Multiple Approaches to Analyzing the Communication of Japanese Language Learners

Abbreviated Name
L2 Communication
Project Leader
ISHIGURO Kei (Professor, JSL Research Division, NINJAL)
Japanese language education, Communication
Related Site


Background and Purpose

The goal of this project is to investigate the communication skills of Japanese language learners and to support their learning activity using the results.

The reason the project is necessary is that it is important for Japanese teachers to exactly understand learners’ learning process when making educational materials and teaching them in the classroom.

It is difficult for most second language learners to learn Japanese with the language teaching materials and syllabus that Japanese teachers design based on random assumptions. However, the quality of language education is supposed to improve when Japanese teachers utilize various data on what stages learners progress through to acquire Japanese and what kind of mistakes they make during each stage.

For this purpose, the data that reflects on the reality of the learners’ learning is required. The development of the data, which is called as learners’ corpora, has been delayed in the field of JSL Research.

The development of conversation corpora and comprehension corpora has especially been delayed. There already exist many learners’ writing corpora because it is relatively easy to collect texts written by learners. However, conversation corpora are few and small-sized due to difficulty in transcribing them into written forms. In addition, voice and video, which is important for conversation analysis, are rarely published. Therefore, we aim to publish large-scale corpora with audio and visual information.

Comprehension corpora are hardly created. It is easy to assume product corpora because characters and voices are left as a record after writing and speaking. On the other hand, reading and listening comprehension will not take shape because it is activated in the brain. Therefore, it is important to design comprehension corpora in order to visualize the comprehensive processing that takes place in the brain. We continuously attempt to improve our methods.

As above-mentioned, it is necessary to create and publish learners’ corpora focused on conversation and comprehension for clarifying the nature of learners’ communication and improving teaching methods and educational materials in JSL classrooms. This is why we are going to promote this project.

Objectives and Methods

In this project, we will first develop Japanese learners’ corpora and analyze the mechanism for them to acquire Japanese language, and then develop teaching materials. In order to smoothly conduct these research activities, the project has the following three subprojects: “investigating the way Japanese learners use the language in speech and writing,” “investigating the way Japanese learners process the language in reading and listening,” and “developing educational resources for JSL.”

In the first sub-project, we will collect spoken and written text produced by Japanese learners, and then create learners’ corpora. They consist of two pillars. One pillar is a natural conversation corpus of learners, which we will use to clarify learners’ conversational ability. It is equipped with audio and video. Therefore, we can analyze para-language, such as intonation and accents, and non-verbal communication, such as gestures and line-of-sight. The other pillar is the dialogue and writing corpus, which is collected in Japanese educational institutions worldwide, and which makes it is possible to compare and analyze the learning process of learners who have a wide variety of mother tongues and multicultural background.

In the second sub-project, we have built as learners’ corpus the process learners understand Japanese in reading and listening. The corpus has the feature to target not only expression, “product,” but also comprehension, “process.” The corpus uses a technique that takes advantage of learners’ native language and visualizes learners’ comprehension process by protocol data to translate the content they understand and think in the on-line processing.

In the third sub-project, we will apply the results of the second sub-project to developing reading and listening comprehension teaching materials on the Web version. In addition, taking advantage of linguistic knowledge, such as cognitive linguistics and contrastive linguistics, we will also make an online dictionary with visual illustration and sound, which can describe the usage of basic verbs in Japanese, with an aim to contribute to the Japanese learners who have various mother tongues.