Natural Conversation Reconstruction Tasks: The Language Classroom as a Meeting Place

Jun Ohashi


Abstract

This paper, drawing on Pratt’s notion of ‘transculturation’ and Bhabha’s ‘third space’, presents an example of language learning tasks that empower learners’ agency and promote their cross-cultural awareness and sensitivities to a different set of cultural expectations, using a naturally occurred Japanese thanking episodes. The paper discusses the merits of Natural Conversation Reconstruction Tasks (NCRTs) as a practical method for helping L2 learners develop this ‘intercultural competence’. It is based on a qualitative study of the results of one NCRT created for use in the context of teaching Japanese as a L2 in a multicultural society. It suggests the NCRT encourages the learners to explore the intersection where language use, speaker intention and L1 and L2 cultural norms meet. Such a process helps the learners become aware of socially expected patterns of communication in L1 and L2 in terms of the choices of speech act, formulaic expressions, sequential organization and politeness orientation. The learners’ comments suggest that the NCRT helps learners transcend their cultural boundaries by overcoming their narrow understanding of ‘thanking’ as ‘expressions of gratitude and appreciation’ and by cross-culturally widening their views of what counts as thanking. The NCRT with rich contextual information promotes the learners’ intercultural awareness, sensitivity to context and intercultural exploration in the space between L1 and L2, where they have authority and freedom of making sense of conversations, and pragmatics is fully integrated into language pedagogy.

Keywords

Transculturation; third place; pragmatics; intercultural competence; natural conversation; second language learning.

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