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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 言語とアイデンティティー: 英語学習者のコードスイッチングについて

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Abstract

Bulletin of the Faculty of Foreign Studies, Sophia University (0288-1918)
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Exploring Language + Identity:
Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students
言語とアイデンティティー:
英語学習者のコードスイッチングについて
Jim McKinley
ジム・マッキンリー
Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
坂本 光代
Abstract
本文は、帰国子女と国内生のコードスイッチングの違いについて考察し
た。言語選択というものは、偶発的なものではなく、学習者が場面によっ
て最も相応しいものを積極的に選び取っているということが言える。よっ
て、二言語を駆使する者は、英語・日本語を介してアクセス出来る知識や
アイデンティティなるものがあり、必要に応じて二言語間を複雑に行った
り来たりすることが分かった。
例えば、言語選択の一因として、帰国子女の周囲に対する配慮がある。
自分の英語能力を抑制するべく英語を話さないのではなく、英語を話さな
い、もしくは得意としない者がグループにいる場合、会話する際、敢えて
英語を使用するのを避ける傾向に有る。
二言語によって、構築されるアイデンティティも複雑に変化し、場合に
よっては、英語を介してのアイデンティティと日本語のアイデンティティ
が相反することもあることが分かった。
言語的な側面から見ても、日本語と英語が完璧に合致することはない
そのため、帰国子女は、自分が伝えたいニュアンスを最も忠実に表現出来
る語彙をその都度選択し、駆使するため、会話中、度々コードスイッチン
Bulletin of the Faculty of Foreign Studies, Sophia University, No.422007 1
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2 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
グを行う。この現象を自分の表現力・言語能力の乏しさと自己評価する者
もいれば、文化的相違を指摘する者もいた。
日本で外国語を使用することは、「日本人論」に基づく日本人のアイデン
ティティと相違するため、帰国子女は日本人さを追求するあまり、英語が
おろそかになっていくという。その結果、日本語・英語共中途半端になる
危険性があり、帰国子女らの自信喪失と繋がっているようである。特に話
す能力というものは、読み書き能力などの内在的なものではなく、対外的
なものであるため、英語能力の判断材料にされやすい。この結果、学生は
話す能力を最も重視する傾向にあった。
Introduction
With increasing globalization, more individuals are placed overseas,
taking their family with them. This in turn implies that more children
are enjoying, or in unfortunate cases struggling to acquire a foreign,
especially English, language. The length of sojourn varies from a couple
to several years. This paper explores the notions of language use and
its connection to ethnic identity among Japanese children who have
returned to Japan after a prolonged stay abroad.
The returnees, or Kikokushijo in Japanese, come back to Japan
with varied experiences depending on such factors as the length of
stay and the treatment they had received abroad. In recent years,
many Japanese universities have come to accept returnees into their
programs, accommodating their lacks while nurturing their strengths.
Our research site is one of such universities that is renowned for its
program for returnees and foreigners residing in Japan.
Given the uniqueness of the research site, we wished to explore
and analyse the ways returnees as well as non-returnees manipulate
their language and identity given a particular context. Specifically,
we hypothesized that bilingual students use L1 and L2 distinctively
in order to ascribe certain social significance to language use, and
this in turn implied that there were situations when they deliberately
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 3
refrained from using L2 even if the student felt more comfortable
using L2 than L1. That is, in order to achieve the desired social goal,
language choice is effectively and eclectically engineered despite their
level of L2 proficiency (Norton, 2000). Having analyzed the data, we
discovered various reasons for this language manipulation, reflecting
both Japanese and Euro-American cultures.
Theoretical Framework
It has been documented extensively how language use ties in with
identity (Casanave, 2002; Ivanic, 1998; Morita 2004, Norton, 2000;
Norton & Toohey 2002; Ochs, 1993; Wenger, 1998). However, exactly
at what instances the language use shifts in an English language
classroom in Japan among Kikokushijo (returnees) has been less
documented. This study examines the different dynamics among
Kikokushijo and non-Kikokushijo in situ and in action. Specifically,
the moments when code-switching from Japanese to English and vice
versa occur are explored, followed by self-analysis of these moments by
the students themselves. These code-switches are a complex and multi-
faceted phenomenon whereby the language choice and use are the
result of bilingual students making active choices as to what aspects of
their language knowledge they wish to exploit.
For Kikokushijo (returnee) students in Japan, the conflicts of
adjusting back into Japanese social-cultural life as school-aged
students are substantial, and ultimately have lingering effects on their
identities and language use (both in Japanese and English) well into
their university years. The main issue is manifested in their identities
as bicultural and bilingual individuals, which in the heterogeneous
Japanese social system, they find that they are rejected from the
traditional, dependent Japanese society (see Doi, 2001 for discussion on
amae).
Since assimilation is not the desired outcome for returnees (as they
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4 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
often make sweeping generalizations of the negative stereotypes of non-
free-thinking Japanese), this leads them to opt aspects of each culture
compatible with their needs as biculturals. This blend is represented in
their language use, as certain aspects are better realized in a particular
language (Kanno, 2002).
The conicts experienced by returnees are based in the perceptions
of both the receivers of the returnees (Japanese teachers and students)
and the returnees themselves. Longitudinal case studies with school-
aged returnees showed incredible frustration with these conicts, and
a need for empathy from their receivers to ease the adjustment process
(Kanno, 2002; Miyoshi, 2001). How this process unfolds is what shaped
these students’ identities.
At university, identity may be a controversial focus area for EFL
returnee students, but if discussed it can give them a chance to better
understand their language production through consideration of their
socio-cultural ‘positionality’. This positionality is determined by
context-specic language use. Therefore, we claim that language use is
a socially determined practice (Norton, 2000).
The EFL setting ultimately involves a conflict between foreignness
and Japaneseness (Hashimoto, 2000). It has been suggested that to
be able to speak English, Japanese believe it is necessary to discard
their innate shyness and be more outgoing, i.e., ‘individualistic’ and
‘aggressive’ (Mouer & Sugimoto, 1986, p.399). This promotes the idea
that in an EFL setting, native-like uency in spoken English is resisted
for the fear of losing cultural identity (see Picken, 1986).
Methodology
This study began with a questionnaire distributed to two classes of
Japanese sophomore students majoring in English language. Among
40 students, all but three are returnees. The questionnaire consisted of
seven open-ended questions following in-class group discussions that
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 5
were encouraged to be conducted in English. Students reported how
adhering to L2 alone was not achieved and explained the reasons for
the language switch. The answers were then read by the researchers,
who then asked for clarications wherever the answers were too brief
or unclear. The questionnaires were then returned to the students
who added further comments in response to the questions asked. The
questionnaire was then collected for the second time and read by the
researchers. Among the 40 responses, eight respondents who gave
intriguing answers were invited back for a face-to-face interview with
the researchers. Each interview session was taped using a SONY
Digital Handycam DCR-VX700 video recorder. The data were then
transcribed for analysis. Transcribed data were then forwarded to each
participant for content check.
The length of sessions varied from student to student, ranging
from thirty minutes to two hours. Students were given a Letter of
Information explaining the purpose of research and were asked if they
wished to use pseudonyms or their real names. All but two expressed
their desire for anonymity, therefore all names in the following excerpts
are pseudonyms except for the two aforementioned students. Any other
identifiable proper names are indicated as XXX in the transcripts.
Inaudible responses are marked as ***. Numbers in brackets indicate a
pause counted in seconds.
Analysis and Findings
The transcribed data as well as the questionnaires were read over,
discussed and thematized by the researchers, marking all interesting or
common threads. Some of the emergent themes were as follows:
- consideration for others in terms of refraining from using L2
- returnees as those struggling between two cultural worlds
- L1/L2 correspondence
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6 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
- condence in L1 and L2
- perception of self in terms of L2 oral prociency
- motivation and confidence in using L2 based on the perceived
prociency gap between self and others
Each will be discussed further below.
Consideration for others
While students are proficient L2 users, they nevertheless often
refrain from using L2. Their restraint stems not from their desire to
dismiss or reject L2 and C2 (second culture) but rather their courtesy
and consideration towards others. In the following excerpt Yumi
explains how her language choice uctuates depending on the situation
in order to avoid ostracizing non-L2 speakers as well as to avoid the
stigma of being aloof.
1. Yumi: so I think I don’t do this now but when I first um my
freshman year at XXX
2. Jim: Uh-huh
3. Y: Um. The first time since I knew that this was an English
department
4. J: Mn.
5. Y: so I didn’t mind mixing up English and Japanese
6. J: Mn.
7. Y: but some people really hated it?
8. J: Yeah.
9. Y: so I had some trouble with that
10. J: Mn. Okay.
Yumi recalls how some people simply assumed that she is just
showing off” whenever she used English. She further explains how
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 7
she refrains from using L2 unless L2 use is initiated and actively
pursued by others.
11. Jim: Well this is the thing that makes me wonder. Before you
were saying you would prefer to really use a lot of English
12. Yumi: Uh-huh
13. J: when you rst arrived
14. Y: Uh-huh
15. J: but now you feel differently about that
16. Y: Yeah.
17. J: that with a lot of the kids you prefer to use Japanese
18. Y: Uh-huh
19. J: Do you feel like you are losing some I don’t know an ability to
use English as freely as you used to?
20. Y: Um, I’m not sure about that because I’m trying not to use
English, kind of? Because of um people telling me not to (laugh)
21. J: Right. Right, right.
22. Y: Kind of um, it depends on situation?
23. J: Mn…
24. Y: as well but um it’s just like when people speak Japanese I
don’t want to say back to that person in English
25. J: Mn…
26. Y: It- it’s really like, uh, I feel really weird?
27. J: Yeah.
28. Y: Yeah.
29. J: So but if somebody as long as somebody is willing to participate
in the conversation in English
30. Y: Uh-huh
31. J: even if their English isn’t very good
32. Y: Uh-huh
33. J: you will use English.
34. Y: Oh yeah, sure.
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8 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
35. J: Alright, ok…
Yumi’s willingness to go along with the language choice her
interlocutor makes reflects her considerateness for others and her
unwillingness to create any unnecessary conict and tension between
her and her interlocutor.
Returnees caught in two cultural worlds
In the simplest possible terms, identity can be dened as “a person’s
understanding of who they are” (Kanno, 2000, p.2). We take this
denition one step further and dene identity as an understanding of
self in a given context. As bilinguals, some of the students in this study
express a separation or two identities: their L1 Japanese identity, and
L2 English identity. Bilingual identity is complicated, in that they are
simultaneously negotiating between a development of two different
identities, which can contradict each other (Kanno, 2000).
In her interview, Ai made several suggestions that she sees two
separate identities for herself, one for each language. Early in the
interview she offered this:
1. I think my personality changes from when I speak in English and
Japanese, and I think it happens for many people…
The following excerpt shows how she later explained further:
2. Mitsuyo: Now a few minutes ago, Jim just said that, um… can
you be your true self in Japanese… does that imply that speaking
in English, do you think that you’re someone else, or is that still
you?
3. Ai: Mm… it’s still me… but, I think that… I can express my
opinions more freely in English…
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 9
4. M: Oh! In English… so, you’re more true in English than when
you’re speaking in Japanese, then… you’re REALLY your true
self when you’re speaking English… is that correct interpretation,
or…?
5. Ai: I think it’s the culture of the countries that these languages
are spoken in, ‘cos Japanese are not supposed to like, go out
there, and…
6. Jim: say as much
7. Ai: exactly… so you’re not supposed to express your feelings,
really, directly… but in English, that’s a good thing, so I can be
comfortable expressing my opinions in an English class more
than in like a Japanese elective class… I think… (laughing)
Ai managed to avoid considerations of a ‘true self’ and emphasized
the dependency on the situation in which she is communicating. This
exibility was seen as advantageous on her part. However for Miho, the
exibility is more conicting. In the following excerpt, Miho expresses a
conict caused by an inability to express what she wants in Japanese –
due to a different sense of humor.
1. Miho: Um, when I’m speaking in English I get more, like, there’s
more sarcasm in what I’m saying…
2. Mitsuyo: That’s interesting… and when you’re speaking Japanese
you’re more genuine, or…
3. Miho: Yes I think so.
4. M: Or, you’re more honest?
5. Miho: Not honest, but… mm… (7) you have more like, black
humor… with it?
6. M: In English
7. Miho: In English…
8. M: The language is inherently, I guess, like that…
9. Miho: And, like, you have more ups and downs when you’re
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10 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
talking…
10. M: That’s true… that contributes to the sarcasm, you think?
11. Miho: It, might… I don’t know… (laughing)
12. M: Do you think you come across as more sarcastic in English…
13. Miho: Uh-huh
14. M: than in Japanese… so do you play more with English than you
do with Japanese?
15. Miho: Yes…
16. Jim: Ok
17. Miho: because when you say the same thing in Japanese it sounds
so serious… and like, Japanese people will take it more seriously
18. M: So you can joke around in English…
19. Miho: Yes, right…
Later Miho expresses a tendency towards her L2 identity:
1. Jim: I’ve noticed that you laugh a lot in English… and that if I’m
making a joke in class, you’re one of the rst people to laugh…
Do you think your humor is more English culture than Japanese
culture?
2. Miho: Yes, people tell me that I have- that I laugh, at like…
3. J: Weird things…
4. Miho: (laughing) Yes! And, like… well, American people have like
big reactions, you know… they react like, really… humongous?
And people tell me that I do that, so…
Identity issues affect students’ word choices, humor, even their
appearance. In the following excerpt, Naomi explains that she can tell
the difference between those people who have a more dominant L1 or
L2 identity. She then takes pride in the fact that she identies herself
as not like all the others. In the following transcript, the acronym FCC
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 11
stands for Faculty of Comparative Culture.
1. Mitsuyo: Can you tell whether that person’s more comfortable in
English or not from their appearance, for example? Besides facial
expression like, for example, the way they dress?
2. Naomi: Um… (4) I guess I can… (laughing)
3. M: Yeah? What gives it away? How do you tell?
4. N: (laughter) I don’t know maybe especially because I’m in XXX
but because we have the FCC, um… I can kind of guess who’s
returnee and who’s not.
5. M: What gives away… like what kind of clue do you detect- do
you… I’m interested. [N: Um (smiling)] What kind of factors
what kind of things…
6. N: Um… people… who’s been in Japan for a long time is more
fashionable (laughter) I don’t know…
7. M: Ah! (all laughing)
8. Jim: Well what about the fashion, what about the fashion.
(laughter)
9. N: Fashion. Really Japanese, as in…
10. J: So there is a distinct Japanese fashion…
11. N: Yes.
12. M: Could you describe that for us?
13. J: Yeah… (laughter)
14. N: (smiling) Ok… everybody looks the same. (all laughing) It’s
like they dye their hair, they…
15. M: Is that why you don’t dye your hair?
16. N: Actually, yes. I don’t know- and I don’t know- I’m I don’t
know I’m proud of being Japanese and I like my hair being black,
and…
17. J: But you don’t look like them.
18. N: What do you mean?
19. M: Like ***-chan for example.
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12 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
20. J: Yeah (all laughing)
21. N: I don’t know- I really… or maybe this is only my
characteristics, but um, I don’t like being the same with other
people? I don’t know um… especially in Japan where people
don’t express the- using like, verbally? Um… don’t know- just
from the fashion, they all look the same and they don’t speak
up, um… sometimes I feel really sorry for them? Because inside
they’re- um (hands rolling, laughing) they have, like worth- um,
very interesting talent or like, um… hobbies that’s- I don’t know-
amazing? Or, but, because they don’t speak up and they look the
same and just- they’re losing their chance…
Identity is a rather strong source of pride in Japan, as defined by
Nihonjinron or, theories on the Japanese, designed to emphasize the
uniqueness of the postwar people of Japan in relation to the rest of
the world (Sato, 2004). For these returnee students, there is some
resistance to a single identity. This is therefore a strong contradiction
to Nihonjinron. In the following excerpt, Naomi offers a solution.
1. J: I get the idea that what you’re proud of as yourself as a
Japanese… is in the international context…
2. N: Mn, maybe…
3. J: that you are from Japan and you have this- so… I’m wondering,
like, in Japan… are you proud to be that… different person? Like
do people see you as Japanese, or do they look at you and say…
you’re different! (laughter)
4. N: Um… I… I’ve been said different… (smiling) a lot.
5. J: How do you feel about that?
6. N: Um… I’m… I’m happy with it.
7. J: Ok
8. N: (laughter) Um… don’t know…
9. J: You haven’t had bad experiences with that sort of thing…
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 13
10. N: Mm… mm… no, but… mm… but people really often say that
I’m different…
11. M: Do you identify yourself as part American?
12. N: Uh… no.
13. M: No. You’re 100% Japanese…
14. N: Um (3) don’t know, Japanese but… um… world citizen?
(small laugh)
15. M: So you don’t necessarily connect yourself with the US, per se…
16. N: No
17. M: but on a bigger scale…
18. N: Unh (nodding/ smiling) I think so…
19. J: Yeah… it was interesting, because so many people, on the
question about you know, why do you use the language that you
use, you didn’t mention anything about- I use it because this is
who I am- it had everything to do with the interaction you had
with the other person, so, you seem very flexible, and perfectly
happy to use English or Japanese or mix or any of those things
are ok for you. Is that true?
20. N: Unh! Yeah…
21. J: Ok (laughter)
22. N: I don’t know, um… yeah, from- I think the context is more
important than the language, because language is just a tool, if I
say it that way, so, um… I want to- and I like people, so, I want to
(giggle) have a good conversation with them. So whatever’s happy
for them, I tend to use it, so…
While the celebration of Japanese identity can be perceived
positively, we realize how at times one identity is deliberately hidden
for self-protection from stigmas. For example, Yumi says she is
discouraged to disclose her past, the fact that she has lived abroad for
a prolonged period of time, in order to avoid negative stereotypes for
returnees:
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14 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
1. Y: Um. I just don’t like the fact that people think of returnes as
um people who
2. didn’t study?
3. J: Ah
4. Y: Yeah. I just don’t like the fact that they say that. They are like,
“Oh you are so lucky that you lived abroad.” Like, “You always
have parties, right?” Like, um.
5. J: (laugh)
6. Y: “It depends on the person” (laugh)
7. J: Yeah.
8. Y: Yeah.
9. J: So it’s stereotypes that are
10. Y: Yeah.
11. J: So you don’t bring up the fact that you are a returnee? If you
don’t have to.
12. Y: (2) I wouldn’t.
13. J: No.
14. Y: No.
While Yumi acknowledges the richness of and her appreciation for
her overseas experiences, she is reluctant to share that with others in
fear of wrongful, and hurtful, negative stereotypes people hold against
returnees. Yumi claimed that one of the reasons why she chose the
university she is currently at is precisely because the school admits
many returnees like herself. This way, they can empathize with each
others’ experiences of having to struggle between two cultural worlds.
One student, Sayako, in the study shows a particularly interesting
defense of her absolute Japanese identity. Despite being biologically
half Japanese, and having lived outside Japan for several years, Sayako
writes:
I feel more comfortable to speak Japanese and I identify myself as
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 15
Japanese.
Sayako’s social context plays a determinant role in constructing her
identity and language preference. She consistently uses the pronoun ‘we’
instead of ‘I’ in the following excerpt:
We are all Japanese… We usually talk in Japanese between us and
we aren’t condent in speaking English compared to Japanese.
Sayako’s adamant claim to be only Japanese reects how she positions
herself socially. This is in contrast to for example Miho and Yumi, who
identify themselves with two cultures but in very distinct ways.
Miho, despite her uency in both L1 and L2, is divided by languages
and agrees that there are different personas belonging to different
language use. Yumi concurs that her persona changes depending on the
language she uses. She writes:
My tone of voice changes. Also, I think that I tend to be aggressive
when using English. In English, I tend to speak strongly, like a
debater.
My tone of voice becomes lower (I think).
Similarly, Naomi notes that differences in identity have been pointed
out to her. She writes:
I don’t feel any change, but my friends and family say that I
sound nicer in Japanese, as in, I tend to use more swear words/
bad words in English. Also, I speak faster in English so people
think that I am more rude/ inappropriate…(?)
Conscious or unconscious, this clear psycho-physical distinctness that
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16 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
accompanies language choice was a common trait found among all
participants in this study.
Correspondence between L1 and L2
Besides affective reasons for language switching, there are sheer
linguistic, lexical aspects in switching from L1 to L2 and vice versa.
According to a theoretical second language acquisition goal known as
Willingness To Communicate (MacIntyre, Clément, Dörnyei & Noels,
1998), it is noted that there are cases of transfer breakdown between L1
and L2. For many of the students in this study, word knowledge seemed
to present a major issue in that they described moments of switching
between languages in order to find the most appropriate nuance to
convey their desired meaning. In some cases it was considered a lack
of ability with the language, and for others it was noted as a case of
cultural difference. In the previous section, Miho noted both of these
points in relation to word knowledge, also suggesting that there is a
lack of correspondence between the L1 and L2.
In the following excerpt, Miho explains how depending on the person
she is communicating with, some words in English just do not work,
and so she uses Japanese words to replace them.
1. J: I think… the thing that stands out for me is the point about…
when you’re using English and when you’re using Japanese it all
depends on the person that you’re talking to?
2. Miho: Yes…
3. J: Not the topic, or situation…
4. Miho: Mn-hm…
5. J: Yeah? (laughter)
6. Miho: It depends on what person…
M: You mentioned there were certain words you preferred using
Japanese…
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Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 17
7. Miho: Right, uh-huh…
8. M: What was that example she gave there? (referring to Miho’s
feedback sheet)
9. Miho: I’m so chuto hanpa, or that’s arienai…
10. M: ah… that’s arienai… Why do you think you particularly chose
chuto hanpa, you decided to insert Japanese words chuto
hanpa in there…
11. Miho: Well, rst I didn’t know how to explain it in English, and
then for arienai or arienai is ‘impossible’ in English, but it doesn’t
have the same meaning… like…
12. J: Nuance…
13. Miho: nuance… yes… (laughing)
14. M: How different are they? Could you explain the difference to us,
could you try?
15. Miho: Uh… If you say ‘that’s impossible’…
16. M: Uh-huh
17. Miho: then, it makes it sound like… it’s really impossible, but if
you say like, that’s arienai, even though it is possible, well you
just say… arienai as like…
18. M: Ah… that’s interesting
19. Miho: to express, yes…
20. J: So not so black and white…
21. Miho: Mn-hm, right…
Based on this explanation, it seems that Miho’s ability is far greater
than she perceives. Unfortunately, she is under the impression that
not being able to express clearly what she wants completely in one
language is some sort of deciency on her part, not considering the idea
that it is a deciency in the language itself. On the other hand, Toru
recognizes the incongruence between L1 and L2:
Word choice is very important because the concept of things and the
−  −
18 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
way people think differs depending on the language they use/hear.
Literal translation is not the way to speak uently or to tell what
you want to convey.
This incongruence unknowingly forces bilinguals to use L1 and L2
selectively. For example, Miho explains:
I used a mixture of English and Japanese. I use whichever
language comes up to my mind for the word. I never noticed I did
that when talking.
Ai comments:
We are speaking Japanese without thinking too much about
language choice. At the beginning when we were focused on the
task, we spoke English. But later, when we were less focused than
before, Japanese popped out naturally.
Ai also brought up a common situation, which was that a lack of
English vocabulary caused the larguage mix. She writes:
We used Japanese words when we didn’t know how to express
something in English.
Ayako and Naomi had similar ideas. Ayako writes:
I was using different language in different situations. A lack of
English vocabulary led to speaking in Japanese.
Naomi writes:
We tend to use Japanese when we are not confident because I
−  −
Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 19
assume that we have more knowledge and variety of vocabulary in
Japanese (mother tongue) when the topic that we were talking
about switched from academic to private, the language we used
switched from English to Japanese.
This may imply that too much focus is being placed on academic L2 and
not enough colloquial L2 vocabulary (Kanno & Applebaum, 1995). This
pedagogical lack may be attributing to their comfort and confidence
level in terms of Foreign Language Acquisition.
Condence
This section will discuss briefly what is meant by L2 confidence
and the impact of Nihonjinron on returnee students in Japan. Then
it will take a look at the lack of confidence affecting some students’
perceptions of their language skills.
L2 condence and Nihonjinron
L2 confidence is directly related to the theory of Willingness To
Communicate. In Japan there has been a noted effort by the Ministry of
Education to move away from knowledge-based acquisition of English
and more towards communicative English in an attempt to improve
condence and encourage Japanese students to communicate more in
English (Yashima, 2002; Yoshida, 2003). This is where we would expect
returnee students to steep in confidence as they excel beyond their
classmates who have not had the same overseas experiences.
A major conflicting issue with all of this in Japan is that there is
no clear purpose for students to use English. Besides, the use of a
foreign language in Japan goes against the pivotal ideology of Japanese
identity known as Nihonjinron, which emphasizes homogeneity (see
Sato, 2004). For returnee students, this means they need to focus on
− 0 −
20 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
their ability in Japanese, which may have been hindered by their
immersion in an English-speaking environment for an extended period
of time. As these students attempt to build their Japanese, they feel
their English slipping, leading to a lack of condence in both languages.
Lack of condence
Having the language to convey meaning without misunderstanding
or great effort is the key to establishing confidence in one’s ability
to communicate. For L2 speakers or writers, the struggle to find
appropriate language can lead to a lack of confidence, which, if not
overcome, can be the end to improved language ability. For the returnee
students in this study, bilingualism presents a different type of struggle
with condence. Both Miho and Ayako expressed incompleteness in both
languages, creating a lack of condence in language use in general. In
the following excerpt, Ayako expresses a kind of disadvantage to being
bilingual.
1. Ayako: even when I speak Japanese, when I don’t come up with-
there are times that… (4) I don’t come out in Japanese but come
out in English?
2. Jim: Hmm… So sometimes the words just come out in English…
3. A: It doesn’t come out but comes, like into to my mind
4. Mitsuyo: Mn-hm, sure
5. J: Right, ok, ok
6. M: How do you feel about that, do you feel that your language is
incomplete, or do you think that the fact that you’re bilingual that
you have more advantage than monolingual Japanese people,
what are your thoughts?
7. A: Um, I think my language is… incomplete.
8. M: Oh. Really? In each language? Japanese and English?
9. A: Yeah
−  −
Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 21
10. M: Do you feel badly about that?
11. A: Un-huh
12. M: So you’re not proud of being bilingual then
13. A: (laughter)
14. M: Do you have some sort of inferiority complex thinking that
both my Japanese and English are… incomplete? Or, um, you
never feel good about yourself being bilingual?
15. A: Well, um, as for me, I’m very… bimyo na tokoro (laughter)
because I’ve only been there like 5 years, and although- although
other 15 years I live in Japan but… my Japanese… are… not as
good as… Japanese, like…
16. M: Japanese people
17. A: people
Perception of self in terms of L2 oral proficiency: Finding
motivation
It was common for students to compare themselves to other speakers
in the class (as a visible skill) to decide whether or not they were ‘good’
speakers of English. Because Ayako spent just ve years overseas, she
feels this is the reason she is not as good as other speakers, who must
have spent more time abroad. This lack of confidence in English has
been exacerbated by her lack of condence in Japanese, with which she
feels doomed to be stuck as a returnee.
For one particular student, Hiro, the fact that he didn’t spend much
time overseas is a point of defense for his lack of condence. He explains
that because he spent just one year overseas, he does not expect to have
uency in English. In the following excerpt, in an optimistic turn, he
nds motivation in his deciencies.
1. M: pronunciation is so- it’s there, so it’s more noticeable. Do you
think that affects people’s condence level for example?
−  −
22 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
2. H: Condence level?
3. M: Mn-hm.
4. H: I think so, because when I’m speaking I know that my
pronunciation is not perfect, and when I’m talking to someone
who can speak English much better, I just feel more… that I – am
– worse, uh, speaker…
5. J: So you lose condence…
6. H: Yeah
7. J: in those situations.
8. H: Well I think it’s sometimes good, ‘cos I just feel I have to
study more and practice more. But if it if the… situation
or if I’m always being in that situation, I just maybe lose the
condence.
For Miho, her condence in English was aided by a positive experience
in her eight years in the US, as well as the inevitable comparison
to other students in which she finds herself one of the more fluent
speakers. However much like Ayako, Miho’s condence is hampered by
a sense of incompleteness, caused by her tendency to mix L1 and L2.
She explains in her feedback sheet:
I am determined to stop mixing English and Japanese in one
sentence. It sounds very non-academic and ignorant. Being
bilingual means you are able to speak both languages uently and
have vocabulary for each language. Mixing them up means I don’t
know how to say a certain word so I just use whichever language I
know the word in.
An interesting point about this that Miho brought up in her interview
was that it is not always just the case that she does not know the word,
but rather, it does not express what she wants it to in one language or
the other.
−  −
Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 23
As we can see, students in this study hold a complex self-image
which is the result of their incongruent and at times conflicting C1
and C2 exposure. For example, Yumi is caught between her pride and
gratitude for being a returnee while suffering from misconceptions
about returnees. Toru, a non-returnee, also expressed his ambivalence
towards his status as an English major at a prestigious university:
1. M: Do you ever get that kind of reaction? People must say, “Oh,
your English must be good”
2. T: Mn.
3. M: or “You are smart” or (laugh) ***
4. J: *** (laugh)
5. M: You do?
6. T: Ah. (3) When I said I was in XXX University
7. M: Mn.
8. T: People often told me that, “You are very smart”
9. M: Uh-huh
In fact, Toru expressed his excitement when he first learned that he
was placed in a class which mostly consists of returnees. For Toru,
English was his favorite subject and he was always top of the class in
English, and his placement in one of the top English classes afrmed
his talent for the language. However, he claimed that his confidence
quickly dwindled when he began his studies with his fellow classmates.
One of the things Toru wants to improve on is his oral and aural skills,
despite the fact that he has no difculties communicating orally:
1. J: Is your English ability ready now or do you have to do more?
2. T: Not yet.
3. J: Not yet.
4. M: You make it sound like your English is not good enough yet.
Uh, what about it do you think is not good enough? What. What
−  −
24 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
aspect of English...
5. J: Your English is excellent.
6. M: Uh-huh. Yet you say you are not happy with your English.
7. T: Speaking
8. M: Speaking.
9. T: and listening
10. M: listening. But you obviously are understanding what we are
saying. You want to improve your listening despite the fact that
you understand?
11. J: I don’t know how much better you can make it (laugh). Your
listening is better than mine, I think (laugh)
12. T: Speaking skills
Toru feels that in particular his conversation skills are insufficient.
This point is particularly important, as oral skills are the most
visible, apparent skills which can be a tool in assessing the level of L2
prociency. In contrast, writing and reading skills can be described as
silent skills which are less apparent.
Furthermore, Toru feels that his shyness prohibits him from
participating fully in English conversation. He claims that he finds
himself unable to contribute whenever others start speaking in English:
1. M: Speaking skills. (3) And once you get that speaking skill what
do you want to do with that? Why do you need. Why do you want
to improve speaking skills?
2. T: Basically I like to interact with people.
3. M: Mn.
4. T: Yeah. I want to try it with people from other countries.
5. M: Uh huh.
6. T: People having different backgrounds.
7. M: Um. Your English level already allows you to do that, don’t
you think? You are conversing with us right now already in
−  −
Exploring Language + Identity: Nature of Code-switching among Japanese Students 25
English
8. J: *** (laugh)
9. T: Um. No. I don’t think it’s enough.
10. M: You don’t think it’s enough. Your English as is does not allow
you to express your opinion fully. (5)
11. J: Did we talk about the obstacles?
12. M: Not yet.
13. J: Okay. What are the biggest obstacles for you that prevent you
from having that level of English that you want?
14. T: Obstacles (5) Um (6) I am basically shy.
15. M: Mn.
16. T: Although I want to, like, talk to people in English
17. M: Mn.
18. T: or I want to interact with people?
19. M: Mn.
20. T: but somehow I can’t. (3) For example in class, once someone
starts speaking in English, then I can’t. I can do too but it is still
difcult for me to start a conversation? In English…
This does not however imply that he is unappreciative for the
challenging environment he is immersed in. He acknowledges how peer
pressure encourages him to use L2 more. Students are therefore having
to embrace the tension as well as camaraderie among themselves in
enhancing their Second Language Acquistion. That is, their condence
and motivation in learning L2 are enmeshed in a complex web of social
interactions.
Conclusion
While English language knowledge is in general something admired,
desired, and respected in Japan, returnees are often caught in an
ambivalent position of having to celebrate their prociency as well as
−  −
26 Jim McKinley, Mitsuyo SaKaMoto
having to compromise the use of their language skills at the same time
in order to assure social acceptance and harmony. This in turn provokes
complex interaction patterns giving rise to eclectic and strategic
language use on the part of returnees.
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IAFOR Journal of Language Learning: Volume 3 – Issue 2 Editor: Dr Bernard Montoneri Published: January 19, 2018 ISSN: 2188-9554 https://doi.org/10.22492/ijll.3.2 https://iafor.org/journal/iafor-journal-of-language-learning/volume-3-issue-2/
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