Journal of Nanzan Junior College #29: NaZa NaZa . . . A Cross-Cultural Training Simulation (cont'd.)

NaZa NaZa: An Overview

The NaZa NaZa cross-cultural simulation consists of three phases: (1) a pre-class preparation phase, (2) an in-class participation phase, and a (3) post-class reflection stage. Each is explained in depth.

(1) Pre-class preparation phase

Fully separate rooms for Na and Za cultures need to be selected in advance. In the Na culture room, there should have enough copies of the Secret Rules of Na Culture (Appendix 2) for each participant as well as the materials described at The Za culture room should have copies of the Secret Rules of Za Culture (Appendix 3) for each member and all of the materials mentioned at
Both the Na and Za groups have different leaders responsible for guiding members. These leaders should be chosen well in advance of the simulation, and taught the rules of the game in detail. The Na leader will have the highest status in Na society. Since status is based on hair length, it may be necessary to obtain a long wig for this person. The Za leader requires no special paraphernalia, but should have lots of extra currency, as well as spare copies of the cards described in Articles/nazaZa.htm.

(2) In-class participation phase

The in-class participation phase consists of seven sub-phases. Each of these are briefly outlined.
  1. Outline of Simulation / Division of Groups [5 minutes]

    Inform participants that they will be involved in a ninety minute simulation. Instead of describing the objectives of the simulation before it takes place, mention that the goals will be become clear by the end of the simulation. Allow participants to experience the simulation without many expectations. As Shirts (1975) mentions, "It's quite possible that an idea might develop which does not meet the objective, but is so valuable that is it worth changing the objectives to fit the idea." Simulation objectives are an organic phenomena which arise as the simulation unfolds. Moreover, the insights arising during simulations vary from group to group.
    Divide the participants into two groups of equal size. Half receive Na membership badges and half Za badges, then they proceed to separate rooms. (Those who come slightly late can join the Na culture, since the rules of that culture take less time to learn. Persons who are over ten minutes late, however, should become non-participant observers during the entire simulation since they will not have adequate time to master the rules of a target culture.)

  2. Orientation to a New Culture [10 minutes]

    Na members receive copies of the Secret Rules of Na Culture from their leader, who explains the rules and answers questions. In a different location, Za members receive the rules of their culture from their leader, who also explains them and answers questions. Since Za culture has a unique language, it is essential for Za members to understand the six gestures, five words, and one linguistic rule of their language.

  3. Practising a New Culture [20 minutes]

    Na and Za members practise doing business according to the rules of their cultures in separate settings. The Na and Za leaders make sure participants adhere to the norms detailed in Appendix 2 and 3. By twenty minutes, most participants are functioning in their own cultures.

  4. Observation Capsule [5 minutes]

    Three observers from each group visit the foreign group to see how people from that culture interact. These observers may not ask questions or attempt to do business with the aliens they observe - they must figure things out on solely by observing.

  5. Report of Observers [10 minutes]

    In this phase, observers return to their original groups, then attempt to explain the rules of the foreign culture to their group members. Questions are asked about the alien group. To the best of their ability, observers explain how the foreign culture operates. An interesting feature of this stage is that the observers often have many misconceptions about the foreign culture. Participants receive misinformation and impressionistic stereotypes. Culture leaders should not attempt to correct the misinformation or reveal what the actual rules of the foreign culture are. Dealing with misconceptions is part of the simulation process.

  6. Visitor Exchange [15 minutes]

    25% - 30% of the members from each culture next become visitors to the foreign culture. (If possible, these visitors should not be the same persons who were observers 10-15 minutes before).
    Visitors are given whatever is used in that culture to "do business" by each culture leader, then – without benefit of knowing the explicit rules of the alien culture - attempt to interact with its participants. Invariably, a number of etiquette breaches occur. Some observers may appear to adapt well to a foreign culture, often for reasons they do not comprehend. For example, Za members with long hair visiting Na culture may have pleasant experiences. However, those with short hair may find their sojourn less comfortable.

  7. Discussion / Feedback [20 - 30 minutes]

    Finally, participants return to a large discussion area and the simulation organizer asks them to talk about these inquiries -
    	* What was the foreign culture like? Describe each foreign culture.
    	* What did the foreign culture members seem to value? What did their rules seem to be?
    	* How did the first observers feel in the foreign culture?
    	* How did the native culture participants feel about the visitors who 
    	  attempted to do business? Did they do anything which upset you?
    	* What seemed to help the communication process? What hindered it?
    	* What were the rules and values of your native culture? 
    	* How did you feel about your native culture?  
    	* Did you like one culture more than another? Why?
    	* In what ways might this simulation be similar to visiting a foreign country?
    	* In what ways is it probably different?
Participants in this simulation were given the option of discussing their experiences in Japanese or English. This enabled some participants with weaker foreign language skills to join the discussion.

(3) Post-class reflection stage

Because many Japanese are hesitant to discuss ideas in public and a 20-30 minute discussion is probably too brief to expound the full implications of this experience, a writing activity may help some reflect further on their experiences. In the 2000 simulation, participants were asked to write at least one page in their journals about the simulation. Taylor (1998) also recommends using student journals in the final phase of a simulation cycle to give participants a chance to process the experience, and also give simulation organizers a valuable assessment tool to find out what worked / didn't work during the simulation.

Pros and Cons of the NaZa NaZa Experience

"This simulation is all about learning from mistakes. Before participants do the simulation, it is probably important to remind them to expect some mistakes and not worry when things don't go smoothly."
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the NaZa NaZa simulation? To answer that question objectively, participants should complete a feedback questionnaire. A proposed feedback form for this simulation appears at In the 2000 simulation, no empirical feedback data was obtained. I will therefore just mention three private concerns as a simulation organizer / designer.
First, Japanese are often fearful of mistakes. This simulation is all about learning from mistakes. Before participants do the simulation, it is probably important to remind them to expect some mistakes and not worry when things don't go smoothly. Things are meant to "go wrong" in this simulation. Nearly all Japanese going overseas will experience communication breakdowns. This simulation gives participants a chance to experience those in a safe setting and consider ways of dealing with communication breakdowns.
A second concern is about the final closure. Shirts (1977) said that one of the most common mistakes when conducting simulations is premature closure. In the final sub-phase of the in-class simulation, it is important to encourage all of participants to speak up, either in their native tongue or in English. Many Japanese are willing to speak to small groups of friends, but reluctant to talk in front of large groups of strangers. Moreover, many hesitate to say things which might seem novel or controversial. It might be necessary for the organizer to remind students not to worry, or perhaps even to prod them to speak up. If participants feel too shy to discuss issues in large groups, one option is to divide them into smaller groups. For this reason, it may be good to give the Na and Za leaders a copy of the discussion questions in advance, so they can help lead smaller discussion groups if the simulation organizer decides to take that option. (If you break into smaller discussion groups, make sure each group has a roughly equal number of participants from both cultures).
Finally, when conducting simulations such as NaZa NaZa in EFL settings, I would emphasize the need to keep the language simple. Also, allowing participants to use some of their mother tongue when they feel compelled to do so is important. NaZa NaZa can be used in language classes as a hybrid activity with both linguistic and psycho-social components. In the 2000 simulation, participants were given the option of code switching. Foreign language teachers might want to think carefully of the merits and demerits of having all phases of a simulation activity in the target language.

Other Cross-Cultural Simulations

Is NaZa NaZa the most appropriate cross-cultural simulation for EFL students in Japan? That question is worth considering. Steinwachs (1998) recommends a simpler cross-cultural simulation known as Barnga for 90 minute classes. Barnga is a game which shows how hidden norms vary among groups. Pittenger and Heimann (1998) add, "Participants are led to the realization that, in spite of surface similarities, people from other cultures have differences in the way they do things. A person has to reconcile these differences to function effectively in a cross-cultural group." A good overview of Barnga is available at
Another cross-cultural simulation sometimes used in foreign language classes is Ecotonos. Ecotonos explores problem-solving strategies in a series of four cultural scenarios. Armour (2000) adds that it allows participants to, ". . .experience the dynamics, processes, advantages, and disadvantages of decision-making across multifarious differences". Unlike the other simulations mentioned in this paper, Ecotonos permits participants to change their cultural rules. This gives Ecotonos a greater degree of flexibility than the other simulations, but it typically takes more time to complete a simulation. Information about Ecotonos is available at www.interculturalpress. com/shop/ecotonostext.html.
There are many other cross-cultural simulation activities not mentioned in this article. Information about a wide range of simulation activities as well as theoretical discussions of the principles underlying simulations are available through the International Simulation & Gaming Association or the Association for Business Simulation and Experiential Learning.


According to the ICS Kokusai Bunka Kyouiku Sentaa (1994, p. 15), culture shock is a common experience of Japanese studying abroad. A well-designed pre-departure program may help reduce some aspects of culture shock. As Shannon (1995) notes, "Study abroad begins long before students leave their own shores."
The survey in Appendix 1 suggests that many post-secondary schools in Japan do not have well-organized pre-departure training components in their study abroad programs. Moreover, none of the schools surveyed in Appendix 1 indicated they were using experiential simulations in their pre-departure programs. Kelly (1997) remarks that discovery learning activities are not widely used in Japan because the pedagogy is at odds with the prevailing educational paradigm which values the memorization of facts and "hard" information.
It is worth briefly noting that several schools which had well-structured pre-departure training programs a decade ago have discontinued them due to financial constraints. With shrinking student enrollments, a stagnant domestic economy, and concerns about terrorism abroad, a downturn in the number of post-secondary students studying abroad has begun. Nonetheless, institutions which do offer study-abroad programs should seek to develop well-planned pre-departure training programs which simulate some aspects of the overseas experience. This paper has outlined one way of adapting a cross-cultural simulation activity in a Japanese EFL context.


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Abstract Nihongo no Gainen Introduction Rationale BáFá BáFá NaZa NaZa
Other Simulations Conclusion Survey Results Na Rules & Na materials Za Rules & Za materials Feedback Form

Categorical Index Subject Index Title Index
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Copyright (c) 2001 by Tim Newfields. All rights reserved.