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Negotating cultures : a case study of collaborative conversations between Japanese students learning English paired with American students learning Japanese Cahill, Neta Simpkins

Abstract

Negotiated interaction among language learners has. been well researched to identify learner strategies which surface in collaborative conversational interaction. However, most studies have been confined to populations who are learning English as a second language working with native English speakers or other nonnative speakers. This fails to take into account the scope of possibilities a more linguistically and culturally balanced perspective could reveal about negotiated interaction. This study explored negotiated interaction and language use between four American college students learning Japanese paired with four Japanese students learning English. Performing simultaneously as teacher and student in an informal conversational activity, each participant was equally responsible to attempt target forms and to present model forms of communication as cultural similarities and differences were explored together. Significant findings from the present study fell into three basic categories. First, the data revealed the actual distribution of English and Japanese in each dyad and determined the percentages of first or second language utterances for each participant, thus giving a clear representation of the amount and type of language being generated in the informal dialogs, and also revealing glaring imbalances both in quantities of input per participant and in language distribution between English and Japanese. The Japanese participants spoke considerably less than their American partners, and English far outweighed Japanese in its usage. Regarding negotiated interaction, comprehension checks, feedback requests, confirmation checks, and clarification requests, as well as language modification in the form of self-correction, other-correction, completion requests, .and other-completion utterances were tallied and compared, revealing an unexpectedly large number of self- and other-corrections in both languages, dominance of the American students in initiating conversations, and a large number of language specific feedback requests discussing grammar, pronunciation, and lexical gaps. Participants also shared their own perceptions of the learning and teaching experiences that took place in the dyads and expressed positive and enthusiastic responses, indicative of the intrinsic motivation this learning environment evoked and the value conversation partner programs may hold in second language acquisition.

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