Preparing Japanese learners of English for study abroad: What’s missing?

Associate Professor
English Studies

Although the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) stresses the need for more Japanese students to study abroad, as part of its strategy to raise the general level of English ability in Japan, there are few guidelines on how to help students deal with day-to-day life at overseas academic institutions. Preparation courses for study abroad held in Japan usually just involve language training and general background information about the country visited, without addressing the interactional and academic issues students will face overseas, and without providing students with effective strategies to deal with the problems they may face.

This study examines some of the actual problems that Japanese students face during study abroad and the strategies they implement to try to overcome these difficulties. In-depth interviews were conducted with 11 Japanese students while they were studying at tertiary institutions in the USA, the UK and Australia. The interviews were analysed using Language Management Theory (Jernudd & Neustupný 1987, Nekvapil & Sherman 2009), in order to identify the processes that the Japanese students underwent in dealing with a new language, academic and sociocultural environment.

Based on an analysis of the students’ interviews, it will be argued that, in addition to basic language training, Japanese students need extra support in developing new academic interaction competence (Marriott 2004), particularly regarding critical writing, participation in class discussions, group work and presentations. Furthermore, Japanese students need more exposure to non-standard varieties of English, skills for socializing with people from other backgrounds and preparation for becoming a visible social “minority”. Finally, attention needs to be given to helping students develop their own strategies for overcoming difficulties.

August 12th, AILA World Congress 2014, Brisbane, Australia

Symposium Session S61: Accommodating Japanese English learners, convened by Mitsuyo Sakamoto.


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