Obstacles to Japanese membership in the imagined global community of English users

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Mark Fifer, Seilhamer Nanyang Technological University


Although Japanese English learners are well aware of the potential of English as a means to communicate with the world, this remains an abstract concept for most, who have limited English interaction outside the classroom and continue to associate the language primarily with the people and cultures of traditionally English-speaking countries. Japanese university students, furthermore, tend to have less experience with international online English communication than their counterparts in many other countries. In this article, the author discusses several factors that contribute to the difficulty many Japanese students have conceptualizing themselves as members of an imagined global community of English users: the Japanese discourses of Nihonjinron and kokusaika, the Japanese translation and publishing industries, and a preference for domestic social networking websites. He concludes by advocating increased employment of international Internet exchange projects in Japanese English as a foreign language (EFL) classrooms as the best hope for facilitating membership in the imagined global community of English users.