How to transform a beginning learner into a Japanese character on the theatre stage: pronunciation training aimed at learning communicative competence [EN]
(University of Bologna)
Paper short abstract:
How can beginning learners of Japanese transform into Japanese characters on the stage? This paper will introduce the training program of the Japanese language theater group that I've been coordinating in Italy since 2004, reporting results with projection of video clips of our past drama pieces.
Paper long abstract:
Theater is a communication medium consisting of two dimensions: actors or actresses communicate with a live audience, as communicating with each other on the stage by creating a drama through dialogues. Since the dawn of the communicative approach, which sets communicative competence acquisition as the learner's goal, gained popularity in the 1970s, drama-based activities such as skits or role-plays have been widely used in a language-teaching setup, based on the idea that they can encourage collaborative learning, lower learners' emotional barriers, and, most importantly, provide natural contexts for oral communication. In the field of Japanese language education, in 2007 the International Association of Performing Language was founded, and it has been contributing to spread the drama-based approach. As for pronunciation, Hashimoto (2009) proposed a dramatic approach to teaching pronunciation, arguing for its effectiveness in teaching paralinguistic characteristics of speech (the speaker's intention, emotion, psychological state, etc) that are fundamental for natural communication. Since 2004, I have been coordinating a Japanese language theater group in Italy. Every year we produce a full-fledged theater piece, and we have so far performed twelve original dramas in theaters. The majority of our performers are Italian learners of Japanese whose competence is at the beginning level. To reach their goal, i.e., to transform themselves into Japanese characters on the stage, they need to learn not only Japanese pronunciation, but also speech, gestures and expressions that are natural and appropriate for both the assigned role and a certain speech context. Our pronunciation training features five characteristics: 1) aiming at the intelligibility of performers' pronunciation rather than native-like accuracy; 2) focusing on prosody (word accent and intonation, in particular) rather than segments; 3) jointly learning all linguistic, paralinguistic and non-linguistic characteristics of speech for the assigned role; 4) using not only audio pronunciation models but also visual cues displaying word accent position and intonation patterns; 5) using body movements closely connected to the sounds of script lines. In the present paper, I will describe our theater activities and pronunciation training, also reporting results of training with projection of video clips of our past drama pieces.
Use of drama, theatre and literature in Japanese language teaching