Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Sociocultural Analysis of Motivation for Learning the Japanese Language in Contemporary Hong Kong
by Nomura, Kazuyuki, Ed.D., The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), 2016, 200; 10644395
Abstract (Summary)

Japanese is a major foreign language in Hong Kong with an estimated 90,000 Japanese-speaking Hong Kong Chinese today. This thesis examines how sociocultural contexts feed into various motivations behind Japanese language learning in contemporary Hong Kong. By observing interactions at eight classrooms in four educational institutions and analyzing life history narratives from 29 proficient speakers of Japanese, I look into how Hong Kong Chinese learners of the Japanese language craft their social identities through their language socialization. Language socialization is defined as motivational processes in which a novice learner seeks competence in the target language, and simultaneously desires to become associated with the target culture.

My findings are two-fold. First, while the “Chinese learner” is often characterized as a passive or non-autonomous learner, the Hong Kong Chinese learners of Japanese language I studied are active learners who self-select what they want to gain or not to gain from language learning. Second, Hong Kong Chinese learners of Japanese language are generally motivated to become socialized to Japanese social ethics and aesthetics beyond mere pragmatic purposes.

Related to the second finding, Japanese language learning offers a way of claiming an imagined Chinese identity through a shared past of Confucian tradition. Many Japanese-speaking Hongkongers perceive ethnic/historical legitimacy in claiming Japanese social ethics/aesthetics to which they have socialized themselves. While this may imply that learning Japanese language in Hong Kong is ultimately traditional, their self-identification and distinction, as well as claims of a romanticized ancient China are a modern project, being fueled by the current sociopolitical and sociocultural tensions between Hong Kong, China, and Japan.

This thesis should be of interest to educators of Japanese and other languages who wish for a contextualized understanding of time and effort made by each learner beyond particular cultural or economical appeals. It should also be of interest to researchers of education, linguistics, anthropology, and social science in general who wish to explore language, society, and culture in today’s Hong Kong, where political tensions are rising and where language is implicitly tied to ways in which people are navigating and crafting their social identities.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lee, Kit Bing Icy
Commitee: Gagne, Nana Okura, Gao, Xuesong Andy, Tse, Kwan Choi Thomas
School: The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)
Department: Education
School Location: Hong Kong
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Asian Studies, Foreign language education
Keywords: China studies, Foreign language learning, Hong Kong studies, Japan studies, Language socialization, Motivation
Publication Number: 10644395
ISBN: 978-0-355-17532-5
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