Socio-Cultural Influences on Interpretation of Instructional Materials for Japanese as a Foreign Language: A Case of Kenya Utalii College, Nairobi
Wamuti, Lydia Wangu
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Foreign language instruction is most effective when it takes place through meaningful, motivating, and interactive activities of cognitive and socio-cultural nature. Foreign languages instructional materials are generally produced by the native speakers of the language guided by their own culture, without consideration of the culture of any other users of the materials. Many learners of Japanese language have been found to have difficulties in mastering the language. This study sought to determine the influence of socio-cultural differences in the interpretation of Japanese language instructional materials (JLIM) by Kenyan students. An investigation on the teaching methods and materials used and the interpretation of the JLIM by the students was carried out. The influence of the learner’s attitude towards the language was also studied. The study was done at Kenya Utalii College (KUC) through classroom observations, questionnaires and interviews. The feasibility of these instruments was tested through a pilot study. In the main study, the study group comprised 86 students, 3 classes and 2 language instructors from a total population of 170 students, 6 classes and 2 instructors. A comparison was made between the expected observations from the instructor’s point of view and the actual interpretation by the students. The data collected was analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively using Microsoft Excel® software package. The information derived from the questionnaires was based on frequencies for particular responses which were then used to determine the attitude of the students towards the language. Statistical tools which included frequencies and percentages were used to describe learners’ attitude towards the language. Analyzed data was presented in narrative form, tables and charts. The study found that the Japanese language instructors in KUC used interactive methods to deliver the Japanese course content by employing a wide variety of Japanese language instructional materials. The results also revealed that the Japanese language instructional materials used in Kenya contain some elements of Japanese culture, which are unfamiliar to the Kenyan learners and that some of these culturally unfamiliar items cause misinterpretation of the information therein. The research further revealed that the learners of Japanese language at KUC generally have a positive attitude towards the language. It was concluded that there are adequate Japanese language instructional materials at KUC but they contain culturally unfamiliar elements for the Kenyan learners. Further, the Japanese language learners at KUC are exposed to interactive learning through a variety of standard instructional approaches. Moreover, the instructors are competent to teach the language but do not have sufficient knowledge on Japanese culture. In addition, culturally unfamiliar items interfere with the interpretation of information contained in the instructional material. It was recommended that the introductory topics in the Japanese language curriculum emphasize more on teaching of the Japanese culture. Also, efforts should be made to localize the learning resources for a more effective teaching of the language.