spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Comments and Questions from Students
about Speech Act Strategies Website

Questions about the general use of the website/language learning:

Q1. The audio links are great because the speech is so natural and authentic, but one problem was the number of vocabulary words and grammar structures used that I did not know. 

A1. Right.  Getting used to authentic language is very important in language learning and it is our intention to provide you with some real language.  If you travel to or study in Japan, you will be hearing authentic language all the time, so it is beneficial for you to start hearing it using these materials.   And yet, authentic language can be overwhelming for language learners especially if you have studied only with instructional materials.  There are a number of “Word Bank” links in the materials that will hopefully assist you.  Dialogues also come with transcripts, Romanizations (romaji), and translations.  On the other hand, try not to get hung up on unfamiliar vocabulary and grammar.  You might want to understand every single word, but the main point of the materials is to learn the basic ideas and strategies for how Japanese speakers vary their language use according to the situation.  Please be aware that these materials were not designed to test your language skills but to support you in your learning. 

Q2. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to take that long or if it was just me.

A2. If you pay attention to details or analyze sample dialogues or your responses closely, going through a unit will take a lot of time, up to 6 -10 hours depending on your proficiency.  One of the strengths of the web materials is that you can move on at your own pace.  We also recommend printing the pages you’d like to come back to, or copying and pasting important information in a Word document for your own records.  You might also wish to play it safe by writing your responses first in a Word file in case your browser crashes while you are working on an exercise.

Q3. In some of the exercises, I wrote my answers in the boxes and clicked on “submit,” which sent my response to somewhere and I was able to see comments immediately after it, which was great.  But I was somewhat confused by the fact that there was no way to submit certain answers. 

A3. In order to have more variety in exercise types, we used two software programs for constructing the exercises, Hot Potatoes and Dreamweaver, but Hot Potatoes does not allow the response submission system.  So don’t worry if you don’t see “submit” at the end of the page.  You don’t need to click on anything in those exercises. 

Q4. Is it ok to read the transcript if we don't understand all of the audio files?

A4. Yes. When you work alone, the last thing we want is for you to be stuck and unable to move on or learn anything.  Ideally you listen to the audio multiple times before viewing the transcript or answering the questions, but it’s really up to you --- it’s your learning after all, and we wanted to support you as much as possible by having the transcripts, Romanization, and translation available.  While listening to the dialogues, try to pay attention to the tone – the color of emotion – that each speaker has.

Q5. Coffee and tea break sections - am I supposed to submit anything for these?

A5: No, they are just there for you - some fun and useful extra resources.

Q6. I wasn't sure if I should write my answers in Japanese or English at the very beginning. 

A6. If it is a language question, like “write down what you would say in this situation,” we would expect to see the response in Japanese there either in Japanese/Chinese characters or in Romanization.  Otherwise, either one is fine but your analysis/evaluation of your response might be more efficiently written in English.  If you write in Japanese/Chinese characters, I should remind you that there is a risk --- they sometimes turn into unreadable symbols. 

Content-related concerns:

Q1. My only concern is how people may react in real life if you make a mistake in a speech act situation you have never encountered before.  I've heard that Japanese people are forgiving of the mistakes made by foreigners but I would still be interested in more information on this subject.

A1. I would say that if they know you are a non-native speaker, they tend to be forgiving.  How do they know you are a non-native?  They might guess that from your accent, name, or the way you look.  It’s an interesting political issue as well as linguistic, I think.  We have more comments and strategies about this at: CommunicationStrategies.htm.

Q2. I guess my only question is how to know when it's the right time to use which phrase.  I guess my first thought when trying to answer such a question is that I would have to move to Japan to experience these situations and explore them first-hand in order to attain a true mastery of the use of speech acts. 

A2. Right, living in the host country will increase your exposure to the language and culture and give you more clues.  The purpose of the website is to prepare you by giving you the “tools” with which you can observe other speakers of Japanese and the situational factors, think for yourself what might be appropriate to say, and test it out in real life (creating and revising hypotheses).  You can think of using the website as strategy training in the learning of speech acts.

Q3. We practice plain form and desu/masu in class all the time, but I know for many of us, the humble/honorific forms are harder since there aren’t as many occasions to use them.

A3: Japanese speakers do use a lot of humble/honorific forms, but to make you feel better – Japanese college graduates entering big corporations normally go through keigo training, since the use of keigo in business settings is complicated and prescriptive.  Again, you don’t need to strive for perfection, but we do hope that you will attend to those politeness features and expressions of familiarity and analyze for yourself the factors which determine the use (and non-use) of keigo and the actual forms used. 

And when we say keigo, we mean both desu/masu form and honorific (=respect or exalted, sonkeigo) and humble forms (kenjougo), which may be different from how you use the terms in your class.  Hopefully this won’t be too much of a problem --- what’s more important is its use, not terminology.

Q4. I feel like my Japanese really breaks down when I step outside of the set phrases and very formulaic grammar.  That's why I think hearing different native speakers act out the speech acts is crucial to the success of these web-based materials.

A4. Right.  We also believe that both exposure (input) and your efforts to express yourself (output) in authentic situations are crucial for language learning.  Keep practicing and talking!  It takes time but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Q5. Though the part after submitting my responses was usually helpful and gave me a good general idea on the correctness, I was still unsure on specific parts of my answers.

A5. Our first reaction would be that you don’t have to worry too much about details because appropriate use of language in general is the target of these materials.  However, admittedly some details are important in the materials – for example, how you use an intensifier hontouni is important because it can affect the sincerity/politeness level of your speech.  We tried our best to bring these important details to your attention in the materials, so most of the time you should find answers either in the exercises or in the feedback.  But if you are still unsure or curious, you can ask your Japanese-speaking friends or teachers. 

Back to Preface to Students

Back to Speech Act Strategies Index Page


Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414 | Contact CARLA