If you are a language teacher, have you ever recorded your class while you are teaching and analyzed the video? The results can be surprising and enlightening! I recorded my Japanese class once when teaching in the United States. The recording was for my final project in a course I was taking. As a first step, I watched the video and transcribed it. I still remember feeling nervous about watching myself teaching. There were many things that I didn’t notice while I was teaching: I misspelled some Japanese words on the blackboard, I misunderstood a student’s question and my voice became quieter when I had to speak in English. Analyzing your own teaching is a great way to identify your own shortcomings, and understand how and what your students have been learning from you. By analyzing my own recording, I learned that I was unconsciously introducing Japanese discourse manners to my class.
In the last post, I made the claim that it is important for learners to experience socio-cultural standards of language in a classroom. I also mentioned that there are (but are not limited to) three preferred conversational styles in Japan. Do you remember them?
1. Ask for the listener’s agreement with one’s speech using “ne” (similar to “right?” in English)
2. Speak in relation to the previous speaker, showing that one’s comment is related to the previous speaker’s utterance
3. Nod frequently to show that one is actively listening to the speaker
As you may have realized, there is a common requirement for these manners: listening to the speaker attentively. It may sound like an easy thing to do, but we all know that it is not always easy to be an attentive listener. However, Japanese society values listening skills more than speaking. Thus, the ability to listen carefully is an indispensable skill to obtain by a sophisticated language user of Japanese.
When reviewing my recording, I noticed that I was showing the importance of attentive listening implicitly. I was performing those three mannerisms all the time when I was interacting with my students. Also, I was creating classroom situations in which all students need to listen to others’ presentations carefully. For example, I asked one student to present and then directly asked another student “what do you think of that?” before I gave my feedback to the original presenter. To give a comment to the presenter, all other students had to listen to what was said. One may wonder if implicitly introducing conversational manners is actually effective. My study had some positive results.
I also realized that the way I was teaching was very similar to how I had been taught in schools in Japan. Other than the observations I mentioned above, I witnessed more instances in which students listened rather than spoke in class, which is a normal scene in Japan. Thus, I was very surprised to learn from studies conducted by others that some students feel uncomfortable in foreign language classes that have a different interaction style from what they are used to. Perhaps some students in my class have been experiencing difficulties if I use the Japanese style of interaction? If so, this presents an interesting dilemma, which I will talk about next time. See you in 2 weeks!