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Tokyo calling

Learning a foreign language can be fun and lucrative too. Fluency in a foreign tongue is one of the key attributes for making it big in the global arena. And with ties between India and Japan getting stronger, learning Japanese could be the new mantra for success.

“Japan is the domain for Indian information technology (IT) solution providers catering to the Asia Pacific region. Knowing the language comes handy. At times, one is required to make a presentation in Japanese because most of the clients have little or no knowledge of English,” says Krisnarup Basu, a business analyst with a leading IT company. “So a professional armed with a diploma in Japanese has a better chance of going for onsite assignments in Japan,” he adds. Basu got himself enrolled at The Japanese Language Academy, Calcutta, after returning from Japan.

With several Japanese companies (both IT and automobile) venturing into India, job opportunities have opened up for those fluent in the language. And it’s not only those in the software business who are raking in the moolah, but also freelancers, interpreters and translators. “On the basis of skills in Japanese, one can get a job in the testing, client interface and marketing departments. One can also work as a translator or an interpreter. The starting salary for these positions is around Rs 20,000,” says Kum Kum Nandy, director, Japanese Language Academy.

A. Oikawa, senior vice-consul, Consulate General of Japan, Calcutta, says, “Learning Japanese can be an aid to success. Companies like Tata Consultancy Service (TCS), Cognizant Technologies and several others look for computer engineers with knowledge of Japanese.”

The demand for people proficient in the language is increasing with every passing day. Companies like TCS (which deals with Japanese companies) have a special cell that encourages employees to take up foreign language courses. Says Deepankar Dey, IT consultant at TCS, Calcutta, “Our foreign language cell sponsors and gives waivers to those enrolled in specific foreign language institutes. Fees are reimbursed on completion of the certificate course.”

His statement clearly indicates the growing demand for professionals with specialisation in at least one foreign language. Dey says, “I had to take along an interpreter to Japan to talk to my clients. On returning to India I enrolled at an academy teaching Japanese.”

Basu feels professionals working in firms that deal with Japanese companies need to know the language well. “If one doesn’t know the language one is completely at the mercy of the interpreter,” he says. Companies are also looking at the cost-cutting factor as hiring interpreters is an expensive affair.

Nandy who has been running her academy for years says, “The demand for people eager to learn the language has definitely increased. Mostly IT professionals working with companies that do business with Japanese companies come to learn the language.”

However, the IT sector is not the only place that provides job opportunities to those fluent in the language. “Students with an advanced level diploma in Japanese and a sound knowledge of Kanji (Chinese characters in Japanese where each character has its own meaning and corresponds to a word), Katakana and Hiragana (the two other Japanese scripts) can get work as a translator or an interpreter.”

Says Sushila Kini of Kenkyu Centre in Salt Lake, “While learning Japanese can be a test of patience, the results can be rewarding. Starting from translation jobs to interpreting, it offers a whole lot of avenues to young, upcoming professionals who want to gain an edge.” Knowing the language, which is an emerging one, also equips one with a soft skill that has a roaring demand in the market. The institute has been teaching Japanese for more than a decade now.

The phenomenal boom in the outsourcing sector has opened up opportunities for those with a good command of the language. Says Basu, “I used to work for a financial solutions provider that catered to Japanese companies. There I had Japanese translators to help me draft the business analysis. Most of them were fresh graduates with a major in Japanese from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), but they earned around Rs 40,000 a month.” He says even a freelancer can make good money. “As a freelancer you can charge around Rs 1,000 per page for any translation work that you do,” he says.

Oikawa agrees on this point. He says, “It may be relatively difficult for Indians to learn Japanese than Chinese but one can’t deny the fact that the job prospects are definitely very good.”

To cater to the growing demand for the language, the Japanese Consulate has opened 10 institutes that offer quality training in Japanese. They offer regular scholarship programmes to those keen on learning the language. “We have announced a sponsorship programme for school graduates keen on studying Japanese in Japan. The entire course fee will be borne by the government of Japan,” he says.

Those interested in doing graduation in Japanese can do so either from JNU or Visva-Bharati University.

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