Posted by Kie Bhayangkari, April 2021
Back in Indonesia, when I still a student of Japanese Studies in University of Airlangga. I thought N3 level of Japanese is enough for me for moving and working in Japan. Then when I decided to moving to Japan and searching about how much Japanese level that I need to working in Japan, I found that with the exception of certain specialized positions, you’ll need to speak Japanese pretty well, with Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2 certification (N2) being a commonly-used benchmark.
For living and working in Japan, Japanese is mandatory. At least you have to understand conversational level to support your life daily life. If you familiar with Japan culture, you should know that English is not commonly used in Japan. Different with Hong Kong, Singapore, India or other Asia countries that used to put English in their daily conversation. Japanese tend to use only their mother language for talking each other.
One of our service in this company is human resources introduction. And our client almost give us the same standard with at least N2 certified of Japanese level. Many companies assuming that business-level Japanese as a sign of their commitment to Japan and a strong work ethic as most Japanese seem to understand the difficulties of their native language. If you want to working as a white collar in japan, such as marketing or project team position, almost all companies looking for a minimum N2 level of Japanese ability sufficient for frequent communication and being able to make decisions together. I do think that some work environment doesn't really care if you N4 or N3, but all become considered when you give them N2 Japanese level certification. Regardless, the struggle will never betray you, Japanese Language Proficiency Test N2 is really worth to passed. This is the real effort that you have to built if you want to make a good first step in you Japan career.
However, I found it is interesting because the trend of business level-standard seems not really applied in for highly technical positions. It is becoming more common for tech companies to hire foreign engineers who do not have Japanese skills. Some new companies intentionally kept the company bilingual from the beginning to attract potential bilingual talent and lay the foundation for future overseas expansion. Engineering is one of the job position that less strict of Japanese language standard. Many companies tend to become more flexible about the Japanese level of their engineers position because they realized that there is a big market for high-skilled engineers that basically can not speaks Japanese. As my experience in the recruiting area, other field that more open to hiring non-japanese speaker employee are language teaching, recruiting, and securities and investing.
Moreover, I can say that the bottom line is the better your Japanese skill, the more opportunities will open to you. Even if you have your technical skill right now, higher language skill is still a good investment if you want to get the best for your career or non-career path. As I mentioned above, English is not commonly used in daily conversation in Japan. Become a foreigner in Japan is not easy, so make a good relationship and social network with local Japanese friends is supreme aspect that will good to have.
It is time to crack your book and studying!