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Acts of Reading

Exploring Connections in Pedagogy of Japanese

Hiroshi Nara & Mari Noda

Publication Year: 2003

Students who have completed a year of German read Brecht in their second year, those of Spanish read Cervantes. Teachers of first and second-year Japanese can often find nothing comparable. "Why aren't your students reading literature?" they are asked. "Why not Soseki? Or Murakami?" What are instructors of Japanese doing wrong? Nothing, according to the authors of this volume. Rather, they argue, such questions exemplify the gross misunderstandings and unreasonable expectations of teaching reading in Japanese. In Acts of Reading, the authors set out to explore what reading is for Japanese as a language, and how instructors should teach it to students of Japanese. They seek answers to two questions: What are the aspects of reading in Japan as manifested in Japanese society? What L2 (second-language) reading problems are specific to Japanese? In answering the first and related questions, the authors conclude that reading is a socially motivated, purposeful act that is savored and becomes a part of people's lives. Reading instruction in Japanese, therefore, should include teaching students how to work with text as the Japanese do in Japanese society. The second question relates more directly to traditional concerns in L2 reading. The authors begin with a general theory of reading. They then offer a welcome glimpse into the rich and complex perspectives-sometimes conflicting, other times symbiotic-on what reading is and how it is performed in L1 and L2, and, most importantly, on the web of interconnections between the phenomenology of reading and the demands it places on teaching approaches to reading in Japanese.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Unfortunately, there is a considerable amount of truth in what Barry says in the quotation that opens this foreword (1992:20), but I’m happy to report that the experts who wrote this book have a great deal more useful advice to offer. They explore every aspect of an activity—learning to read Japanese—that is time-consuming and mentally strenuous even for native speakers. Their serious, no-nonsense...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Over the period of time during which this book took form, we have received much support directly or indirectly from a number of people and organizations. The list begins with the three contributors to this book, to whom we owe a great intellectual debt—Chris Brockett, Fumiko K. Harada, and Charles J. Quinn, Jr. We could not have rounded out our various discussions without the expertise of these authors. We are grateful to J. Marshall Unger for contributing a spirited foreword...

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pp. 1-6

The idea for this book was born when, feeling frustrated by experiences in our reading classrooms, we began to ask such questions as why our students should learn to read. What does it mean to be literate in Japan? What is reading? How do students in the United States learn to read? What difficulties do they have? How can we best teach them the skills to read Japanese? How can we help Japanese language...

Part 1: Reading as a Cultural Act

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Chapter 1 Learning to Read as a Native Speaker

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pp. 9-23

The subject of this chapter is the developmental path through which native speakers of a language—and more specifically of Japanese—become its readers. The act of reading involves multiple processes, some conscious and some automatic. Readers closely associate the processes that require their conscious effort with the act of reading. Culture also plays a crucial role in establishing in people’s minds what they consider to be reading. This chapter will outline the ...

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Chapter 2 Reading as a Social Activity

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pp. 24-37

There are many societies in which written language does not exist, and hence reading is not a requirement for successful social interaction. Members of such societies do not need to learn to read to be active, productive individuals. Members of literate societies, however, are required to be able to read in order to participate fully in the activities of these societies. In this sense, reading is a social activity as...

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Chapter 3 Taking It from the Top: The Growth and Care of Genres

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pp. 38-60

Hypotheses about the nature of reading commonly refer to “top-down processing,” the inferences a reader makes about some subcomponent of a discourse, based on some higher-level knowledge. Top-down processing proceeds from larger, more inclusive contexts down to the more local context that is the focus of one’s immediate attention, such as an individual sentence, phrase, or word. The...

Part 2 Theoretical Orientation

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Chapter 4 The Foreign Language Learner

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pp. 63-86

In the preceding chapters, we have examined the process by which the Japanese become proficient in reading in their native language. We also explored the social aspect of reading as situated in Japan and delineated some aspects of reading that are specific to Japan. This chapter offers a glimpse of another aspect of reading, foreign language or second language reading (L2 reading).1 I begin by identifying...

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Chapter 5 Toward a Theoretical Understanding of Reading

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pp. 87-114

This chapter is concerned with studies that shed light on issues in L2 reading, particularly in Japanese.1 It addresses how reading research has developed from the early days, how various studies have informed the discipline of reading research, and especially what contributions have been made to understanding reading in a foreign language such as Japanese. To this end, I first sketch a historical,...

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Chapter 6 The View from Cognitive Neuroscience

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pp. 115-141

Advances in modern brain-imaging techniques over the past decade have greatly improved scientists’ understanding of where cognitive processes are located in the brain and are providing insights into what those processes entail at the cellular level, for fields as diverse as mental illness (Andreasen 1997) and language (Seidenberg 1997). This new understanding of the physical processes of the mind...

Part 3 Implementation

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Chapter 7 Designing a Reading Program

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pp. 145-173

This chapter shifts focus to programmatic and practical concerns. The assumptions and expectations about a reading program of those directly involved in Japanese programs are examined to sort out pedagogically sound curricular decisions from those that are more problematic. Of particular interest here is the issue of sequencing the introduction of four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.....

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Chapter 8 Implementation of Reading in the Classroom

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pp. 174-196

This chapter attempts to lay the foundation for a diverse range of activities with the common goal of helping students read better. In each of the suggestions in this section, the reader will encounter familiar ideas that have already been discussed in earlier chapters. However, this chapter is specifically concerned with practical aspects of teaching reading in the classroom and makes concrete suggestions...

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Chapter 9 Evaluation in Reading

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pp. 197-222

Students in language programs are evaluated at various points in their careers as learners of foreign languages. Assessment of students’ reading abilities can result not only from formal examinations and quizzes, but also from observation of students’ performance in classroom activities. It is possible, as suggested in chapter 8, to assess students’ abilities through activities that are designed primarily...

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Chapter 10 Selection and Development of Learning Materials

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pp. 223-244

Reading necessarily involves texts, and this fact alone makes it possible to envision the shape of materials for learning and teaching of reading. However, not every text serves as an effective learning tool at all stages of reading learning, and texts by themselves do not shape pedagogical materials. It follows that teachers need to examine both the nature of the text or collection of texts proposed for instruction...

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Chapter 11 Adopting High Technology in Developing Teaching Materials

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pp. 245-272

In recent years, the advent of personal computer technology has spawned a new area of endeavor, variously labeled computer-assisted instruction (CAI), computer-assisted language instruction (CALI), computer-assisted language learning (CALL), and intelligent computer-assisted language instruction (ICALI), and including the application of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to language...


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pp. 273-287


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pp. 289-311


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pp. 313-314


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pp. 315-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861377
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824822613

Publication Year: 2003