The purpose of this paper is to describe the development and validation of a questionnaire designed to assess Japanese EFL learners’ motivation at the tertiary level. The instrument was developed based on self-determination theory (SDT). SDT has frequently been applied in L2 motivation studies in Japan; most of these studies used or adapted one questionnaire (Hiromori, 2006a) and yielded mixed results, both in line and out of line with SDT. Such outcomes suggest the need to reconsider how the theory is understood and how that understanding is reflected in commonly used questionnaires in the Japanese EFL context. The current study described the examination and refinement of the definition of the SDT construct in the Japanese EFL setting and reviews the relevant literature. The process of developing a new questionnaire based on the refined definition was then described in a step-by-step manner. To validate the instrument, three methods were employed: expert judgment, exploratory factor analysis, and computation of reliability coefficients. The results indicate that the new questionnaire has higher validity and reliability than the previous one widely used in the field. The authors argue that the new questionnaire developed in this study, with its refinements and validation, may contribute to expanding the opportunity to enhance the L2 motivation of Japanese university students.
This study focuses on the validity of objective rating indices to an automated essay-scoring system for task-based writing tests. The relationship between the holistic ratings of Accuracy and Communicability tasks and their objective indices was examined. Independent variables to measure the holistic ratings were chosen from existing objective indices based on the constructs of each task: organizational skills, linguistic accuracy, communicative quality and effects. As a result of the correlation analyses, a moderately high correlation was found to exist between the holistic ratings of the Accuracy task and its indices (tokens and type levels). A moderately high correlation was also found between the holistic ratings of the Communicability task and its indices (type levels and relevant ideas). Through multiple regression analysis, the scores of each task could be predicted with moderately high dimensional accuracy. These findings were discussed with regard to the usefulness and improvement of the automated essay-scoring system.
Basic words appear with extremely high frequency in English texts, and without sufficient understanding of such words, text comprehension is undoubtedly impeded. Past research has regarded the relationship between English texts and vocabulary as important, but their focus has mainly been on lexical coverage, which cannot consider the multiple meanings of a word. Basic words often have several meanings; therefore, analyzing the frequency of appearance of each meaning will add important information to the results of earlier research. The current study used seven grades of the EIKEN test and compared how the frequency of meanings of the 100 highest frequency basic words in these tests differed between the upper and lower grades. The results demonstrated that the target words could be grouped into three categories: (a) words mainly used with a single meaning over all grades; (b) words used with multiple meanings in the upper grades, but with a single meaning in the lower grades; and (c) words used with multiple meanings both in the upper and lower grades. Adding to these findings, some unique tendencies were observed irrespective of grade. The results of this research will be beneficial for further studies on English basic words as well as lexical coverage in English tests.
The aim of this paper is twofold: to elucidate theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the notion of linguistic multi-competence (LMC) of the second language (L2) user and to discuss its implications for English education in Japan. In the center of the LMC notion is the term ‘user,’ which was first used to avoid a negative connotation inherent in the term ‘learner’ as a deficient language speaker who is never able to attain a native-like proficiency in a L2. With a great impact of the LMC idea on applied linguistics and L2 learning and teaching, the term has been widely spreading, though slowly, among applied linguists and language teachers particularly in Europe and North America. As for the situation in Japan, however, the LMC idea itself or the L2 user concept has not yet attracted much attention. We begin by examining theoretical backgrounds of LMC. Next, we review some distinctive features of L2 users’ language and mind such as reverse transfer, hyper linguistic susceptibility, and cognitive restructuring to show how unique L2 users are. Finally, we discuss some pedagogical implications of LMC for English education with the solutions to current issues in Japanese English education in mind such as the role model for Japanese, L1 use and translation work in the classroom, the goals of English learning and teaching, and Japanese perception of themselves as English users.
This study compares cognitive processing and cerebral activation during a cloze test to a multiple-choice reading test. Data were obtained through an innovative neuroimaging technique (near-infrared spectroscopy, NIRS) and stimulated recall interviews. Fifteen Japanese EFL (English as a foreign language) learners participated. Greater brain activation was observed in the cloze condition than in the multiple-choice condition. Individual variation in degree of cerebral activation was also found and further examined by referencing the stimulated recall interviews. Pedagogical and research implications are provided, especially emphasizing that practitioners and researchers should exercise caution and informed judgment when they use cloze tests.
This study examined whether and how Japanese EFL readers maintain coherent narrative comprehension in their memory representations. If readers can successfully maintain coherence in their text comprehension despite encountering coherence breaks, their text memory is enhanced, but if they fail, their text memory can suffer (Otero & Kintsch, 1992). In this study, 48 Japanese EFL university students read 8 experimental narratives and performed a recall task. In each narrative, a character performed an action (e.g., “Mary ordered a cheeseburger”) that was either consistent or inconsistent with a prior description of him or her (e.g., “Mary loved junk food” or “Mary was a vegetarian”). The results showed that participants recalled more descriptions and actions of the characters in the inconsistent texts than in the consistent texts, indicating that they selectively reprocessed the inconsistent information in order to maintain coherence. Moreover, most readers chose to edit the later character actions, rather than the preceding descriptions, by substituting the inconsistent actions with more neutral actions (e.g., “Mary ordered food”). These findings suggest that L2 readers slightly edited subsequent information in order to maintain coherence. Pedagogical implications are argued in terms of developing autonomous readers who can self-monitor coherence in their text comprehension.
A bulk of research has been conducted to clarify the effect of speech rate and pause duration on listening comprehension. Some previous studies have shown that a slower speech rate facilitates listening comprehension, while others have yielded opposite results. The conflicting results imply that it is very difficult to specify the most appropriate speech rate for every EFL listener. This study aims to clarify experimentally how pause duration and articulation rates affect EFL learners’ listening comprehension by precisely controlling the two parameters: articulation rate and pause duration. Through two listening tests given to Japanese EFL learners, we obtained the result that longer pauses (450 ms) facilitate the listening comprehension of lower intermediate EFL learners, while slower articulation rate does not necessarily have a positive effect on learners’ listening comprehension. This means a pause inserted in a passage provides listeners with additional information processing time and thus enhances the comprehensibility of the aural input.
This study examines classroom dialog spoken by non-native instructors (NNIs) conducting English lessons in middle schools in Japan. The author video-recorded five English lessons conducted by five different non-native English instructors in two middle schools, which were attached to a national university of education. The video recordings contained utterances in both Japanese (L1) and English (L2). The author transcribed the utterances bilingually, and examined NNI utterances from two perspectives: L2/L1 ratios, and word frequencies. The ratio analysis found that the NNIs used L2 for between 5 to 55% of their utterances. The L2 utterances in the transcripts contained over 7,000 spoken tokens. The L1 utterances were manually translated into English (TL2) by the author. Lexical analysis of the L2 and TL2 tokens revealed a relatively higher rate of words in the primary 1,000-word band in the TL2 tokens than in the L2 tokens. When we consider the feasibility of NNIs using TL2 tokens to teach L2 in the classroom, the findings of this research appear encouraging with regards to NNIs conducting their lessons solely in L2.
The present study investigated the types of errors in English spoken word recognition by replicating an experiment reported by Field (2004), in which the top-down and bottom-up processes of second/foreign language (L2) listeners were investigated. In Field’s study, 47 L2 learners listened to a series of English words and were asked to write down the final words. The contexts for the target words were manipulated in a way designed to induce top-down listening, using a contextual word or words (e.g., wet, cloudy, dry, cold, got [hot]). The results of Field’s study showed that listeners were not affected by the top-down process, even when listening to semantically associated words. These results were dubious, however, because some limitations of the study may have affected the results. The present study therefore examined the effect of target word frequency, familiarity, and phoneme structure on Japanese-speaking English learners’ bottom-up and top-down listening processes by replicating Field’s study. The results showed that approximately 20%–50% of the listeners employed top-down processing when phonemes in the material were strictly controlled and the frequency and familiarity of substituted words were higher than those of the target words. These results indicated that Field’s material should be further modified and widely replicated.
This study had the following three aims: a) to verify that university students have not necessarily acquired native speaker intuition, which is often called Eigo no Kankaku (Feeling for English); b) to demonstrate the utility of explicit instruction on Eigo no Kankaku by employing “Image English Grammar”; and c) to demonstrate that Image English Grammar makes learning English valuable and interesting for learners. The researcher provided explicit instruction on Image English Grammar to 59 sophomores four times over a period of four weeks for approximately 25 minutes per time, and in the sixth week, reviewed all the items in 25 minutes. The participants completed a test of Image English Grammar before, immediately after, and eight weeks after instruction was completed. Students also completed a questionnaire regarding their impressions about the instruction in the 15th week class meeting. The results demonstrated the following: a) the percentage of students who answered Image English Grammar questions correctly was generally less than 30%; b) the effect of explicit instruction on Image English Grammar was statistically significant; and c) the percentages of students who found Image English Grammar valuable and enjoyable were 92% and 76%, respectively.
The present study investigates how study abroad in the United Kingdom affects the development of second language (L2) pragmatic competence. Specifically, this study examined the development of L2 learners’ speed and accuracy in judging the appropriateness of L2 requests. The participants comprised 22 Japanese university-level English as a foreign language learners who experienced a four-month study abroad in a homestay environment. They performed the same pragmatic appropriateness judgment task before (as a pretest in February 2014) and at the end (as a posttest in July 2014) of study abroad. The task consisted of six appropriate and 10 inappropriate scenarios. The participants were asked to judge whether or not an L2 request sentence was appropriate in a given context as rapidly and accurately as possible and their reaction times and accuracy of judgment were measured. Overall, the results showed that appropriateness judgment became faster and more accurate over time. These results suggest positive effects of study abroad on the development of L2 pragmatic competence.
Among foreign language teachers and researchers, it has been widely acknowledged that grammatical knowledge of a foreign language comprises two types of mental storage. One of the two, explicit knowledge, is quite likely linked to adjectives such as “slow” and “conscious,” whereas the other, implicit knowledge, is associated with words such as “fast” and “unconscious.” The present study challenges this conventional and popularized view, by addressing the consciousness and speed dimensions of Japanese EFL learners’ (N = 24) knowledge about tough movement. We conducted a grammaticality judgment task adopting two experimental paradigms: (a) a subjective measure of consciousness known as the meta-knowledge criterion, and (b) response time modeling. The participants judged the grammaticality of the stimuli under the two conditions, (a) control and (b) tough movement, and described their mental state during judgments (explainable vs. intuitive) trial by trial. We analyzed the dynamics among the recorded judgment responses, reaction times, and responses on the subjective measure. The results supported the hypothesis that the consciousness and speed dimensions intersect obliquely. This means that unconscious knowledge does not entail faster grammatical performance. Some pedagogical implications, particularly in light of English grammar teaching in Japan, are also discussed.
A growing amount of recent second language (L2) research has shown both empirical evidence for the effectiveness of written feedback (WF) on L2 writing and acquisition and mediating roles played by various factors in WF efficacy (see Kang & Han, 2015 for a review). Out of a great number of variables, this study focuses on three: (a) type of feedback (direct feedback vs. metalinguistic explanation), (b) type of grammatical structures (i.e., indefinite article vs. past hypothetical conditional) and (c) type of measurement (i.e., revision vs. new writing), and examined relationships among these three variables. Forty-one Japanese university students of English were asked to reconstruct a text (first draft) in Week 1 of the study. They were then given either direct feedback (DF) or metalinguistic explanation (ME) and then asked to revise the first draft (revision) in Week 2. Finally, participants reconstructed a new text (new writing) in Week 4. Results showed that (a) DF promoted more accurate revision than ME, (b) DF and ME worked differently according to different structures, and (c) types of WF had no differential effects on promoting accuracy in new writing. These findings are discussed with reference to L2 research. This article concludes by providing limitations, future directions, and pedagogical implications.
The present study explored how the interplay of text cohesion and L2 reading proficiency affects EFL readers’ text comprehension at different levels (i.e., textbase, situation models). In the experiment, a total of 100 Japanese university students read a low- or a high-cohesion expository text and performed 3 comprehension tests: a free recall test (FRT) assessing memory of explicit ideas in the text, a causal-question test (CQT) targeting understanding of relations between text events, and a problem-solving transfer test (PSTT) measuring learning from the text. Results showed that text cohesion facilitated memory of explicit text ideas regardless of readers’ L2 reading proficiency level. In contrast, a Proficiency × Cohesion interaction was found for understanding of relations in the text: high-proficiency readers benefited from the low-cohesion text, whereas low-proficiency readers performed better when reading the high-cohesion text. Finally, a proficiency effect, but no cohesion effect was observed for learning from the text. The findings suggest that text cohesion affects textbase-level comprehension more than situation-model-level comprehension, whereas L2 reading proficiency consistently influences EFL readers’ comprehension. Based on these findings, the study suggests pedagogical implications tailored to specific levels of comprehension and characteristics of the reader and text.
The present study aims to compare the effects of expanding and equally-spaced retrieval practice on long-term L2 vocabulary retention. Since the discovery of Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, expanding retrieval practice has been considered more effective than equally-spaced retrieval practice. Learners have been encouraged to review target items immediately after the first learning session, and then extend intervals between study sessions gradually, rather than have the same interval period between each session. The present study challenges this assumption. Participants in Group A (n = 34) learned 20 target words under the expanding condition (Day 1, 1, 8 and 22), while those in Group B (n = 19) learned the same 20 target words under the equally-spaced condition (Day 1, 8, 15 and 22). Twenty-one days after the learning session (Day 43), both groups took a delayed post-test, where they were asked to recall Japanese meanings for the English target words. This study revealed that the expanding group showed significantly better results than the equally-spaced group just after the first review session. However, there was no significant difference in long-term retention between the two forms of spaced learning, as long as both groups were given the chance to have four learning sessions.
This study investigated how L2 learners comprehend newly learned words in a sentential context. Theoretically, learners’ experiences of recalling pre-learned word meanings and applying this knowledge to new contexts may enhance future lexical performance. In the experiment, 84 undergraduate students learned low-frequency words in English with example sentences; half were highly imageable (i.e., it was easy to evoke a mental image while reading) for learners. After the learning phase, the participants were presented with a list of new sentences and asked to interpret the pre-learned words in context. After a one-week delay, the participants were given a recall task that tested their memory of both the target words and example sentences. The results suggested some difficulty in meaning retrieval when learners encountered words in a new context. Further analysis showed that correctly interpreted words were retained better. In addition, the retention of pre-learned word meanings was affected by memory of example sentences, suggesting the effectiveness of giving more easily remembered imageable example sentences. Research findings are discussed in terms of transfer-appropriate processing and other related theoretical frameworks.
t is well known that Japanese EFL learners have great difficulty in the accurate use of English articles. The present study investigates this difficulty by looking at the process of article selection in English by Japanese native speakers. We use path analysis to compare the hypothesized processes of choosing English articles and the actual processes employed by Japanese EFL learners. The results of path analysis indicate that the process used by Japanese EFL learners is close to that proposed by Master (1990). These results, as well as those of decision-tree analysis, indicate that the criteria General and SR_HK do not have a direct link with each other and each independently affects the choice of definite article. When the SR_HK criterion is met, the definite article is used. In addition, when the General criterion is not met, the definite article is used. As regards the choice of indefinite articles (the indefinite article and the zero article), both the General criterion and the Countable criterion need to be satisfied, while the SR_HK is not relevant to their choice. Finally, the implications of the present study are discussed.
This research examined effects of presenting related words and target words at the same time in intentional vocabulary learning, focusing on a case where the related words share the same category as the target words and are already known to learners. As few previous studies have taken into account whether semantic relatedness of related words are closer to target words or not, this comparison was also integrated into the experimental design of this work. In an experiment, participants intentionally learned a total of 30 words through three methods, 10 words presented alone, 10 provided with closely related words, and the other 10 given with slightly related words. The immediate posttest and the delayed posttest, which was conducted 1 week after learning the words, consisted of two parts. The first part required participants to recall L1 translations of target words, while the second part also provided known, related words as clues. The results indicated the facilitative effect of presenting related words as clues for retrieval, suggesting that learning associates of known words is an effective method for learning vocabulary.
This study investigated the ability of Japanese EFL learners to recognize incorrect definiteness marking on anaphoric noun phrases in English. Japanese EFL learners are known to have difficulty in accurately producing definite articles, but limited information is available regarding their capacity for using articles in constructing and maintaining text cohesion during reading. Twenty-two Japanese EFL university students performed a grammaticality judgment task on short passages containing either a direct or associative anaphoric reference, marked with either a definite or indefinite article. Results showed that participants judged the majority of passages as correct, regardless of whether the anaphoric reference was preceded by a accurate definite article or an inaccurate indefinite article. This indicates that the participants were not sensitive to the definiteness condition for either direct or associative anaphoric references. These findings indicate that Japanese EFL readers either do not process articles at all during reading, or read them without understanding their function. Pedagogical implications are discussed in terms of options for improving awareness of the article system in classroom texts and environments.
This study reports on how mimicking practice (MP) influences reading aloud and speaking performance. Thirty-eight Japanese university students who participated in this study were instructed to imitate a model reading for four weeks. Data for this study were collected via a pre- post-test design. Students' reading aloud performance was assessed in two ways: (a) how exactly they could imitate the model reading, and (b) how well they could read aloud a short dialogue and an expository text. Students' speaking performance, on the hand, was evaluated by a narration task in which they were asked to describe the events depicted in a series of pictures. The results demonstrated that students' reading aloud performance including mimicking skills was significantly improved in terms of fluency and prosodic features such as stress and intonation. The results also showed that the four-week MP could contribute to the development of fluency in speaking performance.