Web site use and lesson plan for teaching and learning Japanese as a foreign language

Kayo Shintaku, The University of Arizona

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This presentation aims to address the use of web sites as authentic materials to enhance orthographic and sociocultural understandings in a higher education curriculum of Japanese as a Foreign Language (JFL). A lesson plan is proposed as a more comprehensive way of teaching and learning Katakana loan words to meet the specific needs of the JFL learners surrounded by emerging digital literacies.

Based on its orthographic nature, the Japanese language consists of two phonograms (Hiragana and Katakana) and one logogram (Kanji), and it contains thousands of well-established loan words from other languages such as English, German, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish. Katakana’s presence has been significantly prominent due to its ease of use for transcribing the sounds of foreign words. However, for JFL learners, Katakana is difficult to acquire because 1) its use in textbooks is very limited in spite of its usage in both existing and emerging media, 2) the characters found in the wide range of font types used in various media types do not always look the same as JFL learners’ perceptions, i.e. different from textbook fonts, and 3) meanings used in Japanese may not be the same as in original languages.

Having limited exposure to just one font type and limited lists of loan words introduced in textbooks does not prepare learners for the actual literacy worlds in which they would most likely encounter Katakana, e.g. web sites, manga, anime, and digital games. To tackle common challenging Katakana issues for novice JFL learners, a classroom lesson plan using Japanese web sites is proposed to provide sufficient exposure of authentic digital literacies in Japanese. The instruction targets Katakana loan words for JFL learners to encourage multimodal digital literacy awareness through their usage in sociocultural content, graphical representation, and semantics.


Kayo Shintaku
Ph.D. student in the graduate interdisciplinary program in Second Language Acquisition & Teaching
The University of Arizona