Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nagoya City University
Effects of web-based communication tasks on the development of a sense of audience in learners of Japanese as an L2

The Japanese government has long been promoting the cultivation of citizens who can effectively communicate in English in order to survive in an IT-intensive and increasingly globalized world. For example, the current Course of Study, the legally-binding curriculum guidelines set by the Japanese government, emphasizes the cultivation of the ability to express oneself in English. However, very few high school teachers provide appropriate opportunities for their students to acquire such a skill (Sasaki, in press). Valid and reliable research on the development of English writing ability in learners, especially on the web, is an urgent need whose outcomes will inform the policy makers who plan the future direction of English education in Japan. However, very few studies to date have investigated the issue of the development of second language writing abilities on the web (for an exception, see Shih, 2011). Motivated by this need, my colleagues and I conducted a study investigating the effects of web-based communication using a social networking service (SNS) on the development of a sense of audience in Japanese learners of English (Sasaki et al., 2013). We particularly targeted the issue of the development of a sense of audience, believing that this is one of the least researched, yet most indispensable factors in writing effectively. Our results reveal the following: (1) students developed a sense of audience for targeted web-based communication; (2) the sense of audience they gained did not transfer to persuasive (argumentative) writing tasks; (3) the web-based communication tasks lowered the students' resistance to writing in English and motivated them to study English by writing more; and (4) the students' English proficiency and maturity appeared to mediate the effects of the tasks. Given these findings, I would now like to examine this issue from the reverse angle, that is, the development of a sense of audience on the web in English-speaking students of Japanese. If I am enabled to conduct a study in a similar manner using the instruments (e.g., writing prompts and post-writing questionnaires) devised for Sasaki et al. (2013), the results are expected to reveal what may have been overlooked in that study because the first and second languages in the study will be reversed. Consequently, these results are expected to make a more fine-tuned contribution to both English education in Japan and foreign language education in the US. I believe that negotiating through writing on the web while planning the best strategies for accommodating interlocutors' sociocultural backgrounds is one of the most essential skills in today's world, whether the medium is a second language or a first. Given this, I also plan to follow this proposed project with one in which multilingual and multicultural speakers negotiate through writing in e-Tandem (that is, with writers exchanging messages in a second language as equal partners) after completing the present project on my return to Japan (See the full information of the cited references in the uploaded two-page bibliography).