Japanese Language Education, Welfare and Motivation
Play • 1 hr 7 min
[Recorded 2nd November 2016] Why does anyone voluntarily want to learn a foreign language? Really, why on earth would someone in Oxford study Japanese? What is the whole point of this? Of course many answers are given to this question, but mostly these answers are either not very profound or they are somebody else’s opinion. Of the first type are answers like “I wanted to learn a language totally different from mine” or “I have always been fascinated by Japan”, and of the second type are answers such as “only learning another language makes you understand your own language” (Goethe’s opinion) or “so that I can inform others about my country and its culture (opinion of the Japanese Ministry of Education). While such type of discourse may be fine for small-talk in some quarters, we should avoid it in scholarly discourse on language education. Understanding the motive and the motivation for learning a foreign language is vital for designing language education programs and for understanding learner progress, and also for understanding the lack of progress and the disappearance of motivation. There is nothing “natural” in taking up the effort of learning a new language. It’s hard work, and “naturally” we do not engage in hard work unless it has some sort of benefit for us. What I mean here in concrete terms is this. We do not voluntarily take up work unless it contributes to some extent to our personal welfare or wellbeing. Upon reflection, language is a powerful instrument in either furthering or in hindering our personal welfare. Language, in all its variation, is never socially neutral. The Japanese you speak now and in the future has implications on your welfare, and on how you maintain or loose your motivation. Knowledge about welfare education will help students and teachers alike to deal with the many difficulties that lie ahead in language learning. Why else for not these difficulties are the overwhelming attempts of leaning a foreign language interrupted, put aside and, let’s talk straight, “failures from the initial plan” to learn and use a new language? Welfare education is a new paradigm which allows us to grasp learning difficulties, to create positive environments for foreign language learning, and for empowering foreign language learners and their specific use of the new language. In this presentation, I spell out both on theoretical and on practical grounds how welfare education works for learning Japanese outside of Japan. I am looking forward to discussing this with students and teachers of Japanese alike. Why does anyone voluntarily want to learn a foreign language? I will give you an abstract answer to this, but this abstract answer should allow you to find your own individual and meaningful answer why you chose to learn Japanese. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 2 November 2016.
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