In Japan, the ability to speak and understand English is widely regarded as essential for communication in a ‘globalized’ world. At the same time, however, many Japanese are reluctant to communicate in English because they perceive themselves (and are often perceived by others) to be poor speakers of English, despite the fact that they will have studied English for at least six years in junior and senior high school. In response to this, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has recently revised the national syllabus for English teaching. The revised syllabus places more emphasis on developing oral communication skills, and proposes a much greater use of communicative language teaching (CLT) methodology in order to bring this about. This paper describes the present situation of CLT in Japan based on questionnaire data obtained from 48 Japanese university students, and proposes that a more effective and practical approach to CLT and English teaching more generally may be obtained by adopting a ‘World Englishes’ point of view.