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A Practice in the Classroom: How to let Japanese learners of English notice

differences in construal between Japanese and English.

Takao IMAI (Aichi Mizuho College) Email:

Ⅰ.Theoretical Background

1.1.What we should bear in mind when learning English as a foreign language:

① English can’t always be translated into Japanese, and translation can lead to misunderstanding. ② Native speakers of English and those of Japanese construe things or situations in different ways.1

③ One form for one meaning, and one meaning for one form.(Bolinger 1977: preface) cf.Form-Meaning (Symbolic Structure: Cognitive Linguistics)

1.2 What is Grammar? --- In reference to the concepts of Cognitive Linguistics.

Grammar is language knowledge, which is dynamic. It includes different sizes and different schematic levels of expressions, some of which are units and others are schemas. There are many pieces of expressions in your brain, and what you do when you produce a sentence is ‘cut and paste’ the pieces of expressions you need to convey your meaning. (cf. Langacker: 2002: 2642, Tomasello: 2002: 10)3

(a) size: suffix/prefix --- words --- phrases --- sentences

(e.g.) ---er, run, a great amount of, Could you be more specific?

(b) schematicity: specific (concrete examples) --- schematic (abstract rules) (e.g.) specific: How many computers do you have?

How many Xs do you have? schematic: How many Xs do/does S V...?

How many countries does the Nile run through?

1.3 Language is partially motivated.

Littlemore (2009: 148)

1 … Form-focused instruction is nearly always more effective than mere exposure to L2 input (Doughty, 2003) but it is not

always clear what aspects of the language we should focus on in these form-focused instructions. … learners are often primed by their entrenched L1 construal patterns not to notice new L2 construals. Construal may thus be one area of second language learning where learners benefit from explicit instruction. (Littlemore 2009: 38)

2 The grammar of a language is defined as a structured inventory of conventional linguistic units. Specific expressions are

included in this inventory provided that they have the status of units – a reasonable assumption for dogs, trees, etc. Also included in the grammar are schemas extracted to represent the commonality observed in specific expressions (both units and nonunits).

The coexsistance in the grammar of the schema and instantiations affords the speaker alternate ways of accessing a complex but regular expression with unit status: it can simply be activated directly, or else the speaker can employ the schema to compute it. Moreover, the schema is available for the computation of novel instantiations (e.g. quagmires); if such an expression is frequently employed, it may very well become established as a unit and thus be incorporated per se in the grammar. (Langacker 2002: 264)

3 … the child does not put together each of her utterances from scratch, morpheme by morpheme, but rather, she puts



a. … some aspects of language are not arbitraryand that there are sometimes reasons why we say things the way we do.

b. … teachers can explain, in theory, to their students why it is that certain expressions mean certain things, instead of simply telling them ‘that’s just the way it is’ and expecting them to learn expressions by heart.

c. This engages learners in a search for meaning, which is likely to involve deeper cognitive processing which, according to Craik and Lockhart (1982), leads to deeper learning and longer retention.

d. It is important to say at this point that although a great deal of language is thought to be motivated, the ways in which this happens are not entirely predictable, and different languages are motivated in different ways. Thus, much of the analysis of motivated language is necessarily retrospective rather than predictive.

Ⅱ.A practice in the classroom. What I usually do in the first meeting of my classes for intermediate or advanced students.

In order to let learners of English know partially motivated aspects of English and the fact that literal translation between the two languages does not work in most cases, I present quizzes of the kind shown below in my classes.

Quiz 1: Yes/No is not the same as Hai/Iie.

(a) Jack: You don’t like figs? Shelly: Yes.

(b) Bob: This train doesn’t go to Shibuya? Katie: No.

(c) Mr. Miller: You didn’t sleep a wink last night?

Maria: Yes.I was up all night, thinking about my future.

Quiz 2: ---ing form does not mean “…shite-iru”

(a) The bus is stopping. → Is the bus moving or not?

(b) My battery is dying. → Is the battery dead or not?

Exercise:You’re talking on the cellphone and the battery is going to die soon. You’d like to explain the situation to your friend, and want to call the person back later. In this situation, what would you say?

Quiz 3: Fill in the blank.

The sun rises _____ the east and sets _____ the west.

Quiz 4: Which one of the followings is the appropriate translation for 学校が終わった?

(a) School is over. (b) School was over.

Q. Does Shelly like figs? Q. Does Shelly like figs?

Q. Does this train go to Shibuya?



Quiz 5: Which one of the following is the appropriate translation for 犬と猫のどちらが好きです か?

(a) Which do you like better, dog or cat? (b) Which do you like better, dogs or cats?

Quiz 6: (a) is natural, while (b) is awkward. Why?

(a) Obama, the president in the U.S., has visited Princeton.

(b) Einstein, the famous scientist, has visited Princeton. (cf. 松村:1996:83-84)

Quiz 7: What is the difference in meaning between these two?

(a) I love the music in the waiting room. (b) I’m loving the music in the waiting room.

Quiz 8:What’s the meaning of the underlined part?

Shelly: How much do I need to pay?

Mr. Mirror: It’s okay. The check has been taken care of.

Quiz 9: Fill in the blank.

(a) My room is _______. (私の部屋は広い)

(b) This corridor is _______. (この廊下は広い)

(c) My grandfather’s forehead is _______. (家の爺さんの額は広い)

Exercise:Which sentence below describes the situation in the figure 1 and 2 below?

(a) The windows of the house are tall. (b) The windows of the house are high.


4 References

Bolinger, D. (1977) Meaning and Form.London & New York: Longman.

Langacker, R. W. (2002). Concept, Image, and Symbol -The Cognitive Basis of Grammar, 2nd ed. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter

---. (2008). ‘Cognitive Grammar as a basis for language instruction’ In P. Robinson and N.Ellis (eds.) Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and second language acquisition. New York: Routledge.

Lee, D. (2001). Cognitive Linguistics --- An Introduction.Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Littemore. J.(2009)Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Learning and Teaching. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tomasell, M.,(2002)‘A Usage-Based Approach to Child Language Acquisition,’Studies in Language Sciences

池上嘉彦(2011)「言語 研究のお もしろさ」in 大津 由紀雄編『こ とばワーク ショップ :言語を発





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田中茂範・川出才記(1989)『動詞がわかれば英語がわかる』東京:The Japan Times.