The Simple Life? A reflection on simplified Japanese (by Ed Griffiths)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

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Our guest blogger this week is a doctoral student in Applied Linguistics at Concordia University’s Department of Education. His research interests include communication strategy instruction, L2 interaction beyond the classroom, and linguistic risk-taking.

In 2016, I gave up a job in which I’d become increasingly jaded to fulfil my dream of travelling to Japan to learn Japanese. It was a brilliant, restorative experience. Suddenly being plunged into an atmosphere in which I could neither express myself nor read a single sentence was an energizing – at times daunting – experience, which felt like being reset. Yet if you’d asked me after 6 months intensive learning what my main problem with the language was, I’d have replied despairingly and without hesitation: “I can’t understand anything anyone says.” After two terms at a Tokyo language school, I’d made some progress with the production of language. We had followed a very P-P-P (present-practice-produce) method, in an order of acquisition which will be familiar to Japanese learners the world over, limping through the adventures of Mr. Schmitt in the Minna no Nihongo textbooks, starting each day’s lesson with kyou no pointo (today’s (grammar) point). And if it wasn’t in Minna no Nihongo, it wasn’t getting a look-in. I remember a teacher going off-piste one Friday afternoon and teaching us how to order a McDonalds… While I had no particular desire to travel halfway across the world to eat McDonalds, the pragmatic benefit of learning ‘one of these, two of these, to take away, pay in cash please…’ was a game changer in a world otherwise dominated by the arcane goings-on of Mr. Schmitt and his rag-tag bunch of colleagues finding their way through life in their textbook Japanese business world.

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