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Issues on cross-cultural pragmatics: Swedish learners' attitudes regarding the learning of Japanese politeness strategies
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Japanese.
2016 (English)In: Abstracts, 2016Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Teaching communicative competence is considered extremely important in today’s language instruction. One can avoid embarrassing situations and conflicts caused by misunderstandings if one understands the differences in intercultural pragmatics. This study investigates the differences in politeness strategies between Swedish and Japanese discourse and how Japanese politeness strategies can be taught effectively to the Swedish learners of Japanese. Politeness discourse varies in complexity according to social distance, relative power between the speakers, and situations. It has been indicated in the course evaluations and comments from the students that Swedish learners of Japanese often do not see the necessity of learning the polite/honorific discourse and they often view these negatively as Swedish society is one of the most egalitarian in the world. As a consequence, Swedish students often fail to utilize appropriate politeness strategies when speaking in Japanese. However, it is important to point out to foreign language learners that cultural and social norms are not interchangeable and that one must adapt to the language one is using and the culture one is in. Thus Swedish Learners of Japanese should consider politeness discourse as a part of the rules of the language rather than something that can be modified based on one’s opinion. Student surveys and analysis of students’ errors I have complied during the past six years have revealed clear differences in the use of politeness strategies in Swedish and in Japanese context. While politeness, respect, and formality are closely intertwined in Japanese; the Swedes perceive respect and politeness as separate matters. It is also found that while the Japanese are inclined to use verbal politeness strategies, the Swedes express respect more through non-verbal actions or behaviors. This paper suggests ways in which learners of Japanese may overcome these differences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Japanese, politeness strategies, cross-cultural pragmatics
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Intercultural Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-22559OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-22559DiVA: diva2:945561
The 10th conference of the Nordic Assoication of Japanese and Korean studies (NAJAKS), Stockholm 17-19 August
Available from: 2016-07-01 Created: 2016-07-01 Last updated: 2016-07-15Bibliographically approved

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