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Japan

Foreign Ministry To Japanese Diplomats: Improve Your English

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

TOKYO — Japan isn't accustomed to underachievement, in government or anywhere else.

So it's significant that the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is worried about the abilities of its diplomats to negotiate in English at a level comparable to counterparts from other parts of the world.

To remedy the problem, the ministry has decided to begin requiring new staff members to score at least 100 (out of a possible 120) on the TOEFL English proficiency test, or at least 7 (out of a possible 9) on the alternative IELTS test.

Diplomats who have not achieved the required proficiency level will be asked to brush up on their English "so they can exchange opinions as equals with their counterparts from Europe and the United States," Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

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Photo: Niko Kitsakis

Only 30% of the 30 or so prospective staff members scheduled to join the ministry in the spring have met the standard.

The new requirements are meant to set a higher goal so that the new staff's English fluency is strong enough that members would be eligible to enter prestigious universities abroad. In China and South Korea, many students become diplomats after attending universities in Europe and the United States.

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Ideas

A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — Don't concentrate on his words, I was once advised, but look at what he's doing. I heard the words so long ago I cannot recall who said them. The point is, what's the use of a husband who vows never to beat his wife in January and leaves her with a bruised face in February?

Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

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