Japanglish - looking at the culture through the mirror of language by Kasumi Yamamoto derived from Sample Project

created on Jul 31, 2015 modified on Nov 05, 2018 02:06


Japan is considered a homogeneous society with a rich traditional culture.  However, upon closer examination, you will find influences of foreign cultures in its long history and how creative Japanese were to adapt them and turn them into an integral part of Japanese culture.  One of the prominent examples is adapting foreign words and creating new usages of them.  While these loanwords are enriching Japanese language and culture,  the increasing number of loanwords started to create issues these days. According to the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, there are about 5000 loanwords (most of them are borrowed from English and European languages) used in newspapers, TV and radio programs in Japan. Although loanwords are easy to introduce new and foreign concepts and they sound modern, sophisticated and fashionable, many Japanese and Japanese language learners find difficulty in understanding them. It is particularly problematic when they are used in public documents. They are also very confusing for Japanese language learners because many of them do not carry the original meanings of their source language and they are phonologically altered in order to suit Japanese phonetic rules.  The National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics For Japanese now has a research group to standardize the use of loanwords and suggest retranslating them back to Japanese, especially in the public documents.  Some researchers stress the need to teach loanwords explicitly to Japanese language learners to avoid miscommunication.  Thus, studying the current state of loanwords in Japan also leads to a much broader issue, language change and language policy.

This PBLL is a part of the CLILL course on Japanese Linguistics in a study abroad program in Japan where students from US consortium colleges study Japanese as a foreign language while living with Japanese host-families. The project is to look into kaleidoscopic Japanese culture in its linguistic adaptations and changes, namely, through the analysis of Japanese loanwords.  Students will investigate what role loanwords play in Japanese culture and society, what they do to the Japanese language.  They will first study the historical backgrounds of Japanese loanwords, and learn basic linguistic concepts and methods in order to analyze the phonological and morphological structure of loan words, then investigate the current state of Japanese loanwords by themselves through data collection from newspapers, magazines, manga, TV commercials and natural speech conversation among host-families.  They will also explore perceptions of loanwords through interviews and questionnaires with native speakers of Japanese as well as Japanese language learners. As a cumulative product, they will conduct a public debate involving Japanese college students and people from the community. Two groups of students will debate whether or not loanwords are enriching Japanese language and culture. In their final report, they summarize what role loanwords play in Japanese culture and society and suggest how we can improve their role in Japanese language and culture and look at this issue through the perspective of language change and language policy.    


National Foreign Language Resource Center

Language: Japanese

Subject Area(s): language and literature, technology, traditions, values, creativity, society

Instructional Context

Product Target Culture:

Audience Location:
Study abroad program in Kyoto, Japan

Target Audience Description:
This PBLL is a course for students who are studying Japanese as a foreign language in a consortium study abroad program in Kyoto, Japan. Majority of them are from US liberal arts colleges. Although they are from different colleges, they are relatively homogeneous in terms of their academic experiences and language preparations. Their native language is English, except for a very few international students.

Heritage Learners:

Audience Role:
As a final product students will conduct a public debate. The preparation requires research, such as collecting loanwords samples, analyzing them, interviewing both native speakers of Japanese and Japanese language learners

Product Description:
Public debate involving Japanese college students: Two groups of students will debate whether or not loanwords are enriching Japanese language and culture. Final report: Students will summarize what role loanwords play in Japanese culture and society and suggest how we can improve their role in Japanese language. This could be submitted to the Gairaigo (loanwords) research group at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics as an opinion paper.

Language Proficiency

ACTFL Scale:
8 9 7

World Readiness Standards


School and Global

Language comparisons
Cultural comparisons

Making Connections
Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives


Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

21st Century Skills

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
Creativity and Innovation
Information Literacy
Media Literacy
Technology Literacy

Interdisciplinary Themes
Global Awareness

Life and Career Skills
Flexibility and adaptability
Initiative and Self-Direction
Social and Cross Cultural Skills
Productivity and Accountability
Leadership and responsibility

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

Project Sequence Overview

Preparing for the Project

1. Learning linguistics concepts and key terminologies - As a part of the CILL linguistics course, students will be introduced to basic linguistic concepts and key terminologies. more detail

Launching the Project

1. Katakana confusion - Students will read episodes that depict how confusing loanwords are in Japan and will share their own experiences as well. more detail

2. Suggestions for paraphrasing loanwords - Students will read and study suggestions for paraphrasing loanwords proposed by a group of researchers at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics. more detail

3. Collecting loanword samples - Students will collect loanword samples to learn the current state of loanword use by themselves. more detail

4. Interview - Students will interview native speakers of Japanese, foreign residents in Japan and Japanese language learners to investigate how they perceive loanwords and their opinions about loanword use. more detail

5. PowerPoint Presentation - Students will report the interview results to their peers using powerpoint. more detail

Managing the Project

1. How to conduct interviews - Plan and practice interviews more detail

2. Effective powerpoint presentation - Students will watch a sample video and discuss what makes presentations effective and interesting. more detail

3. How to conduct debates - Students will lean the format of the debates, strategies and useful expressions. more detail


1. Peer evaluation - Students make comments and suggestions to their peers' powerpoint presentation. more detail

2. Public Debate - Students will conduct a public debate: " Wether or not loanwords enrich Japanese culture and language" more detail

3. Reflection and self assessment - Students will self-assess their performance at the debate. more detail