Monday, March 31, 2008

iTunes U

Of course, you knew it; it's only someone like me who's dumb enough not to know that a series of university lectures, Philosophy 185: Heidegger by Hubert Dreyfus in U.C. Berkeley, for example, is available on iTunes U completely for free.

You're not as stupid as me to be informed by a kind friend that all you have to do is to click the icon on a site. I know iTunes U is as new to you as a fridge. It's already embedded in your daily life.

No, I'm not even thinking that you haven't used iTunes; No human being can afford to be so brainless, even if the concept of human being includes a Windows user like me, who is not even sure whether iTunes is freely downloadable on a PC.

Sorry to have bothered you.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Saturday, April 12 in JALT Kitakyushu

This is to announce that I'm going to make an oral presentation for about 90 minutes on communicative language ability in a JALT Kitakyushu local conference. Below is the abstract from the JALT Kitakyushu site.

A three-dimensional understanding of communicative language ability

Yosuke Yanase

Despite the unquestioned acceptance of the term, "communicative language teaching" would be disoriented without a good understanding of the concept of Communicative Language Ability (CLA). A relatively well-clarified theory of the concept has been offered by Bachman and Palmer (1996). It is not without problems, however, in that (1) the concept of its central competence "strategic competence" is not exactly clarified; (2) the role of the body is neglected; (3) the theory of communication is not explicitly considered. In this presentation, which is an extensively enlarged version of the JACET 2007 symposium presentation (, I will present a "three dimensional understanding of communicative language ability," in which CLA is represented as a vector whose direction and magnitude is determined by the three dimensions: mindreading ability (the X axis), physical ability (the Y axis) and linguistic ability (the Z axis). The concept of the mindreading ability is theoretically supported by the Theory of Mind and Relevance Theory.

Yosuke Yanase is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TEFL at Faculty of Education, Hiroshima University. His academic interest includes philosophical analyses of English language education, theories of communicative second language ability, and qualitative analyses of English language classes. He is influenced by philosophers like Wittgenstein, Davidson, Arendt and recently Luhmann. He expresses his views on TEFL and general affairs in his English blog ( and Japanese one ( He is a great fan of creative music of various genres from classical to experimental and beyond (

• Meetings are generally held on the second Saturday of the month at the Kitakyushu International Conference Center. The presentations usually start at 7:00 p.m., but the doors are open 30 minutes or so earlier.

All welcome, admittance for regular meetings is free for JALT members, 1000 yen for one-day members. Please note that this is subject to change in the case of special events. In the event of any changes, the admittance fees will be noted above.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Narrative of narrative

I was really glad to participate in Prof. Karen Johnson's workshop (Kobe campus of Hyogo University of Teacher Education, March 11, 2008), where we listened to the voices of teachers as practitioners.

We were encouraged to read narratives of teachers taken from Teachers' Narrative Inquiry As Professional Development and discuss in a group.

A narrative of a teacher explicates how she finds herself in a classroom. It shows a selection of her knowledge, interest, context and others in the description of her reality. Since 'reality' is beyond anybody's reach with its complexity, the description and explanation she gives reveal her own choice of perception. As we no longer innocently believe in THE reality, her selection of a perspective is not just an arbitrary prejudice, but a unique contribution to our pluralistic understanding of reality.

Another (meta-)narrative on her first narrative makes our understanding more diverse and flexible. This second narrative must be based upon and resonate with the first one, but the second narrative reveals the second narrator's way of dealing with complexity in his interpretation of the first narrative. Bringing up different second narratives on the table enriches plurality of our understanding.

Given the complexity of practice, we give up the idea of finding the one and only one way of description and explanation. Sharing different versions of reality and discussing them to further differentiate their diversity seems a very reasonable way of inquiry to me.

We unite in diversity.

Teachers' narrative as literature

A suggestion I made during the discussion session of Prof. Karen Johnson's workshop (Kobe campus of Hyogo University of Teacher Education, March 11, 2008) was to treat teachers' narrative as literature. We need to try hard to understand the narrative with its due dignity and sensitivity.

The suggestion was agreed by Prof. Karen Johnson, but not by one participant (who is actually my friend.) She argued that making the teachers' narrative "scientific" would be a better strategy for narrative inquiry. She adopts a loose definition of "science" as you see in an expression like "human sciences" and argues that calling narrative inquiry "scientific" gives it more academic legitimacy.

Even if this is a matter of terminology, I disagree. If you claim that narrative study is a "science," you as a researcher of the method are begging to be included in the hierarchy of science at the bottom, hoping to rise to a higher layer of the hierarchy some day.

This strategy is doomed as a failure, for as we learn the complexity of TESOL practice more, the distance from the top of the hierarchy (hard science) increases. Narrative inquiry as science will ever be downgraded, if it is regarded as science at all.

Regarding teachers' narrative as literature (at least a genre of it), on the other hand, puts us in a better position. Narrative inquiry is by far closer to the canonical literature (whatever it is) than to hard science. We even claim that narrative inquiry is "deeper" than science.

Even if this is only a matter of academic politics, we should express our sympathy with literature.

Before TESOL industry flourished, language teachers were respected as literary persons. This is a tradition too great to miss.

That there is something that can only be expressed in a careful, but free use of words is beyond contention. Teachers' narrative is literature in name and substance.


This argument concerning science and literature is based on the distinction made by Bruner in Acts of meaning: paradigmatic mode of thought and narrative mode of thought. Among the books Prof. Johnson cited I also found Dewey's Experience and education and Polkinghorne's Methodology for the human sciences.