AAS/ATJ (continued)

Report on the ATJ and AAS Conference
Hiroyo Nishimura
Senior Lector of Japanese
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures

The conference began with a full day of concurrent sessions on literature, linguistics, language pedagogy, second language acquisition, and other topics of interest to Japanese language educators.

Some of the presentations that interested me concerned the implementation of video for a beginner-level Japanese courses.  The presentations in a panel I attended included:

“Fostering contextualized learning, learner autonomy, and creativity through collaborative work: A report on the implementation of a ‘video project’ in a beginning-level Japanese course” by Chie Muramatsu from University of Iowa and Ayaka Sogabe from Vanderbilt University

  • “Digital storytelling in Japanese language education and creativity” by Keiko Konoeda from Smith College
  • “Social issue projects and ‘creativity’” by Shinji Sato from Columbia University and Noriko Hanabusa from University of Notre Dame.

The common point among these presentations is that they all focus on students’ creativity, autonomy, and social interaction with others.  They had students make use of video software such as iMovie or Windows Movie Maker or blogs to make their projects.

Konoeda of Smith Colleage reported that their students presented on topics of their own choosing using the target vocabulary and grammar, supplementing necessary information by making effective use of visual aids including animation, pictures, and sounds.

Muramatsu of University of Iowa and Sogabe of Vanderbilt University, based on a socio-cultural theory of learning (“learning occurs through social interaction with others,” Vbygotsky, 1986) presented how they implemented a video project in a beginner level Japanese course.  In their project, students did not necessarily have to include the target language, but they needed to use the language to communicate while collaborating on the project.

A couple good points in this kind of project: compared to a one-time skit, students need to record their lines, so they practice many times until they can articulate smoothly, yet in an enjoyable manner.  This “enjoyment” is linked to the “effectiveness” of learning.  The issue raised in this panel is that students tend to spend substantial time editing videos.  Likewise, some students at their institutions noted that it was fun, but time consuming.

Other presentations that interested me included:

  • “Acquisition of word accentuation in Japanese” by Kayo Yoshida from Purdue University,
  • “Japanese accent listening test: Perception of pitch fall of American learners of Japanese” by Erica Hirano-Cook from University of Kansas
  • “Integrative training for Japanese prosody acquisition” by Tomoko Shibata, from Princeton University

Since we at Yale are also providing students with sessions for improving their pronunciation and intonation, it was interesting to see how other institutions deal with this problem.  Kayo Yoshida of Purdue University presented the new software “Speak Anywhere” that Purdue is developing for students to practice their pronunciation on their own while listening to the model pronunciations and recording their own pronunciation.

The other presenter, Tomoko Shibata of Princeton University, showed us how she had students become aware of their incorrect pronunciation through comparison with the correct pronunciations.  What interested me is that she actually assigns students to explain what was wrong with their pronunciation in words.  She said that by doing so, she is trying to increase learners’ knowledge. Her objective is to have students come to explicitly grasp the connection between the meaning and the intonation/accentuation of Japanese speech.  We are conducting a very similar activity here at Yale, as well, called “Pronunciation Clinic,” in which students can have an individual session with a tutor and practice with a focus on pronunciation/intonation.  We explain correct and incorrect pronunciations with visual aids, but have not yet tried requiring students to write about their own pronunciation self-critically, as Shibata has done at Princeton.

The approaches, techniques and knowledge that I learned at the conference will definitely help us to enrich and update our language program.  I will share my experience with my colleagues as well.

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