Ken Worsley of Trans-Pacific Radio has posted over at Japan Economy News regarding a potential language requirement for foreign residents of Japan in the near future. Evidently, if you are a long-term resident or looking to be one, you will have to demonstrate a certain degree of Japanese language proficiency, so says Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura:
"For foreign people living in Japan to be able to speak Japanese is not only important for improving their own quality of life, but also necessary for the Japanese society as a whole…It would be a very good thing if this helps build momentum for learning Japanese language in the respective home countries of foreign people living in Japan."
Although the government may have ulterior motives for such an initiative, I believe this is a good step for the internationalization of Japan; if the public is aware that foreign residents are required by their own government to learn something about their language and culture before arriving at Nippon - this should be done anyway, but isn't always - then the social barriers that shouldn't exist in the first place will start to break down in people's minds. Maybe one day, a foreigner can be seen having difficulties using chopsticks and observers will think ahhh, that poor man, he must have broken his wrist, rather than him being an incompetent non-chopstick-using gaikokujin.
I will admit it will be difficult to gage such language skills (JLP4 for first years? JLP2 for three years?), but even having it unenforced and existing as a face-value regulation will provide a needed push to foreigners entering or already living in Japan to brush up their language skills.