Transformative Effect of Reading Activities on Critical Incident Scenarios in Fostering Cultural Empathy


In response to the evolving political and social landscape of the 21st century, the focus in foreign language (FL) programs has transitioned from proficiency across skills to “transformation”. A key avenue through which this transformation can be achieved lies in FL classrooms, where the cultivation of "cultural empathy" is being pursued. However, this integration of language studies and cultural content, designed to stimulate self-reflection, critical analysis, and emotional engagement, presents notable challenges, particularly at introductory levels and in the context of Japanese as a Foreign Language (JFL) environment, due to learners’ limited linguistic abilities, educators' hesitancy to use L1, and the lack of target-culture communities. To address this, the teacher-researcher conducted action research in an Elementary Japanese course: exploring students' transformation towards increased cultural empathy through a two-step exercise involving reading scenarios in Japanese and subsequently composing reflections and discussions in English. The reading materials explored value conflicts between Japanese people and individuals from different cultures. Qualitative thematic analysis of student reflections using MAXQDA (2022) revealed discernible patterns and outcomes indicating a sign of cultural empathy development. Notably, perspective transformation surfaced, especially in the context of punctuality. While the activity might not wholly transform students, it serves as a gateway to cultivating fundamental cultural empathy skills. Despite the limitations of this case study, it indicates that reading and discussion could effectively foster both FL skills and cultural empathy without the risk of real-world consequences.

Author Information
Minami Hyodo, Emory University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2023
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)

This paper is part of the ACE2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Hyodo M. (2024) Transformative Effect of Reading Activities on Critical Incident Scenarios in Fostering Cultural Empathy ISSN: 2186-5892 The Asian Conference on Education 2023: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon