We interviewed teachers and business managers to find out how
they are using WordEngine to enhance their English education programs.

Interview with Mr. Fumihiko Yamada

General Manager of HR Dept., Kureha Corp.

In addition to the "New Kurewrap," which is Kureha's most famous and widely used product, people use Kureha's various products including heat-resistant plastic and lithium-ion battery raw materials in everyday life. Kureha's corporate vision is to be "a leading global specialty products company." In order to achieve this, what are they doing to improve their employees' English ability? We interviewed Mr. Fumihiko Yamada, Director of Human Resources (and Director Mr. Yoshihiro Naoi) (Date: 2011/08/25)

We don't compete with scale, but with technology

- In this global society, where does Kureha stand?

Kureha is not a big chemical company with about 1,800 employees. Compared to our competitors, even the domestic ones, our company is small. So, we don't compete in the mass markets with economies of scale. We can only compete with our unique technologies that are unrivaled by any other world class major chemical manufacturer. Thus, naturally, we have to expand our business globally. So, we need internationally aware employees who have good English skills. In fact, most of our directors have overseas experience. Anyway, to survive we have to compete outside Japan.

We don't require a specific TOEIC score

- Tell us about Kureha's English level. More and more companies are requiring their employees to get a certain TOEIC score.

We don't require a TOEIC score for recruitment or promotion.. Many young people these days have good TOEIC scores – but that is only a test score. Can they really speak English? Maybe not. All university students prepare well for TOEIC to help them find a job. So, that is why there is a difference between their test scores and their communication ability. I myself have a 770 score but cannot talk when I meet Americans. However, I don't think having a TOEIC score target is useless, either. For example, even if it is just to prepare for a test,it's important to study hard. It is useful to measure how hard you're working. I think it is also a useful tool to decide who should go to work abroad.

No self-motivation, no progress

- What kind of English training do you do?

For those who wish to participate, we offer English conversation lessons. They are held once a week for 2 hours, for half a year. It's not free, but we refund half the cost to participants if they attend at least 70% of the classes. We used to give the refund based on TOEIC score increases but we don't do that anymore. We believe that if they are highly motivated and continue studying, they will improve. We respect their autonomy. In fact, if they do not have a goal or motivation to study, then they will not improve and further will not be able to compete globally.

Our Existing program wasn't good enough

- What is the effect of your program? Are you satisfied?

I was just assigned to the HR department in January. In my younger days working in one of our factories, I knew of a project to build our first overseas plant in Singapore. During this project the young members of our team, studied English really hard either after work or during work Monday through Friday. Since I saw this I have a feeling that our once a week lessons are not enough to quickly train our employees to compete globally.

Vocabulary is the base of speaking, listening, reading and writing

- How did you start WordEngine?

One day I just happen to read about the WordEngine in someone's blog. I studied it a bit more and tried it for myself. Finally, I was convinced that I should try this at Kureha. I believe vocabulary is an essential ingredient for speaking, listening, reading and writing. Without an adequate vocabulary, you can't make big improvements. I myself did not have to take entrance exams to get into university. So, I did not study English and now I realize that I have a lack of vocabulary.

So impressed that words repeat to develop long-term memory.

- What do you think of WordEngine?

I'm really impressed with the way WordEngine works. It uses a 'spaced repetition' system that automatically manages the repetition of words. This system is represented by a series of boxes that illustrates each step. If you make a mistake the word is sent back to the beginning. This promotes long-term memory. I think they have thought of a good way to teach vocabulary. It is well done.. I also like that each word is taught with its sound. Of course it's difficult to memorize words by just looking at them, I think it improves memory having the word and sound together. Vocabulary books often come with a CD, but because it's troublesome people don't really use it, do they? I myself am working hard and studying with WordEngine every day.

English training for all freshmen and recruits for next year

- How do you actually use WordEngine with your employees?

All new clerical employees who joined us this spring and all recruits are using the WordEngine. I check their progress with V-Admin. I export their progress data into an EXCEL spreadsheet and send it to them weekly. I hide their names, but they know which one is themselves. I think seeing how their colleagues are doing motivates them. Everybody is studying pretty hard. We have high expectations.

Reading training is the next challenge

- Please tell us what you expect from the WordEngine in the future.

As a new component of our program, we want to start an extensive reading program. I believe reading is very important for increasing vocabulary, and a bigger vocabulary will improve productivity. It doesn't matter what they read. It doesn't have to be business news. They should just choose a book even a graded reader at their level, and write a brief summary to show they read it. We want to make a program like that. If WordEngine could provide reading content we would like to use it.

Having a large vocabulary
will give you the confidence.
Focus on the words
that you are missing.

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