Toyo University Keizai Ronshu. Vol 35. No. 1. Dec. 2010. (p. 27 - 41)

A case study of longitudinal attitude changes among a cohort of Japanese university students completing a short-term study abroad

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Tim Newfields


Abstract

Study abroad (SA) programs are a feature of nearly all universities in Japan (MEXT Higher Education Bureau, 2009, p. 7). Frequently such programs claim to enhance foreign language competence, foster cross-cultural communication skills, or provide specific in-depth knowledge about a given country. Despite the prevalence of such programs, however, relatively few studies have been conducted to ascertain what long-term effects (if any) SA programs have. This paper investigates the impact of a three-week U.K. SA program among a group of 25 Japanese university students in terms of attitudes regarding English language use and their native and host cultures. It points out some ways some respondents appear to have changed as well as traits that appear stable.

Keywords: Study abroad, overseas study, linguistic identities, cross-cultural learning, stereotype theory

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[ p. 27 ]

Research Focus

This paper explores how the attitudes of a group of Japanese university students who completed a three-week study abroad program in the U.K. changed over an 8-9 month period. It focuses on three specific issues (1) possible changes in attitudes towards English use, (2) perceptions of similarities and differences between Britain and Japan, and (3) Anglo-Japanese stereotypes. These research themes were chosen since they closely pertain to the language – culture paradox. At the heart of this study is an exploration of how changes in attitude toward English language might (or might not) correlate with varied perceptions of English culture. Secondary issues such as perceptions of the usefulness of study abroad in terms of job-hunting and overall self-confidence are also explored.

Method

Participants

A group of 25 students from Toyo University's Faculty of Economics participated in this study spanning from June 2009 to March 2010. Their profiles are in Table 1.

Table 1. Profiles of the Respondents in This Study Abroad Program (n=25)

Gender Male: 10 Female: 15
Academic Year 1st: 6 2nd: 11 3rd: 8 4th: 0
Age 18 yrs.: 3 19 yrs.: 10 20 yrs.: 4 > 21 yrs.: 8
Prior Times Abroad zero: 17 once: 5 twice: 1 > 3: 2
Prior Length Abroad no experience: 17 1-7 days: 3 8-32 days: 4 33-67 days: 1

One of the respondents reported participating in two SA programs previously: S15 spent one week in Hawaii and another in South Korea. Six other respondents made brief trips to tourist meccas such as Hawaii, Guam, or Thailand. Since those trips were under a week in length and did not include any formal study, 24 of the 25 respondents in this panel can be regarded as first time SA participants.
One striking feature of this panel is the preponderance of women. Whereas a mere 23% of all Faculty of Economics students are female (Toyo University, 2009), in this sample 64% of the respondents were female. This is more than an anomaly: since the inception of this program in 2002, disproportionately more females have participated in the program than males. So far 117 of the 233 participants in this program have been women, a rate approaching 50%. This suggests that female university students tend to be more inclined to participate in overseas study programs than males, at least for the economics faculty.
The mean age of the respondents in this sample was 19.7 and 76% were either second or third year of undergraduates. All respondents were Japanese nationals.
[ p. 28 ]
Program

This program consisted of three phrases, as summarized in Table 2.

Table 2. Three phrases of the 2009 Toyo University Faculty of Economics Study Abroad Program
Pre-Departure Phrase
Travel Orientation Meetings (2 x 90 min = 180 min) in Japanese
2 Supplemental English Lessons (2 x 60 min = 120 min) in English
Overseas Phase
Intensive English Lessons (18 x 90 min = 27 hrs) in English
Guided Group Tours (6 x 4 hrs. = 24 hrs) in English & Japanese
Homestays (18 nights) in English
Post-Orientation Phase
Debriefing Interviews (2 x 30 min = 60 hrs) in English & Japanese
Reflective Essay (two pages) in English or Japanese

The amount of English spoken by participants with their host families was said to range from 20 minutes to 5 hours a day, with an average of 2.2 hours. Figure 1 offers an overview of how much time each day the respondents supposedly spoke with their host families in English by gender.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Reponses to the question, "How much (on the average) did you talk with your host parents each day?"

What Figure 1 suggests is that female respondents reported spending an average 2 hrs. a day talking to their host family members, while males spent 2.4 hrs daily. Self-reported data such as this may be prone to inflation. However, if this data is accurate then participants were exposed to 36 - 120 hours of English in the overseas phrase of this program.
[ p. 29 ]
Instruments

Three instruments were used in this study: (i) a pre-departure questionnaire, (ii) a return day questionnaire, and (iii) a post-return questionnaire administered 7-8 months after respondents reentered Japan. Each is briefly described.
The pre-departure questionnaire consisted of 6 profiling questions, 12 short sentence completion exercises, and a 5-point agreement scale with 10 opinion statements. The original Japanese language version of this survey is online at http://tnewfields.info/Articles/PDF/pre-J.pdf and an English translation appears at http://tnewfields.info/Articles/PDF/pre-E.pdf
The return-day questionnaires consisted of 7 profiling questions, 13 short sentence completion exercises, and an agreement scale with 11 opinion statements. Seven of the items in this questionnaire were mirrored from the pre-departure questionnaire to ascertain how respondent attitudes shifted. The original Japanese language version of this survey is online at http://tnewfields.info/Articles/PDF/return-J.pdf and an English translation can be found at http://tnewfields.info/Articles/PDF/return-E.pdf.
The post-return questionnaires contained 8 open questions, 2 fixed choice questions, 4 rank-order tasks, and an agreement scale with 12 opinion statements. 16 of the items in this questionnaire were mirrored in at least one of the earlier questionnaires to ascertain how respondent attitudes shifted. The original Japanese language version is http://tnewfields.info/Articles/PDF/post-J.pdf and an English translation can be found at http://tnewfields.info/Articles/PDF/post-E.pdf.

Procedure

One month prior to departure respondents completed the pre-departure questionnaire by pencil. On their return flight to Japan approximately 7 weeks later they completed the return-day questionnaire. Seven to eight months after returning to Japan, I sent emails and/or phone calls to each respondent encouraging them to complete the post-return questionnaire individually in my office. As an incentive to complete that, respondents were given a DVD with photos from England and small gift.
It should be noted that these research questionnaires were confidential, but not anonymous. Given the modest sample size and research design, perfect anonymity seemed impractical. Although this might have swayed the results, I decided to ask respondents to write their names on the surveys for two reasons (i) to contact them if any responses were unclear, and (ii) also reduce panelist attrition. Particularly for the final questionnaires, I had to contact 10 of the respondents several times before they completed that instrument. The response rate for the first two questionnaires was 100% and for the third questionnaire it was 84% (21 out of 25 students).
[ p. 30 ]
Analysis

Fixed-response survey questions were entered directly into Microsoft Excel and for sake of brevity, 5-point Likert scale responses were truncated into 3 categories: "strongly agree" and "mildly agree" results were reported as "agreed" and "mildly disagree" and "strongly disagree" results were reported as "disagreed". Neutral responses remained untruncated.
Sentence-completion task data were analyzed according to the procedure described by Schmidt (2004): after examining responses closely, analytical categories were constructed and the clustered data was recording in a research notebook. Multiple responses by the same participant were permitted and questionnaires were accepted if they were over 50% complete. Since the goal of this study was to report general trends, idiosyncratic responses were ignored.

Results

Let us explore the results of each questionnaire, then suggest whatever longitudinal changes that may have occurred.

Pre-Departure Questionnaires

Q1: Reasons for Studying Abroad

The first survey question concerned the respondents' main motive for undertaking this study program. It was a simple sentence-completion task. The wish to "understand foreign cultures better" [kaigai no bunka wo manabu] or "broaden horizons" [sekaikan wo hirogeru] was cited by 48% (N=12) of the respondents. Another 32% (N=8) claimed to be primarily interested in improving their foreign language skills. A third group (N=3) seemed to be traveling for pleasure with no ostensible academic goals.
It's noteworthy that two of the respondents couldn't clearly explain their participation motives. Whereas S18 cryptically mentioned a desire for "experience" [keiken], S15 noted "I simply wanted to go" [itte mitakatta] without elaboration.
The data suggests interweaving cultural, linguistic, touristic motives among the respondents. Many believed the trip would help them become more cultured, while others thought their English skills would improve. Still others seemed unsure as to what would happen.
[ p. 31 ]
Q2: Study Abroad Learning Goals

The second question concerned what the respondents hoped to learn most from this program. 48% (N=12) expressed a desire to sharpen their foreign language skills and 36% (N=9) were hoping for a better understanding the host culture.
Regrettably, three of the respondents could not communicate their aspirations. S18 tersely wrote the word "experience" [keiken] and S15 matched his vagueness by indicating a wish to savor a foreign "atmosphere" [funiki]. S14 also expressed a wish to experience "humanity" [ningen-sei] without explanation.
What this data suggests is that English study was a primary motive for perhaps half of the students – others joined the program to be "more cultured" [senren sareta] or for reasons that were obscure.

Q3: Study Abroad Concerns

The next question sought to pinpoint the main worries among participants prior to studying abroad. By far the major concern was communicating in a foreign language. 56% (N=14) worried whether they would be understood in English. Interestingly, female respondents tended to express more worries than males. Although the sample size is too modest for conclusive statements, several females – but no males – expressed multiple pre-departure anxieties. By contrast, two males – but no females – indicated they had no specific concerns. This adds preliminary support to McKeown's (2009) observation that women are apt to express more concerns than men prior to traveling abroad.

Q4: Pre-Departure Learning Goals

The fourth question concerned what the respondents hoped to learn from their university prior to departure. 32% (N=8) indicated nothing in particular. Another 16% (N=4) mentioned a desire for supplemental language lessons. Regrettably, 7 of the respondents could not offer clear explanations. As a case in point, S1 asked for "explanation" [setsumei] without indicating what topic(s) she wanted explained or and S7 requested "the delivery of information" [jouhou no teikyo] without specifying what sort of information was needed. Perhaps these individuals expected their teachers to intuitively sense their needs. As the SA experience progressed, however, more became aware of the importance of explicitly expressing personal needs when interacting with individuals from other cultures.

Q5: Pre-Departure Activities

The fifth question concerned what the respondents wanted to do most before the upcoming trip. A desire to study English was voiced by 68% of the respondents (N=17). Moreover, 40% of N=10) indicated that they had no desires in particular. Many of these students complained about being "too busy" already. An intention to study British and/or Japanese culture more prior to departure was reported by 16% (N=4). Finally, two respondents offered vague comments such as "to prepare for departure" (S14) without elaboration or "image training" (S19). At times, the ability to students to communicate their needs clearly – even in their native languages – needs to be questioned.
[ p. 32 ]
Q6: Overseas Activities Sought

Question 6 asked respondents to identify what they most wanted to do while overseas. Sightseeing was the most popular activity, with 36% (N=9) yearning to visit historic sights. 20% (N=5) remarked on a desire to simply "speak English". An equal number wanted to "communicate and make friends". What this data points out is that only a minority of the participants seemed interested in formal academic activities: the majority were more keen about sightseeing and socializing.

Q7: Scenarios to Avoid

The seventh question identified respondents' SA fears. 60% (N=15) feared becoming crime or accident victims, with 14 indentifying theft as a primary fear. Interestingly, two students felt a particularly keen desire to avoid spending too much time with other Japanese. S4 added, "If I speak to a lot of Japanese I will not learn much English." S14 echoed, "I'm here to learn English – not Japanese." Another two students voiced fears of sickness. It should be mentioned that at the time of this survey, the swine flu was prevalent.

Q8 and Q9: Perceived Anglo-Japanese Similarities and Differences

The next two questions asked respondents to identify Anglo-Japanese commonalities and differences. Nine respondents (36%) expressed uncertainty as to what Japan and Britain had in common. Another seven (28%) described both the U.K. and Japan as "insular nations" (shima-kuni). Interestingly, two respondents (S6 and S17) felt that Japan and Britain had "nothing in common" (toki ni nani mo nai ki ga suru). All remaining responses were idiosyncratic.
As for perceived differences, the obvious linguistic differences between both countries were noted by 36% (N=9) of the respondents. Cultural differences were identified by another 28%. Three students frankly admitted they were unsure how Japan and Britain differed. All remaining answers were idiosyncratic.
An overview of the data reveals some interesting prejudices. S24 suggested that the "personality of Japanese and British people differed" [sekaku ga chigau], as if nationality somehow shaped personality. Furthermore, S12 said that "[unlike Japan] Britain has diverse ethnic groups" [Igirsu wa taminzoku kokka], reflecting a common belief by some Japanese that Japan is a homogenous culture.

Q10 and Q11: Attitudes towards Japanese and British People

Now let us consider how participants stereotyped Japanese and British people. Japanese described their compatriots as "sincere" (majime, 6 responses) and "hard-working" (kinben, 2 responses). However, they were also labeled as "quiet" (otonashi, 6 responses), "indirect" (tomawashii, 4 responses), or simply "group-oriented" (shudan koudou ga suki, 2 responses). All other responses were idiosyncratic.
[ p. 33 ]

How does this differ from the way Brits were stereotyped? 8 respondents described the British as "gentlemanly" (shinshi-rashii); another 3 as "cheerful" (akarui); and an equal number as "wooly" (ozappa, abuato). 2 respondents thought British were "proud" (puraido ga takai) and an equal number labeled them as "quiet" (otonashii). All other responses were idiosyncratic.

Q12: Prior Contact with British People

Respondents were asked how many British people they had contact with previously. 18 avowed that they had no contacts; 5 mentioned knowing 1 Brit, and 2 claimed to know two citizens of the U.K. In most cases, these were high school teachers from overseas who had spoken with the students. It appears that most of the images that these respondents had of British persons came from the mass media rather than personal contacts.
Now let us shift our attention to the forced-choice opinion statements in Part II of the pre-departure survey. All of these statements had the same format: after reading a brief statement, respondents were asked to circle the Likert response best reflecting their opinion –

5-Point Response Scale in Japanese and English

Q13: Knowledge of Britain

The first item of this type concerned how much the respondents knew about the U.K. Respondents were asked to indicate their degree of agreement or disagreement with the statement, "I know only a little about Britain." 96% (N=24) agreed with this statement. Except for informant S4, all students confessed a lack of knowledge about the U.K.

Q14: Desire to Learn More About British Culture

All of the respondents agreed with the statement, "During this trip I want to study a little bit more about British culture." It appears item did not discriminate well – it will be deleted in future versions of the pre-departure interview.

Q15: Perceptions of Japanese and British Similarities

Next respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, "I think British people are rather similar to Japanese." 60% (N=15) felt neutral about this, while 28% (N=7) disagreed. A further 12% (N=3) expressed agreement. It seems the majority of students had no particular opinions about this issue.
[ p. 34 ]
Q16 and Q17: Self-Efficacy and Capacity to Express Emotions in English

The next two statements were designed to ascertain the confidence levels of students when speaking English. 88% (N=22) disagree with the statement, "I am confident of my English ability." and another 12% (N=3) were undecided about it. None agreed.
Closely related, only 28% (N=7) of the respondents concurred with the statement, "I can express my basic feelings in English". 44% (N=11) disagreed and 28% were neutral. Clearly, there was a lack confidence about communicating in English prior to departure.

Q18 and Q19: Introversion and Code-Switching

The next two statements explored whether or not the degree of introversion shifted among respondents with the language they spoke. 56% (N=14) of the respondents agreed with the statement, "I generally feel shy when speaking English" prior to departure. 16% disagreed and 28% were uncertain. However, when the languages shifted these figures changed. Only 16% (N=4) of the respondents felt that the statement "I generally feel shy when speaking Japanese" was apt and 60% (N=15) disagreed. Whereas about 1 out of 5 of the respondents felt shy in their native language, this more than doubled when switching to English. This finding offers tends to support Jackson's (2010, p. 185) claim that identity shifts are apt to occur in the process of code switching.

Q20: Ability to Hear British English

Prior to departure, 56% (N=19) of the respondents agreed with the statement, "I have trouble hearing British English as it is usually spoken." None disagreed, though 6 felt neutral. This makes it clear that most students felt trepidation about their ability to catch the sounds of British English.

Return Day Questionnaires

In this paper I will focus only on the items that also appeared in the pre departure questionnaire.

Q9 and Q10: Perceived Anglo-Japanese Similarities and Differences

Mirroring the June 2009 survey, respondents were asked to identify commonalities and differences between Japan and Britain. This time the main difference mentioned was culinary customs (shokuji seikatsu, 10 responses). Many students grumbled about English food and expressed nostalgia for their home cooking. All other responses were idiosyncratic.
[ p. 35 ]

When asked to pinpoint ways that Japan and England were similar, this time 6 students were unable to offer any response – two actually placed large question marks on their surveys. Moreover, many made rather superficial remarks such as "cars are driven on the left" (N=3). 5 students, however, did point out that most people in both countries were "humane and kind" (hitoyoshi).

Q11 and Q12: Attitudes towards Japanese and British People

As in the pre-departure survey, respondents were asked to describe their stereotypes of Brits and Japanese. This time 11 of the respondents described Brits as "kind" (shinsetsu) and 6 as "gentle" (yasashii). 4 regarded them as "wooly" (oraka, tekito). 2 described them as "outgoing" (shakoteki) and an equal number as "cheerful" (akarui). The only patently negative comment, made S24, was that the English had "low morals" (moraru ga hikui).
Turning the mirror, 4 Japanese described their compatriots as "hard working" (kichoumen) and an equal number as "docile" (shokyokuteki). Japanese also described their peers as "quiet" (otonashii, 2 responses), "nervous" (shinkei-shitsu, 2 responses), "clannish" (hessaiteki, 2 responses), and "unkind to strangers" (2 responses). As you can see, unfavorable stereotypes predominated favorable stereotypes.
Now let consider how the respondents answered the forced-choice opinion statements when returning to Japan. Again, I will focus only on questions mirrored in the pre-departure questionnaire.

Q20: Introversion in English

When students were asked to respond to the statement, "I generally feel shy when speaking English" this time 52% (N=13) agreed with it and 25% (N=6) disagreed, while 20% (N=5) were neutral. One respondent (S25) left this item blank.

Post Return Questionnaires

I shall limit the discussion to the items mirrored from the pre-departure questionnaires. Also, please note that S5, S17, S18, and S19 did not complete the final questionnaire.

Q5 and Q6: Perceived Anglo-Japanese Similarities and Differences

Again, respondents were asked to specify Anglo-Japanese commonalities and differences. This time the main similarities noted included "gentleness of character" (yasashisa, 6 responses) and "kindness" (shinsetsusa). However, 3 students alleged that Japanese and British persons had no points in common. All other responses were idiosyncratic.
[ p. 36 ]

Two types of differences between Japanese and Brits were widely acknowledged at this time. Four respondents remarked how Brits tended to cherish their time off from work more than Japanese – in their view, Brits seemed less obsessive about their work. That observation appears to be supported by a 2007 study by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. According to that study, British citizens work an average of just 37 hours a week – well below the EU average of 38.6 hours. This contrasts with the Japanese average of 43.5 hours (Kuroda, 2010, p. 13).
4 respondents also indicated that Brits were somehow more social (shakoteki) than Japanese, foreshadowing the next two questions.

Q7 and Q8: Attitudes towards Japanese and British People

Respondents were again asked to describe their stereotypes of Japanese and British people. 7 students described their compatriots as "shy" (hikaemei), 5 as "clannish" (heissateki), and 4 as "docile" (hikomi-jian). Two praised fellow Japanese as being "sincere" (kichoumen) and all other responses were idiosyncratic.
By contrast, nearly all respondents were more generous in their praise of U.K. citizens. 7 respondents described Brits as "kind" (shinsetsu) and 5 as "talkative" (o-shaberi). Two respondents described citizens of their host country as "outgoing" (shakoteki) and an equal number as "positive" (akarui). Only one student (S22) dubbed Brits as "bad-mannered" (manaa ga warui) and another (S23) typified them as "rather wooly" (kanari ozappa).

Q18: Capacity to Express Emotions in English

When asked about their ability to communicate their basic feelings in English, this time 8 respondents were inclined to agree with the statement, "I can express my basic feelings in English" and an equal number felt neutral about it. By contrast, 5 respondents took issue with that statement.

Q22: Introversion in English

Once again, students were asked to agree or disagree with the remark, "I generally feel shy when speaking English." This time 4 respondents disagreed and an equal number were neutral. However, 13 respondents concurred with the statement, suggesting that most students felt taciturn and shy speaking English.

Discussion

We will limit our discussion to three issues: (1) attitudes regarding English language use, (2) perceptions of Anglo-Japanese similarities and differences, and (3) stereotypes of British and Japanese. Other results will be discussed in subsequent papers when the sample size is enlarged and more rigorous quantitative procedures are employed.
[ p. 37 ]
(1) Attitudes Regarding English Language Use

When it comes to shyness about speaking English, the data available suggests no major shift: 14 students reportedly felt shy about using English prior to departure and 13 students indicated feeling the same way in both of the surveys that followed. It's beyond the scope of this paper to conjecture whether this lack of change is due to insufficient exposure to the target language or a personality trait inure to change.
Moreover, no clear-cut change in the respondents' English self-efficacy was noted. At first merely 28% (N=7) concurred with the statement, "I can express my basic feelings in English." 7 or 8 months later, only one more respondent felt inclined to agree with that statement. Due to the small sample size and survey attrition, however, it may be best regard this result as inconclusive.
Finally, due to a survey design flaw, it would be unwise to offer any statements about changes in confidence levels. The first survey explored confidence levels when speaking English; the subsequent two surveys explored overall confidence levels. Those are different constructs, and the only point that can be noted is that there was no significant change in reported overall confidence levels between the second and third surveys.

(2) Perceived Similarities and Differences between Britain and Japan

At the onset, 9 respondents indicated that they did not know enough about Japan and Britain to offer meaningful comparisons. Unfortunately, on the return flight 6 respondents were still unable to identify any similarity between the two nations. However, a few students made insightful comments about how the rural unemployment rate is high in both countries (S21) or how both countries value their old traditions (S9, S10).
Though 7 respondents pointed out how the Britain and Nippon were both "insular nations" (shima-kuni) in the preliminary survey, during the subsequent questionnaires none of them mentioned this. Indeed, many students remarked on the widespread prevalence of Asians, Africans, and eastern Europeans in British cities. One of the most significant shifts that may have occurred among participants as a result of this SA experience is the realization that the U.K. is not an Anglo-Saxon monoculture. Participants saw more than Tudor houses and Anglican churches during their 21 days in the UK – they also encountered many mosques, Sikh temples, Chinese takeaways, and Polish delis.
At the onset, S6 and S17 felt that Japan and Britain had "nothing in common". During the final survey, S22 and S25 also maintained there were no Anglo-Japanese commonalities. What caused some students to focus on ways that Japan and England differed while others emphasized (or even exaggerated) the similarities is a fascinating question beyond the scope of this paper.
[ p. 38 ]

On the issue of perceived differences, at the outset 9 respondents pointed out the obvious linguistic dissimilarities between Japan and Britain. On the subsequent questionnaires none of the respondents mentioned this, although in February S24 remarked that the "communication styles" of Japanese and British differed.
Prior to departure, respondents had a tendency to describe Anglo-Japanese differences in rather vague terms. After visiting England, however, their remarks tended to become more detailed. For example, in the first survey 7 respondents mentioned Japan and Britain had "cultural differences" without any elaboration. On the return day, however, only one student used that vague reference and 8 months later, again just one respondent used that obscure adage. By contrast, after spending several weeks in Britain many students comments became more detailed. For example, 3 students – all male – mentioned how vehicle steering wheels of Japanese and British cars were on the same side. Another 2 students - both female - pointed out how the showers and baths in the U.K. and Japan tended to differ. Rather than trivializing such comments, it is perhaps best to view them as indications of what was important then to the writers. All three men were interested in cars and both female respondents expressed her concerns about personal hygiene.

(3) Stereotypes of British and Japanese

Prior to departure, the respondents tended to describe their compatriots as "sincere" (majime, 6 responses) yet "quiet" (otonashi, 6 responses), as well as "indirect" (tomawashii, 4 responses). On the return flight, only 2 students described Japanese as "sincere" and just 2 described them as "quiet". Instead, this time 4 students viewed their compatriots as "docile" (shokyokuteki) and 2 labeled them as "clannish" (heissateki). 7-8 months after that time frame, many of the stereotypes seemed fixed – 6 students described their peers as "shy" and 5 as "clannish". Another 4 described their kin as "docile" and two students labeled Japanese as "hard-working" (kinben, 2 responses) and an equal number considered them "sincere" (kichomen). The numbers had obviously changed – but basic stereotypical categories were robust.
In June 2009 Brits were often stereotyped as "gentlemanly" (shinshirashii, 8 responses), "cheerful" (akarui, 3 responses); or "wooly" (ozappa, aboutto, 3 responses). On September 20th eleven of the respondents described Brits as "kind" (shinsetsu) and 6 as "gentle" (yasashii). Although 4 regarded them as "imprecise and muddled" (oraka, tekito), 2 felt they were "outgoing" (shakoteki) and a further 2 admired the way they seemed "cheerful" (akarui). By February-March 2010 the Brits were still widely viewed as "kind" (shinsetsu, 5 responses), "talkative" (o-shaberi, 5 responses), "outgoing" (shakoteki, 2 responses) and an equal number as "positive" (akarui). Only one student (S22) dubbed Brits as "bad-mannered" (manaa ga warui) and another typified them as "rather wooly" (kanari ozappa). All other responses were idiosyncratic.
[ p. 39 ]

Examining these results closely, it is clear is that the basic stereotypical categorizations were robust, although the relative numbers fluctuated a bit with the survey. Detailed speculations about how stereotypes may have shifted should be deferred until a larger sample size is obtained.
When first responding to the statement, "I think British people are rather similar to Japanese." 15 of the informants were neutral and 7 disagreed, while only 1 person expressed consent. 7-8 months later, 7 of the informants were inclined to agree while 9 were neutral and 6 disagreed. This may be interpreted as evidence of "disothering" (Pillay, 2003, p. 296) a foreign population – at least some of the participants seemed to recognize that citizens of the U.K. have the same basic emotions as Japanese, which does not disavow that significant differences also exist.

Conclusion

Before offering any conclusion, some limitations of the current study should be acknowledged. First of all, these results are based mainly on the written responses of merely 25 students who participated in one specific short-term study abroad program with very limited orientation and debriefing components. Although some of the themes raised in this research are likely relevant to many Japanese EFL study abroad contexts, the results of this research will likely vary in different contexts. Second, this paper is based on self-reports. For that reason we must therefore acknowledge the possibility of some expectancy bias in the results – particularly in cases in which the author knew the students. Third, the survey format used in this research was conductive to short, cursory answers – most students spent about 20 minutes on each survey and some rushed through their surveys in much less time. A different research methodology involving journaling (Newbury, 2001) or in depth interviews (Warren & Karner, 2010) would likely yield richer results.
Factors that did not appear to change as a result of this experience include students overall self-image when communicating in English. Students who were reticent at the onset about talking in English tended to retain that trait.
Although students were less prone to regard the U.K. as a monoculture as a result of this experience, many of their characterizations of British people themselves (as well as their compatriots) remained intact throughout the entire course of this investigation.

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