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Japanese context elaborations

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Japanese L6: Context elaborations

Students are expected to communicate information, ideas, and opinions, and express and respond to personal ideas and opinions in areas of most immediate relevance. The content and language of the communication is targeted beyond the immediate context to include the expression of opinions. Students are expected to understand and produce a variety of text types.

Example 1: Discussing the holidays

ベン — やすみは どうでしたか。

たけし — うん、やすみは たのしかったよ。ベンくんは?

ベン — ぼくは、ロトルアに いっしゅうかん 行きました。

たけし — ながいね。何をしたの。

ベン — ええと、luge … luge … は日本語で何?リュージュ?リュージュをしたり、おんせんに入ったりしました。リュージュははやくて、こわかったよ。

たけし — へええ、すごいね。ぼくもしたいな。

ベン — こんどいっしょに 行きましょう。

Context and text type

Ben, a New Zealand learner of Japanese, and Takeshi, a Japanese international student, have just returned from their term holidays and are discussing what they did over the break.

Text type

Conversation, informal. Interactive.

Examples showing how the student is:

Communicating information, ideas and opinions beyond the immediate context

Ben uses the past tense to enquire about holiday events:

  • やすみは どうでしたか。

He also uses the past tense to give information about where he spent his holiday:

  •  ぼくは、ロトルアに いっしゅうかん 行きました。

He uses a compound sentence to link actions that take place at different times:

  • リュージュ をしたり、おんせんに入ったりしました。

He makes a suggestion about future holidays:

  •  行きましょう。

This is a spoken interaction, so features such as pronunciation, intonation, rhythm, delivery, audibility, hesitations, and stress have a bearing on the overall effectiveness of the communication and must also be taken into consideration.

Ben is unsure how to say 'luge' in Japanese. He thinks out loud how best to say it, and decides to 'Japanify' it, saying 'ryuuju', using Japanese syllables to create an approximation:

  • luge … luge … は日本語で何?リュージュ? 

This appears in the written transcript in katakana script.

Expressing and responding to personal ideas and opinions

Ben uses adjectives to express an opinion about his holiday and an activity he experienced:

  • リュージュ ははやくて、こわかったよ。

When Takeshi expresses a desire to try the luge, Ben responds with a suggestion:

  • こんどいっしょに行きましょう。

Communicating appropriately in different situations

The text illustrates the use of particles appropriate for a conversation:

  • たのしかったよ, ながいね。

The question, ベンくんは? shows how, in conversations, Japanese use people use incomplete sentences when the meaning is clear from the context.

The text illustrates the use of the particle  for seeking agreement:

  • ながいね、すごいね、

Understanding how language is organised for different purposes

Takeshi uses Ben’s name to avoid having to address him directly with the pronoun you:

  •  ベンくんは?

Takeshi attaches くん, a term of address used with males, to Ben’s name, recognising that this familiar term is appropriate in the context.

In the Japanese culture, the collective well being of family, company, institution, and other allegiances takes precedence over that of the individual. This results in a tendency to not voice opinions directly and, in spoken interactions, for the participants to frequently express their agreement in interjections or by nodding. This trait comes through in Takeshi’s responses:

  • へええ、すごいね。ぼくもしたいな。

Takeshi uses the plain form to show closeness of relationship, as he and Ben are classmates:

  • うん、やすみは たのしかったよ。

While Ben talks about where he went on his holiday and the things he did, Takeshi’s only comment about his own holiday was that it was enjoyable: うん、やすみは たのしかったよ。For the rest of the conversation, he responds to Ben’s comments, expressing agreement and supporting what he says.

Opportunities for developing intercultural communicative competence

The sentence ながいね presents an opportunity for students to explore the concept of holidays, what holidays mean to them personally, and the meaning Japanese people attribute to them. How might students apply this understanding when communicating with speakers of Japanese?

Students could investigate how the pronoun 'you' is used in conversational Japanese. They could then make comparisons with how people address each other in conversations in English (and in other known languages). How might they apply this knowledge when producing their own texts in Japanese?

Last updated March 27, 2013