This study investigated the extent to which Japanese learners of English (JLEs) correctly perceived English intonation patterns and whether training could improve their performance. Additionally, we explored the influence of an acoustic durational cue on learners’ perception errors, especially for a rising contour. Experiment 1 expanded upon our previous study (Akatsuka et al., 2018). In this experiment, JLEs completed forced-choice intonation identification tests of three intonation contours (falling, rising, and falling-rising) before and after training sessions. The results revealed that falling tones were the easiest for JLEs to perceive correctly, followed by rising tones and then falling-rising tones. We confirmed a significant improvement between the pre- and post-tests for falling and falling-rising tones, but not for rising tones. Participants’ errors in identifying intonation patterns indicated confusion between rising and falling-rising tones. Experiment 2 compared JLEs’ perceptions of these three intonation patterns with corresponding perceptions among native speakers of English (NSs). This experiment also explored durational cues’ effects on listeners’ perception errors. Although NSs perceived the three intonation patterns similarly, JLEs exhibited significant differences in their perceptions, with persistent difficulty perceiving rising tones. Durational cues’ effects on perceiving rising tones were insignificant for both JLEs and NSs.
This study examines the accuracy of an automated speech scoring system. The system graded English language learners’ retelling performances according to five features, and its scores were compared to those given by both non-native and native English-speaking (NNES and NES) raters. The results show that, of the five features, words per second was the most consistent predictor of both NNES and NES evaluations. However, the NNES rater tended to pay more attention to exact word similarities between the speech utterances and the original text, while the NES raters focused more on similarities of meaning and gave credit to rephrased expressions. Additionally, the correspondence between the automated scores and those given by human raters was moderate (exact agreement = 48% to 65%; rs = .48 to .52), though less than that between the NNES and NES scores (rs = .70). These results indicate that the automated scoring system for retelling performances may be applicable to low-stakes tests if the speech transcription of learners’ utterances is obtained.
This paper discusses the effects of eTandem online international video chat exchanges on Japanese university students as EFL learners and pre-service teachers. A total of seven students in Tokyo, Japan, participated in this research. They had an international exchange through a video chat in a tandem situation with six partners taking a Japanese language course in Melbourne, Australia. The exchange conversations were video-recorded and analyzed qualitatively with the thick description technique in the qualitative research method. Interactions among the members in five groups show that autonomy in negotiating the language choice between their primary and target languages and deciding on topics to talk about along the conversation stream made the exchange challenging and stimulating. Though the partners’ Japanese language proficiency levels varied widely, the Japanese participants coped with each situation by playing a Japanese language tutor role with a beginner partner or a new overseas friend with an advanced-level partner. All the groups collaborated conscientiously to enjoy the video chat international exchange by utilizing various communication strategies and code-switching between their primary and target languages. In conclusion, autonomous collaboration is crucial for students to be active and willing to communicate in an eTandem online international video chat exchange.
The purpose of this study is to gain knowledge about the diffusion of foreign language education (FLE) policy through the central and local governments in Japan from the 1970s to the early 2000s by analyzing their policy concern. Previous research on FLE policy has foregrounded the central government’s prominent policies, such as the Course of Study, and has overemphasized its influence, which leads to neglecting various actors that are essential for understanding the overall policy process. By collecting FLE “research themes” settled by prefectural governments every year for three decades, local governments’ policy concerns are classified, and the way FLE policies have diffused from one government to another is analyzed. The main results are: (1) there are unique local policies other than replicas of the central ones; (2) there is a tendency for the policies of advanced local governments to become central policies and diffuse throughout the country; (3) only four of 10 local governments at most introduce such policies at the same time; and (4) the trend of neighboring local governments may affect the introduction of new policies. In conclusion, it is argued that FLE policy is composed of diverse actors and cannot necessarily be explained by top-down systems.
This study aimed to develop an English speaking test and evaluation criteria for usage in Japanese high schools. It was conducted with the cooperation of 78 high school students and five high school teachers. The test was created with the following two main features. Firstly, the test had both presentation and conversation style tasks since the new Course of Study (MEXT, 2018) regards ‘ happyo (presentation)’ and ‘ yaritori (conversation)’ as different skills. Secondly, conversations between two students instead of student-teacher interviews were included. Statistical analyses revealed that the test was generally reliable and valid, although concerns were raised about the variation in rater severity for the assessment of the presentation task and the potential influence of the partner’s ability on the score of the conversation task. Also, the survey results indicated that most teachers and students had favorable impressions about the testing method.