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A cross-cultural study of communication during social visits : Japanese ESL students as ethnographers in interlanguage pragmatics research Carney, Laura Jane


The present study examines how native speakers of English, Japanese ESL students, and native speakers of Japanese communicate during social visits. It contributes to research in the field of interlanguage pragmatics by: (a) examining speech acts which have not been investigated extensively, (b) involving students as ethnographers in the data collection and analysis procedures, and (c) improving upon research methods used thus far. Speech acts such as giving and receiving gifts, making compliments, offering and accepting food and beverages, making an excuse to leave, and expressing gratitude are examined cross-culturally in their full discourse context. The data include five interactions of Japanese ESL students visiting Americans, five of Americans visiting fellow Americans, and six of Japanese visiting fellow Japanese. These interactions were videotaped in the actual apartments or dorm rooms of the participants. A descriptive, exploratory analysis of the transcribed data reveals particular areas in which Japanese ESL students should receive further training and practice. Some of these areas include: using more compliments in the opening segment of the interaction, responding politely to the offer of beverages in the hospitality segment, asking questions to develop or initiate conversation topics in the small talk segment, and taking the initiative to express gratitude in the closing segment. One unique feature of the study is the involving of 31 ESL students in the data collection and analysis procedures in order to test out pedagogical implications. The results show that Japanese ESL students at an intermediate level of proficiency are able to learn something about the cross-cultural pragmatics of a social visit by being their own ethnographers, but not without considerable guidance and assistance. Methodology is central to the discussion. Clear advantages are seen in videotaping semistructured interactions in a natural setting and conducting retrospective interviews. A number of changes in the methodology are suggested for future studies, and additional questions for further research are presented. The study provides many insights for those involved in second language learning, teaching, or research.

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