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Volume 4 Number 1, Spring 2007, Pages 1-200   


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A Cross-Sectional Contrastive Analysis of Japanese Students' English Composition Skills

    Chikako Nishigaki, Kiyomi Chujo, Sandra McGoldrick and Shuji Hasegawa


Recent studies of Japanese EFL student writing have revealed characteristic weaknesses in a variety of language areas: compositions that were organized as one extended paragraph, a discourse structure that appears illogical to a native speaker reader, a lack of credible support or an over-reliance on an emotional response to the topic. This study collected English writing samples from a cross-section of Japanese high school and college learners and considered them in terms of a native speaker's expectations. Features such as composition organization, paragraph structure, transition signals, vocabulary, collocations, and style were analyzed across a wide range of language proficiency with the aim of identifying students' difficulties in writing and exploring how these are resolved in tandem with English language development. Writing samples were collected from six levels of Japanese EFL learners and a group of native speakers. These were compared and any specific problem areas or patterns which may be generally applicable to Japanese students were identified. The results revealed that some features develop naturally and others require conscious learning under formal writing instruction. Possible implications of the results are discussed as they pertain to assisting teachers in creating a more precise and effective composition writing curriculum.