While English is a required subject in Japanese junior and senior high schools, Japanese university students’ communicative language competency is generally very poor. Many blame this on the Japanese entrance exam system, which overemphasizes grammar rather than communicative competency. To counterbalance this, many Japanese universities have started creating “Language Cafés” and “Language Lounges” where students can interact informally in a natural setting with native English speakers and speakers of other languages. As students are not required to attend these cafés and lounges, organizers need to plan interesting programs, activities, or otherwise motivate students to attend.Studies (e.g., Fisher, 2009; Hatfield & Rapson 2016) have found that romantic love is a strong motivator which increases the desire to learn a foreign language for young Japanese students (Pillar 2009). We capitalized on this at our Language Café by using romantic love as the topic of conversation. As students experienced “cultural bumps” (Archer, 1986), these would lead to intense discussions of love, cross-cultural conundrums, and issues these learners faced when dating. Utilizing principles from Emergent Design (Cavello, 2000) as a guide for facilitating group meetings has afforded the facilitator the freedom to be creative and adapt an exploratory approach to the student led discussions. These discussions, conducted in English, often delved into topics that required sensitivity and tact on part of the facilitator in order to provide and maintain an open, safe, and stimulating setting. We found noticeable improvements in students’ curiosity, intercultural competency (Ting-Toomey & Chung, 2008), and intercultural sensitivity (Bennett, 1998).
Jon Dujmovich, Aichi University, Japan
Stream: Language education
This paper is part of the IICLLHawaii2017 Conference Proceedings (View)
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