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Applied Linguistics Review

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Understanding the NS/NNS division of labor in the creation and assessment of a Japanese university English entrance exam

Charles Allen Brown
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  • Research Faculty of International Media, Communication, and Tourism Studies, Hokkaido Daigaku, Kita-17 Nishi-8 Kita-Ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060–0808, Japan
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Published Online: 2017-01-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1029


The native speaker (NS) traditionally enjoyed a powerful position in language education. Later, critical applied linguists came to question this situation, arguing for the value of the non-native speaking (NNS) teacher. Despite this, research documents the status retained by the NS in language education in Japan. The present study adds to this discussion through an examination of one case in which NS and NNS work side by side: creating and assessing an entrance exam for one university in Japan. Drawing upon ethnographic methods, I examine differences in the involvement of these two groups in these processes with a focus upon the beliefs about language associated with this division of labor. Rather than indicating a situation in which NS linguistic knowledge simply trumped that held by the Japanese faculty, results reveal a more nuanced situation: The Japanese faculty guided the NS to adapt their language to align with what they – the Japanese faculty – viewed as language appropriate for such an exam. This paper is significant in elaborating upon the relationship between the NS and NNS in language education while also shedding light on practices surrounding university entrance exams.

Keywords: high-stakes testing; Japan; EFL; higher education; native-speakerism


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About the article

Charles Allen Brown

Charles Allen Brown works as an associate professor in the Research Faculty of International Media, Communication, and Tourism Studies at Hokkaido University, Japan. In his research, he draws upon critical pedagogy and ethnographic methods to understand the social consequences – especially those involving relations of power – associated with the institution of English education in East Asia.

Published Online: 2017-01-06

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Applied Linguistics Review, Volume 8, Issue 4, Pages 401–418, ISSN (Online) 1868-6311, ISSN (Print) 1868-6303, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/applirev-2016-1029.

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