President’s Message – Fall 2013

My schedule this year from spring through summer was different from that of the past several years. First, while I normally teach three courses at San Francisco State University, I spent my sabbatical semester on working on an edited volume entitled the “Handbook of Japanese Applied Linguistics,” one of the eleven handbooks on Japanese linguistics to be published in the next several years. Second, while I usually spend early June in Japan, I left San Francisco much later this year. This is in part because I continue to be a guest professor at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics (NINJAL) in Tokyo. But more importantly, because I am planning to hold the Eighth International Conference on Practical Linguistics of Japanese (ICPLJ8) at NINJAL on March 22-23, 2014, I flew to Japan late July for attending preparation meetings for ICPLJ8. During my visit to Japan, I also gave a series of special intensive lectures at Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) located near Kobe, arguably one of the best private universities in Japan. My lectures at KGU were very productive and fruitful; because KGU and SF State University recently established a bilateral exchange program, I wanted to get a feel for KGU’s academic environment for future exchange students from SF State University.

To begin with, I would like to report that last year’s FLANC Workshops and Conference –– “Languages are the Golden Gate to Culture,” which was held at SF State University in late October, was a great success. To those who attended the conference, I would like to express my sincere appreciation. To the presenters, I am very much appreciative of your efforts in making preparations for your presentations. We were very happy to have all of you at the conference. At the conference, we also enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the plenary lecture by Dr. H. Douglas Brown, Professor Emeritus at SF State University. The title of his lecture was “The Social Responsibility of Language Teachers.” To those who missed the chance to listen to this world-renowned scholar’s lecture, do not get disappointed. His lecture is included in Volume 6 of Connections, the official journal of FLANC, which is now available.

As you may be aware, FLANC, created at UC Berkeley in 1952, is the oldest foreign language organization in Northern California. Last year’s conference thus marked the sixtieth anniversary. Celebrating one’s sixtieth birthday is called “kan’reki” in Japanese, and it is an auspicious occasion because it is considered a time of rebirth in Japan. This explanation may sound perplexing, but when a person lives to see his or her sixtieth calendar year, that person has lived through the entire sixty-year cycle of the traditional eto calendar and returned to the same “year” in which he or she was born (that is, the Least Common Multiple of ten stems/signs and twelve branches [which are the Chinese twelve zodiac]). The celebration of this feat has been popular since the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Furthermore, the concept of kan’reki is connected to the idea of rebirth, and, in this sense, FLANC is reborn and beginning another sixty years. Therefore, this year’s FLANC Workshops and Conference –– “Languages: Key to the Future,” which will be held at Chabot College in Hayward on October 25 and 26, holds significant meaning.

As you may know, FLANC gives awards in the form of scholarships and grants. I would like to make a report on the recipients of the Alexandra C. Wallace Essay Contest Award, which was initiated by FLANC two years ago. The firstplace recipient was Ms. Wing Yan Yip, a senior who just finished four years of French at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto. The second-place recipient was Ms. Rachel Sowa, a third-year German student at Livermore High School. Chris Wallace, FLANC’s Executive Council member and Alexandra C. Wallace’s brother is happy about these results.

The Cecilia Ross Memorial Grant went to Ms. Arisa Hiroi, a graduate student at SF State University. Ms. Hiroi’s project is entitled “Socio-Economic/Cultural Factors and Parents’ Attitudes Toward Bilingual Education.” In the past, researchers, policymakers, administrators, the public, and those actively involved in bilingual programs have been engaged in heated discussions both for and against bilingual education. Ms. Hiroi’s project is in the early stages, but I am certain that the findings in her study, which will shed light on parental attitudes toward bilingualism and bilingual education, will be very useful not only to researchers but also to the U.S. public in general. Her study will further address critical issues in the field of education, particularly in the sense that bilingual studies greatly help not only parents but also teachers working with children from both English- and non-English speaking homes.

Ms. Hiroi agreed to present her research findings at the FLANC Workshops and Conference 2014 and write an article for Connections hereafter. She says that the grant itself is exciting, but the idea of presenting at a conference and writing a paper for a journal is even more so. Ms. Hiroi just left for Japan, in order to participate in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. The JET Program, which started in 1987, has continued to be effective as a way to improve exposure to international culture and language throughout Japan. Many JET alumni and alumna continue to promote intercultural and international awareness in their homes and careers long after completing the JET Program. Along with her research project, I am thus certain that Ms. Hiroi’s future contribution not only to FLANC but also to bilingual education in the U.S. will be immense. More specifically, her research can be disseminated not only in the form of conference presentations and scholarly articles but also to popular media; thus, people in the United States will benefit from her research.

As I mentioned earlier, Volume 6 of Connections includes Dr. Brown’s plenary lecture. It also includes two articles prepared by those working for the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), located at the Presidio of Monterey. As you may know, the Defense Language Institute (DLI) is an educational and research institution that provides linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, and a great number of customers around the world. Volume 6, as a matter of fact, also includes my article entitled “Getting Down to Business: Curriculum Development for Business Japanese Courses.” My article is a report on a (relatively) recently completed two-year curricular project, “Enhancing Business Japanese Pedagogy,” at SF State University. In this article I discussed course materials developed for use in two business-related Japanese courses, “Business Japanese” and “Advanced Business Japanese: Business Writing.” Specifically, the project described in the article developed digital audio-visual teaching modules, designed to broaden the learning experience of students studying Japanese as a second or foreign language. My article in Volume 6 of Connections is the fruit of a 2009 U.S. Department of Education “Business and International Education” (BIE) grant, which not only allowed us to restructure SF State’s Japanese Program’s business related courses but it also supported my research over three years (2009 – 2011).

For a researcher, receiving grants is imperative. But my research has now shifted to another area. Because I was on sabbatical last spring, I spent the beginning of this year in Japan for the first time in six years. I attended the “International Symposium on the Construction of the Learners’ Corpus of Japanese as a Second Language (L2)” at NINJAL. This symposium initiated a four-year project, which, being supported by a grant from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science 2012 ­– 2015, is a fairly big and, moreover, ambitious one that attempts to gather Japanese-language learners’ cross-sectional as well as longitudinal data in seventeen countries. As a guest professor of NINJAL, I am very honored and excited to be involved in this researcher-teacher collaboration project that plans to examine possibly different uses of the Japanese language by those native speakers of more than a dozen of different languages/dialects, namely, Chinese (both in China and Taiwan), English (in England, America, and Australia), French, Hungarian, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

The above-described symposium and ICPLJ8, which I also mentioned at the very beginning, both serve as forums in which to examine contributions in a variety of L2 studies to the teaching and learning of Japanese in the L2 classroom. These conferences have at least two continuing interrelated areas of benefit. To begin with, both researchers and teachers benefit from each other’s expertise and receive new insights applicable to their respective fields. Second and more important, these conferences serve as forums to promote ways in which to apply L2 theories to the learning of Japanese as an L2. In other words, what researchers have learned from both theory and practice can serve as informative tools for effective language teaching; conversely, language educators have a great deal to offer researchers regarding the phenomenon of language. These conferences integrate theoretical concepts and empirical research findings in L2 development, so that they can be applied to educational practice. For this reason, the main orientation is to advocate the importance of the integration of theoretical and empirical research findings in L2 development (including bilingualism) for application to educational practices. If this bidirectional relationship is firmly established, future research projects will appeal to not only researchers but also practitioners and make them more successful.

Finally, let me mention Connections again. You may recall Ms. Nobu Kurashige’s presentation at the FLANC 2011 Conference at Berkeley City College. Many activities were organized to promote cross-cultural understanding at the FLANC 2011 Conference, and one of them was a live lecture-demonstration of flower arrangement entitled “The Odyssey of Ikenobo Ikebana: 550 Years” by Ms. Kurashige, Head Ikenobo Professor and Managing Director of Ikenobo Ikebana, North America (which is located in San Francisco’s Japantown). [Incidentally, ikebana, the Japanese art of making flower arrangements, literally means “flowers kept alive.” Ms. Kurashige’s ikebana demonstration illustrated the dazzling beauty of flowers as it has been interpreted in this art form for over 500 years.] We felt, at the time of the conference, that it would be a good idea to ask Ms. Kurashige to write a short article on her thoughts about cross-cultural understanding through flower arrangements for Connections. I am happy to announce that her article will appear in the next issue of Volume 6, which you, as a FLANC member, can pick up when you attend the FLANC Workshops and Conference 2013 in Hayward. I look forward to seeing all of you.

Your FLANC present,

Masahiko Minami, SF State University/NINJAL