A Cognitive Mode Change in Language Learning
Keywords:objective and subjective construal, cognition, language transfer
In this paper, with a focus on Japanese learners of English, I argued that the teaching of L2 English to non-English speaking learners should not be about teaching individual language items, but about helping the learners learn to transform their L1 cognitive world. That is, in the process of learning L2 English, English teachers help L1 Japanese learners “reconstruct and fine-tune their L2 knowledge” (Housen et al. 2012: 3). Japanese learners of English are not good at forming sentences like “Spring has come.” This English construction metaphorically represents the arrival of a season, like the arrival of a bus, for example. In Japanese, people express the arrival of spring in a way that indicates that the whole world to which they belong is undergoing a seasonal transformation as it is. The Japanese expression takes the syntactic form X-ni naru (“become X”). I conducted a small survey in this paper to see if this is the case among Japanese learners of English. The conclusion that emerged from this was that concepts with which the subjects were unfamiliar in the corresponding English expressions (e.g., when expressing the state of a cold or the arrival of spring) were expressed in English with a strong influence from L1 Japanese. The cognitive world that Japanese learners have through Japanese is, as Ikegami (1982, 2008) argued, a subjective world in which the entire world, including the speaker, transforms itself. For them, spring objectively existing outside the speaker does not come, but the whole world turns into spring. From this, I proposed one hypothesis. The hypothesis is that Japanese learners of English grasp the world using their subjective interpretation of Japanese as a prototype, and that English ways of grasping situations should be taught directly to learners, without translation from the cognitive world of L1 Japanese.
This paper also touched on the fact that their perception of the subjective world extends into the field of other language uses, including morphological aspects such as singularity / plurality dichotomy, subject omission and politeness.
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