“Why do I have to study English? I’m never going to use it… there’s no point,” whines at least one Japanese student in any given English class on a daily basis.

Now, thanks to one company’s clever new initiative, instead of the usual spiel about the benefits of English being an “international language,” teachers can tell their students that knuckling down and mastering the language could bag them 1 million yen.

Softbank Corp., the Japan-based telecommunications and Internet company headed by witty CEO Masayoshi Son, has announced that it will award cash bonuses of up to 1 million yen (US $11,212) to employees who score over 900 points (out of a possible 990) on the TOEIC, an English language proficiency test.

Softbank hopes to raise the language ability of its employees in conjunction with the company’s accelerated expansion abroad.

In addition, employees who score 800 or more receive 300,000 yen (US $3,353), which often equates to more than an average month’s salary. Over the next three years, Softbank hopes to have 17,000 employees sit the TOEIC exam. Currently, only about 800 employees score over 800 points on the exam and the company hopes to increase that number to 3,000 employees.

In October last year, Softbank announced the purchase of American company Sprint Nextel. With plans to expand into the IT sector in Asia as well, Softbank Corporation is finding an increasing amount of opportunities to utilize the English language, meaning that having at least semi-proficient English speaking staff is a must.

Softbank isn’t the first company to offer cash prizes for high TOEIC scores (Daiwa House Industries already has a similar incentive program), but a cash prize of 1 million yen (US $11,212) is very unusual.

Source: Sankei