Gender in JapaneseLanguage Education
Chihiro Kinoshita Thomson
In considering the terms in Japanese,josei-go, women’s language, anddansei-go, men’s language, I take the position that they are widely shared social constructs,
perhaps abstract constructs, which are often referred to but not necessarily practiced (Nakamura 2001). Today’s Japanese men and women manipulate bothjosei-go and dansei-go in expression of emotion, nuances, solidarity as well as social distance. This means that stereotypical presentations ofjosei-go and dansei-go and a rule-driven approach to teaching gendered language in Japanese would not work. Then how should we approach gender in Japanese language education?
In this paper, I draw on the research conducted by my team in Sydney, Emi Otsuji,
Sumiko Iida and myself and examine a business Japanese textbook,Bijinesu no tame no Nihongo orGetting Down to Business:Japanese for Business People (Yoneda, et al. 1998). I adopt a multi-perspective approach, assessing the following:the content of the textbook, the perspective of the textbook writers, the perspective of the teacher who taught a course using this textbook and her observed teaching practice, and the perspective of two students who took the course. The study found that even seemingly the most neutral textbook had gender-bias. The textbook writers desire to present the ‘real Japan’ that is male dominant and their counter desire to allow the learners to be intertwined with the reality. The textbook writers’ ‘real Japan’ was actually an outdated understanding by them;even the experienced teacher could not teach beyond the textbook’s gender bias. Finally, the two students consumed information through the class and the textbook very differently. The two students negotiated the gendered Japanese presented in the textbook and taught in the course, and the negotiations led them to find their own ‘third spaces’, positioning themselves as unique users of the Japanese language.
The paper advocates for the creation of new textbooks which include language
varieties in gender that are relevant to today’s Japan, as well as new
classroom practices which help learners of Japanese critically discuss these
varieties to support their negotiation process.
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Teaching of Business Japanese”PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies. Vol. 6.
- Thomson, C.K. and S. Iida (2007) “’Mada meshi kutte nai’ o meguru jendaa to nihongo kyooiku no koosatsu [A discussion on gender and Japanese language education: whether we should teach ‘mada meshi kutte nai’ to female learners].”Nihongo Kyoiku, Journal of Japanese Language Teaching, Tokyo Japan,
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Otsuji (2009) “Bijinesu nihongo kyoukasho to jendaa no tamenteki kousatsu
[Multidimensional examination of gender in a business Japanese textbook]”Japanese Language Education around the Globe.
- Thomson, C.K. and E.
Otsuji (2003). “Evaluation of Business Japanese Textbooks:Issues of Gender.”Japanese Studies. Vol. 23.
- Yoneda, et.al (1998)Bijinesu no Tame no Nihongo [Getting Down to
Business:Japanese for Business People]. 3A Network:Tokyo.
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