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Language Skills For International Engineering: A Study Of English Japanese Bilingual Engineers

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.357.1 - 4.357.7

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Michio Tsutsui

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1360

Language Skills for International Engineering: A Study of English-Japanese Bilingual Engineers

Michio Tsutsui University of Washington

1. Introduction

In today’s global economy, the work environments of engineers and scientists have become increasingly international. More frequently than ever, these engineers and scientists interact with foreign peers and customers, travel abroad on business, work in foreign countries for an extended period, and face situations in which they must obtain information from foreign sources. Most companies in America, however, are not prepared for this change—particularly when they deal with Asian countries, whose languages are not easy for Americans to learn. In most cases, communication is done in English simply because companies have no bilingual technical specialists. But, this practice is not without consequences, for example, a possible loss of business opportunities, products with low market potential in target countries, higher production costs, longer production time, delayed delivery, poor technical support, and daily frustration, among others.

Recently, companies have begun to realize that this problem is too serious to ignore. The fact that bilingual engineers and researchers are now in great demand is one indication of this. More specifically, the increased demand for English-Japanese bilinguals is particularly noticeable. For example, Table 1 shows the number of companies that placed position announcements for English-Japanese bilingual engineers and scientists in the Nikkei Placement Guide International (a yearly recruitment publication) each year for the past four years.1

Table 1: Companies recruiting bilingual engineers and scientists

Year Number of companies that recruit Place of employment bilingual engineers and scientists (total number of companies listed) Japan US Others

1998 86 (86) 84 23 15 1997 94 (99) 94 41 26 1996 72 (75) 72 22 15 1995 50 (53) 47 14 9

As can be seen here, the number of companies employing bilingual workers almost doubled between 1995 and 1997. (Due to the current recession in Japan, 1998 figures are lower than those of 1997.) It is noted that more than half of the companies are US company subsidiaries in Japan and other multi-national companies.

Tsutsui, M. (1999, June), Language Skills For International Engineering: A Study Of English Japanese Bilingual Engineers Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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