Today I found this text passage in the english written version of the Japanese Times:
The average TOEFL scores of students from 30 Asian countries show that Japan ranked 27th, with only Laos, Tajikistan and Cambodia trailing behind.
This may sound harsh, but sometimes this is just the feeling I get, when I walk around in Japan. The staff in the hotel is speaking good English (because it is part of their job). But outside the hotel … I always run into difficulties. Even with the younger fellows.
Lucky for me that I speak a little bit Japanese. This sometimes is a real benefit. And I am also not native English speaker. This benefit might be even bigger. I seems like many Japanese know about their English knowledge I try to avoid to speak it. Maybe they don’t want to show how bad they are. I don’t know. But usually after mentioning that I am from Germany and my English is not so good at all, they losen up. Just like the fear of embarisment is gone.
Therefore I created the following rule:
If it comes to English, try to show them, that you are not a native speaker; That you make mistakes too; That you also don't know all words; a.s.o.
Now I could talk about the reasons and how the Japanese can improve their educational system. But to honest. I don’t care. Of course it is easier for me as a tourist to speak English. But if someone, like me, is travel to Japan frequently, he can learn a few words Japanese to get along.