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Volume 14 Number 2, Summer 2017, Pages 211-379 PDF Download

Learner Perspectives on National Identity and EFL Education in Japan: Report of a Questionnaire Study

    Blake Turnbull

Although the Japanese discourse of nihonjinron argues that the increasing hegemony of the English language will have negative effects on the Japanese identity, some scholars have suggested the opposite, that English in Japan plays a significant role in strengthening and maintaining the ideologies of the Japanese national identity. This paper investigates the potential for both positive and/or negative impacts of English education in Japan by analysing the attitudes and perspectives of 97 Japanese tertiary-level EFL students towards the study of English on Japan's national and cultural identity. The findings suggest that support for the theories of the nihonjinron discourse are not as strong amongst the younger generation in Japan as what they once were. Participants identified the Japanese language as a constituent element of national identity, and it is therefore suggested that removing Japanese from the EFL classroom entirely, as has been advocated for in foreign language policies, may actually cultivate negative ideologies towards the study of English in general. The findings suggest the need to build a positive relationship between the English language as a support for Japanese identity if we are to see an improvement in Japanese students' attitudes toward, and development of, EFL on the whole.

Keywords: national identity, national culture, Japanese EFL, EFL education, English and identity, Japanese identity