Can Japanese people speak english?

When travelling to Japan, one of the concerns many travelers have is whether there will be any communication issues due to the language difference.

Ranked “Low Proficiency” by EF English Proficiency Index

In 2019, Japan was ranked 53rd out of 100 non-english speaking countries by EF English Proficiency Index. (Refer to Wikipedia). It is ranked lower than South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

It is compulsory to study English in Junior and Senior High Schools

Many young Japanese people these days have a good understanding of english as it has become a compulsory subject in 3 years of junior high school and 3 years of senior high school.

However, don’t expect them to be ‘fluent’. Although they may understand what you’re saying, often they cannot speak back to you.

Katakana words are English

Many Japanese words have derived from English, and those written in “Katakana”, which is one of the forms of Japanese writing, are mainly used for writing words that came from foreign countries. For example:
Radio – ra-ji-o
Grapefruit – gu-re-pu-fu-ru-tsu
Table – te-bu-ru
Note – no-to

You may get confused with some of the words that are shortened in Japanese:
Television – te-re-vi
Personal Computer (PC) – pa-so-con

So when you speak in English, people may understand if the words you used are commonly used as Katakana in Japan.