"Excellent foreigner!": Gaijinization of Japanese language and culture in contact situations. An ethnographic study of dinner table conversations between Japanese host families and American students

Masakazu Iino, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Although study abroad programs have attracted many language educators and learners, little empirical research has been conducted on what is actually happening in daily interactions that non-native speakers are exposed to in the host country. This ethnographic study is one of the first studies for any language, and is the first such study for Japanese, that focuses on linguistic and cultural learning in natural settings during a homestay program. It explores the linguistic and behavioral features of the Japanese host families in the dinner table contact situations. Since most descriptive conversational studies on Japanese in the past have looked only at the speech of educated, middle-class speakers of the standard dialect, this study is one of the few that includes an examination of other Japanese codes (foreigner talk, regional dialects) that non-native speakers routinely encounter. Methodologically, the study employs video recordings of naturally occurring interactions, collected by what I call the "remote observation method," as well as conventional audio recordings, questionnaires and interviews. One of the major findings was that the Japanese hosts' presentation and interpretation of Japanese language was, mostly unconsciously, modified for the American guest students (gaijinization), the norms of which were different from those of their native situations. In addition to the gaijinization of language use, the Japanese hosts' presentation of Japanese culture and interpretation of the American students' behaviors were also modified (gaijinized) for the American guest students. On the theoretical side, it is hoped that this study provides opportunities to critically evaluate the sociolinguistic concept of "appropriateness" in language interaction with foreigners by paying more attention to the dynamic aspects of language use in contact situations. On the pragmatic side, the findings from this study suggest more effective preparations for participants in homestay settings.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Cultural anthropology|Language

Recommended Citation

Iino, Masakazu, ""Excellent foreigner!": Gaijinization of Japanese language and culture in contact situations. An ethnographic study of dinner table conversations between Japanese host families and American students" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9627938.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9627938

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