Yale Language Faculty Attend AATJ in Toronto

Report of Yukie Mammoto

I attended the annual conference of the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ) in Toronto on March 15, 2012.  There were many informative presentations in the conference.  I went to the panel “Development of teaching materials and activities for fostering learner autonomy and their effective use.”  One of the most interesting presentations for me in the panel was “Autonomous speaking practice with Speak Everywhere,” which was presented by Professor Atsushi Fukada from Purdue University and Junko Schwartzman from Rutgers University.

Their website describes the program as follows:

“Speak Everywhere (SE), developed in the Center for Technology-Enhanced Language Learning in the School of Languages and Cultures at Purdue University, is an online oral practice/instruction/assessment platform for foreign language teaching. It dramatically increases your students’ oral practice opportunities by making it possible to give speaking homework.


  1. Instructor prepares online oral exercises on SE
  2. Instructor assigns exercises to students
  3. Students access SE via internet and work on the exercises
  4. Instructor listens to students’ oral submissions and grades them and gives feedback in audio/text
  • Exercises can be used as oral tests (to be taken either in a computer lab or at home)
  • Authoring requires no computer programming. If you can edit images and video clips, the rest is a matter of filling in online forms.

Major features and benefits:

  • For instructors and content designers

-Use user-friendly templates in the author mode to quickly prepare oral exercises for students

-Prompts can be videos, audio, images, photos, and/or text (The default is video.)

-Many exercise formats are available, such as repeat after the instructor, Q&A, structure drills, flashcards, role-play, describe an image/photo/video, etc.

-Exercises can also be used as oral tests either to take in a computer lab or at home

-Assign/unassign exercises at will

-Assigning basic oral exercises as homework frees up more time in class for communicative activities

-Listen to each student’s oral response to each exercise item

-Give feedback in text and/or audio

  • For students

-Practice speaking a lot more than before

-Practice in the privacy of their home or anywhere else as long as internet is available

-Practice individually at their own pace on their own schedule

-Listen to their own production and the model side-by-side for self-assessment”

This online system allows students to improve their oral skills, practice speaking outside of class more often than before and listen and compare their own pronunciations with the model.  Also this system seems very easy to use so even if instructors do not have any knowledge of computer programming, they can create many oral exercises that combine videos, images photos, etc.

I learned from this presentation how to facilitate speaking practice by creating an environment which gives students the chance to practice speaking privately and autonomously outside of class.

Report of Michiaki Murata

This report deals with “Shadowing” that I found most interesting at the Annual Meeting of AATJ (American Association of Teachers of Japanese). Shadowing is a language learning technique, which is often used to train simultaneous interpreters. The basis of the method is to have audio in the language you are learning and while listening, you attempt to repeat what is being said as quickly as you hear it.

Prof. Kumiko Sakoda of Hiroshima University and National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics has been researching many aspects on shadowing for the last several years.  For example, she found out that:

1) Shadowing is more effective than writing/copying the text.

2) Shadowing is more effective than reading aloud.

3) It is important to have students listen to the audio enough before they start the shadowing.

In the third research experiment, she had the students listen to the audio repeatedly before shadowing. After shadowing, she had the students listen to the audio again repeatedly. She did not allow students to speak even if they wanted to, and then shadowing again. She stated, “After listening a lot to the language, in the course of nature, they start speaking.”

Materials that are a little simpler than the learners’ proficiency are usually used in the shadowing.  But Prof. Sakoda’s finding shows that shadowing is also effective in difficult materials.

This panel gave me hints for my future classroom activities and for new types of assignments.

Report of Hiroyo Nishimura

“New Online Song-Based Courseware for Advanced Japanese and a User Survey,” by Rumiko Shinzato, Georgia Institute Technology, and Noriko Nagata, University of San Francisco

This site, created by the presenters, is for advanced courses (fourth year) in language and culture through the prism of song and is available for Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. The songs on this site have been chosen from each main era and they are all hit songs that represent the culture, economy, society, and social problems in each period. For example, students can listen to “Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun (Swim! Taiyakikun),” a song from a busy-to-death businessman’s point of view during the high-growth period, the upbeat, cheery song, “Chibimaruko,” which represents the happy bubble period, “Dango San-Kyoodai (Three Dango Brothers),” a tango in a minor key representing a sign of decline during the post-bubble period, etc. Materials will be available to instructors for full-course adoption or integration into existing courses as self-standing modules and will be offered to students and instructors at no cost. Song units include introduction, listening, text/notes/context, questions for understanding, grammar, topics for discussion and writing, and suggestions for further listening.

“Toward Acquisition of Pragmatic Competence: Analysis of a Collaborative Learning Project,” by Emi Yamanaka, Harvard University

Talkpoint.org is a free website created by the presenter for English and Japanese language learners designed to increase cultural awareness and improve practical communication skills. This website provides a place where students of Japanese and English can post answers to various kinds of situations such as requesting, apologizing, and so forth. After posting the answers, students can analyze and discuss the pragmatic usage and interpretation of each situation. “The Host Teacher” sends the Talkpoint invitation code to “the Partner Teacher” with whom he or she would like to work and the teachers have their students participate in this project.

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