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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The integration of culture and language learning by using cross-cultural stories in Japanese language classrooms Mito, Kazuko


Human language and communication occur in context, and that context is culturally bound. Many recognize the importance of learning culture when learning languages. Yet, when it comes to a pedagogy of teaching culture in language classrooms, there is a lack of established methods. Various Japanese linguistic features strongly reflect particular Japanese cultural aspects, therefore, it should be relatively easy to integrate culture and language. A cross-cultural story approach is the method explored in this study. This cross-cultural story approach was developed following Egan's (1986) curriculum framework with the following emphasis, whether a story-frame idea can be incorporated into introductory Japanese language teaching in order to deal with cultural issues in language classrooms. Therefore, this study is exploratory. In addition, this study examines whether or not cross-cultural stories can aid students reflect upon features of their own culture and compare and contrast them with corresponding features of Japanese. Furthermore, this study explores whether or not a cross-cultural story approach can guide students' reflections in the context of learning the appropriate usage of the Japanese language. Finally, this study tries to implement written examinations to evaluate students' understanding of appropriate language use within the context of the presented cross-cultural stories. The proposed approach involves three stages; first, to present cross-cultural stories written in English except for certain expressions in Japanese that could cause a communication breakdown in a given situation. A cross-cultural story approach should be incorporated with the course syllabus, which means that certain expressions, structures, or vocabulary expressed in Japanese in cross-cultural stories should be familiar to the student prior to the presentation of the story. Second, after having read a story, the instructor leads a discussion to find causes of misunderstandings expressed in the story. Through the discussion, students will find the reasons as to why such misunderstanding occured in a story while experiencing their own cultural and individual differences or similarities. Third, the instructor will teach students the appropriate use of language in situations such as those presented in the stories. The results showed that the cross-cultural story approach was successfully integrated into existing introductory Japanese language courses at post-secondary institutions. Regarding the awareness of students' own culture, the results were not positive. Only around 50% of students thought that cross-cultural stories helped them become aware of their own culture. This study, however, suggests directions that the instructor could take while leading the discussion in order to aid students understand cultural differences or similarities. As for the third and fourth research questions, the results indicated a high rate of student comprehension and written tests such as mid-terms and finals were successfully incorporated into student evaluations.

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