Repository logo

Answer the question: a research project

Faculty Advisor




questions, silence, Japanese students, English as a second language

Abstract (summary)

As you probably know from experience, many Japanese students have trouble answering questions during English class. Why is that? According to Harumi (2011), the roots of this phenomenon lie in a complex mixture of linguistic, psychological, and socio-cultural factors. There is, in fact, quite a large culture gap in how silence is interpreted. For example, from a Japanese view point, the silent response from the student above could be seen as a means to save face, avoid difficulty, or request help. On the other hand, from a "western" perspective, the silence may come off as a sign of disinterest, boredom, or laziness. This phenomenon makes it very difficult for teachers to facilitate active learning (Harumi, 2001) and presents a risk of misunderstanding during cross-cultural encounters (King, 2005), both in Japan and while traveling or studying abroad. As a result, silence in the EFL classroom is widely acknowledged as a serious problem (King, 2013; Humphries, Akamatsu, Tanaka, & Burns, in press). It is therefore essential we help our students promptly respond to questions, whether they know the answer or not.

Publication Information

McLean, T., & Talandis Jr., J. (2020). Answer the question: A research project. In J. Talandis Jr., J. Ronald, D. Fujimoto, & N. Ishihara (Eds). Pragmatics undercover: The search for natural talk in EFL textbooks (pp. 84-90). Tokyo: JALT Pragmatics SIG.



Item Type

Book Chapter




All Rights Reserved