SAP Japan fills a gap in their English-training program with Blue Canoe

A common business language

For over 10 years, SAP’s office in Tokyo, Japan has had various forms of English training to help their employees become fluent in English. However, until they saw Blue Canoe®, they had never seen a solution that could help with speaking clearly and with confidence. Blue Canoe is an AI mobile app to help non-native English speakers improve their pronunciation and spoken English. It is based on the revolutionary Color Vowel® System, which uses brain science to rewire the brain’s pathways to take in the sounds and rhythms of English.

Like many multinational companies, SAP has chosen English as its common business language for its nearly 100,000 employees representing over 147 nationalities, in order to successfully serve over 437,000 customers in 180 countries.* And they need to continue to grow their $25B revenues* in the highly competitive software industry. SAP needs its employees to be able to communicate clearly and confidently to achieve peak productivity.

About SAP Japan

Industry: Software
Company size: nearly 100,000
Location: Japan

Improving the team’s fluency

To answer that need, SAP Japan has developed an English program that they’ve iterated on over the years. It began with bringing in English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor William Keith of Keith Industries K.K. to help the sales team communicate with prospects. From there they developed courses available for all employees in the Tokyo office, and were successfully improving the team’s fluency in English. However, they were largely ignoring pronunciation, and therefore many team members were still hard to understand and lacked confidence in speaking.

When SAP Japan learned about Blue Canoe, they quickly realized it was necessary and that it filled a big gap in their program.

“I love Blue Canoe and the Color Vowel System! I can suddenly say sounds that don’t exist in my native language. I now understand where to position my jaw and tongue to make the correct sounds. That is an amazing experience.”

–Sangwon Ahn, Chief Financial Officer, SAP Japan

Keys to SAP Japan’s Successful Program

Result: a program with strong use and retention month after month


A CV-Trained Coach

A Color Vowel-trained coach is best for reinforcing this revolutionary methodology.


Management Makes it a Priority

Support from senior management is critical to demonstrate the program is a priority within the company.


Regular 10-Minute Commitment

A commitment from users to use Blue Canoe at least 10 minutes a day several times a week.


Company-wide Encouragement

Fun contests, meet-ups for practice conversations and more

After one month

SAP Japan piloted Blue Canoe for one month, and the results were so positive that they opened it up to all employees: 85% of Blue Canoe users report that their awareness of how English words are pronounced has increased since starting to use Blue Canoe, and they are more confident about speaking. 97% are motivated to continue to improve their English pronunciation.

Blue Canoe and the Color Vowel methodology are now integrated into the English classes at SAP Japan, and employees not only learn it in class, but can practice it on their own every day.

Increased awareness of English pronunciation


97% Motivated to continue to improve their English pronunciation


Stories from those involved in the English Program at SAP

Olga Zgurskaya, Head of HR, SAP Japan

William Keith, President, Keith Industries, K.K.

An ongoing success

Blue Canoe is an ongoing success not only for their English program, but for the whole office.  Olga Zgurskaya, Head of HR, SAP Japan, said, “What really made me love Blue Canoe was that it became a uniting topic for us. When I walk around the office, people love to tell me about their Blue Canoe experience. And it brings together people from different teams and different levels. For example, our CFO talks about Blue Canoe with employees who have only been with SAP for a couple of months. It is a great opportunity for all of us!”

*Source: SAP corporate website

“In my 20 years of teaching English as a Second Language in Japan, and in my constant pursuit to be a better instructor, I’ve never found something as effective as Blue Canoe.”

–William Keith, Keith Industries, K.K.