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Sociolinguistics Symposium 19: Language and the City

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19

Freie Universität Berlin | August 21-24, 2012

Programme: accepted abstracts

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Abstract ID: 906

Part of Session 197: Urban multilingualism in a context of international mobility (Other abstracts in this session)

Language Behaviors of Japanese Native Speakers in Non-English-Speaking Cities

Authors: Yasui-Iwamoto, Aya (1); Sekiji-Fukuda, Eri (1); Kimura, Goro Christoph (2); Fukuda, Makiko (3); Furutani, Tomoyuki (1); Shimada, Noriko (4,5); Wang, Xueping (5); Hirataka, Fumiya (1)
Submitted by: Yasui-Iwamoto, Aya (Keio University, Japan)

  Globalization and the increased mobility of people have led to changes on language practices in many parts of the world, both toward diversification and unification. This applies also to the Japanese context. The language diversity inside Japan has been made apparent in the last 20 years, with an expansion of immigrants, especially from South American countries. As a result, some public services are now provided in several languages, e.g. partly multilingual websites and consultation services in some foreign languages, depending on cities/towns’ efforts. On the other hand, it is emphasized as a national policy that children and students should acquire better English for their future. “Foreign Language Activity” in elementary school, practically meaning English instruction, has officially started in April 2011 after a longtime discussion in which there were/are many arguments for and against compulsory English classes. English, in fact, became the “corporate language” in some Japanese working places, which means, for example, that English is used for meetings, regardless of the members’ native languages. Following this stream, “Second Foreign Languages” in higher education are being shifted from a required to an optional subject, with the result that university students possibly learn English as the only foreign language. Thus, while languages vary in Japanese everyday settings, a single language seems to be believed as the all-purpose communication tool around the world.
  However, it is the fact that Japanese native speakers living in non-English-speaking countries have more or less contact with at least three languages: Japanese, local language(s) and English as a lingua franca. Do they use all these languages? Do they choose a particular language in a particular situation? What kind of conditions (e.g. residing country/city/area, length of stay, occupation, social network) influence their language behaviors? We have launched a research project attempting to answer these questions: it aims to explore language behaviors of Japanese native speakers abroad, applying the framework of Language Management Theory, which enables a processual view to language activities. This is the first survey to attempt to explain such language behaviors from versatile aspects crossing countries/cities and languages. Concretely, we are collecting many-sided data for language behaviors by triangular methods, namely hearing, questionnaires and observation, in five non-English-speaking cities: Shanghai, Seoul, Paris, Berlin and Madrid. With these diverse data we are analyzing their communication practices depending on scenes, interlocutors and themes, centered on language competence, language use and language awareness. Our findings will explain the needs for foreign language education, and make a further contribution to the study of language behavior, the theory of language management and the study of language education.
  In the session we will report and share our progress so far and hold a discussion.

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