrasals…

Talking about learning languages it would be good to remember that:

  • It’s easier to pick up English when among Englishmen.

Which means that it’s easier to learn the basics of a language staying in the country where it is spoken. “pick up” means “podłapać”.



Grammar corner

Here’s another sentence from this lesson’s text: “Japanese company leaders are telling their employees to learn as much English as possible.”

This sentence from the reading text uses a comparative structure “as… as…” which can be translated as “tak… jak…”. It is usually used in a very popular expression “as quickly as possible” often used in emails as “asap”.



employee – pracownik
possible – możliwy/e
economy – gospodarka
to decline – zwalniać, obniżać się
way – sposób
to communicate – porozumiewać się
to require – wymagać
up to – aż do
certain – pewien
level – poziom
to threaten – grozić
to reject – odrzucić
order – polecenie, nakaz
billionaire – miliarder
fluent – biegły
to be introduced – zostać wprowadzonym
workforce – siła robocza, pracownicy
to be able – być w stanie
advantage – przewaga
to get into – wejść na , podbić
to expand – rozszerzyć (działalność)
additional – dodatkowy
to boost – zwiększyć
overseas – zagraniczny
sales – sprzedaż


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1. additional
2. advantage
3. boost
4. certain
5. declining
6. expanded
7. fluent
8. introduced
9. order
10. overseas
11. rejected
12. requires
13. sales
14. threatened
15. workforce
Ex. 2
1. company leader
2. certain level
3. overseas sales
4. to start a project
5. to get into new markets
6. to boost sales