平成１９年度後期一般教育科目の特別講義「グローバルな視野とコミュニケーションのための英語セミナー」（コーティネーター：宮浦国江、中山麻衣子、R Edumunds）がオムニバス形式で行われた。佐々木学長をはじめ、内外の多くの講師が登壇し、2007年の10月４日から今年の１月31日まで、14回にわたり、英語による講義を行った（毎週木曜５限H004教室 受講生約150名）。１月13日・第13回目の講師は、マリーナ・ロマエヴァであった。パワーポイントを使った内容の濃い話だった。以下に掲載する英文テキストは、当日の講義の内容である。
Challenges posed by switching between languages.
Does it lead to an identity change?
Thank you, Ms. Chairperson, for your kind introduction. I am delighted that so many of you have joined us for this talk and discussion and hope that you will find it inspiring and meaningful. The topic I have chosen for today’s speech has something to do with everyone who has ever tried to communicate in a foreign language. What changes happen to the speaker when they consciously put themselves in a different language environment? Are they confined to simply changing the linguistic code, or also include elements of acting, pretending to be someone who speaks this foreign language as their native one? My talk is by no means a scholarly presentation loaded with technical terms. It is rather an account of my personal experience, which I believe is not unique but shared by every student of foreign languages. So let the talk begin.
My favourite metaphor for a foreign language as an object of learning is a huge multi-storey building with innumerable entrances and windows, something like the Japanese department stores “Apita” or “Jusco”, but on a much larger scale. You can get into it through the main entrance or sneak in through the back door, or even choose not to enter it at all, contenting yourself with window shopping. Or just use its parking space or lavatory and never bother to even glance inside it through the window. I know quite a few Japanese language students in my country who first did not intend to study it systematically but chose it as their major out of sheer curiosity. Wanted to understand what their favourite anime characters say, or what the ikebana terms like “shin” or “tome”, or karate terms like “osu” and “maegeri” mean in Russian. Or, like my younger brother, who unfortunately never actually made it inside the building, was fascinated by the Japanese aircraft and navy during the Pacific War, or strived to understand Japan’s motives for launching it, as my Dad does – he often asks me what the original words of Isoroku Yamamoto were. In the cases I have just cited the main focus of learners’ attention is the Japanese language itself, but you can easily imagine situations where you only need a parking space or lavatory in this spacious building. Think of a lingua franca like English – many of my classmates at the university in Russia were quite indifferent to it, and the only use they ever put it to was looking up for Japanese words in English-Japanese dictionaries. All this because there are still very few Russian-Japanese dictionaries, and the existing ones do not even come close to their English analogues.
you pick up your courage and enter the building, you get immersed in a
strikingly different environment. You stop being a walker or a car driver and
become either a client or a member of staff – in other words, from that point
on, you have to take on a new role and act in accordance with both your goals
and the expectations of those surrounding you. By the way, you do not need to
travel to another country to experience this – I clearly remember that it was
exactly the way I felt when I accompanied a Japanese delegation to my
The more fluent you become in a foreign language, the more smoothly that process of switching between your native way of speaking, thinking and acting – your “default identity” – and the one you choose to adopt – your “identity by choice” – occurs. Which is the most conspicuous change associated with the progress in a foreign language and can be best measured by the easiness with which you pick the necessary phrases to effectively interact with native speakers in various situations. This change can be compared with the steady improvement of a young actor’s performing skills and their memorizing abilities until the point when they do not need to wait for their cue in order to say the right line any more. At that point the audience stops seeing the actor performing the role of, say, Hamlet or Tartuffe, stops singling this actor out of more seasoned members of the troupe, and can concentrate on the story being unfolded on the scene. And the other actors, on their part, stop fearing lest their inexperienced colleague makes a blunder, and start treating them as an equal. This “theatre” metaphor provides a glimpse of what new opportunities await an accomplished foreign language learner. Simply put, you are not perceived as a foreigner, an alien any more, which is the final step of integrating into the community whose language you chose for studying. Needless to say, a complete social integration requires much more than the mere knowledge of grammar rules, and the importance of mastering the cultural concepts as well as the role of body language cannot be overestimated. However, for a diligent student, these aspects are probably inseparable from language per se, and their knowledge is normally acquired simultaneously with standard language skills.
The conspicuous change I have dwelt on at length – assimilating into a new language environment – is inevitably accompanied by adopting a new identity, which I described earlier as the “identity by choice” (contrasted with the “default identity”). And it is precisely this inevitable corollary that poses a serious challenge to foreign language students: how to live with this “split language personality”, how to prevent your “default identity” from being eroded and supplanted by the newly adopted one. The worst possible outcome is falling between two stools, ending up with the first identity half eroded and the second one half shaped. That is the situation I find myself in at present, having been immersed into the Japanese language environment for 4 years now, staying out of touch with other foreigners and my compatriots for most of the time.
Before getting down to the analysis of this “default identity” erosion process, let us briefly examine the preceding stage, i.e. the formation of the “identity by choice”. Learning a foreign language is always learning to be someone else, acquiring a portion of “Englishness” or “Japaneseness” along with standard language skills, so that in the end your switching between languages occurs so smoothly you could call it an “instantaneous reincarnation” into an English or Japanese native speaker. The highest praise from a member of the community whose language you are studying would sound like “your English/Japanese is so fluent and idiomatic”, “you could be taken for a native speaker” – in other words, you are constantly encouraged to conceal your “linguistic origins” until you blend in with the background. One of the easiest ways to achieve it is constantly copying others’ speech patterns and imitating their behavioral patterns, like a Japanese traditional bow, for example, or typical nodding and saying “hai” in agreement.
allow me to digress for a moment and tell you an anecdote from my own
experience, which is directly related to the subject of copying. I had only
back to that period of my life, I reckon it was an important stage in the
formation of my Japanese-oriented “identity by choice”. I was stitching
together those scraps of “Japaneseness” – Japanese
speech and behavioral patterns I had managed to collect from a wide range of
sources during the years of studying this language at university and my short
first encounter with the Japanese was at a world championship in ski
orienteering that my hometown
Now, I am told that after each lecture within the framework of this project you are requested to write a short essay describing your impressions and giving your comments. I suggest that if you find it worthwhile, you write a paragraph or two about your first encounter with the foreign language you are studying. Who were your first role models, the people who influenced the formation of your “identity by choice”? Were they famous actors, singers, novelists or politicians who you only saw on the screen or heard on the radio, or the people who you actually met and communicated with? I would appreciate it if you shared your experience of selecting, among the individual features of these role models, those you thought were typical of this foreign language native speakers. In other words, could you list the particular features you considered necessary to adopt as constituent elements of your new “identity by choice”?
I would like to draw a few examples from my personal experience, in order to facilitate your task. As I already mentioned, my first Japanese acquaintances were members of sports teams coming to my hometown to participate in international competitions. We, students, volunteered every year to interpret for them in order to improve our Japanese or English and learn more about the foreign countries we could not even dream of traveling to at that time, because none of us could afford it. We enjoyed working for Japanese teams immensely – and I fell in love with the language precisely because I admired those Japanese athletes and could adopt them as role models for building my own Japanese identity.
general, they seemed less individualistic and more modest than my
compatriots, and it was a pleasure communicating with them as I did not feel
the constant pressure to assert myself any more. And it was a great relief,
impressive quality that I was eager to adopt as a constituent of my new
Japanese identity, was what I found to be a nicely balanced combination of
respect shown to your partner and self-respect, which I discovered in my
Japanese acquaintances from all walks of life. The stereotypical image of
The next point I would like to discuss is the impact of this new “identity by choice” on your “default identity”. The changes occurring to your “default identity” are all the harder to notice as most of us have only a vague idea of what comprises our “default identity”. We are used to thinking of it as something given, inborn and immune to outside influence, something that is acquired together with the native language in childhood and remains unchanged for the whole of our life. However, in reality, our “default language identity” is the product of a certain social and linguistic environment we have been brought up in, nurture rather than nature, and its integrity is contingent on our constantly staying in touch with our home environment. Starting to learn a foreign language and, as a corollary of this process, building a new “identity by choice” inevitably disturbs a delicate balance between your “default identity” and your native language environment, as many of the new features you choose to adopt might come into conflict with the constituents of your “default identity” and eventually start eroding it. As a result, you may temporarily lose the ability to adequately respond to the stimuli of your home environment. This is what happened to me in that episode with the Russian policeman, when I had forgotten the natural way of addressing and communicating with them in my home country. The root of the problem lies in the necessity of synchronizing your switching between languages with switching between identities, which is not easily achieved even when you are living in your native country, and is further compounded by your “default identity” gradually giving in to the pressure of the newly acquired one, when you have been exposed to a foreign language environment for a long time.
longer I am living in
Here I would pause again to formulate another question I would like you to reflect on. Many of you probably have the experience of getting immersed into a foreign language environment for a long period. Have you had any problems switching back to your “default identity”, such as automatically applying the speech and behavioural patterns you have adopted in the process of learning a foreign language, in communicating with the members of your native language community? If yes, could you provide a few examples of what you considered to be the manifestation of the erosion of your “default identity”?
Again, an important qualification needs to be made here. I am by no means implying that the average Japanese is “八方美人”, for instance. It is rather a stereotype of the average Japanese, which is perpetuated by the writings of many non-Japanese and quite a few Japanese social scientists. Nevertheless, even being aware of the danger of accepting such stereotypes at face value, a foreign language student still has to fall back on them from time to time, in the process of constructing their “identity by choice”. At the very beginning, they can lay in its foundation the observations of the first native speakers they met, who they adopted as role models when they started learning this foreign language. But as the circle of their foreign acquaintances grows wider, they realize that what they took for “typical national traits” at first, were rather individual characteristics of their acquaintances, and that their new identity might have been based on the wrong assumptions. They become aware of the vast variety of speech and behavioural patterns, sets of value and social attitudes among the native speakers of the language they are studying. We all know that the very concept of a national character is to a large extent a fiction, that we should avoid sweeping generalizations. But when you find yourself in an alien environment, you instinctively start searching for speech and behavioural patterns, following which could help you achieve your communicative goals. As I already mentioned in my today’s talk, the most common method is copying, but first you have to select exactly what to copy, what would serve as a blueprint for your “identity of choice”. And in this process of selection, making assumptions about the national character and adopting them as guidelines for your future communicative behaviour is, perhaps, unavoidable. And it is never easy to know when to stop. I realize now how often, in an earnest effort to capture the quintessence of “Japaneseness”, I fell into the trap of generalizing, and far from looking and sounding natural, appeared more like a jumble of stereotypical features that are ascribed (not always correctly) to the so-called “average Japanese”. Earlier, in reviewing the process of learning a foreign language, I called your attention to the fact that we are constantly encouraged to conceal our “linguistic origins” until we blend in with the background. I think now I might have gone too far in an attempt to camouflage my “default identity”, which led, apart from the erosion of my “default identity”, to a curious phenomenon that could be described as an “identity disorder”.
of its most prominent manifestations is a strange allergy I have recently
developed to obviously well-meant comments by Japanese native speakers like
“You speak Japanese so well”. I know it sounds absurd, but these kind remarks
usually have the opposite effect on me – I suddenly feel exposed, my “true colours”, that is, my “non-Japaneseness”
revealed so ruthlessly that I get lost for words. It is not that I wish I had
not been born Russian, that I would readily abandon all my daily habits –
including dressing and eating habits – in favour of
the Japanese ones. No, in my case, this odd phenomenon has always been
restricted to the realm of language. Always desperately trying not to stand
out, not to give away my “default identity”. A year ago, I seriously
considered applying for some ordinary and uninspiring job in
Imagine a chameleon that was born wearing a particular colour, but then learnt – as all chameleons do – to change it according to its surroundings. One day, after a series of remarkably successful transformations, it suddenly lost its confidence and froze on the leaf to the colour of which it had just adjusted its body colour. It is afraid to move, let alone return to its usual colour or habitat, and only wishes to remain in this state as long as possible, not because it feels particularly comfortable in it, but because it dreads the idea of failing to regain this state after it returned to its normal colour.
To sum up, learning to switch smoothly between languages both offers new opportunities (which can be broadly described as being treated as an equal in the community whose language you are studying, like enjoying full membership in an elite sports club) and poses such formidable challenges as the erosion of your “default identity” and the “identity disorder”, to which I will refer from this point on as the “chameleon dilemma”.
“chameleon dilemma” that a foreign language student might get caught in is
further complicated in ethnically homogeneous societies like
first is, unless they come from the neighbouring
Asian countries, their appearance, which automatically distinguishes them
from the members of the local community. Here an analogy can be drawn with
the plight of dark skin people in my native country. A sizeable number of
them, born and bred in Russia, reside in the European part of my country –
they are sometimes called the “legacy of the Moscow Olympics” of 1980 – and
many more come to study from abroad, but whatever their origins and ability
to speak Russian are, they never fail to catch people’s attention and are
bound to be identified as outsiders, merely because of their skin colour. On the other hand, in
coming back to the issue of the “betraying appearance” of non-Asian foreign
second factor that exacerbates the “chameleon dilemma” facing foreign
language students in ethnically homogeneous societies like
friend of mine, who came to
second, more recent, incident happened to me a couple of weeks ago, during my
“Why do we snap like this?” I asked my Swiss friend, “We pride ourselves on our proficiency in English and yet feel so hurt when they address us in it”. And he replied that the reason is probably the double shock of being denied a Japanese “identity by choice” and being automatically applied the “English speaker” label, so that the ability to speak English is assumed to be the determinant of our “default identity”. This might leave you with the impression that your “default identity” has been reduced to this simple – and false – proposition: all foreigners speak English and cannot understand Japanese. And after a while it starts to annoy you, until one day you fly off the handle and begin snapping at everyone who addresses you in English.
I would like to break here for a moment and ask you, before proceeding to the concluding part of my talk, the third question, which is related to what I described as the denial of your “default identity”. Many of you must have been to foreign countries (probably, English-speaking countries, as we are talking here in English) either for short pleasure trips or for a longer period of studying there. Have you noticed any general trend in the way you were treated by the native speakers of that foreign language, any “default identity” settings that were applied to you? If yes, what formed the core of these settings – your Asian appearance, your religion (one might think of it in the case of Islamic countries – for instance, if you are a girl, not wearing a head covering like hijab in public), your accent, or something else? And what was the consequence of being applied these “default identity” settings? Did you feel you were given a favourable, even preferential treatment as a foreigner, that they made allowances for you as a non-native speaker of the language? Or, on the contrary, did their treatment seem discriminatory to you?
I have mainly focused on the negative sides on being applied the “default
identity” settings for a foreigner in
Traditionally, the last section of a talk raising a problem and dealing with it at length should be devoted to outlying its possible solutions. However, I must admit, even though I risk disappointing you, that I have no ready-made solutions to offer. The conflict arising between a foreign language learner trying to integrate into the community speaking the language of their choice, and the members of this community, who, while bearing no malice towards that individual, naturally tend to view and treat them as an alien, is unavoidable. Equally unavoidable is the conflict between this individual’s “default identity” and their “identity by choice”. A foreign language student can choose either to leave this situation as it is, or try to tackle it, but if they prefer the latter option, they need to set their priorities first.
While it seems highly unlikely to me that they would be able to radically change the attitudes of the members of the community they are living in, as their efforts would probably be defeated by sheer weight of numbers, I believe they have a reasonable chance of success if they choose instead to focus on exploring their “default identity”. As I stated earlier, your “default identity” is not a constant, something predetermined by your nationality, gender, the political situation in your country, etc. Rather it is the product of a certain social and linguistic environment, remaining open to change for your whole life. And it is you who should act as the main agent of change, exploring your “default identity”, examining its constituent elements, learning more about your native country and your mother tongue, and making a conscious effort to enrich and develop your “default identity” day by day. And when you are fully conscious of the distinctive “default identity” you possess, you would probably stop feeling that you have to conceal it. On the contrary, you would be proud of it and feel an urge to make those surrounding you aware of its existence. In fact, this can be viewed as a way out of the “chameleon dilemma”!
But I again have to remind you and myself that there are no ready-made solutions to this host of problems associated with multiple language identities. I wish you every success in finding your own.
Thank you for your attention.
おろしゃ 会」会報 第15号