Linguistic Research 32 (Special Edition), 1-13. High School Course of Study for English set forth by the Japanese Ministry of Education started emphasizing communication and communicative approach around the year 1990. In recent years, acquisition of communicative competence has become the most important objective of English language education in Japan as globalization affects diverse aspects of governmental and enterprise sectors of the Japanese society. On the other hand, while asking the right questions at the right time is an integral part of effective oral interactions, Japanese EFL learners experience processing and other difficulties in doing so. First, in classroom situations, students are generally discouraged from asking the teacher, and each other, any direct questions. Second, this leads to a general lack of communicative intelligence among those students in coming up with interesting things to ask. Third, producing English question sentences on the fly poses non-negligible processing difficulties for Japanese EFL learners. In Japanese, question sentences are formed simply by adding the question marker "ka" at the end of a sentence without changing the word order. In contrast, construing and constructing question sentences in English involves a variety of syntactic and morphological processing, resulting in a higher cognitive load compared to corresponding statement sentences. In this study, we will report on the results of one of a series of data collection efforts conducted in 2013, in which Japanese university students with diverse proficiency levels were asked to produce or reproduce English statement sentences and wh-questions based on visually or aurally presented English sentences. The results show that students had more difficulty when they were asked to convert statement sentences into wh-questions than when they were asked to simply reproduce the sentences that were presented. However, their average rates of correct answers improved in the course of investigation, possibly showing implicit learning.
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