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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Teaching Japanese through the Medium of Literature – Drama, Poetry and Short Stories

Yasuko Claremont.

Achieving literacy in any language, particularly one that is foreign, goes well beyond mere knowledge of the language itself. Language skills and culture studies cannot be separated, especially for senior students at tertiary level where language learning skills are expected to go beyond simple interactive communication to culture studies. A knowledge of national culture and traditions strengthens the understanding of learners, leaving them with lifelong impressions. This humanistic and traditional approach works well, as my students' course evaluations show.

Language teachers often confront the gap that exists between the students' literacy and language skills. Their literacy level may be higher than their language skills or vice versa. The introduction of literature into class learning can provide one answer for this issue. Depending on their language level and maturity, students can explore to different degrees the meanings implicit in literary works. The language and the subject matter to be found in literature far exceeds conversation drills, strengthening and deepening each student's grasp of the language. As well, ambiguities that are often present in literature can be good discussion points in class.

Based on their reading comprehension of the text and subsequent research of the field, students present their findings in class. Presentations of this kind promote independent thinking and sound research. Japanese poetry – 'haiku', 'tanka' and prose poems – is short enough for study. Exact language knowledge is required, while individual appreciations will often vary. Participation in drama is an intense form of learning, as students perform a short play in Japanese on stage. They learn not only natural expressions and intonations but also unspoken implications that lie between the lines.

My paper explores the importance of using literary texts in language teaching


Yasuko Claremont  (Australia)
Department of Japanese and Korean Studies
The University of Sydney

Yasuko Claremont is a lecturer in Japanese at the School of European, Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Studies at the University of Sydney. Her publications include Twentieth Century Australian Poetry (Tamagawa University Press, 1985), Gen’ei: Selected Poems of Nishiwaki Junzaburô (University of Sydney, East Asian Series No. 4, 1991) and Dying in a Japanese Hospital (The Japan Times, 1996). Her most recent publication is ‘Traces of Bakhtin in the Fiction of Ôe Kenzaburô, in Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, Vol. 34, 2002, pp. 46-64.

  • Language teaching
  • Literature studies
  • Dramatic performances

(30 min Conference Paper, English)