Wednesday, 23 July 2014

English in Japan in the Era of Globalization

(July 2014)

Yep. Interesting, as you’d expect. I’ll get something more scholarly and substantial written up over at the other place eventually (maybe).
In the short term I’ll just note that the disconnect between students’ and teachers’ expectations essayed in Aya Matsuda’s chapter (Students’ and Teachers’ Beliefs about English Teaching in Japan) comes across like the plot of an Ealing farce in the completeness with which the actors fail to understand each other’s motivations, which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so depressing, and Seargeant himself has a prose style best described as ‘never knowingly underwritten’. Yasutaka Yano’s chapter (English as an International Language and ‘Japanese English’), meanwhile, contains an couple of very insightful ideas, but is otherwise an absolute mess of fuzzy thinking and ex cathedra pronouncements, ranging all the way from unsupported essentialism and cliché (“…the Japanese language is a highly sophisticated language…” p133) to demonstrable bullshit (“Japan, a small island nation…” p133), and you can’t help but wonder if, had it been submitted by a less eminent scholar, it might have been edited more stringently or even rejected outright. Still, even reading stuff you disagree with has the advantage of forcing you to consider why you disagree with it, so it all comes out in the wash.


  1. "the Japanese language is a highly sophisticated language"

    Uh, no.

    1. Now you see, I would argue that it is a sophisticated language. But then I'd also argue that every human language that's developed beyond a pidgin is sophisticated: that's what makes it a language as opposed to just a series of unrelated noises and signifiers. So saying that Japanese is a 'highly sophisticated language' is essentially tautologous, like saying 'beer is a very wet drink'. If I wrote a line like that in one of my essays the marker would rip me a new arsehole.

    2. There may be languages more sophisticated than English, but it won't be Japanese: fewer of everything (phonemes, verb tenses, vocabulary) except obscurantist kanji.

      As for that 細長い島国 crap ("a small island nation"), it's as big as the habitable parts of Canada, also strung out in a single line, us hugging the warmer border

    3. You appear to be conflating 'sophisticated' with 'complicated', which, to be fair, is pretty much the default position. Given the first has positive connotations and the second doesn't really, it's always an interesting exercise with something like that Yano article just to go though on a find an replace and see how it sounds. I suspect people would be less keen to claim their mother tongue is 'complicated'.