Asian Studies Conference Japan

Saturday, June 19 - Sunday 20, 2004
Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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 Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

Session 1: Room 201

Intercultural Communication in Japan: The Effect of Non-native Speaker Ethnicity

Organizer and chair: Christopher Long, Sophia University

This panel introduces research which investigates communication between Japanese native speakers (NSs) and non-native speakers (NNSs), focusing on the effect of NNSs ethnicity. Specifically, the panel considers differences in the interactional dynamics between Japanese NSs and NNSs of Western vs. Asian origin. Ostheider presents the results of a study that investigates the experiences and attitudes of Japanese NSs regarding communication with Asian and Western NNSs. He concludes that different expectations concerning the usage of Japanese and English, stereotypical conceptions about communication with foreigners, and differences in the perceived Japanese language ability of Asian and Western foreigners are factors determining the communication behavior of Japanese NSs (e.g., the predominant use of Japanese with Asian NNSs and English with Western NNSs). The presentations by Long and Fairbrother present findings of studies that investigate dyadic communication between Japanese NSs and NNSs. Using the language management theory (Jernudd and Neustupne 1987), Fairbrother examines differences in reactions of Japanese NSs when interacting with Caucasian, Chinese, and Japanese Brazilian NNSs. Her analysis concludes that ethnicity cannot account for the majority of differences in her findings. The paper by Long examines the use of linguistic accommodation strategies by NSs when interacting with Western and Asian NNSs. Long's study examines ethnicity from the perspective of status within the framework of communication accommodation theory (Coupland et al., 1988). He argues that Japanese NS use of accommodation reflects the relative status of Western and Asian NNSs in Japan.

1) Teja Ostheider, University of Tsukuba
"Communication with Foreigners" in Japan: Reconsidering a Concept

Statistics show that the majority of foreign residents in Japan are of Asian origin. However, as indicated by the fact that most studies on "communication with foreigners" in Japan deal with white (especially English-speaking) people from Western countries, there is a strong tendency for Japanese people to think of a foreigner as a person from the West. Based on a survey of 220 Japanese nationals, this presentation discusses sociopsychological and sociolinguistic aspects of this misconception and its effect on communication behavior towards foreigners in Japan. The survey compares experiences and views regarding communication with two groups of foreigners (Asian and Western). In addition, attitudes are examined concerning language choice and the Japanese language itself. The results show that even though “communication with foreigners” is widely associated with the use of English, Japanese NSs reported communicating primarily in English only with Western foreigners; with Asian foreigners, they reported communicating primarily in Japanese. Here different attitudes and expectations concerning the usage of Japanese and English as well as differences in the perceived Japanese language ability of Asian and Western foreigners were found to be significant factors in determining native speakers' language choice. Finally, native speakers’ attitudes regarding the difficulty of the Japanese language are discussed in terms of their impact on communication behavior towards foreigners.

2) Christopher Long, Sophia University
The Effect of Non-Native Speaker Status on the Use of Linguistic Accommodation by Native Speakers of Japanese

This presentation reports the results of a study of the use of linguistic accommodation by Japanese native speakers (NSs) when interacting with non-native speaker (NNSs) of different ethnicity. Twenty Japanese university students (10 male and 10 female) conversed with a same-sex Western and Asian NNS. In a post-discussion questionnaire, they also rated their conversational partner on a number of attitudinal scales. Analyses were conducted within the framework of communication accommodation theory (Coupland et al., 1988). Paired t-test analyses indicated that male and female NSs used more clarification per request with Western NNSs and that female NSs used foreign lexicon as a clarification strategy more often with Western NNSs. Female NSs also spoke longer and expressed a greater desire to work and develop a relationship with Western NNSs. Male NSs, however, expressed a greater desire to work with Asian NNSs. The finding that both male and female Japanese NS participants were more attentive to the needs of Western NNSs reflects the general higher status of Western NNSs in Japanese society and goes against the characterization of NNS directed speech modifications as “condescending” acts reserved primarily for low-status NNSs (Bingham, 1996; Freed, 1981). However, women, but not men, were more interested in interacting with Western NNSs. I argue that, because of their higher status in Japanese society, men may feel less comfortable than women when placed in a low-status position (in other words, having to accommodate Western interlocutors). In contrast, women may prefer conversing with Westerners as a means of raising their status.

3) Lisa Fairbrother, Sophia University
Japanese Native Speaker Reactions to Nonnative Speaker Deviations: How Far Does Ethnicity Play a Part?

This paper will present the results of a micro level analysis of Japanese native speakers’ reactions to three groups of Japanese nonnative speakers: Caucasian native speakers of English (A group), ethnic Japanese Brazilian native speakers of Portuguese (B group) and Han Chinese native speakers of Mandarin (C group). The study is based on video-recordings of 30 native-nonnative speaker dyads supplemented with data from stimulated recall interviews, and analyzed using the language management theory (Jernudd & Neustupn?1987), which holds that in intercultural contact situations deviations from norms may be noted, evaluated and adjustments made. My results show that Japanese native speakers reacted differently towards each of the three nonnative groups with regard to the noting, evaluation of and adjustments made towards deviations. For example, there were more deviations noted in the interactions in A and C group than in B group, and adjustment strategies incorporating kanji were only implemented towards C group, whereas adjustment strategies incorporating English were only implemented towards A group. Although the ethnicity of the nonnative speaker may appear to be significant, it would be an overgeneralization to say that most differences were a direct result of Japanese native speaker reactions to the visual ethnicity of the nonnative speakers. Instead I argue that other aspects of the nonnative speakers “foreignness,” such as the type of linguistic, sociolinguistic and sociocultural deviations that they produced, as well as additional contextual factors, played a greater role.

Discussant: Daniel Long, Tokyo Metropolitan University.


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