The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Word power for Nippon tech trek

‘Attention IT member exporters and IT students. Golden opportunity to learn Japanese language under the Language Related Market Access Facilitation Initiative (LRMAFI) in the Japanese IT market,’ screams a poster at the Indo-Japan Welfare and Cultural Association, the city’s nodal link with Japan.

What follows is sure to make the cyber savvy sit up: Under the Initiative, approved by the Union department of commerce, “financial assistance by way of reimbursement of 75 per cent of the tuition fees paid to the Japanese language institutions… is available to Indian software firms which have incurred expenditure on training their IT professionals/personnel in the Japanese language… and Indian IT students who have incurred expenditure on learning the Japanese language… ”

The land of the rising sun provides the newest window of opportunity for IT students and professionals in Calcutta. And the circular from the Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council to heads of all major IT institutions and Japanese language institutions will only add to the impetus.

More and more city techies are willing to learn Japanese, considered one of the toughest foreign languages to pick up, with its hieroglyphic letters and three different scripts. To the extent that the Indo-Japan association, running the oldest Japanese school in town, will soon start a course geared only for IT professionals. “This will deal only with technical terms and some basic grammar,” says general secretary D.N. Bakshi. Adds Kumkum Nandy, who runs Japanese Language Academy in Salt Lake: “There is a great demand for crash courses among those who have been recruited and are on their way to Japan, as also those who want to migrate. Calls are also coming from companies who want to train their executives before sending them off.” The Institute of Language for Engineers has opened in Baguiati to teach Japanese ‘exclusively’ to IT professionals. “Our aim is to open a new job market for computer students. While technical knowledge might be enough in other countries, in Japan, knowledge of the language is a must,” says Nirmalya Das Sharma, facility manager.

Atul Takle, vice-president, corporate communications, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), tracks the trend: “While the US will remain the highest spender on IT, Japan is emerging as potentially the second largest.” TCS, which has recently opened a software development centre in Yokohama, not only arranges for language training but also gets its employees clued in to social customs. “How to bow or give the visiting card to a Japanese client is just as important. We get people who come back from there to share their experiences with the next batch,” adds Takle.

For students, the aim is simple. “There are either Japanese-speaking non-IT people or IT people who do not speak Japanese. We want to catch an early bus to Japan carrying those who can do both,” says Santanu Basu, who, with two of his colleagues at a city software firm, is taking private lessons in Japanese. An engineering college has even made Japanese compulsory for its third and final-year students. Says language co-ordinator of Institute of Engineering and Management, Bidhannagar, Tirthankar Dutta: “We have started classes for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and an advanced course will follow soon.”

In this scenario, the circular is sure to add fuel to the fire of ambition. “It’s good that the pull has come from Japan and the push from our government,” concludes Takle.

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