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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Articulating a transnational family: ‘Hippo family’ language learners in Japan and the USA
by Nilep, Chad, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder, 2009, 269; 3387544
Abstract (Summary)

Hippo Family Club is an international language-study organization with hundreds of local chapters around Japan, as well as several in the United States, Korea, and Mexico. The group also partners with other organizations in various countries to operate study-abroad and other foreign exchange programs. Hippo's primary activity, though, is the self-directed study of multiple foreign languages. The organization sells audio recordings that relate stories in multiple languages. Club members believe that by listening to these stories and repeating their content, attending weekly chapter meetings where they practice speaking, and participating with the club's exchange programs they can acquire the ability to speak many foreign languages.

This dissertation presents an ethnographic study of Hippo Family Club practices in Japan and the United States. The analysis presented here is based on ethnographic field work in several sites, including Osaka and Kanagawa prefectures in Japan and Massachusetts in the United States, between 2005 and 2009. During this time I participated as a member of Karagoku Family, a Hippo Family Club chapter in Osaka prefecture. I also participated on various occasions with several other chapters, interviewed members of the various chapters, and recorded interactions at weekly meetings. The study combines ethnography with discourse analysis.

I argue that club members in Japan and the USA view the learning of multiple languages as a means to build a form of cosmopolitan citizenship. Cosmopolitan citizenship is a view of personal identity formed not within the nation-state but as a member of a transnational group. Club members view themselves as part of a global community of fellow club members and language learners. This view of identity freed from national or ethnic groups and instead tied to an international organization is seen as a break from Japanese tradition. In contrast, even though club chapters in the United States use the same learning materials and express ideas about language learning that appear very similar to those expressed in Japan, American members do not experience the same break from tradition. Given the differences in US and Japanese ideologies of language learning, American members view Hippo as an addition to traditional practices.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hall, Kira
Commitee: Fox, Barbara, Okamoto, Shigeko, Rood, David, Tracy, Karen
School: University of Colorado at Boulder
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 71/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Cultural anthropology, Foreign Language
Keywords: Cosmopolitanism, Foreign language learning, Hippo Family Club, Japan, Linguistic ethnography, Transnationalism, USA, United States
Publication Number: 3387544
ISBN: 978-1-109-53602-7
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