Honda still has its headquarters in Japan and offices all over the world, but expect to hear a little less Japanese from the automaker in the coming years. A small statement in the business' latest sustainability report (available here as a PDF) announces English will become the official language for interregional communication by 2020. Honda believes that the change should foster better contact between countries as Japan becomes a less central focus for the company.

As part of this shift, any documents or questions during interregional meetings, plus any other information being shared between territories, must be in English. To put some extra weight behind the mandate, the ability to speak the language is going to be a requirement for future promotions to management. In the meantime, "Honda has implemented measures in Japan that include study programs aimed at boosting English language skills," the sustainability report said.

According to Automotive News, former CEO Takanobu Ito called the idea of making English an official language for company communications "stupid" five years ago. Although even under his watch, things were changing. In 2013, Honda adopted English as the main form of discourse in global meetings.

The decision to lessen the focus on Japanese within Honda stems in part from changing worker demographics and major sales regions. According to Automotive News, 81 percent of the company's production comes from outside of Japan, and the country only accounts for about a third of the workforce. Also, 40 percent of global sales are from North America.

Honda is quickly transitioning into a more global company in general. For example, the latest Civic Type R is assembled in the UK but has an engine from the US. Also, North America is getting the European made Civic five-door hatchback for the venerable model's next generation.
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English as the Official Language

Setting English as the official language in inter- regional communications

It is vital to develop an environment that achieves close communication between associates in six regions worldwide in order for the Honda Group to display its comprehensive capabilities while local sites are independent.

Therefore, Honda is working to set English as the official language when we engage in inter-regional communication by 2020 by using English in the documents used at inter-regional conferences, including the use of English for questions from communicators of information, and in interactions for the sharing of information.

As part of this, Honda has implemented measures in Japan that include study programs aimed at boosting English language skills and plans to make English language skills a requirement for promotion to management level in the future.


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