Rectifying Japanese students' misconceptions about the subject of english sentences interference from the Japanese particle (wa)

Eriko Mizushina, Keiichi Magara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In Japanese sentences, the particle (wa) is used not only to indicate the subject of a sentence, but also to mark the topic (e.g., in English, "as for..."). Words preceding in a Japanese sentence do not, therefore, consistently correspond to the subject of that sentence when translated into English. Furthermore, in Japanese sentences, the subject is often unstated. As a result, when native speakers of Japanese are asked to translate into English sentences in Japanese in which the particle is used as a topic indicator, they may misidentify the topic as the subject of those sentences. In Study 1, junior high school students (N =57) and high school students (N = 114) were presented with incorrect English sentences in which words preceding the particle were incorrectly translated as the subject of the sentence (e.g., Yesterday was a part-time job ; January is my birthday ; All my shirts bring to the laundry). The participants were asked to judge whether each sentence was correct. Incorrect sentences were judged to be correct by 40%-80% of the participants, suggesting that their knowledge of Japanese had interfered with their understanding of the concept of the subject in English sentences. In Study 2, high school students (N=89) read an instructional text which explained the difference between words preceding the particle in Japanese sentences and the subject of English sentences. After reading this material, the students correctly evaluated the incorrect sentences as incorrect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-583
Number of pages11
JournalJapanese Journal of Educational Psychology
Volume55
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Dec

Keywords

  • Junior high and high school students
  • Misconception about grammar
  • Teaching grammar
  • Translation of Japanese sentences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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