Investigating how graduate students from diverse backgrounds in Japan cultivate their learner agency of intercultural competence

31 May 2024
Room D1

Investigating how graduate students from diverse backgrounds in Japan cultivate their learner agency of intercultural competence

This study observes how graduate students develop their learner agency of intercultural competence in a course aiming to build their metapragmatic awareness of Japanese culture and communication, in reference to Ishihara (2019) and McConacy and Liddicoat (2022). We investigate the final products of graduate students in a course titled “Japanese Culture” that the first author has taught in English at a Japanese university since the Academic Year (AY) 2020.

This course is part of a master’s degree programme and aims to provide an understanding of how Japanese culture and thought influence second language acquisition and development by Japanese English learners, covering various linguistic and cultural issues such as honorific language and linguistic forms originating in the notions of amae, uchi-soto, wakimae, and a subject-and-topic prominent language, a rhetorical structure ki-shoo-ten-ketsu, and non-verbal communication styles including back-channelling aizuchi (Maynard, 1997). Also, the latest empirical studies on those issues are introduced, and potential difficulties and possible suggestions for language teaching are discussed and exchanged. As a final product, students are encouraged to conduct their own research based on their observations, experiences, and experiments in comparison between Japanese and other culture(s)/language(s) in reference to the issue(s) covered in the course.

The enrolled students had diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds with different proficiency in the Japanese language and familiarity with Japanese culture. In this study, we investigate the final projects of a group of students from Japan, the US, Belgium, and India who were enrolled in the AY2023 and observe how the students developed their learner agency after receiving explicit instruction to improve their metapragmatic awareness in application to language teaching. Our observations and discussions also include a comparison with a group in the previous year, composed of students from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Austria, who were only given chances to exchange their reflections on the course contents without explicit instructions.



Ishihara, N. (2019). Identity and agency in L2 pragmatics. In N. Taguchi (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition and pragmatics (pp. 161–175). Routledge.

McConachy, T. & Liddicoat, A. J. (Eds.). (2022). Teaching and learning second language pragmatics for intercultural understanding. Routledge.

Maynard, S. (1997). Japanese communication: Language and thought in context. University of Hawaii Press.