Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Reconciling individual communication desires with society's norms. A qualitative study of how Japanese university students carry out discussions in English

By Beverley Jane Westbrooke Horne


There have been many assumptions about Japanese communication and it is often contrasted with western “norms”. These concepts persist both within and outside Japanese culture and often lead to stereotyping of Japanese students. These findings include contrasts such as competition versus collaboration and rational logic versus intuitive and emotional responses. In addition it has often been assumed that Japanese students cannot reach a higher academic level in their communication in English. This study aimed to challenge both these views by providing an in-depth analysis of how Japanese university students communicated in small-group discussions in English over a full academic year.\ud The literature provided various perspectives to support the notion of cultural contrasts, both in general and through specific studies of educational contexts. However, other views suggested the necessity of restricting the limits of these and considering the contexts in which they applied. Closer studies of particular academic, ideational and intercultural factors provided more detailed indications of specific features of Japanese discussions. In addition, it was considered necessary to take a culture-sensitive approach to the research was considered in both setting up discussions and carrying out classroom activities. Communication strategies were to be taught to aid the process of discussion. \ud For the research, students’ journals were used to ascertain their perceptions of carrying out discussions and small-group discussions were recorded and analysed in detail over an academic year. Previous studies had suggested that accessing the student voice was an appropriate way to understand their communication. The results of the journals revealed that the students were in many ways influenced by cultural features but individually they had different goals and attitudes to carrying out discussions. The recordings also revealed certain cultural tendencies but also showed that students were able to make changes to their discussion style through the practice of strategies

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1997). A critical approach to critical thinking in TESOL,
  2. (1998). A cultural perspective on group work,
  3. (1995). A functional analysis of Japanese/English code-switching,
  4. (1993). A Handbook for Teaching English at Japanese Colleges and Universities,
  5. (2005). A History of the Japanese University,
  6. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation.
  7. (1996). A thing or two that professors need to learn.” Daily Yomiuri
  8. (2003). Accelerating Academic English. A Focus on the English Learner,
  9. (1999). Action logs and Seikatsu Dayori,
  10. (1996). American English, Japanese and Directness. More than Stereotypes,
  11. (2003). An Interview with
  12. (1994). Appropriate Methodology and Social Context, CUP,
  13. (2001). Arguing about the future; On indirect disagreements in conversations,
  14. (1976). Beyond Culture,
  15. (2000). But I have to teach grammar!". An analysis of the role "grammar" plays in Japanese university English entrance examinations",
  16. (1992). Classroom Observation Tasks. A Resource Book for Language Teachers and Trainers, Cambridge,
  17. (2000). Co-constructing competence: turn construction and repair in novice-tonovice second language interaction. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation.
  18. (1998). Comments on Dwight Atkinson’s “A Critical Approach to Critical Thinking in TESOL”: A case for critical thinking in the English language classroom,
  19. (1984). Communicating Effectively across Cultures,
  20. (2003). Communicative Functions and Meanings of Silence. An Analysis of CrossCultural Views
  21. (1989). Communicative Styles of Japanese and Americans - Images and Realities,
  22. (2000). Confessions of a Philosopher,
  23. (1996). Confirming allusions: towards an empirical account of action”,
  24. (1988). Conversation Gambits, real English Conversation Practices,Ottawa, Langauge teaching Publications.
  25. (1994). Critical Thinking Education faces the Challenge of Japan, Inquiry, Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines,
  26. (2002). Critical Thinking in Japanese L2 Writing: Rethinking Tired Constructs,
  27. (2006). Culture research in foreign language teaching: Dichotimizing, stereotyping and exoticising cultural realities?, Zeitschrift für interkulturellen Fremdsprachen Unterricht,
  28. (2001). Culture Specific learning Strategies,
  29. (1995). Culture-Specific Perceptual-Learning-Style Preferences of Postsecondary Students of English as a Second Language in Reid,
  30. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International differences in work related values.
  31. (2003). Defining Issues in English Language teaching,
  32. (1991). Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers, Cambridge,
  33. (2000). Discourse Socialization Through Oral Classroom Activities in a TESL Graduate Program,
  34. (2002). Doing and Writing Qualitative Research,
  35. (1999). Doing Conversation Analysis, A Practical Guide, London, Sage Publications Toulmin, E.S.(1958). The uses of argument, Cambridge,
  36. (2003). Doing Qualitative Research. A Practical Handbook,
  37. (2002). Doing your research project: A guide to first-time researchers in education and social science, (third edition). Milton Keynes,
  38. (1991). Education reform in Japan: a case of immobilist politics,
  39. (2002). Edward T. Hall and the History of Intercultural Communication: The United States and Japan, Keio Communication Review,
  40. (1998). EFL’s othering of Japan: Orientalism in English language teaching.
  41. (2002). Empathy in the classroom, Proceedings and Supplement for the first Peace as a Global Language Conference,
  42. (2003). Encouraging the use of strategies to improve communication
  43. (1996). English Education in Japan,
  44. (1984). Enryo sasshi communication: A Key to Understanding Japanese Interpersonal relationships,
  45. (1991). Focus on the language classroom, Cambridge,
  46. (2005). From Selection to Seduction: The Impact of Demographic
  47. (1990). Genre Analysis. English in academic and research settings. Cambridge,
  48. (1998). Get rid of ‘entrance exam hell’ once and for all.” AEN September15, p.7. Hatakenaka,S.(2005) The Incorporation of National Universities: The Role of Missing Hybrids,
  49. (2003). Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom, Cambridge,
  50. (1995). Ideologies of English Language Education in Japan'
  51. (1998). Ideologies of teaching
  52. (2005). Indirectly Speaking. Preserving Prestige in the classroom, The Daily Yomiuri Newspaper,
  53. (2004). Indirectly Speaking. The Debate about opinions, Special to the Daily Yomiuri Newspaper.
  54. (1999). Innovative curricula in tertiary ELT: a Japanese Case Study,
  55. (1994). Intercultural Communication at Work- Cultural Values in Discourse, Cambridge,
  56. (1995). Intercultural Communication. A Discourse Approach,
  57. (1997). Introducing Discussion Skills to Lower-level students: Practical lesson Plans,
  58. (1994). Intrusive or co-operative? A cross-cultural study of interruption,
  59. (2001). Inventing Japanese students,
  60. (1996). Japan as - anything but - Number One,
  61. (1983). Japan's high schools,
  62. (1997). Japanese Communication-Language and Thought in Context,
  63. (1999). Japanese Culture Constructed by Discourses: Implications for
  64. (2001). Japanese education reform: Nakasone's legacy,
  65. (2003). Japanese Enryo-sasshi communication and the psychology of amae: reconsideration and reconceptualization,
  66. (2002). Japanese higher education as Myth,
  67. (1995). Japanese learners’ reactions to communicative English lessons,
  68. (1998). Japanese University Entrance Examinations: An Interview with Dr.J.D.
  69. (1995). Journal Writing in College English Classes in Japan: Shifting the Focus from Language to Education,
  70. (2004). Learning Styles and the Japanese. University of Sussex.
  71. (2001). Learning the rules for offering advice: a quantitative approach to Second Language Socialization,
  72. Lee-Cunin,M.(2005) The Student Perspective on Universities,
  73. (2003). Misunderstanding Teaching and Learning,
  74. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities,
  75. (2003). Nihonjinron : Identity, Misconception and Controversy,
  76. (1995). On the teachability of communication strategies,
  77. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Use, Cambridge,
  78. (1999). Promoting pragmatic awareness and spoken discourse skills with EAP classes,
  79. Proof, argumentation and Classroom Communication: From a Cultural perspective,
  80. Psathas,G.(1995) Conversation Analysis. The Study of Talk-in-Interaction, Qualitative Research Methods Volume 35,Thousand Oaks,
  81. (1975). Public and Private self in Japan and the United States: Communicative styles of two cultures,
  82. (2002). Real World Research, Second Edition,
  83. (2005). Reform of the University English language Teaching Curriculum in Japan: A Case Study,
  84. (2002). Research Methods For English language Teachers,
  85. (1992). Research Methods in Language Learning, Cambridge,
  86. (1997). Rirontekinahyougen to Rojigarunahyougen.
  87. (1998). Self-qualifying clauses in negotiation of opinions among Japanese speakers,
  88. (1995). Should foreign teachers of English adapt their methods to Japanese patterns of learning and classroom interaction?
  89. (1985). Six Thinking Hats,
  90. (1996). Society and the Language Classroom, Cambridge,
  91. (1999). Some questions on teaching critical thinking, social studies and global studies in
  92. (2004). Some Thoughts on Classroom Management Problems Faced by Foreign teachers at Japanese Universities,
  93. (1987). Speaking,
  94. (1989). Spoken and Written Language,
  95. (1991). Strategic competence and how to teach it,
  96. (1993). Strategic Interaction and Language acquisition: Theory, Practice and Research, Georgetown University Round Table on languages and Linguistics,
  97. (1998). Students' views of academic aural/oral skills: A comparative needs analysis,
  98. T.S.(1976) Japanese patterns of behavior,
  99. (2002). Task design, plan, and development of talk-in-interaction: A study of a small group activity in a Japanese language classroom,
  100. (2002). Teaching and researching language and culture,
  101. (2002). Teaching and researching speaking,
  102. (1997). Teaching counter-argument to Japanese College Students,
  103. (2003). Teaching Critical thinking and Discussion,
  104. (1983). Teaching the Spoken Language, Cambridge,
  105. (2000). Ten Years of Kokusaika: Has Progress been made? The Language Teacher,
  106. (2005). The ‘Big Bang’
  107. (1973). The anatomy of dependence,
  108. (1999). The Argument Culture,
  109. (1988). The classroom and the language learner,
  110. (1987). The cultural significance of silence in Japanese communication.
  111. (1997). The effect of authentic materials on the motivation of EFL learners,
  112. (1993). The Enigma of the College Classroom: Nails that Don't Stick Up,
  113. (2003). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently and Why,
  114. (1980). The group model of Japanese society and an alternative.
  115. (1993). The Hidden role of the
  116. (1996). The Hows and Whys of Critical Thinking Education in an EFL Context, Hokusei Ronshu (Bun,)
  117. (1987). The Japanese Educational Challenge, a Commitment to Children,
  118. (1987). The Japanese Mind. The Goliath explained,
  119. (1977). The Japanese Today, Cambridge,
  120. (1984). The puzzle of higher education in Japan: What can we learn from Japan, Change magazine vol.16,
  121. (1991). The quandary of negative class participation: coming to terms with misbehaviour in the language classroom,
  122. (2001). The role and influence of Japan's university entrance exams: A reassessment, The Language Teacher,vol.
  123. (1990). The Sentence-Final Particle Ne as a Tool for Cooperation in Japanese Conversation.
  124. (2001). Under the Gaijin Gaze: Essays on the Education and Attitudes of Japanese College Women,
  125. (1995). Understanding communication in second language classrooms, Cambridge language education,
  126. (1985). Understanding persuasive essay writing: Linguistic /rhetorical approach.
  127. (2005). University Entrance
  128. (2000). University Entrance Examinations: Strategies for creating positive washback on English Language Teaching in Japan",
  129. (1999). University Students' Perceptions of Pair Work tasks,
  130. (1998). Using diaries to develop language learning strategies,
  131. (1996). Using reflection/review journals in Japanese classrooms,
  132. (1999). Well I may be exaggerating but... Self-Qualifying Clauses in negotiation of
  133. (2003). What is genre and why is it useful for language teachers?,
  134. (1999). Where Grammar and Interaction Meet:
  135. (2005). Whither the Japanese University? An Introduction to the
  136. (2002). Willingness to Communicate in a Second Language: The Japanese

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.