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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

Ed. by Piller, Ingrid

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Volume 24, Issue 1-2


Negotiating silence and speech in the classroom

Ikuko Nakane
Published Online: 2008-10-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.24.1-2.75


Students from East Asian countries studying at universities in the West are often found to be ‘silent’ or ‘reticent’ in the classroom, and this has been widely described as due to cultural differences in classroom practices and in approaches to knowledge underlying them (Braddock et al. 1995; Ballard 1996; Jones 1999; Liu 2000). However, few attempts have been made to examine interactive situations in the classroom from a micro-analytic perspective. This paper discusses classroom case studies of three Japanese students which involve analysis of recorded classroom interaction and follow-up interviews with the Japanese participants, Australian lecturers and peer students in mainstream university courses in Australia. Through the follow-up interviews, all the Japanese students were found to be perceived ‘silent’ by their lecturers and peers, although the analysis of classroom interaction revealed that the level and type of the silence varied. The findings suggest that the Japanese students’ participation in the classroom is heavily influenced by immediate contextual factors such as the topic, participant structures (Phillips 1972, 1983), and most of all, co-participants’ perceptions and performances. The paper offers an alternative view on the silence attributed to Japanese students, namely that silence can be coconstructed in ongoing negotiation of participation in the classroom.

About the article

Published Online: 2008-10-27

Published in Print: 2005-05-01

Citation Information: Multilingua - Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, Volume 24, Issue 1-2, Pages 75–100, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mult.24.1-2.75.

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