Patterns in conversations between Japanese students and New Zealand homestay parents
This thesis is a descriptive, qualitative analysis that involves 17-18 year old Japanese students on a study abroad programme. The study begins by reviewing the literature on study abroad, particularly on homestays, which has indicated some of the challenges facing those involved in study abroad. It then examines cultural and social factors by considering Hall’s work on high-context and low-context cultures, Hofstede’s work on cultural dimensions, and Schumann’s work on social distance. The influence of cultural and social factors on language use is then explored within a framework that includes an analysis of conversational maxims and politeness principles, as well as the Japanese educational setting and Japanese psyche. Data was collected in the New Zealand homestay situations of 17 Japanese students, all from similar backgrounds, from May, 2007 to March, 2008. By combining various methodological approaches, conversations were specifically categorised into either major or minor communication issues and then coded for how particular sentences and words functioned. The influences of cultural and social factors were identified through features such as implicature, conversational rules (maxims), and politeness strategies (through direct and indirect face-threatening acts). One particular conversational style, termed the IRF (Initiation, Response, Follow-up) or triadic dialogue, commonly found in the EFL classroom, was discovered to be common in the homestay environment. Other findings showed that many students’ backchannel moves were misinterpreted by their hosts as agreement, that students rarely initiated conversations, that hosts often gave unsolicited corrective feedback and advice, and that hosts often dominated the conversations with their students. Other communication themes that emerged included the loss of students’ conversational turns, the failure of students to recognise phatic communion, misinterpretation of implicatures, and “negative” transfer of particular Japanese cultural characteristics. These findings are discussed in light of asymmetrical relationships and how English is taught in the Japanese/English classroom. Both these factors influenced and maintained the roles and rights of the interlocutors and contributed to a particular conversational style. This thesis illustrates that the social and cultural assumptions of both host parents and students influenced their relationships and furthermore reinforced stereotypes that further perpetuated a particular communicative style. In short, a vicious circle was initiated, which was difficult to escape from. This thesis concludes by suggesting that if communication issues are documented, and analysed, then action can be taken to attempt to improve homestay programme curriculums so that people can become more inter-culturally and cross-culturally aware of how they are communicating, which may contribute to producing more positive homestay experiences.
Advisor: Feryok, Anne; Sweetnam, Moyra; Taylor, John
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Linguistics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: homestay; Japanese culture; communication; Hofstede; Schumann; Grice; conversational style; politeness strategies; triadic dialogue; face-threatening; asymmetrical; Japanese/English classroom; implicature; maxims; cross-cultural; intercultural; Hall; Halliday; positive politeness; negative politeness; nemawashi; initiation; response; feedback; follow up; evaluative; minor communication; major communication
Research Type: Thesis