Returning to the homeland
Perceptions of linguistic change among overseas Japanese instructors
Research on the issues of the learners of Japanese outside Japan has increased with the expansion of Japanese language teaching worldwide, but research on those who teach them has received less attention. This paper focuses on one of the issues which Japanese instructors overseas face, in particular, that of native speakers. An individual’s competence in his/her first language in a foreign environment changes over time. The changes become more obvious when first language speakers find themselves in their own country after spending some considerable time overseas. In this study the speakers of the first language were thirteen native speaker instructors teaching at tertiary institutions in Australia. They were interviewed while on a visit to Japan regarding their communication skills in Japan both at the linguistic and non-linguistic levels. The results of the study show a wide range of changes observed; some features are common to many of these instructors while other changes are not. Changes in reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are reported. Associated aspects include skills for determining politeness levels. Non-linguistic features include socio-cultural aspects of Japanese society such as gift-giving customs, and appropriate dress. These changes in communication skills were detected and evaluated by the speakers themselves based on their own encounters while in Japan. The implications for their role as language instructors outside Japan are also discussed.