Japanese culture reflected in the language : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Japanese at Massey University

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Massey University
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Culture and language have influenced each other as they have evolved! Should this statement be correct, then second language learning becomes second culture learning. However, this fact is not generally known by most second language teachers and students. The focus of this study has been to examine how the Japanese culture is reflected in the language, and to demonstrate how cultural aspects can be accommodated in the learning environment. The teaching method used is called "Interactive Competence Approach" which integrates sociocultural competence with linguistic and communicative competence, while giving students an awareness, that learning the Japanese language is also learning its culture. The most effective method of cross-cultural training, "cultural assimilator" is employed to increase students' competence. The relationship between Japanese language and society is best illustrated in the use of politeness, especially honorifics. They are the core of Japanese polite expressions and reflect vertical and uchi/soto (in-group and out-group) social dimensions. This vertical and group oriented society is the reflection of the concept of "ie", a basic family unit. Ellipses and indirect expressions are also well-developed to consider other people's feelings and avoid confrontations. Therefore, using this style of language, it is natural then that the Japanese way of communication, which is often described as "implicit" and "indirect" has evolved. Finally, two major suggestions are formed from integrating these observations and findings: 1. JSL teachers should place more emphasis on politeness in interactions, and honorifics should be simplified. 2. JSL teachers should assist students in improving cross-cultural competence thus enabling them to unravel any social differences while making their own personal adjustments.
Japanese language, Language and culture