Journal of Nanzan Junior College. Vol. 29. Dec. 2001. (p. 107 - 129)

NaZa NaZa: A Classroom Adaptation
of a Cross-Cultural Training Simulation

by Tim Newfields

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

According to the Kokusai Bunka Kyouiku Sentaa (1990), a majority of schools of higher learning in Japan have overseas study programs. Typically, such programs enable students to spend a summer or semester at an affiliated school and are reputed to help participants develop an "international awareness". As Gillespie, Braskamp, and Braskamp (1999) note, evaluating study abroad programs presents many challenges. In Japan, most schools do not use any formal assessment criteria to evaluate their overseas programs. Instead, they rely on subjective impressions or informal feedback from students.
How do universities and junior colleges in Japan prepare students for study abroad programs? To answer that I asked a convenience sample of thirty-three teachers working at Japanese post-secondary schools about the overseas programs at their schools. Of the 28 respondents who completed the survey, 82% (n=23) indicated their school had a formal overseas study program. 61% (n=17) said that their school also offered some pre-departure training, which ranged from a few brief explanatory meetings to a year long orientation. And 36% (n=10) of the respondents indicated that a faculty member or school representative accompanied the participants during their overseas stay. Appendix 1 summarizes the survey results.
At Nanzan Junior College, a 15-session orientation program for those intending to study overseas (or volunteer in a multi-ethnic setting in Japan) has been held since 2000. During the initial orientation program, one training session consisted of a cross-cultural simulation similar to BáFá BáFá. This article describes how that simulation was adapted to a Japanese EFL context. Some of the strengths and weaknesses of educational simulations are also discussed.

Rationale for Simulations
"The emphasis of process over content, as well as a belief that learner involvement is a core part of the learning process are hallmarks of discovery learning."

One issue worth addressing from the onset is the rationale for simulations. Why have simulations for those heading overseas when it might be easier to explain a few points or simply mention a list of 'do's' and 'don'ts'?" The answer is rooted in the concept of discovery learning and in a constructionist paradigm. Munsell (1995) remarks that discovery learning, "focuses on learning-by-doing, not learning-by-showing." The emphasis of process over content, as well as a belief that learner involvement is a core part of the learning process are hallmarks of discovery learning.
Keeton & Pamela (1978) suggest that to move beyond a mere exchange of opinions to a deeper level of cross-cultural understanding, just lecturing about cultural differences is of limited value. Participants need to gain a first-hand sense of what visiting a foreign culture is like. Successful cross-cultural simulations offer a chance to experience a simplified form of a foreign culture. It goes without saying that cross-cultural simulations mimic reality in some respects and distort it in others. Actual overseas conditions are bound to be more complex and unpredictable than simulated settings. However, simulations do offer participants a safe place to try out new behaviors, make mistakes without dire consequences, and learn more about social interactions. As Morgan (2000) notes, well-designed simulations are effective instructional tools that empower participants and significantly change teacher roles. By offering participants a taste of dealing with cross-cultural stress and communication breakdowns, overseas experiences may seem less daunting.
Cross-cultural simulations are by no means a panacea to help participants with all types of intercultural conflicts. At best, participants might gain a deeper perspective of their own values and a tolerance for diverse positions. As Hall (1997) notes, "Culture is dictatorial unless understood and examined." Cross cultural simulations offer an opportunity for participants to examine what their orientations are, and see how they relate to others.
Nearly all simulation activities involve a cycle detailed by Tourunen (1992) which starts with a concrete experience, followed by a period of observation or reflection, then finally a time for conceptualization.

BáFá BáFá - An Overview

Perhaps one of the most well known cross-cultural simulations is BáFá BáFá, developed by R. Garry Shirts in 1977 to sensitize U.S. Navy personnel to unfamiliar environments. Designed to simulate overseas travel, it provides a glimpse of some of the dilemmas cross-cultural interactions may involve.
In a BáFá BáFá simulation, participants are divided into two groups. One group, known as Alpha, represents what Hall (1977) describes as a "high-context culture" with ritualized, group-oriented interactions and a rigid social hierarchy. The other group, known as Beta, is a "low-context culture" which values individualism and doing business without wasting time. As Steinwachs (1998) points out, "the cultures are carefully constructed to be different from one another, but with basics which can be misinterpreted if you come from the opposite culture — e.g. leadership, currency, activities, etc."
After participants learn the basic rules of their group, they are systematically exposed to a "foreign" culture. Experiences of bewilderment and frustration are common. As participants learn more about the new culture, they develop what Hanvey (1978) refers to as "perspective consciousness". Basically, this is a recognition that we each have differing views and that other viewpoints also have legitimacy. Such a position reflects a cultural relativist orientation, which posits that, ". . . cultural values are arbitrary, and therefore the values of one culture should not be used as standards to evaluate the behavior of persons from outside that culture." (Bacigalupo, 2000). In other words, each culture defines its own conventions, which those from other cultures cannot validly judge.
The final discussion period in the BáFá BáFá simulation enables participants further explore the reasons behind the behaviors they observed. According to Wessex Training (2000), "Probably the most unique feature of BáFá BáFá is that the interest and involvement reaches a climax in the discussion after the simulation, rather than during the simulation itself. It is during [this] discussion that the mysteries of each of the cultures are unraveled and the participants compare perceptions of one another's culture."

Problems with BáFá BáFá in Japanese EFL Contexts

As Carrol (1997) points out, there are several problems in adapting BáFá BáFá to EFL classrooms.
First of all, the original instructions are too complex. Neologisms such as stipper, tibber and blimmer confuse many EFL students. Moreover, the BáFá BáFá simulation kit cassette tape is of little value for English speakers with limited proficiency.
Second, the language used by Betans (one of the simulation groups) is needlessly complex. Since the BáFá BáFá simulation was designed for a 3-4 hour time frame and most language classes have 60 - 90 minute time frames, the jargon introduced in this game should be kept to a minimum, yet still be sufficiently complex to convince outsiders that the Betan language is an alien tongue.
Third, members of the Alpha culture were supposed to have fast, chatty conversations prior to doing business. This exceeds the ability of many EFL students. Carrol recommends that participants memorize formulaic questions in advance. Giving students a list of 4-5 prescribed questions to ask helps some "perform" conversations. Adept students can move beyond such formulaic routines, but less proficient students often need structured support.
Fourth, the first BáFá BáFá observation capsule was only two minutes – a time frame probably too short for most EFL students. Carrol recommends a longer observation capsule of five minutes.
Finally, in classes with very unbalanced male-female ratios, the gender-based roles in the Alpha culture may require modification. For this reason I chose hair length a determiner of social status in that culture. (In the other culture, money determines status. People start out equal, but income gaps soon emerge.) To simplify matters, the simulation was revamped. The modified simulation, with vastly simplified rules, was renamed NaZa NaZa.

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