spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Introduction to Speech Acts

This introduction will walk you through several little incidents you are likely to encounter in your daily life in Japan as an exchange student. Use your imagination and see if you can determine for each situation what a culturally appropriate interpretation might be and how best to respond in that situation.

Let us assume that you have been studying abroad at a Japanese university in Tokyo for the last few months. This is your first time in Japan. You have taken a few years of Japanese at a university level in the U.S., and you have always been a pretty good student. You are living in a flat with a Japanese roommate, Jun. You love Japanese animation; in fact that is how you initially became interested in the language and culture. You are a music lover, also. Aside from classes in Japanese language, you are studying Japanese history and international relations. You are sociable by nature, which is why you wanted to have a roommate.

Now Let's Start the Vignette!

Situation 1:

While waiting for a professor in her shared office, you overhear the professor’s officemate talking to a Japanese student. The Japanese student apparently comes a little late for an appointment and says, すみません。 Sumimasen. Much to your surprise, instead of making some comment about the student’s tardiness, the professor takes it all in stride and proceeds to make a cup of tea for the student. As the student is being handed the cup of tea, he once again says to the professor すみません。 Sumimasen. You ask yourself, “What is going on here? Why does the student apologize again?”  Write your responses to this question below.

Since these exercises are intended for enhancing linguistic/cultural awareness, you will probably wish to respond in English.  If any situation prompts some questions in your mind, feel free to write them also in the box. 

Your section (if applicable)/Your last name, Your first name:
Example: (in a box) 010/Smith, John

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