Over the Wall of Silence
ー How to overcome cultural barriers when teaching communication in Japan
Why is it so hard to get Japanese students to speak out in class?
It’s an age-old question, and potentially one of the most puzzling and frustrating parts of a foreign language teacher’s professional life. One reason is that certain aspects of Japanese culture are magnified in the language classroom, and often block communication and learning.
In this short guide we offer:
Workable explanations of the cultural patterns behind the way students speak (or don’t!) and the ways in which they interact in groups
Practical advice that can be implemented immediately in the classroom.
Our goal is to provide clarity and hope to teachers starting at Japanese universities or high schools, and some new perspectives for veterans. We hope it will save some of the frustration we experienced, and lead to more active, talkative classes.
Stephen Richmond has been teaching, editing and translating in Japan since 1999, and is currently Associate Professor of English at Kyoto University of Advanced Science. He teaches and researches intercultural communication. His publications include the first two editions of Conversations in Class (Alma Publishing), Sekai o Motenasu: Simple Eikaiwa (Gakken Plus) and the bi-monthly newspaper Enjoy Kyoto.
Bruno Vannieu has taught French at the university level in Japan for 25 years, including eleven years at Kobe University where he received the Best Teacher Award six times. He retired from teaching in 2019 to concentrate on teacher training and publishing. He is a co-author of 13 French and English textbooks and the author of Enseigner l’oral au Japon (Teaching Speaking Skills in Japan). His research is focused on intercultural communication and language teaching methods.