115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Teaching the Topic of Family Through TV Animation

Kyoko Hammond, University of Tennessee, Martin

The theme of family is an integral and unavoidable component of virtually all foreign language courses. I show that Japanese TV animation can serve as a useful point of departure from which all learners, regardless of cultural or familial background, can approach the theme of family in a meaningful and productive way.

Proposal: 

The theme of family is an integral and unavoidable component of virtually all foreign language courses at the beginning and low-intermediate levels. In the case of Japanese, a discussion of family requires that teachers introduce not only relevant vocabulary and structure, but also that they familiarize their students with unique cultural aspects of Japanese society as it pertains to the family. However, this topic can be a sensitive one for some students, since students are typically expected to describe their own family in classroom activities and assignments, and – for a wide variety of reasons – not all students feel comfortable doing so.

 

In my paper, I will show that Japanese TV animation can serve as a useful point of departure from which all learners, regardless of cultural or familial background, can approach the theme of family in a meaningful and productive way. By displacing the discussion of family onto fictional figures in Japanese animation, students are able to immerse themselves in the subject without it becoming a source of anxiety or tension. Although I discuss this topic in the context of the teaching of Japanese, I will be providing teachers of any foreign language with methodological tools they can apply in this context to the teaching of their own respective target languages.

 

Below are but a few examples how I have used a TV animation in my class.

 

Example 1: A common question in the context of this topic is “how many family members do you   have?” Textbook illustrations often depict a family tree with a father, a mother, children with grandparents; however, instructors need to be aware that this model may not bear any resemblance to the family structure of some students. The lesson plan, therefore, ought to incorporate cultural norms in a particular society, but instructors should be careful not to make the discussion excessively personal. To avoid creating an uncomfortable situation, using a fictional family in a TV animation is a great tool. Students can describe “their” family based on the family in the show.

 

Example 2: Instructors also can choose an animation that shows a traditional family structure and a more modern family structure. Instead of explaining the change, students can watch episodes from various shows and analyze the change for themselves, which in turn provides plenty of material for discussion and the introduction of relevant new vocabulary.

 

Example 3: In the case of the Japanese language, there are at least two pairs of words for each family term (e.g. father, mother, etc.). One set consists of “humble” terms while the other is composed of “polite” terms. One should be used when a person introduces his/her family to others and the other set is intended to be used when a person talks about another person’s family. But the use of this rule can vary quite a bit when family members are addressing one another. Students can learn this concept by reading a text, but it will be clearer and much more engaging if they can actually see how Japanese people use those terms in a real setting. For this purpose, I use an animation series titled “Sazae san” wherein family structure does not follow expectations that students typically have based on each character’s appearance. Instead, learners need to figure out Sazae’s family structure by paying close attention to what each person calls the other. This activity again prepares the class for a revealing discussion of family dynamics in Japanese culture.

 

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