Tokyo JALT Journal Vol. 4 2017


Update 09/19/2018

This journal has been edited for readability for publication on this site. Photos, charts, and tables, all painstakingly created by the authors and carefully posted by the editors of the TJJ have been removed. We apologize for this and appreciate your understanding. All of the documents are included in the PDF file which is available on the main page. Thank you and enjoy the Tokyo JALT Journal.

Best regards,

Matthew Kocourek

Incoming President

Tokyo JALT


Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth volume of the Tokyo JALT Journal. It has been a longer than expected journey to get here, but the changes that come with this edition were well worth the wait. This year we welcome a Research Editor to the team, who lends her expertise by giving a thorough vetting of the research elements of all articles. We are also proud to announce our new Editorial Review Board. These seven individuals are experts in their field who critique and advise our writers to help them produce the best pieces possible for our journal. Finally, we now have a full team of Copy Editors to further improve the quality of our final output.

This year’s TJJ features articles on a wide range of topics. From student attitudes to motivation, and the use of visual and verbal signposts to sociopragmatic breakdown, there are many aspects of teaching to consider in this issue.

However, as pleased as we are to present our latest edition, it is also time to start thinking about the future. Issue Five of the TJJ will be released in 2018. Furthering our attempts to help newer authors get published, there are two submission dates for Issue Five of the TJJ.

First Round Submission Date: August 31st, 2017

Final Submission Date: October 31st, 2017

If your article is rejected in the first round, you are allowed to make revisions based on the recommendations of the editors and submit again on the final submission date.

The style of the Tokyo JALT Journal is the Modified 6th Edition of the Purdue APA guidelines


For further submission details, please see the publications page of the Tokyo JALT website:


All submissions and enquiries should be sent to

On a final note, I would like to thank our previous editor, Eucharia Donnery, for her amazing work during her tenure. The TJJ would not exist today without her hard work and dedication. Going forward, the incredibly high bar she set for quality and work ethic are what I and the rest of the TJJ staff will always aim for.

I hope you enjoy Volume Four of the TJJ.

Darla Cornett


Table of Contents

1. Japanese Students’ Attitudes Towards ELF and Their Own English

Mark Hanbury

2. Concurrent Cues of Communication: Japanese Students’ Use of Verbal and Visual Signposts during Writing Tutorials

Dan Ferreira

3. Using Content Analysis to Identify L2 Motivation and Efforts to Learn English

Jean-Pierre Joseph Richard and Suwako Uehara

4. Understanding the Causes of Sociopragmatic Breakdown in English Communication Classes Taught by Native Speakers at Japanese Universities

Steven Brooks

Copyright © 2017 Tokyo JALT JournalAll articles contained herein are copyrighted by their respected authors and cannot bereproduced or redistributed without permission.

TJJ Vol. 4 2017

Japanese University Students’ Attitudes Toward ELF and Their Own English

Mark Hanbury

Seikei University


The researcher set out to ascertain a group of Japanese university students' attitudes towards the concept of English as a lingua franca, and their attitudes to their own English. A 17-item questionnaire combining closed and open-ended items was completed by 309 university students in the Tokyo area. Slightly more than half of the participants reported some degree of familiarity with ELF. However, taking into account responses to all questionnaire items, student attitudes generally appeared more in line with an English as a Foreign Language mindset, rather than an ELF conception of English. Exceptions to this were evident in the agreement by a majority of students with the ELF-themed statements “When speaking English, intelligibility is more important than perfect grammar and pronunciation,” and “The main purpose of speaking English is to communicate with other non-native speakers.” Contrary to the predictions of ELF theory, approximately two-thirds of respondents reported having had interactions outside the classroom with native speakers using English, compared with roughly one-third who reported similar interactions with other non-native speakers. While respondents praised the grammar skills of Japanese learners of English, there was a pervasive negative attitude towards students' English pronunciation, and towards that of Japanese people in general. It was felt that nervousness about incorrect grammar and Japanese-influenced pronunciation hinder the oral communication of Japanese students. This paper argues that efforts must be made to assuage the fears of Japanese learners of English about these points, and to encourage a view of English as an international language with a plurality of norms, rather than as the national language of any particular country.


今回は日本の大学生が考える ELF(共通語の英語)と、自分の英語に対する考え方に ついて研究しました。選択肢と回答式の両方を含む合計17問のアンケートを、首都圏 にある大学の学生309名に対して実施したところ、ある程度 ELF について知識があ るとほぼ半分の学生が回答しましたが、他の質問も収集したところ、多くの学生は根本 的に ELFではなく EFL(外国語としての英語)の考え方をしていました。しかし例外 もあり、大多数の学生が「英語を話す際、完璧な文法や発音よりも、話す相手に分かり やすい事が重要である」「英語を話す主な目的は、非母国語の人とコミュニケーション を取る事である」という質問に対して「そう思う」と ELF的な回答をしていました。 別の質問では、ELF のセオリーに反して、およそ3分の2の学生が「授業の時以外、英 語でネーティブスピーカーと会話をした事ある」と回答し、対照的に「英語で非母国語 の人と会話をした事ある」と回答した学生は約3分の1でした。 日本人の英語の良いところをあげる質問では、多くの学生が「文法の正確さ」と答え、 悪いところをあげる質問では「英語の発音に自信がない」という回答が目立ちました。 文法のミスや日本語なまりの英語を心配し過ぎるが為に、英語を話す際に神経質になっ てスムーズなコミュニケーションを妨げると考えられます。本来の英語教育は、上記に 述べた不安を和らげ、「英語とは複数の基準のある国際的な言語である」というイメージを奨励するべきです。


It is widely accepted that the English language has become the modern lingua franca, a tool for international communication. It has been described as “...a global language with dynamic social functions and numerous linguistic varieties” (Matsuura, 2016, p. 5), “... the medium of communication in a variety of social, academic, occupational, and other specialized areas of language use” (Bhatia, 1997, p. 315), and “...the undisputed de facto medium of communication in the modern world” (Dorji, 2003, p. 81). With second language speakers of English now far outnumbering those for whom it is the mother-tongue (Crystal, 1997), it is argued that English should no longer be considered as 'belonging' to native speakers, but to everyone who uses it (Widdowson, 1994). Strevens (1992), among others, points out that English is used in interactions of three types: native speaker and native speaker (NS-NS); native speaker and non- native speaker (NS-NNS); and non-native speaker and non-native speaker (NNS-NNS).

Much discussion of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), or English as an International Language (EIL), makes use of Kachru's Concentric Circles Concept (1992). These three circles represent the spread of English and how it is used in various cultural contexts. Kachru explains that the Inner Circle refers to the traditional cultural and linguistic bases of English (UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. ), while the Outer Circle refers to institutionalized non- native varieties in regions that have had periods of colonization (such as India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, and the Philippines). In the third of Kachru's concentric circles, the Expanding Circle, English is taught and used as a foreign language (Kachru, 1992).

In this concentric circles model, Japan is categorized as part of the Expanding Circle, where English is used and learned as a foreign language. As such, Matsuura (2016, pp. 5-6) argues that outside of the classroom context, Japanese students are more likely to communicate with non-native English speakers from Expanding and Outer Circle countries than with native English speakers from the Inner Circle. Matsuura investigated the correlation between Japanese university students' beliefs about their English pronunciation and their evaluation of Outer Circle English accents. Her study found that, on the whole, the participants held negative views about their accent, and that the more negative they were about their accent, the more positive their reaction was likely to be toward Outer Circle English. Those participants who did have a positive view of their English pronunciation tended to react negatively to Outer Circle English accents. The study also found that many participants believed their accented English would not be acceptable in lingua franca situations, with either native or non-native interlocutors, with many reporting that they hoped to sound like a native English speaker in the future.

Having observed that many Japanese students see no connection between themselves and ELF, Ishikawa (2014) conducted a similarly-themed study based on an open-ended email questionnaire to determine Japanese university students' attitudes towards their English. As with Matsuura's study, Ishikawa found that respondents were overwhelmingly negative about their own English, and the English of Japanese people in general. He reports a perception among participants that Japanese people's prioritization of grammatical accuracy (exemplified in native speakers' English), lack of usable English vocabulary, and negative evaluation of Japanese- influenced katakana pronunciation, combine to cause a reluctance to speak English, hindering oral communication.

Both Matsuura's and Ishikawa's studies have limitations. Matsuura employed quantitative research methods with 263 Japanese undergraduate participants but proposes that future studies should try a mixed methods approach. She suggests that open-ended questionnaires and/or interviews might elicit qualitative data which could better identify reasons for students' evaluation of English accents (Matsuura, 2016). Ishikawa employed just such a qualitative approach, using an open-ended email questionnaire, but concedes that this too has its limitations. He cautions that the response rate for this type of questionnaire tends to be low (with 94 undergraduates and one first-year Masters student participating in his study, out of a total of 516 recipients of the questionnaire), and that the fact that respondents can answer via any terminal and in any place may influence the data (Ishikawa, 2014).


The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a study, informed by the literature above, in particular the work by Matsuura and Ishikawa on Japanese students' attitudes towards ELF and towards English pronunciation, which is the only such research specific to the Japanese context known to this author. This study attempted to combine the closed question form of Matsuura's work with Ishikawa's open-ended questionnaire style, in the hope of reaping the benefits of both approaches.

The goals of this study were:

1. to ascertain the awareness of and attitudes towards the concept of ELF among a group of Japanese university student participants;

2. to ascertain the attitudes of these participants to their own English.

It was hoped that a clearer understanding of these two points might help to better facilitate the author's teaching of English to Japanese university students, and suggest possible directions for future research.



There were 309 participants in the present study, drawn from four large private universities in the Tokyo area. All were undergraduates, ranging from first to fourth year, in one of 15 classes: 7 general communicative English classes, three Business English classes, two content-based elective classes, two presentation classes, and one reading and writing class. 152 participants were female, and 157 were male. There were three groups each of business majors and computer science majors, two each of economics majors and engineering majors, and five groups of mixed majors including students from departments of law, literature, nursing, and international studies. Other than the two elective classes, students had been streamed according to their Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) scores. Of these 13 streamed groups, two had TOEIC scores of 250-350, one was an advanced class with TOEIC scores above 850, and the remainder were between 350 and 550. These groups were selected because they were classes taught by the author, and it was hoped that the variety of majors and backgrounds included would make for a useful sample. All participants volunteered, with no promise of compensation, extra class credit, or other inducements, and there were no students who declined to participate. For the purposes of this study, only responses from Japanese nationals and/or Japanese L1 speakers were used. Although there was a small number of overseas students in two classes, their responses were excluded from the results in light of this study's explicit focus on Japanese university students.


A questionnaire (which can be found in the appendix) was conducted during class time, so as to maintain control of answer sheets, and so that the instructor (this author) would be on hand to answer any queries.

The questionnaire consisted of a total of 17 items. Following Matsuura's suggestion, and in an attempt to combine the benefits of her quantitative approach with those of Ishikawa's qualitative study, 13 items consisted of a statement and a five-point Likert scale, and four items were open-ended questions. Item content was informed by Matsuura's survey questions and Ishikawa's questionnaire, as well as this author's interest. All items were presented in both English and Japanese, with the translations done in collaboration with a native Japanese speaker.


Presented below in Table 1 are the results of items 1-13. For the full Japanese and English text of the questionnaire, see the appendix.

[See the PDF file for the table]

Figures 1-6 show the top responses to the open-ended questions 14-17. Note that questions 14 and 15 refer to positive and negative traits, the results of which are shown in separate figures. The number of responses for each characteristic is shown in Column B.

[See the PDF file for the figures]


In response to the statement, I know about ELF in Item 10, the most common reply was “agree somewhat,” closely followed by “disagree somewhat” and “strongly disagree.” This seems to reflect a general ambivalence among respondents that comes through in the answers to other items, about the goals of studying English - for use as a lingua franca or as a foreign language. Dorji (2003, p. 82) writes that the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) is based on the assumption that L2 learners are aiming to achieve “native-like production and reception skills” in English, and this EFL conception is evident in responses to Item 1 - When speaking English, it is important to sound like a native speaker, and Item 3 - The main purpose of speaking English is to communicate with native speakers, both of which were heavily weighted towards the “agree” end of the scale. These results are in line with the findings of a study by Miura (2009) that Japanese students tend to see English as a means of communicating with people in Inner Circle countries. In contrast, however, the high number of “agree” and “strongly agree” responses to Item 2 - When speaking English, intelligibility is more important than perfect grammar and pronunciation, and Item 4 - The main purpose of speaking English is to communicate with other non-native speakers suggest an ELF view of English. These results echo Dorji's (2003, p. 82) argument that for many speakers of English today, the goal is not to attain native-like fluency, but to communicate with others who are, like themselves, “...not necessarily native speakers of English and are not operating in an English-speaking country”. It should be noted that for this study, Munro and Derwing's (1995, p. 291) definition of intelligibility is used: “Intelligibility refers to the extent to which an utterance is actually understood”. The related term “comprehensibility,” which Munro and Derwing use to refer to listeners' perceptions of difficulty in understanding an utterance, is not used in this study. As the use of the term “comprehensibility” in the questionnaire would necessitate asking participants to report their perceptions of their interlocutors' perceptions, the term “intelligibility” was deemed preferable.

Students' reports of their experiences of actually using English outside the classroom (items 16 and 17) can perhaps offer some insight into this seeming ambivalence about the use of English as either a foreign language or as a lingua franca. Figure 5 shows situations in which students reported using English to communicate with a native speaker outside the classroom context. Of the 309 total respondents, 205 reported such instances. These were many and varied, with the most common situations being 'giving street directions,' 'giving train directions,' and 'interacting with customers in students' part-time jobs.' Of course, it should be noted that when participants report interactions with a native speaker, there is no way for this author to confirm whether or not said interactions were all with L1 English speakers. Interlocutors who were assumed by respondents to have been native speakers because of factors such as Caucasian appearance, may, in fact, have been L1 speakers of Russian, German, French, or other languages. Likewise, people assumed by respondents to have been non-native speakers, perhaps because of Asian, African, or other non-European appearance, may, in fact, have been L1 speakers of English. Insofar as the goal of this study was to ascertain participants' awareness of and attitudes to ELF, and their attitudes towards their own English, the aim of items 16 and 17 was to elicit students' perceptions of their English use outside the classroom. If participants believe they have used English to communicate with either native or non-native English speakers in real-life situations, it is reasonable to assume that this belief may influence their attitudes towards the purpose of studying English. For this reason, the above caveat was not deemed to be a significant limitation.

Of 309 total respondents, 111reported using English to communicate with another non- native speaker outside the classroom context and these situations are shown in Figure 6. Again, customer interactions in part-time jobs and street/train directions were common responses, along with using English during overseas trips. Bearing in mind the caveat mentioned above about participants' perceptions of who is or is not an L1 English speaker, the results appear to go against the expectation that, as Expanding Circle English learners, Japanese university students are more likely to use English to communicate with other non-native English speakers from the Expanding and Outer Circles than with Inner Circle native English speakers. Nearly twice as many NNS-NS interactions as NNS-NNS interactions were reported. However, the number of students who reported using English to communicate with a non-native speaker outside the classroom context was not insignificant, at more than a third of the total respondents. In this light, the apparently contradictory results for items one to four, in which there was majority agreement with the idea of a native speaker-centered English on the one hand, and similarly strong agreement with the more ELF-style conception of English on the other, begin to make some sense. It may be conjectured that those students who believe their primary experience of using English outside the classroom has been with native speakers may have had their native- centered 'EFL' conception strengthened. The significant proportion of students who have had interactions with non-native speakers, however, may have been awakened to the prospect of using ELF. Similarly, the varied responses to the statement in Item 10 - I know about ELF may reflect students' actual experiences (or lack of experience) of using English in a real world context, with either native speakers, non-native speakers, or both. Detailed correlation between these variables was beyond the scope of this study, however, and further research is necessary to confirm any possible connections.

Responses to the question In your view, what is positive about Japanese people's English? are shown in Figure 1. 'Grammar' was by some margin the most common positive trait chosen by respondents. This is in line with Ishikawa's (2014) study, where respondents indicated that grammar is particularly emphasized in English classes, in conjunction with reading, and to a lesser extent, writing. The prioritization of grammar has historical roots. Seargeant (2007, pp. 8- 9) points out that the grammar-translation method, in which English is a kind of “code that needed to be mastered to unlock the knowledge of the West,” was what enabled the modernization of Japan after the Meiji Restoration. Ishikawa's (2014) respondents felt that this emphasis on grammar was at the expense of effective oral communication. However, among participants in the present study, the second most commonly reported positive trait of Japanese people's English was that they 'will attempt to communicate, despite lack of grammar or vocabulary.' These results suggest a strong EFL bias, in the focus on grammatical accuracy, but also a resistance to perfectionist tendencies.

In response to the question In your view, what is negative about Japanese people's English? the most common answer was overwhelmingly 'pronunciation.' This also echoes Ishikawa's (2014) findings. The second most common response was some variation of 'shy / hesitant to communicate/lacking confidence.' Again, Ishikawa's respondents gave similar answers, using words such as “awkward” and “inadequate” to describe Japanese people's English. He argues that apprehension about making mistakes, combined with self-consciousness about pronunciation, means that “ is no wonder if Japanese people are shy about, unconfident in, or even reluctant about speaking English” (Ishikawa, 2015, p. 5). Negative attitudes towards pronunciation and communication featured prominently in responses to other items in the questionnaire, and will be discussed further below.

When suggesting something positive about their own English (see Figure 3), students were more than twice as likely to report 'will attempt to communicate, despite lack of grammar or vocabulary,' as any other trait. This was also the second most commonly reported positive aspect of Japanese people's English in general. This result is interesting in light of the fact that hesitance to communicate and lack of confidence in using English were heavily reported as negative traits of Japanese people's English. If this negative perception is commonly held among students, it may be the case that those students who are themselves not afraid to attempt to communicate using English feel particularly positive about this, and by extension about Japanese people in general who persevere with communication despite the hurdles of pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

Students were far more forthright in reporting negative aspects of their own English, as can be seen in the results of items 5-9 in Table 1, and in Figure 4. In response to Item 5 – I have a non-native accent when I speak English, and to Item 6 – I would like to sound like a native speaker of English, a clear majority of respondents chose 'strongly agree.' These results accord with a study by Tokumoto and Shibata (2011), which found that a group of Japanese students had more negative attitudes toward their English accents than students from Malaysia and South Korea, and believed that their own English was not intelligible enough for smooth communication. Matsuura's (2016) respondents also reported a lack of confidence in their English pronunciation, believing that it would not be acceptable in lingua franca situations, and hoping to acquire native-like pronunciation Indeed, Matsuura argues that “not accepting Japanese-accented English appears to be a typical phenomenon for Japanese EFL learners in general” (p. 11). It is certainly abundantly evident in the questionnaire results for this study.

The desire to sound like a native speaker despite the near impossibility of eliminating L1 transfer from L2 pronunciation of English (Dorji, 2003) is indicative of the influence of an EFL rather than ELF model. “Native-speakerism” can be seen in the results for items 11 and 12, which suggest that students hold a positive view of both American and British people's English. This is unsurprising, given that Inner Circle English is presented to Japanese students as the English, to the degree that Ishikawa (2014, p. 8) asserts that his respondents “...valued Japanese people's and their own English only in terms of how much it resembled” native speakers' English. Yet, as Dorji points out, British “Received Pronunciation” and the American “General American” accent which are common in English teaching material, are constructs. She argues that these do not represent real native English, but are “...anonymous models rather than representations of any one of the wide variety of regional accents actually found on the ground” (Dorji, 2003, p. 83). Nevertheless, results clearly indicate that most participants in the present study are positively disposed towards the English of British and American people.

Despite the fact that the majority of respondents appear to hold positive views of American and British people's English, the responses to Item 13 – I have a positive view of non- native speakers' English were not overwhelmingly negative, as might have been expected. There were 145 replies of “agree somewhat,” 78 of “disagree somewhat,” and 57 of “agree.” One of Matsuura's central findings was that the more negative beliefs her participants held about their English accent, the more positive they were about Outer Circle English. She suggests that a possible explanation for this phenomenon may be that Japanese learners of English tend to identify themselves as non-native speakers in a dichotomous relationship with native speakers,

and as such feel empathy for Outer Circle English speakers as fellow non-natives (Matsuura, 2016). As in the study by Tokumoto and Shibata (2011), it seems that because they lack confidence in their English pronunciation, many Japanese students do not feel they are in a position to criticize the pronunciation of other Outer Circle and Expanding Circle speakers. The positive assessment of non-native speakers' English by many respondents in this study should not, however, be taken as an endorsement of an ELF approach to the language. Ishikawa (2014) reports that very few of his respondents mentioned the existence of indigenized types of English, and none of them saw Japanese people's English as such a type. Rather, the positive attitudes toward non-native speakers' English evident in this study and the other literature mentioned above may be seen as the result of internalizing the native-centered view of EFL. This view of English can also encourage negative perceptions of non-native speakers' English, such as those of the 78 respondents in this study who selected “disagree somewhat” to Item 13. Ishikawa (2014, p. 7) mentions one of his participants who described the non-native English she heard in an Outer Circle country as “messed up in grammar” and “not properly educated”, suggesting that the language attitudes of Japanese university students, formed during their schooling in Japan, may negatively shape their view of other people's English overseas. Together, the arguments of Matsuura and Ishikawa help explain the mixed response to the statement I have a positive view of non-native speakers' English from students in this study.

In summation, the 309 participants in the present study were fairly evenly split on awareness of ELF, with 163 responses of “strongly agree,” “agree,” or “agree somewhat,” compared to 146 responses of “disagree somewhat” or “strongly disagree.” 265 students responded affirmatively to the idea that the main purpose of speaking English is to communicate with native speakers, while 272 respondents agreed with the statement that the main purpose of speaking English is to communicate with non-native speakers. This suggests that students do not find the two to be mutually exclusive. Despite the expectation in ELF theory that Japanese students would be more likely to use English to communicate with other non-native speakers than with native speakers, interactions in English with native speakers were reported by 205 participants, and with non-native speakers by 111 students. Results indicate that students feel it is important to sound like a native speaker when using English, and the majority of students expressed a desire to sound like a native speaker themselves. Responses also show that most students are very conscious of speaking English with a non-native accent, and are unhappy with their pronunciation. Pronunciation was also the most commonly reported negative aspect of Japanese people's English in general. A clear majority of students in this study do not believe that native speakers or non-native speakers can easily understand their English and hold a positive view of British and American people's English. Respondents expressed mixed views of non- native speakers' English. Grammar was the most reported positive aspect of Japanese people's English, while the most commonly reported positive trait in students' own English was a willingness to attempt to communicate despite a perceived lack of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation skills. It is contended that the results of the questionnaire, taken together, reflect an internalization by students of a native speaker-centered EFL conception of English, but that some resistance to this conception is evident in students' assessment of positives in their own English (albeit limited), and in overwhelming agreement with the idea that the main purpose of speaking English is communication with other non-native speakers. Where there is a divergence from the EFL norms inculcated in the Japanese school system, it is hypothesized that students have been influenced by their experience of actually using English outside the classroom and respect for perseverance in attempts to communicate.


In reacting to the limitations of a native-centered EFL approach to teaching English, it would be a mistake to swing the pendulum back too far the other way, and focus solely on communication with Outer and Expanding Circle speakers. Results of the current study do not lead this author to recommend any such action, nor is such an approach likely to be adopted. The results of this study suggest that, in the Tokyo area at least, there are ample opportunities for many Japanese university students to interact in English with native speakers. The results of this study incline the author to the opinion that an inclusive ELF or EIL approach to teaching English is desirable, for communication with both native and non-native English speakers alike. The responses to Item 2 in the questionnaire notwithstanding, there is a clear perception among participants in this study that Japanese learners of English are hamstrung by obsessing over grammatical accuracy and a negative impression of their English pronunciation. More emphasis should be placed on intelligibility as the key goal for students' spoken English.

A move from EFL towards a more ELF or EIL style of English teaching would be difficult in a climate in which, as Seargeant argues, the distinction between 'foreign' and 'international,' though important in applied linguistics, has not entered the consciousness of language policy in Japan. He sees a danger that effective teaching of English may be perceived as something for which Japanese society itself, (hierarchies, exam systems, modes of social reproduction), will have to change, so that English becomes “...both the bridge connecting Japan to the rest of the world and the strait separating it from that world” (Seargeant, 2008, pp. 18-19). It is hoped that policymakers might heed Bhatia's (1997) urging that international English not be considered something entirely new, but rather a kind of superstructure that is added by making learners aware of cross-cultural variations in the use of English, and able to accept a plurality of norms. This will require exposure to a variety of Englishes, combined with efforts to make students more comfortable with their Japanese-influenced English pronunciation, to, as Matsuura (2016, p. 12) urges, “ learners become aware that a local accent is not an inferior accent” but one of many accents in the world.

The present study has some limitations. The questionnaire used in this study combined closed and open-ended items, but more in-depth data could be obtained through interviews than through the written responses to open-ended questions used here. Although strong trends were observed, it was beyond the scope of this study to correlate individual students' specific experiences of using English outside the classroom to their personal attitudes towards ELF and their own English. The terms “native” and “non-native” are somewhat problematic in that both terms refer to a range of English users. It may be objected that a participant may have a positive impression of some non-native English and not of others. Interesting questions are raised by the results of this study about the degree to which students' attitudes reflect a conscious embracing of EFL or unconscious assumptions about English. Moreover, if students are conscious of taking a native-centered view of English, can the deviation from EFL norms, which is evident in some of the results of this study, be seen as a deliberate rejection of those norms? Further research is necessary on these points.


This study set out to ascertain a group of Japanese university students' attitudes towards the concept of ELF, and attitudes to their own English. Despite slightly more than half of the participants reporting some degree of familiarity with ELF, questionnaire responses in general indicate attitudes more in line with an EFL mindset than an ELF conception of English. The most striking exceptions to this were the agreement by a majority of students with the ELF-themed statements “When speaking English, intelligibility is more important than perfect grammar and pronunciation,” and “The main purpose of speaking English is to communicate with other non- native speakers.”

While respondents praised the grammar skills of Japanese learners of English, there was a pervasive negative attitude towards students' English pronunciation, and towards that of Japanese people in general. Responses indicate that concern about incorrect grammar and Japanese- influenced pronunciation hinder the oral communication of Japanese students. Efforts must be made to assuage the concerns of Japanese learners of English about these points and to encourage a view of EIL with a plurality of norms, rather than as the national language of any particular country.

References Bhatia, V. K. (1997). Introduction: Genre analysis and world Englishes. World Englishes 16(3), 313-319. Crystal, D. (1997). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dorji, L. (2003). Should we be teaching our students the pronunciation of English as an International Language? 京都女子大学人文論叢 51, 81-103. Ishikawa, T. (2014). Japanese university students' attitudes towards their own English: Open-ended email questionnaire study. The 7th International Conference of English as a Lingua Franca, At DEREE – The American College of Greece, Athens. Retrieved from: attitudes_towards_their_English_Open-ended_email_questionnaire_study Kachru, B. B. (1992). Teaching world Englishes. In B. B. Kachru (Ed.), The Other Tongue: English across Cultures (2nd ed.), (pp. 355-365). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Matsuura, H. (2016). Tertiary Level Japanese Students' Attitudes toward Unfamiliar English Accents. Journal of Commerce, Economics and Economic History 84(3), 5-15. Miura, S. (2009). University students' attitudes toward varieties of English. The Tsuru University Review, 70, 33-48. Munro, M.J. & Derwing, T.M. (1995). Processing time, accent, and comprehensibility in the perception of native and foreign-accented speech. Language and Speech, 38(3), 289-306. Seargeant, P. (2007). Ideologies of English in Japan: The Perspective of Policy and Pedagogy. Retrieved from: Strevens, P. (1992). English as an international language. In The Other Tongue: English across Cultures (2nd revised edition). Edited by B. B. Kachru. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. pp. 27-47. Tokumoto, M. & Shibata, M. (2011). Asian varieties of English: Attitudes towards pronunciation. World Englishes, 30, 392-408. Widdowson, H. G. (1994). The ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 377-389.

[See the PDF file for the appendix]

Concurrent Cues of Communication: Japanese Students’ Use of Verbal and Visual Signposts during Writing Tutorials

Dan Ferreira

International Christian University


This case study reports on the language socialization and written performance of two first-year Japanese students at a liberal arts college in Tokyo. With a focus on the students’ learning experiences, this research triangulated the analysis of transcripts and interviews, field notes, and observations to explore how students from a 450-550 TOEFL cohort engaged in academic writing tutorials with their teacher. A report on the students’ use of short discourse markers, language display (e.g. gestures, facial expressions), and the use of external aids (e.g. manipulating a mouse pointer, writing notes) reveals a process where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. That is, how students communicate what they retain at the time of the tutorial experience may not be as self-evident compared to the follow-up writing drafts. Through the implementation of verbal and non-verbal cues during student-teacher tutorials, the students were able to improve their writing skills.


This research explores how first-year Japanese university students negotiate meaning throughout student-teacher writing tutorials in English with a teacher who is a native speaker of English at a private international Japanese university. This study combines Young and Miller’s (2004) interactional competence framework with qualitative methods of observation, interview, and analysis of artifacts (such as drafts of essays and observer’s field notes) for the purpose of understanding the dynamics of that learning arrangement. According to Young and Miller (2004), interactional competence “is defined as participants’ knowledge of how to configure...resources (such as verbal and nonverbal communication cues) in a specific practice” (p. 520). To communicate writing needs to the instructor successfully, it is necessary that the student has acquired an interactional competence that is different from the classroom experience where the learner is not expected to verbal and nonverbal communication specific to the teacher- student tutorial conference.

The aim of tutorial sessions is for students to manipulate a combination of talk and other resources to achieve desired revisions throughout the academic writing process. However, for students with a limited ability to produce spoken academic language, especially in the face-to- face student-teacher tutorial EFL setting, the pragmatic use of communication cues, such as gestures and sounds of confirmation or rejection, can be instrumental in the co-construction of meaning with the teacher (House, 2013). The language of display, such as pointing, is a skill that complements interactional competence (Leander & Prior, 2004). Communication cues serve as effective signposts that help the teacher to adjust the flow of the tutorial, which leads to successful uptake for the student (Gilliland, 2014).

Despite the abundance of research on student-teacher writing tutorials in English as a second language setting, there remains a dearth of qualitative studies reporting on such an experience from a foreign language perspective. Due to the limitation of resources and time, this study was confined to analyzing two Japanese college students’ experiences with writing tutorials at a liberal arts college in Tokyo. Drawing on the above body of research, the focus of this study is: How do average level first-year Japanese students negotiate meaning throughout the teacher-student tutorial writing process?


Context, Participants, and Ethics

The data collected in this study was part of a qualitative, single observation study of two students attending a tutorial at a teacher’s office. The location was at a liberal arts university in Tokyo with a yearly intake of about 600 students. Under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) guidelines, all Japanese university students must continue English education for two years. The university for this study follows a trimester school year, students enroll in a two-year English for liberal arts program. The students of this study were partaking in their final semester of a mandatory academic reading and writing course. Students are streamed by ability from one to four (high to low). The majority of students fall into Stream Three and average between 450-550 on the TOEFL examination. An in-house university exam and 10-minute interview are also used to determine placement. For this course, students meet for three 70-minute face-to-face classes. Two optional 70-minute time slots are reserved for one-to- one tutorials with the same teacher from the face-to-face classes. The most common duration for tutorials averages between 10 to 15 minutes.

The participants were two first-year 19-year-old Stream Three Japanese students—one male (Karl) and one female (Ana)—both names of pseudonyms. They volunteered after the purpose of the study was explained to their class. Both participants were in the same class with the same writing teacher who also volunteered for this study. They understood that the study would require observations at their respective tutorials, follow-up interviews, and examination of artifacts (such as drafts of their essays and email correspondences with the teacher and the researcher). They also understood that they were free to withdraw at any time and that participation would not affect their grades in the present course nor future courses. Permission from the university’s internal review board to conduct the study was obtained. The data for these observations were collected during the lunch hour. The artifacts included audio-recorded transcriptions of ten-minute tutorial observations and 20-minute interviews with each student, observer’s field notes, email messages, notes on short discussions with the volunteer teacher as well as the Google Docs used for the essays.

Positionality / Reflexivity

The participants for this study were two students that I, the researcher of this study, had taught at the beginning of the academic year. This means that an observer’s bias influences the findings of the collected data. Moreover, the author of this used his office for the interviews. It is unclear if selecting a different environment, with no associated memories of previous work with the participants, would have yielded different interview data. On the other hand, my “insider” knowledge of the inner-workings of the tutorial session, coupled with my previous experience with the same students could be considered advantages from which to derive useful conclusions.

Data Collection

[See the PDF file for the figure]

Since the concern of this research included the interaction between the student and the teacher at a tutorial, it is important to note the location from which observer’s notes were obtained. Figure 1 illustrates the proximity of the observer to the interaction. As the observer of this study, I feel it necessary to report that this arrangement felt intrusive to the point where I felt self-conscious of the sounds my pencil made during note-taking; moreover, I felt constrained in my ability to turn and look directly at the interaction without drawing attention. Nevertheless, the following is an account of what was observed.

With respects to seating arrangements, the teacher confirmed that the students were free to choose from the small desk area (that the observer used) or the couch depending on their preference at the time. For example, the chair at the small desk has wheels. According to the teacher’s email, students may sometimes move from the couch to the chair, suggesting a more agile exchange than what was observed. Moreover, the use of the observer’s chair would have allowed the students to move toward the teacher’s computer to control the mouse and scroll through their document and/or engage in closer proximity than what the location of the stationary couch allowed. Neither Ana nor Karl used paper drafts of their essays for the tutorial. They used their own personal computers to complete the writing assignments. This information is important because the lack of choices of where to sit due to the observer’s presence significantly affects the resources which the student needs to use to communicate with the teacher.

Richards (2010) notes that the face-to-face question and answer interaction is based on the belief that such an understanding is co-constructed by the interviewer and the informant (i.e. the student). Therefore, a repeated close analysis of select passages of the transcripts was triangulated with observation field notes and researcher self-reflection. Moreover, the questions for the interviews were inspired by a study on tutorials (Retna, Chong, & Cavana, 2009) and suggestions for conducting qualitative research (Wengraf, 2001. See Appendix A for questions). As suggested by Hatch (2002) and given the exploratory, semi-structured nature of the interviews, the students were offered opportunities during the interviews and via email to contribute any extra information to enrich the findings of the study.


Transcripts of the interviews and the observations were coded using MAXQDA 12—a qualitative data analysis software. Coding for patterns of broader concepts based on action as recommended by Saldana (2012) was applied. The emerging themes were triangulated with the other artifacts, including observer fieldnotes, and email correspondences.



Learning how to do citations for an academic essay is one of the main objectives of tutorials. In the observation of Ana’s tutorial, she and the teacher both occupied their seats in proximity to the writing assignment after quickly dispensing with a general greeting. In Excerpt 1, Ana (A) asks the teacher (T) how to create a citation for a website in the Modern Language Association (MLA) format for her paper. In the excerpt below, Ana uses a combination of short replies and gestures to communicate the help she needs from the teacher.

EXCERPT 1 Observation of Anna’s Tutorial on February 2nd, 2015

1. A: I don’t understand well about citation (T: OK) if I paraphrase the article how to cite

2. T: Ah, so, you’ve only been doing direct quotes. OK. so you don’t know how to do...

3. A: Yes

4. T: Ok. so. there’s two ways to do this I see here. the first

5. way is you can write, is there an author for this? (A: ah [seems uncertain]) or is it just an

6. article title? (A: hm? [seems unable to respond]) for this citation? Do you remember if

7. there’s an author?

8. A: Uh! Yes this [points to screen] part is not article. From official site “Japanese

9. Organization”

Ana resourcefully uses short replies of confirmation and pauses in responses to convey hesitation as in lines five and six. This hesitation is a cue for the teacher to readjust and reassess what to ask and how to frame it. Moreover, Ana resourcefully combined two “modes” (Leander & Prior, 2004) of communication by formulating a longer chunk of speech and pointing in lines eight to nine. This turn resulted in the teacher zeroing in on Ana’s needs whereby Ana received advice on how to create an in-text citation for an online source. Ana also asked the teacher use the commenting feature of the Google Doc to write a language chunk, “according to”, that she eventually used in her subsequent draft. Ana incorporated the changes into her later drafts.

Argument Structure

Another phenomenon that emerges from an analysis of Karl’s observation and a follow-up interview was that students struggle to structure ideas into paragraphs. Using a combination of think-aloud and pointing, the teacher and Karl can reach a consensus on how to proceed with paragraph development. The following excerpt comes from a tutorial between Karl (K) and the teacher (T).


1. T: My question is are you writing two paragraphs about one very strong main supporting

2. (K:a:h [intonation seems to express a new understanding]) argument? or are you writing


3. paragraphs of (K: uh-hum [seems to be reacting to new understanding]) two main

4. supporting arguments

5. K: I have to write two supporting argument (T: ok) the first is religion is not practical in


6. ethical issues (T: it’s not practical in ethical issues)

7. K: I didn’t write, I didn’t write

8. T: [audibly but to herself] it’s not practical in ethical issues

9. [Directed to K] and then the second one religion is not important in Japan

10. K: yes

11. T: ok. that’s fine then.

Karl’s affirmative sounding interjection in line 2 rings with a revelatory type intonation in Line 3 because he realizes that he could use the strategy of writing two paragraphs instead of combining two ideas into one paragraph. In line 5 he begins to explain his intention to write two paragraphs and in line 9 the teacher completes his sentence. In a follow-up draft, Karl would indeed write those two paragraphs.


This study explored the resources of language communication that two Japanese students used to negotiate meaning throughout a student-teacher writing tutorial. Despite their relatively low ability to verbally communicate the help they needed, Ana and Karl were successfully able to negotiate understanding through the complex coordination of simple cues—verbal and nonverbal. Ana received advice on how to do in-text citations for website sources; Karl learned how to reassign ideas to restructure his essay. Moreover, close analysis of the minimal student responses and turn taking in tutorial talk reveals the use of alternative strategies by Karl and Ana to compensate for their non-fluent ability to reciprocate in full turns.

After several rounds of coding, two main categories of one word short replies used by Ana and Karl were labeled as “maintaining flow” (44 times) and “confirming shared understanding” (46 times). Although these short turns sometimes overlapped with each other, this “let-it-pass” approach (Firth, 1996 as cited in House, 2013) is one technique these EFL learners used to keep the interaction continuous. It is unclear if the disproportionate use of short replies reflects a shared “let-it-pass” learning style among the two participants or if it is a result of the teacher’s approach of offering few pauses until other signals call for input adjustment. Nevertheless, the short utterances seem to make both participants complicit in the teacher’s extended turns (Young & Miller, 2004).

The use of hesitation and change in intonation in short turns, however, contrasted sharply with the “let-it-pass” turns and served as important signals to the teacher for a change in discourse turns. Ana and Karl each used a similar variety of short replies that made the teacher either stop to ask a question or pause to allow student input. Ana’s uncertain “ah” is quickly followed up with a “hmm” that is faint and distinctly different in tone, resulting in the teacher asking a question about the citation’s author. This allows Ana to direct the teacher’s gaze at the relevant part of the text on the computer screen whereby she provides a multi-word explanation. Ana’s approach lends support to Leander and Prior’s (2004) claim that mixing modes of communication, such as using gestures, contribute positively to spoken discourse.

Similarly, Karl’s “ums” and “ahs” have less to do with uncertainty than signaling a new understanding. Eventually, he learns an alternative approach to restructuring his essay based on how the teacher framed her understanding of the underdeveloped paragraphs. The subsequent longer conversational turns by Karl result in an overlap of exchanges where the teacher finishes off his idea of how he intends to make changes. The overlapping participation of the teacher as a co-constructor of meaning is both supported by the student and later realized in the changes that result in the subsequent draft of the essay. Richards (2010) suggests that the short replies by students could be understood as a function of assessment of a teacher’s longer turn or as a preliminary signal to change turns in discourse.

Finally, the mutual engagement of co-authoring a text is explicitly stated by the students as a benefit of the tutorial experience. In the follow-up interviews and as evidenced in their final essays, Karl and Ana acknowledge that the specific advice they received from their respective student-teacher conferences is an implicit part of the drafting process that eventually leads to actual transcription. They see the practice of co-authorship in generating specific language, such as Ana’s verbatim use of language chunks “according to” for citations or Karl’s rearranging of paragraphs to restructure his essay, as a means to an end. They co-opt the revisions as their own. Their complacency in the matter reverberates Prior’s (2004) assertion that “some form of co- authorship is unavoidable” (p. 170).

Conclusion and Ideas for Further Research

The purpose of this study was to understand how average level first-year Japanese students negotiate meaning throughout the student-teacher tutorial writing process. Due to time constraints and lack of accessibility, the focus was limited to a discussion of the results of two student participants—Ana and Karl. Although a close analysis of Ana and Karl’s work reveals a certain amount of integration of advice received during the tutorials, it is unclear to what extent they achieved their writing goals. Nevertheless, Ana and Karl showed a remarkable ability to compensate for their lack of fluency by combining simple cues of communication—verbal and nonverbal—to achieve complex results.

The areas for further research would be based on the following questions:

• Ana and Karl showed resourcefulness in using limited resources to achieve complex end results. Research looking into what students do to overcome moments when they are not as successful could prove insightful? How much do a teacher’s experience and intuition to students’ performance at a tutorial?

• Since the use of tutorials at this institution is discretionary, and not all students are required to attend, what are the reasons that some students choose not to participate in tutorials at all?

• To what extent does teacher style in conducting a tutorial, both verbally and in the use of resources (traditional or modern), influence the success that the learners derive (or not) in achieving the skills they need for success in writing academic essays?

• What learning styles and strategies need to be considered for explicitly teaching the less successful learners and/or teachers to negotiate the learning benefits before, during and after the tutorial that can help them to achieve better learning outcomes?


I would like to express my gratitude to the two students and the one teacher for their commitment to make this study possible. Were it not for their flexibility, trust and open- mindedness, this research would never have materialized. I also thank the university’s internal review board’s commitment in their relentless efforts to assure that all the right protocols were adhered to in retaining the anonymity and the rights to privacy of each of the participants, thus encouraging more work of this nature to reach those who can make well informed improvements to the program at hand. Finally, I would like to thank my professor, Eton Churchill, for introducing the amazing approach of qualitative research. There is indeed a rich reward achieved from the thorough documentation and constant sifting of relevant facts of individualized stories. Even if the end product results in a small gem in the rough from which to improve teaching practices for any reader/researcher, it is reassuring to know that such efforts reveal worthwhile truths that number crunching of anonymous masses misses out on.

References Gilliland, B. (2014). Academic language socialization in high school writing conferences. Canadian Modern Language Review, 70(3), 303–330. Hatch, J. A. (2002). Doing qualitative research in education settings. Albany, NY: Suny Press. House, J. (2013). Developing pragmatic competence in English as a lingua franca: Using discourse markers to express (inter) subjectivity and connectivity. Journal of Pragmatics, 59, 57–67. Leander, K., & Prior, P. (2004). Speaking and writing: How talk and text interact in situated practices. In C. Bazerman & P. Prior (Eds.), What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices. (pp. 201–237). Mahwah, NJ; Lawrence Erlbaum. Prior, P. (2004). Tracing process: How texts come into being. In What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices. (pp. 167–200). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Retna, K. S., Chong, E., & Cavana, R. Y. (2009). Tutors and tutorials: Students' perceptions in a New Zealand university. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 31(3), 251–260. Richards, K. (2010). Using micro-analysis in interviewer training: “Continuers” and interviewer positioning. Applied Linguistics, 31(1), 95–112. Saldaña, J. (2012). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative research interviewing: Biographic narrative and semi structured methods (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Young, R. F., & Miller, E. R. (2004). Learning as changing participation: Discourse roles in ESL writing conferences. The Modern Language Journal, 88(4), 519–535.

[See the PDF file for the appendix]

Using Content Analysis to Identify Motivation and Efforts to Learn English

Jean-Pierre Joseph Richard and Suwako Uehara

International Christian University and The University of Electro-Communications


Motivations to learn the L2 have typically been investigated using questionnaires, items from which undergo data reduction to identify various factors (see for example Dörnyei & Csizér, 2002; Gardner & Lambert, 1959; Noels, Pelletier, Clément, & Vallerand, 2000). Using short essays written by Japanese science and engineering majors (N = 111), the current study investigated students’ L2-English motivations and efforts for learning the L2. Participant responses were interpreted with three different theories of L2 motivation; the socio-educational model, self-determination theory and the L2 motivational self system. Participants were predominantly categorized as having externally driven motivations with approximately half of these learners describing concrete efforts to learn the L2; however, more self-determined participants and those having an ideal L2 self were more likely to describe daily efforts to learn English.

Keywords: socio-educational model, self-determination, L2 motivational self system, efforts


Second-language learning motivation has typically, although not exclusively, been investigated using large-scale quantitative-based questionnaires; the items from these questionnaires undergo data reduction to identify factors and or causal factors through various modeling techniques. For example, the seminal paper from Gardner and Lambert (1959) was a factor analysis of their questionnaire resulting in two factors: linguistic aptitude and motivation. Since that time, many researchers working in the three major paradigmatic motivational theories, the socio-educational model, the cognitive-situated self-determination theory, and the process-oriented L2 motivational self system, have all used these large-scale statistical techniques including Clément, Smythe, and Gardner (1976); Csizér and Dörnyei (2005); Dörnyei and Csizér (2002); Gardner (1985); Nakahira and Yashima (2012); Noels, Pelletier, Clément, and Vallerand (2000); and Vallerand (1997). Richard and Uehara (2013) used learner-written essays to investigate goal orientations of English majors at one large Japanese private university. Results indicated that few learners had clear L2-English goals; and fewer still were successfully regulating goal attainment behavior. The goal of this current paper is to use short essays written by science and engineering majors at a Japanese national university to investigate L2-English motivations and efforts by interpreting these motivations and efforts across different motivational theories.

Literature review

Multiple theories and models of motivation and L2 learning motivation have been developed in the past several decades. For a summary of these models, see Dörnyei and Ushioda (2009). Our review is only intended to highlight important components of three of the dominant motivational theories. In the literature review below, we also discuss content analysis, and previous research by the authors using this method for written text to analyze participants’ efforts for learning the L2.

Socio-educational model

In the socio-educational model (Gardner, 1985), the primary motivation is integrativeness, which refers to one’s desire for or love of the L2 culture. Gardner’s research was primarily, although not exclusively, in bilingual Canada. For Gardner, learning a second language integratively is driven by wanting to be more involved in a second language community and an understanding of and an appreciation for cultural differences (Gardner, 2001). Other components of the model include attitudes toward the learning situation and other support. Motivation derived from awareness of real benefits as a result of L2 learning is an instrumental motivation; and it is conceivable that instrumental motivation functions in parallel with, and not against, integrative motivation (Gardner, 1985). In the Canadian context, Gardner and associates (Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Masgoret & Gardner, 2003) found instrumental motivations were less powerful than integrative ones; however, in other cultures, instrumental orientations were more significant (Ellis, 2008). Since the 1980s, a number of researchers were unable to find support for integrativeness (Ellis, 2008) and several criticisms of Gardner's model have been identified, in part because it does not capture the perceived necessity of English as a result of globalization (Ushioda, 2011).

Self-determination theory

Although not directly designed for L2 learning, Deci and Ryan (1985) and Ryan and Deci (2000) developed a typology of motivational orientations that distinguish between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. The latter refers to satisfaction as a result of participating in “stimulating and inherently interesting” activities (Noels, 2013, p. 16). Intrinsic motivation can be separated into three sub-types: motivations to learn (e.g., pleasure derived from understanding something new); to achieve (e.g., surpassing one’s previous achievements); and to experience stimulation (e.g., experience pleasant sensations) (Vallerand, 1997). Extrinsic motivations, in contrast, are generally subdivided into four sub-types: integrated regulation (i.e., the learning goal is fully integrated in one’s sense of self); identified regulation (i.e., the learning goal will aid in reaching a personally relevant goal); introjected regulation (i.e., the learning goal is related to one’s self- esteem by living up to standards); and external regulation (i.e., the learning goal is related to external regulations, such as an entrance examination or meeting required credits). The former two of these are thought to be more internalized and self-determined and the latter two are thought to be less internalized and less self-determined. An additional component is amotivation: amotivated learners might not value the activity or might feel incompetent (Noels, 2013).

L2 motivational self system

Dörnyei (2009), building on previous work by Gardner and other researchers in L2 learning motivation and by drawing upon principles from general psychology, developed the motivational self-system in which two primary motivations are the ideal L2-self and the ought-to L2-self. The former refers to the idealized individual with qualities one desires to have (e.g., be fluent in an L2). The ideal L2-self relates approximately with integrative and internalized motives (Dörnyei). Ought-to L2-self refers to the desire to learn the L2 in order to meet the expectations of others (i.e., family, friends, community) and also to avoid possible negative consequences (Dörnyei).

Content analysis of goals and efforts

Content analysis uses codes to systematically condense extended raw text into a small number of categories (Berelson, 1952; Krippendorff, 1980). Using categories and codes, Richard and Uehara (2013) previously investigated written goals and efforts with L2-English majors. The content analysis revealed that few students had clearly defined L2-goals, while fewer still were successfully regulating goal attainment behavior. In Richard and Uehara’s study, efforts were categorized into two broad types: factual efforts (i.e., concrete actions that learners regularly perform to orient to their L2 learning goal) and idealized or contemplated methods (i.e., not yet undertaken future or conditional actions to orient to their L2 learning goal).

Research goals

The primary goal of this study is to use written texts to identify science and engineering participants L2-English motivations as viewed through the lenses of three theories of L2 motivation, and their current efforts for learning English. The secondary goal is to compare the participants’ L2-learning efforts with these three different motivational theories.


Participants and materials

The participants (N = 111; F = 11, M = 100) were enrolled in first (n = 72) - and second (n = 39) - year genre-based compulsory academic English writing and speaking courses at an above average national science and engineering university in the Kanto region; and students at this institution predominantly range from A2-B1 on the CEFR can-do descriptives for writing skills. The aim of the research was described to the participants, and signed informed consent forms were collected. The participants then wrote short paragraphs, of up to 100 characters or five lines of text, for 20 minutes in class, and if they desired, to complete at home. The participants answered two questions in L1 (Japanese) or L2 (English):

(1) How do you imagine English will play a role in your future?

(2) What efforts do you do each day to reach your goal of using English in the future?

Participants were convenient samples, enrolled in compulsory genre-based courses taught by one of the researchers and one additional colleague at the university where the data were collected. Short-written responses were chosen over other possible qualitative data sources, such as interviews or group discussions for several reasons. First, the authors felt written responses matched the class curricula—students learn to develop coherent arguments in the classes they were enrolled—and collecting written responses allowed the researchers to gather a large number of responses in a short time frame compared with interviews or discussions. Second, as we noted above, most SLA motivational research, beginning with Gardner and Lambert (1959), has typically involved questionnaires, the data from which undergo factor reductions. The authors of this current research strongly believe in the quantitative research paradigm; however, “asking [participants] to make written reflections on their experiences can be a powerful way to get another take on participant perspectives” (Hatch, 2002, p. 140). Moreover, it is likely that writing encourages participants to consider their unique experiences and ideas in ways that are different from discussions (Johnstone, 1994). To which, the authors would add that the act of writing likely promotes different ways of thinking than responding to questionnaires.

The materials consist of two writing prompts only—imagining how English would play a role in the participants’ futures and efforts participants accomplish to reach their L2-learning goals—whereas questionnaires might have numerous items targeting each hypothesized factor; and it would be possible in an interview to ask a variety of question. The authors recognize each research paradigm or methodology has its merits and demerits. The aim in this paper was to focus on the analysis of students’ writing; and what the authors have done is gather data using alternative, or non-traditional, sources, and used theories of SLA motivation to interpret the data.


The Japanese texts were translated into English by two trained Japanese bilinguals: an English professor and a professional J-E, E-J translator. Each text was numbered from S1-S111 and using content analysis, coded four times by two researchers, once each for three theories of motivation, and once for effort based on the following sample coding schema. Table 1 shows the codes (0 – 3) with corresponding examples from the participant text, or when no examples were available, we created fabricated text (FT) based on our understanding of the theories. If any discrepancies occurred in the researchers’ coding, the text was discussed until the researchers reached an agreement. In certain cases, participants were contacted for further clarification when the written description was opaque. The three possible types of intrinsic motivation of Ryan and Deci (2000) were collapsed into one group, Intrinsic motivation. This was done because intrinsic motivation was originally conceived of as unidimensional and labeled intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985); recent motivational research in SLA using the self-determination theoretical paradigm defines intrinsic motivation thusly (Noels, 2013); and the authors had predicted a priori based on their own previous research (Richard & Uehara, 2013) that few students would be seen as being intrinsically motivated. Additionally, the four possible types of extrinsic motivation were collapsed into two groups, Extrinsic motivation: More self-determined, which is composed of integrated and identified regulations; and Extrinsic motivation: Less self-determined, which is composed of introjected and external regulations. Additionally, two chi-square tests of independence between motivational theory and effort were conducted.

[See the PDF file for the table]


Motivations and Efforts Based on Gardner’s (1985) socio-educational model, no learners were found to be integratively motivated. Instead, the great majority expressed instrumental motivations (n = 109), and two participants were identified as being unmotivated to learn English. Using self-determination theory from Ryan and Deci (2000), none of the participants were found to be intrinsically motivated, approximately one-third were extrinsically more self-determined (n = 35), two-thirds were extrinsically less self-determined (n = 74), and two were amotivated. Finally, following Dörnyei’s (2009) L2 motivational self system theory, over one-quarter of the participants were found to have an ideal L2 self (n = 31), more than two-thirds were found to have an ought-to L2 self (n = 78), and two were identified as being unmotivated. Thus, overall, the predominant motivational types from each of the three theories used to investigate these participants’ L2- motivation were identified as instrumental (based on Gardner’s socio-educational model), extrinsically less self-determined (based on Ryan and Deci’s determination theory) and ought-to L2 selves (based on Dörnyei’s L2 motivational self system). Importantly, no participants were identified as being integratively motivated (based on Gardner’s socio-educational model); however, large minorities of participants were more self-determined (based on Ryan and Deci’s self determination theory) and had ideal L2 selves (based on Dörnyei’s L2 motivational self system).

In terms of efforts (Richard & Uehara, 2013), slightly more than half of the participants described regular efforts (n = 59) they are doing as extracurricular study to learn the L2; whereas approximately 40% expressed future-oriented, but as yet uninitiated contemplated efforts (n = 45). Lastly, approximately 5% of the participants (n = 7) described no extracurricular efforts to learn the L2.

Regarding efforts, the aim in this study was to identify the factual (i.e., concrete) efforts that participants are regularly doing to learn the L2. Table 2 shows the percentage of participants with each of the identified motivational types who described making concrete efforts to learn L2 (number of participants making concrete efforts / number of participants with this identified motivational type). The table reveals that only half of the participants who were identified as being instrumentally oriented perform concrete efforts (54.13%). In contrast, more than three- quarters (77.14%) of the participants that were identified as being more self-determined (having an integrated or identified regulation) described performing regular concrete efforts to learn the L2. A chi-square test of independence was performed to examine the relationship between effort and type of extrinsic motivation. The relationship between these variables was significant, X2 (2, N = 109) = 10.99, p < .001. More self-determined participants were more likely to perform regular concrete efforts to learn the L2 compared with less self-determined participants. Finally, nearly all (93.55%) of the participants who were found to have an ideal L2 self-described performing regular concrete efforts to learn the L2. A chi-square test of independence was performed to examine the relationship between effort and motivational self. The relationship between these variables was extremely significant, X2 (2, N = 109) = 27.11, p < .00001. Participants with ideal L2 selves were much more likely to perform regular concrete efforts to learn the L2 compared with participants with ought-to selves.

[See the PDF file for the table]


The socio-educational model (Gardner, 1985) was found to be a poor fit for these participants’ L2-English motivations. First, the model could not be used to classify students into different motivational types (98% were instrumentally oriented). Second, the primary component of this model is integrative motivation, yet no participants were found to be integratively motivated. Many students did profess an interest in working abroad for a number of years; however, this was not limited to any specific English-speaking culture, and included Asia or Europe. These individuals are learning English because it is an instrument that enables them to have new experiences and not because they desire to integrate into a specific or non-specific English- speaking culture. An additional problem that was identified with this model is that only one-in- two of the participants who were found to be instrumentally motivated described making concrete extracurricular efforts to learn English.

Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory (2000) revealed no intrinsically motivated students. Nevertheless, the theory was useful for separating participants into more and less self- determined individuals. Less self-determined extrinsic motivations were predominant; however, more self determined motivations are thought to be a stronger determinant of study engagement, and indeed these more self-determined participants were 56% more likely to do extracurricular L2-English studying compared to the participants who were found to be less self-determined.

Dörnyei’s L2 motivational self system theory (2009) was found to be very useful to explain these participants L2-English motivations for two reasons. First, the theory was useful for separating the participants into two, although uneven, groups. Ought-to selves were identified as being predominant, yet a large minority of students had an ideal-self image. Second and importantly, the participants with an ideal L2 self were found to be nearly 2.5 times more likely to do extra-curricular L2-English studying compared to the participants who were found to have ought-to selves.

One important issue that arose with this research project was that many participant responses appeared to be multidimensional or multi-motivational. Should these responses be forced into only category or should they be counted more than once? Moreover, where is the boundary between one type of motivation and another? For example, in the following participant response, two different motivational types seem apparent.

First of all, an advantage is that studying English will help towards [gaining] points in TOEIC. In the long run, if I can write in English, more people will know about my research... (S18)

In the first sentence, the participant’s motivations were identified as being instrumental, external and ought-to self-oriented. That is, studying English will be useful for improving scores on a standardized English-language test. However, the second sentence appears to be more internalized and ideal L2-self related. This participant had described a personally relevant goal, being a prominent researcher, and that learning English would facilitate his personal career goal attainment. Thus, with this participant response and others, further clarifications were required.


In this study, there were two primary goals: use three theories of motivation to identify L2- English motivations as described in participants’ written texts, and separately, identify the participants’ current efforts for learning English. The secondary goal was to compare the participants’ concrete L2-learning efforts with these three different motivational theories and, through written texts, science and engineering students’ motivations and efforts were identified. Based on the three dominant motivational theories that were employed to analyze the participants’ texts, Dörnyei’s L2 motivational self system was found to be the best fit for categorizing the participants’ text for the reason that ideal L2-self learners were exceedingly likely to describe concrete efforts to learn the L2.

This short paper is not without its problems and limitations, and researchers who attempt a similar study are likely to encounter coding difficulties as discussed above. However, our unique study, using SLA theories of motivation to interpret written responses, provides evidence for insight into the English-learning motivations of L1-Japanese science and engineering majors. In the future, a more rigorous study could further clarify motivations and efforts by utilizing questionnaires along with multiple writings and extensive interviews with the participants. Moreover, it is important that data be collected to verify whether the efforts undertaken by the learners actually promote language learning.

With regards to the participants’ efforts described in this study, for the most part the authors focused on the concrete efforts by the participants. However, nearly half of the participants were not regularly studying English. Dörnyei (2009) has proposed a six-step process for visualizing an ideal L2 self. Therefore, going forward, measures to develop such visions and to bridge the gap between contemplated efforts and concrete ones for successful L2 study should be considered. This could be established through portfolios, self-access centers, and learning advisors, either off or online, synchronously or asynchronously. Alternatively, at a minimum, educators should be advising their students regarding their motivations for learning English and their language learning behaviors.

References Berelson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communication research. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Clément, R., Smythe, P. C., & Gardner, R. C. (1976). Echelles d’attitudes et de motivation reliées à l’apprentissage de l’anglais, langue seconde. Revue canadienne des langues vivantes / Canadian Modern Language Review, 33, 5-26. Csizér, K., & Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The internal structure of language learning motivation: Results of structural equation modelling. Modern Language Journal, 89(1), 19-36. Deci, E. I., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behaviour. New York: Plenum. Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 motivational self system. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp.9-42). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. Dörnyei, Z., & Csizér, K. (2002). Some dynamics of language attitudes and motivation: results of a longitudinal nationwide survey. Applied Linguistics, 23, 421-462. Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, E. (2009). Motivation, language identity and the L2 self. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. Ellis, R. (2008). The study of second language acquisition, 2nd edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation. London, UK: Edward Arnold. Gardner, R. C. (2001). Integrative motivation and second language acquisition. In Z. Dörnyei & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and second language acquisition (pp. 1–19). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press. Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1959). Motivational variables in second language acquisition. Canadian Journal of Psychology / Revue canadienne de psychologie, 13(4), 266-272. Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1972). Attitudes and motivation in second-language learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House Publishers. Hatch, J. A. (2002). Doing qualitative research in education settings. Albany, USA: State University of New York Press.Johnstone, A. C. (1994). Uses for Journal Keeping: An Ethnography of Writing in a University Science Class. Norwood, USA: Ablex. Krippendorff, K. (1980). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Masgoret, A.-M. & Gardner, R. C. (2003). Attitudes, motivation, and second language learning: A meta-analysis of studies conducted by Gardner and Associates. Language Learning, 53, 123-163. Nakahira, S., & Yashima, T. (2012). Toward the development of instruments to assess motivation based on the L2 motivational self system. JACET Journal, 55, 31-48. Noels, K. A. (2013). Learning Japanese; Learning English: Promoting motivation through autonomy, competence and relatedness. In M. T. Apple, D. Da Silva, & T. Fellner (Eds.), Language learning motivation in Japan (pp. 15-34). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. Noels, K. A., Pelletier, L. G., Clément, R., & Vallerand, R. J. (2000). Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orientations and self-determination theory. Language Learning, 50(1), 57-85. Richard, J.-P. J., & Uehara, S. (2013). Imagining a future of English: A pilot investigation of learners’ goals and efforts. Essays and Studies, 63(2), 165-188. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. I. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 54–67. Ushioda, E. (2011). Language learning motivation, self-identify: Current theoretical perspectives. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 24(3), 199-210. Vallerand, R. J. (1997). Toward a hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 271-360.

Understanding the Causes of Sociopragmatic Breakdown in English Communication Classes Taught by Native Speakers at Japanese Universities

Steven Brooks

Toyo University


A certain amount of classroom conflict occurs when the communicative methods often employed by native-speaker English teachers appear to be resisted by the students of English communication classes in Japanese universities. This study aims to uncover the routes of this disharmony in sociopragmatic failure – the failure of the students to adequately interpret, and comply with, what teachers from an English-speaking culture may require of them. By utilizing structured observations to locate common examples of sociopragmatic failure, and by using questionnaires to survey a group of 35 students’ feelings about their experience of being taught by a native English teacher, this study will show that sociopragmatic breakdown, the mutual negative misrepresentation of class participants that results from sociopragmatic failure, may be avoided if teachers are sufficiently informed about its nature and causes in their classrooms.


Pragmatic differences between languages may be noticed in the pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic choices that a speaker makes; pragmalinguistics being concerned with the linguistic choices a speaker makes to communicate meaning, and sociopragmatics being concerned with how a speaker conveys meaning in a way that is in keeping with his or her socially-derived values and beliefs. This distinction was first made by Leech (1983), and the ways in which these choices may be poorly made by language learners was expanded upon by Thomas, who proposed that, “pragmalinguistic failure is basically a linguistic problem, caused by differences in the linguistic encoding of pragmatic force; sociopragmatic failure stems from cross-culturally different perceptions of what constitutes appropriate linguistic behavior” (1983, p.99). It is this sociopragmatic failure rather than pragmalinguistic failure, which, in Japan, is often the cause of English language classes in which the students fail to participate in the manner and to the extent that the teacher may wish; something which can very often lead to, "the mutual attribution of negative personal traits, which in turn complicates further understanding of pragmatic norms of the target language and culture” (Bouchard, 2011, p.71). This breakdown in the teacher-student relationship may be termed: Sociopragmatic Breakdown.

A teacher in Japan, employing the Communicative Approach, and adhering to its tenets that: learners learn a language through using it to communicate; that authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities; and that learning is a process of trial and error (Richards & Rogers, 2001) may become exasperated by the apparent reticence of the students to join in with the process of creating a communicative, learner-centered classroom. Miller, referring to an analogy provided by Sakamoto and Naotsuka (1982) that western style conversation is like tennis and Japanese style conversation is like bowling, notes that, “the teacher who tries to get Western-style discussion going amongst Japanese students is doomed to failure because those students are playing ‘the wrong game’ (p.84)” (Miller, 1995, p.37). Understanding the nature of this playing of “the wrong game,” its underlying causes, and its propensity to ferment sociopragmatic breakdown may now be examined.

A fundamental reason why the implementation of the Communicative Approach may lead to sociopragmatic breakdown in the English classroom is the differing conception of what constitutes successful communication between the teacher and the students. To understand how a western native-English speaking teacher may view successful communication, it is useful to consider the “Co-operative Principle” that was developed by Grice in the 1970s. Grice maintained that both speakers and listeners base their communicative behavior on a set of underlying principles that a society or community understands to be the norm, and that these principles can be summarized as, “make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged” (Grice, 1975 cited in LoCastro, 2012, p.48). This “Co-operative Principle” was also divided into four “maxims” that similarly help to illustrate the behavioral principles that need to be followed if successful communication is to result; they are the maxims of: Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Manner; being concerned with, respectively: being as informative as required; being truthful; being relevant; and being clear (Grice, 1975 cited in LoCastro, 2012, p.49).

Of course, the interpretation of these maxims differ from culture to culture; therefore, in order to understand some of the causes of disharmony in English communication classes taught by native English speakers, it is useful to look at how Japanese students may seem to “infringe” on the maxims of Quantity and Quality as they may be understood by those who speak English as their first language. This, coupled with differences in conversational mannerisms and what constitutes acceptable interaction with the teacher, may appear to the native English teacher as the students being deliberately uncooperative and uncommunicative. If native English teachers are to be disabused of this notion, it is necessary to assess to what extent the students may be aware of, and may be able to display, the sociopragmatic skills that are needed for harmonious communication in English within the classroom setting.


The following study was conducted with 32 first-year students (non-English majors) taking a required English communication class at a private university in Tokyo who agreed to answer a questionnaire consisting of 12 statements that were devised to assess the students’ own feelings towards their sociopragmatic competence in English. The research questions for the study were as follows:

1) To what extent does the interpretation of Grice's maxims of Quality and Quantity differ between native English speaking teachers and Japanese university students?

2) How do these differences manifest themselves in classrooms in which the communicative approach is being implemented?

The students who took part in the study may reasonably be described to have an Elementary level of English proficiency, corresponding to the A band of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), in that most of the students could communicate using formulaic patterns dealing with simple and routine matters. As far as the researcher is aware, all the students were Japanese nationals who had not spent any significant amount of time outside of Japan. Questions: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 were largely based on the maxims of Quantity and Quality as proposed by Grice (1975), mentioned above. Whereas questions 3, 4, 5, 9, 12 were based on the results of structured observations which appeared to show similar facets of sociopragmatic competence that students struggle with in terms of participating in a communicative classroom. These structured observations were conducted with the same (and similar) groups of students in the previous semester. These structured observations sought to gain an insight into student behavior which appeared to counter the efforts of the researcher to cultivate an atmosphere of free and open communication; specifically:

1) How much time do students spend talking in English on each question or activity?

2) What language do students use to maintain their talk in English?

3) What do students do that is beyond the requirements of answering the question or completing the activity?

An original, lengthier, version of the questionnaire, which included more questions targeting further specific examples of observed socio-pragmatic breakdown, was shortened after a piloting of the questionnaire on a similar set of students taking an identical course revealed that students seemed to be unsure what exactly was being asked of them. In short, it proved difficult to construct reliable questions that pertained to concepts the students were unfamiliar with.

On the final version of the questionnaire, students were asked to circle how much they agreed with each statement using a Likert scale of 1 through 6 (1 meaning “strongly disagree” and 6 meaning “strongly agree”), thereby showing to what extent the students felt sociopragmatically-competent to deal with an English conversation class in which the communicative approach is being implemented. Low scores, therefore, would be evidence that the students are either unaware of what constitutes appropriate communication in English, or that they lack the ability or inclination to communicate in a sociopragmatically-competent way.

The original version of the questionnaire was written in English; however, due to the English proficiency of the students being surveyed, it was deemed necessary to administer the questionnaire in Japanese. Therefore, the questionnaire was translated into Japanese by a native Japanese professor of English at the university. An English and Japanese composite version of the questionnaire can be found in the appendix, although the version the students answered was only written in Japanese.


The 12 statements, along with the mean score that they elicited and the extent to which they differ from the median score of 3.50, are presented in the following table:

[See the PDF file for the table]


The average scores for the above statements appear to show that these particular students are not confident in how they should interact with their teacher and classmates in an English communication class in which the communicative approach is being implemented. The mean scores for seven of the statements (#: 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) are below the median value of 3.50, and the mean scores for three of the other five statements (#: 1, 2, 5) are only just above the median value. It is only for statements #3 and #7 (“I speak with eye-contact to show my friendliness and willingness to communicate” and “I speak honestly to my partner even if my partner may not like what I say”) that students agree with any degree of assurance.

The scores which were furthest below the median value were for statements #9 and #10 (“I am happy to share answers and opinions in front of the class” and “I am happy to ask for clarification if I don’t understand my teacher’s questions or instructions”) which produced average scores of: 2.54 and 2.50 respectively. The score for statement #9 (0.96 below the median) is of particular consequence as the successful implementation of the communicative approach is predicated on the assumption that a classroom environment in which learners are free to share their own thoughts and opinions, and the teacher’s role is to be a facilitator of ideas, is ideal for improving the students’ communicative competence.

Similarly, the mean scores for statements #1 (“I understand how to make comments and ask questions to show my interest”) which was only 0.25 above the median and #2 “I understand how to elaborate on my answers to show my willingness to communicate”), 0.21 above the median, bely an underdeveloped understanding of how to maintain a sufficiently lengthy conversation in English. This lack of inclination to develop rote exchanges of information into something approaching a conversation or discussion with additional questions and answers is a long-standing concern of English communication teachers in Japan, and a feature of sociopragmatic failure that, according to King (2013), stems from student disengagement with the teacher-centered methods that the students may previously have been exposed to; confusion at being in a non-teacher-centered environment; and hypersensitivity to others. Such passivity could easily be viewed by the teacher as not showing an appreciation of the teacher’s efforts to help the students to develop their English fluency.

A teacher may set great stall on class discussions as being a chance for students to share their ideas and opinions in a meaningful way, thereby giving students the chance to develop their linguistic and communicative abilities. This perception of how a discussion is supposed to proceed, however, may be unfamiliar to speakers of Japanese. Barnlund compared Japanese communication characteristics to American communication characteristics and noted that the Japanese, “are likely to prefer more regulated and less spontaneous forms of communication; to communicate less of themselves verbally, preferring a lower degree of personal involvement” (cited in Miller, 1995, p.34). This is confirmed in the mean score of 3.13 (0.37 below the median) elicited by statement #11 (“I understand how to use an example dialogue/answer as the basis for an original conversation”) which was included in the questionnaire after the structured observations and more casual observations with previous groups of students over many years, suggested that students tended to read textbook dialogues rather prosaically without considering how they could be adapted and personalized to make them more meaningful. This sociopragmatic failure, a failure to appropriately maintain a sufficiently lengthy exchange as a result of a reticence to divulge enough of themselves verbally, thereby infringing on the Gricean maxim of Quantity, may be a cause of great frustration to teachers who see purposeful discussion activities as fundamental to their teaching approach.

Furthermore, Japanese students may also similarly be seen to flout the maxim of Quality, which places a burden on the speaker to be truthful in their communication, something that is axiomatic to successful communication in western culture. However, whereas interlocutors from a Western culture participating in a language classroom may not particularly see any reason to not be open and frank with each other, the expectation placed on speakers of Japanese to be quite so "truthful" with their peers is far more nuanced and couched in the Japanese concepts of Honne and Tatemae.

Sower and Johnson explain the difference thus, “Honne means one's real or true intention; one's true motive. Tatemae means a principle, a policy, a rule, a basis or a system. In daily usage they can perhaps be translated as the individual's voice and the group's voice” (1996, p.27). However, statement #7 (“I speak honestly to my partner even if my partner may not like what I say”) elicited a mean score of 4.04 (0.54 above the median value). One reason for this may be that, given the low level of the students' English proficiency, there were necessarily fewer opportunities for potentially sensitive details to be divulged; but the relatively secluded environment of talking with a partner amongst a class of over 30 students may allow the students do feel less inhibited to proffer personal opinions.

Therefore, it is useful to compare the results of that statement with the mean scores for statements #8 and #10 (“I am happy to answer my teacher’s questions even if I am not sure that my answer is correct” and “I am happy to ask for clarification if I don’t understand my teacher’s questions or instructions”). These scores may suggest that Japanese students may find it rather uncomfortable to express themselves in situations when they are unable to opt for Tatemae, sharing an opinion which is in keeping with the thinking of the group. These may be situations when a teacher calls on specific students, or when the group has not been able to form a group response, such as when the group as whole are not sure what to do or how to answer This approach is hardly conducive to purposeful discussion, and if a student isn’t afforded the opportunity to ascertain what the whole group thinks on a subject, the student may be highly unlikely to provide any kind of opinion at all.

This clear example of a differing cultural approach to communication in a classroom setting often leads to sociopragmatic breakdown and the native-English speaking teacher becoming exasperated by the Japanese students’ unwillingness to offer any kind of opinion unless they are first aware of what the rest of the group feels or they are confident of what the “right” answer is. There is sociopragmatic failure in the sense that the student may fail to provide any kind of response that a native-English speaking teacher would accept as being cooperative behavior: be it an opinion, an apology, or a request for clarification. This is often compounded by fact that, in such circumstances, students often simply look down; an act that may be interpreted negatively by a western teacher, but can be understood as being a legitimate attempt to “save face” on the part of the Japanese student.

According to Brown and Levinson (1987), “Face” may be defined as, “the public self- image that every member wants to claim for himself, consisting in two related aspects: (a) negative face: the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, rights to non-distraction... (b) positive face: the positive consistent self-image or ‘personality’” (in Jaworski & Coupland, 2006, p.311). It is assumed that these “face needs” are familiar to all members of a society, and that it is in the mutual interests of all the members to satisfy them. Of course, one’s conception of negative face and positive face may differ from culture to culture, and so where there is insufficient understanding of these differences in cross-cultural contexts, a certain amount of conflict may arise.

Japanese students who are less used to communicative classrooms, and are more accustomed to teacher-centered classrooms in which they are not expected to participate or engage much with the teacher, may be unsure as to how to respond to teachers attempting to elicit ideas from students, feedback answers, generate class discussion and so on. Thomas and Inkson point out that, “Japanese show more respect to leaders because of their positions... In Japan, respect is shown partly by not participating, that is, by respecting what the leader says and does” (2009, p.109).

Structured observation, and the mean scores produced by statements #6 and #8 (“I understand how to respond to my teacher when he/she asks a question to the class” and “I am happy to answer my teacher’s questions even if I am not sure that my answer is correct”) appear to show that there is an expectation amongst Japanese students that active participation is not mandatory, and, as such, being called on to participate may constitute a “face-threatening act” to the student’s negative face. Whereas a Japanese student may feel that they are being imposed upon unnecessarily, the western teacher may interpret this lack of participation as an affront to their positive face, which demands that their actions be appreciated; in this case by the students responding verbally to their questions or prompting.

Finally, even though the mean score for statement #3 (“I speak with eye-contact to show my friendliness and willingness to communicate”) is relatively high at 4.29, this may be due to students believing that brief eye-contact, but then simply nodding, looking down, or making supportive noises is sufficient; whereas, in fact, there is a danger that such actions could be misinterpreted by a native English speaker as displaying a lack of interest in the conversation.

Implications Having discovered the roots of sociopragmatic breakdown in the sociopragmatic failure that occurs when native-English teachers’ expectations of how students are to participate in communicative classrooms are not met by Japanese students who are socially-conditioned to do otherwise, it will now be useful to focus on how this sociopragmatic breakdown may be addressed.

Perhaps the most obvious solution to this problem is for native-English speaking teachers to dispense with implementing the Communicative Approach altogether and to rely on teaching methods that the Japanese student may be more comfortable with. However, there are several reasons why this possible solution may be rejected. The first of these is that the failure of more traditional methods to prepare students with adequate communication skills in English is a long-standing concern of the Japanese government. In 1989, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Science (MEXT) issued directives which for the first time incorporated Communicative Language Teaching into its guidelines for English teaching in secondary schools. Modified in April 2013, these guidelines, as Morimoto explains, “emphasize nurturing communicative ability in English among students... More emphasis is given to speaking and listening, marking a notable shift from the traditional grammar-translation approach” (2014, p.200). There is then, broad agreement that the more traditional methods employed in Japanese English classes have been failing to prepare Japanese students to become active members of the global society.

A further reason for teachers to persist with attempting to implement the Communicative Approach is that, despite the possibility for sociopragmatic breakdown, Japanese students often appear to prefer communicative classrooms to non-communicative ones. A study conducted by Miller comparing students’ comments on Japanese-style English teaching and “Western-style” English teaching elicited a broad range of favorable comments on the western-style classes, with Miller noting that, “the question to turn to is whether this group of learners expressed a preference for the communicative class or for the classes they had taken previously... 15 of the 17 declared a preference for the communicative approach” (1995, p.41).

It is therefore clear that there is a case for native-English teachers in Japan to find some way of raising the students’ awareness of the sociopragmatic skills needed for them to be the successful communicators in English that they desire to be, but without demanding that the students somehow appropriate the cultural norms of people from Western English-speaking countries. An important step in the successful teaching of sociopragmatic skills may be to impart on the learners that though the development of these skills is essential to their ability to participate in English communication beyond the classroom, they may retain the right to converse in a way that is most comfortable to them within the classroom. As Allwright noted, “teachers and learners cannot simply choose between the pedagogic and the social pressures and opt to allow themselves to be influenced by one set of pressures rather than the other” (1996, p.223).

Practically, this may mean that a teacher teaches, for example, the pragmalinguistic skills associated with discussion such as how to agree and disagree (politely, strongly, and so on), but desists from attempts to force students to share personal opinions when they are culturally- disposed not to do so. However, to foster the notion that agreeing and disagreeing are important expectations placed on speakers in western-style English communication, and that opting out of them would lead to sociopragmatic failure, teachers may structure such activities more as a role- play in which certain roles are acted out, the ostensible goal of which is to sociopragmatically prepare students for a time when they may find themselves in a similar role.

Teachers then, may be able to raise awareness of sociopragmatic skills without necessarily demanding it of their students in the classroom. Communicative Language Teaching assumes that students use English to learn English; however, there is less reason to extend the theory to pragmatics and to force students to be sociopragmatic to learn sociopragmatics. Teachers who do so may be falsely believing that in allowing students to pick and choose the extent to which they apply sociopragmatic skills is to be watering down their communicative approach. However, as Kasper suggests, “classrooms afford second language learners the opportunity to reflect on their communicative encounters and to experiment with different pragmatic options. For foreign language learners, the classroom may be the only available environment to try out what using the L2 feels like, and how more or less comfortable they are with different aspects of L2 pragmatics” (1997). This process of “trying out” is consistent with the CLT principle of learner-centeredness, and also with the goal of creating classrooms in which students don’t feel threatened and may be themselves first and foremost.

Managing the classroom in such a way leads to the establishment of what Pohl termed a “third place” in which, “Language learners need to understand what native speakers mean when they use language, even if they do not choose to replicate native speakers’ behaviour” (2004, p.6). Given that much of the international communication conducted in English does not necessarily involve native English speakers, this approach would seem to be entirely valid, and would certainly lead to more harmonious classrooms free of sociopragmatic breakdown.


The purpose of this article has been to analyze the root causes of sociopragmatic breakdown in English classes in Japan, and to discuss whether it might be prevented through the teaching of sociopragmatic skills. It has been shown that sociopragmatic breakdown, the misunderstanding and mistrust that occurs when Japanese students fail to respond to the communicative methods of their native-English teacher, and by the misinterpretation of this as the students being deliberately uncooperative, is often a result of the differing ways that Japanese society and Western society view successful and appropriate communication.

By reviewing prominent research and developments in the field of pragmatics this article has been able to shed some light on the nature of these differences, which may be of use to teachers in Japan wishing to understand why their methods are not being so well received. Furthermore, when balancing the reasons for implementing the Communicative Approach, which often requires both students and teachers to be on the same page pragmatically, against the students’ socially-derived reactions against Communicative Language Teaching, this article has concluded that though sociopragmatic skill is something that may be taught, it may be best left to the students to decide when displaying these skills is most acceptable and comfortable for them.

The limitations of this essay are clearly that there is insufficient scope to discuss all of the myriad cultural factors that may lead to sociopragmatic failure in English classes in Japan; it is also difficult to draw too firm conclusions about how best to mitigate the effects of sociopragmatic failure from the results produced by just one class on one certain day. For further research, it would be interesting to study any short-term effects that the recent guidelines set out by the Japanese government have had on dynamics within the classroom, and whether there is any noticeable decline in the prevalence of sociopragmatic breakdown as a result.

References Allwright, D. (1996). Social and pedagogic pressures in the language classroom: The role of socialisation. In H. Coleman (Ed.), Society and the language classroom (pp. 209-228). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bouchard, J (2011). Pragmatic failures and language ideologies: challenges in the Japanese EFL context, Hokkai Gakuen University, Studies in Culture, (49), pp. 69-141. Brown, P. and Levinson, S. (1987). Politeness: some universals in language usage. In Jaworski, A. and Coupland, N. (Eds.) (2006) The Discourse Reader 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge. Kasper, G. (1997). Can pragmatic competence be taught? University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center. Available at: [Accessed: 30 September, 2016]. King, J. (2013). Silence in the second language classrooms of Japanese universities, Applied Linguistics, Vol. 34, Issue 3, pp. 325-343. Leech, G. (1983). Principles of Pragmatics, London: Longman. LoCastro, V. (2012). Pragmatics for Language Educators: A Sociolinguistic Perspective [online]. Oxford: Routledge. Miller, T. (1995). Japanese learners’ reactions to communicative English lessons, Japanese Association for Language Teachers Journal, Vol. 17, Issue 1, pp. 31-52. Morimoto, H. (2014). A study on communicative lesson planning in the EFL classroom, Memoirs of Mejiro University College, Vol.50, pp. 199-211. Pohl, G. (2004). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure and implications for language teaching. Second Language Learning and Teaching, Vol. 4.Richards, J.C. & Rogers, T.S. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sakamoto, N. & Naotsuka, R. (1982). Polite fictions: Why Japanese and Americans seem rude to each other. In Miller, T. (1995) Japanese learners’ reactions to communicative English lessons, Japanese Association for Language Teachers Journal, Vol. 17, Issue 1, pp. 31-52. Sower, C. & Johnson, W (1996). Job hunting in Japan: cross-cultural issues, Japan Association for Language Teaching Journal, Issue 20.12, December. Thomas, D. & Inkson, K. (2009). Cultural Intelligence, San Francisco: Berret-Koehler. Thomas, J. (1983). Cross-cultural pragmatic failure, Applied Linguistics, Vol. 4, Issue 2, pp. 91- 112.

[See the PDF file for the table]

Contact Information

Darla Cornett

Dawn Lucovich