Learning in Context: Developing Situation-Based Writing Materials

Project Leader
KOBAYASHI Mina (Waseda University)

Summary

Background and Purpose

Until now, in the writing materials for teaching Japanese as a second language, at the beginners’ level, there have been many composition materials geared toward the “consolidation of previously learned vocabulary and constructions” but almost none that take into account “the actual situation in which Japanese learners write/type.” At the intermediate level and higher, materials such as articles from academic journals and business emails come to be used, but the subjects taught at these levels are set by textbook writers and Japanese language teachers according to their own experience, and don’t take into account the difficulties that learners face, and the support that learners need when they write/type using such materials.

In the context of real communication, the writing situation has changed from “writing by hand” to “typing by keypad or touch pad” due to advances in IT and communication technology. Furthermore, thanks to the rapid development of machine translation (as exemplified by Google Translate), and of multi-language online dictionaries, the era of writing/typing relying only on what is in your own head has changed to an era in which one can write/type taking advantage of diverse language resources. The spread of social networking systems such as LINE and Facebook Messenger has brought rise to text communication as an alternative to talking. The teaching materials for writing should be designed from now on taking this new situation into account.

Out of an awareness of these issues, this research proposes to develop teaching materials for writing in Japanese language education that take “settings in concrete situations” as their starting point. By creating teaching materials for writing that are based on results for 3 field surveys concerning “setting situations,” “necessary skills,” “problems that learners of Japanese face,” we hope to overcome the shortcomings of current teaching materials.

Objectives and Methods

This research proposes to develop teaching materials for writing that encourage Japanese learners to become --by their own exertions-- able to write/type in actual communicative settings. The materials in question are not of the paper medium type that presupposes face to face classroom instruction, but rather web-based materials that anyone can use and learn with on their own, as long as they have access to the internet.

As basic research for the purpose of developing such online materials, we propose to conduct 3 field surveys on the following points: 1) What do learners of Japanese (both domestic-based and overseas) actually write/type? 2) What linguistic and non-linguistic skills are needed in this activity? 3) What problems do learners face in the process of writing/typing? By analyzing the data derived from the survey, we can abstract “concrete situation settings” and “skills to be learned.” Based on these results, we can consider the form and content of “practice for becoming able to write in those situations.”