Focus on Local Diversity and Learn about Global Community: Incorporating Diversity and Social Justice into Japan's English Language Education

Monday, 11 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Mieko YAMADA, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, USA
In a globalized era, people with different native languages increasingly use English and interact with each other. Concomitantly, varieties of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds among these speakers of English create multicultural and multilingual situations. Indeed, the importance of intercultural communiation becomes emphasized in the field of second/foreign language education. In Japan where English is taught as a Foreign Language (EFL), the development of English proficiency is one of the nation’s strategies for responding to rapid globalization. If English proficiency is crucial for global communication, how do Japanese EFL learners foster their communication skills and learn about intercultural communication via English? This paper examines Japanese university students’ experiences related to EFL classes at their elementary, junior high, and high schools by investigating how they perceive Japan’s domestic diversity and understand the role of English learning/teaching within that context. Interviews with Japanese undergraduate and graduate students reveal how they reflect on their own experiences with diversity in their EFL classes and help to explore the role of EFL education in a globalizing Japan. Because social justice acknowledges diversity as part of human conditions, the discussion on diversity should be extended to social justice. By focusing on the issues of prejudice and discrimination within the domestic context, I argue that teaching about diversity and social justice be integrated into the EFL curricula in order to develop EFL learners’ positive attitudes toward intercultural relationships and interactions. The rise of newcomers from both English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries has created ethnic and linguistic diversity in many places of Japan. Unless EFL learners pay attention to local diversity which consists of both English and non-English speakers living within Japan, they would not be able to acknowledge the diversity of members in a global community.