Language Ideology and Its Manifestations: Exploring Implications for Japanese Language Teaching


  • Mahua Bhattacharya Elizabethtown College



Language teaching is often seen as an ideologically neutral activity. Linguists have traditionally believed that what people say about language use or structure does not represent ‘real’ linguistic data (Schieffelin, et al, 1998:11).  However, it is precisely this dismissal that modern linguistic anthropologists hope to dispel. This paper attempts to lay bare the workings of language ideology and how it impacts language teaching in general and Japanese language pedagogy in particular.

The ideological orientation of what constitutes ‘standard’ Japanese language involves inclusion of certain components that are motivated by Nihonjinron discourses of ‘identity, aesthetics, morality and epistemology’ and processes of exclusion that ‘erase’ deviations from the ‘norm’ (Schieffelin, et al, 1998:3). 

Ideas about ‘native speaker’ understanding, selection of language materials, inclusion and exclusion of syntactical, lexical, and pragmatic forms in teaching manuals, etc., are all affected by these perspectives, some of which this paper will hope to enumerate. With concrete examples it will be demonstrated how flawed these processes are and how a critical pedagogical approach may help solve these issues.


Author Biography

Mahua Bhattacharya, Elizabethtown College

Mahua Bhattacharya is Professor of Japanese in the School of Arts and Humanities at Elizabethtown College. Her interest in Japanese language ideology emanates from her doctoral dissertation titled ‘Interpersonal Communication in Modern Japan: A Semiotic Analysis of Sociological Texts’ in which she explored the ideological uses of keigō. She has taught Japanese and Asian Studies courses in several institutions, both in the U.S. and India, and has particiapted in national and international conferences on Japanese language pedagogy, women’s studies, and Japanese literature.



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