By Claudia, Mel and Isabel
Epiphanies, epiphanies…did I even have any epiphanies when I was watching Doraemon? This thought bugged me for a good few hours before I realised that I did in fact have an epiphany. No, I didn’t uncover the meaning of life or develop a cure for cancer. Instead, I came to the realisation that my choice to watch a children’s television program to improve my second language fluency was significant in itself. I chose to watch a Japanese children’s program instead of an anime series aimed at adults due to my assumption that it would be easier for me to follow the storyline and understand new vocabulary, as these elements would be simplified for the program’s juvenile audience to promote comprehension. Heitmiller (2015) explains that because children are still in the process of mastering their own native language, using children’s television to improve second language fluency is effective because it encourages viewers to ‘think’ in the foreign language by “listening and forming connections using a visual platform.” I found Heitmiller’s explanation of ‘thinking’ in the language you are learning to be particularly interesting and beneficial. I realised that when I was not relying on subtitles to understand the content of the program, I actually didn’t translate the Japanese to English in my head. Rather, I completely bypassed this cognitive process and thought and (mostly) understood, in Japanese alone.
My surprise that the structure and content of Doraemon was very similar to other children’s television programs I had watched as a child was also significant. After researching children’s television as a genre, I discovered that most children’s television programs incorporate three key educative elements to aide children’s socialisation and development. These include:
- Problem solving (eg. cause-and-effect and critical thinking)
- General foundational concepts (eg. colours, numbers, shapes and time)
- World knowledge (eg. cultural traditions, weather and history)
(Cahill & Bigheart 2016)
I like to think that by now, I have a pretty good understanding of these concepts after years of religiously viewing Sesame Street, Play School and Arthur. All of these components were apparent in Doraemon, however the one that caught my attention the most was the ‘cultural tradition’ of mothers performing a tea ceremony at home in traditional Japanese dress.
This particular element stood out to me because up until this point, Doraemon was, in the words of Iwabuchi (2002, p. 94) “culturally odourless,” meaning that the content did not appear to be ‘distinctly Japanese.’ When I reflect on how I understand the phrase ‘distinctly Japanese’ I immediately picture kimono, sumo, calligraphy and sushi. I find this interesting because even though I know Japan and ‘Japaneseness’ is comprised of so much more than just these cultural artefacts, my socialisation in a Western country has led me to immediately conjure these iconic ‘Japanese’ images when I think about Japan. In saying this, Doraemon has since been localised for foreign audiences as its appearance, storyline and morals are universal enough for children from almost any culture to enjoy and understand.
The main function of children’s television that interested me particularly was the potential for vocabulary development through viewing. Admittedly, I only remember one word from Doraemon, which is slang for ‘to grin’ (niyaniya – ニヤニヤ), however it is important to note that my viewing habits are different to that of young children. Firstly, accessing Doraemon is slightly difficult as I had to search for the episode for quite a while on YouTube before I found it. Unlike a child, my parents do not choose the shows I watch, and I am also not terribly keen on watching the same episode of a show over and over again. Despite my reservations about repeat viewing, Skouteris and Kelly (2006) emphasise the importance of repeat viewing in a child’s vocabulary development, stating that the higher the number of repeat viewings, the more a child understands the content of the video. My adult ‘intelligence’ has actually failed me in this respect, as I find it difficult to focus on a video that I have watched multiple times as the story becomes predictable and uninteresting. I’ve found that keeping a diary of new vocabulary and grammar structures whilst watching Doraemon has helped to keep me engaged, but I am going to have to seek out some more episodes to keep myself motivated.
Another important element of viewing children’s television I did not initially think of is the process of co-viewing. When young children watch television, they are often accompanied by an adult who actively mediate the child’s viewing (Dorr, Kovaric & Doubleday 1989). This mediation can take the form of asking the child questions about the show, singing along to songs and choosing what the child watches and when (ibid). Moeller (1996) explains that co-viewing can actually facilitate comprehension of plot and the acquisition new vocabulary, so as a person who loves nothing more than a good family viewing session of Game of Thrones, I decided that next time when I watch Doraemon, I’ll watch it with my boyfriend, James. Like myself, James is currently trying to improve his Japanese, and I figure if I can watch Doraemon with someone who has similar viewing and learning objectives, I may actually retain more Japanese if I can discuss what I have learnt with another person.
I’ll keep everybody posted about my viewing session and am determined to nail down some new vocabulary and grammar structures.
Until next time, じゃね！
Cahill, M & Bigheart, J 2016, ‘What can librarians learn from Elmo, Sid and Dora? Applying the principles of educational television to storytime’, Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 49-57.
Doraemon rainbow 2015, image, Kai-You Pop Portal Culture Media, viewed 14 September 2017, <http://kai-you.net/article/12154>
DoraNobi Eng subtitles 1979, Doraemon Screencap, image, viewed 8 September 2017, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoDf0XP8VE4>
Dorr, A, Kovaric, P & Doubleday, C 1989, ‘Parent-child co-viewing of television’, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 35-51.
Green, S 2015, Doraemon on Disney XD, image, Crunchroll, viewed 14 September 2017, <http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2015/06/03-1/doraemon-season-2-starting-on-disney-xd>
Heitmiller, A 2015, ‘Watching children’s TV is a language learning tool’, Liden & Denz Intercultural Institute of Languages, 20 January, viewed 6 September 2017, <http://lidenz.ru/watching-childrens-tv-language-learning-tool/>
Iwabuchi, K 2002, Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism, Duke University Press, United States, p. 94.
Moeller, B 1996, ‘Learning from television: a research review’, Centre for Children and Technology, no. 11, pp. 1-37.
Skouteris, H & Kelly, L 2006, ‘Repeated viewing and co-viewing of an animated video: an examination of factors that impact on young children’s comprehension of video content’, Australian Jounral of Early Childhood, vol. 31 no. 3, pp. 22-30.
分かる – I understand 2017, image, Material.Miyazaki, viewed 8 September 2017, <http://material.miyazaki-c.ed.jp/ipa/kihongoi_sinboru/communication_onnanoko/rikai/IPA-ccc760.htm>
“So, are you fluent in Japanese yet?” A small part of myself withers and dies inside whenever I am asked that question. Yes, I have continuously studied Japanese for five years. Yes, I like to think that I am relatively good at the Japanese I know. However, we’re talking about a whole language here. Learning a language is an immense and ongoing pursuit. Sure, I can hold a good conversation in Japanese, I can even read and write hiragana, katakana and a couple of hundred kanji. But it pains me to admit that I am definitely not yet fluent.
This session, I’ve decided to get a bit creative with my Japanese language learning and ditch the textbooks (sorry Genki, you’ve been a great friend to me). I’m aiming to improve my fluency in Japanese through watching the Japanese children’s television program, Doraemon, without subtitles. Now yes, for those of us who love our subbed anime, watching an anime without subtitles is akin to going to a social gathering where you know nobody and attempting to join a conversation, occasionally making an effort to join in but feeling fundamentally lost and excluded. However, I’m on a mission to overcome the uncomfortable and ultimately not feel like a deer in the headlights when using complex Japanese.
To provide everyone with a bit of background, Doraemon is a classic Japanese television program aimed at young children. The plot revolves around Nobita, a young boy (who is actually a bit of a dweeb) and his relationship with Doraemon, a magical robotic cat who was sent to help him navigate the difficult territory of his childhood. I found it extremely difficult to locate the raw, unsubbed original Japanese episode of Doraemon, so I had to settle for an English subbed version I found on YouTube and tried to avoid reading the subtitles. This was actually a lot more difficult to do than I anticipated. As a person who consumes a lot of subbed anime, I am used to switching rapidly between the English translations and the visuals. It took a lot of self control not to sneak a peek at the subtitles when I was having difficulty understanding what the characters were saying.
I’d like to take this opportunity to personally call out my sneaky eyes that were trying to undermine my language learning for the entire episode. Training myself to focus entirely on the audio and visuals rather than the subtitles will be an ongoing task that will require discipline and practice.
I was also interested to discover that plot-wise, Doraemon is very similar to the TV shows I watched as a child, namely Sesame Street, or Clifford the Big Red Dog. Each episode is short and ends with a moral or message aimed to educate and socialise young children. Having never watch a television program aimed at young Japanese children before, I must say that I was surprised that the depiction of childhood in Doraemon was almost identical to that of the American children’s TV programs I grew up with. I was actually expecting Doraemon to feel a lot more Japanese than it actually did, however it was certainly interesting to see the universality of the notion of childhood.
I was relieved that I chose to study a children’s show rather than watch an anime aimed at adults as the characters’ simple lexicon and short episode length enabled me to keep up with the plot and not become overwhelmed and lost by the language.
There were instances when I was not 100% certain about what a character said, or I may have misheard or complete missed a word. However, I attempted to address this by isolating the phrase or vocabulary item that was troubling me, thinking about the context in which is was said and then making inferences about what possibly could have been said based on the accompanying visuals. Using this method, even if I didn’t understand everything, I was able to follow the plot of Doraemon without feeling like the awkward person at a party I mentioned before (it’s happened to me more times than I care to admit, okay?)
After the episode had finished, I watched it again with subtitles and was pleasantly surprised. Although there were some parts of the show I had completely misinterpreted, I was surprised at how much I was actually able to understand without relying on subtitles. Whilst there is definitely a large margin for improvement, I really enjoyed watching Doraemon and actually gained quite an interesting insight into the television programs Japanese people grew up with. I’m keen to keep watching Doraemon to continue improving my fluency, and I think keeping a journal of commonly used phrases and vocabulary items will help me do this.
Until next time DIGC330, じゃね！
Doraemon n.d., image, ProProfs Quizmaker, viewed 25 August 2017, < https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=doraemon-quiz_1>
Doraemon reading 2017, image, TV Asahi, viewed 25 August 2017, < http://www.tv-asahi.co.jp/doraemon/news/0223/>
Francisco, F 2013, Practice, practice, practice…, image, Tofugu, viewed 25 August 2017, <https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/pera-pera-japanese-fluency/>
Know Your Meme 2010, Derp, image, Know Your Meme, viewed 25 August 2017, < http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/derp>
Norris, A 2016, Conversation, image, Twitter, viewed 25 August 2017, <https://twitter.com/dorrismccomics/status/783995729358520320>
During my time at university I have been meticulous in keeping my personal views, opinions and experiences separate from my research. The second my rear end was planted in my seat in DIGC330, everything changed. Now before you ask, no, the Fire Nation didn’t attack. Rather, I was introduced to the practice of autoethnography, a research method that combines the well-established fields of autobiography and ethnography. The aim of autoethnography is to produce “meaningful, accessible and evocative” research that is grounded in one’s personal experience (Ellis et al. 2011, p. 2). The resulting research product seeks to deepen our ability to empathise with people who are different from us (Ellis et al. ibid).
As interesting as autoethnography sounds, how does one actually go about doing autoethnography? First of all, it is important that one understands the research methods that have been combined to create autoethnography – autobiography and ethnography. Autobiography, at its core, is an account of a person’s life in which the author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences” (Ellis et al. 2011). On the other hand, ethnography involves a researcher becoming a participant observer in a culture that is different to their own and “studying the culture’s relational practices, common values, beliefs and shared experiences” (ibid).
My understanding of autoethnography, essentially the lovechild of these two practices is that an autoethnographer draws upon their personal epiphanies stemming from their own culture, and telling these experiences whilst simultaneously analysing them. Analysis is an absolutely crucial component of autoethnography because without it, the researcher is basically just recounting their life and experiences without any further examination or introspection. And let’s face it, anyone can give a bland and boring account of their life.
Analysis further authenticates autoethnography as a research method by forcing the researcher to exercise self-reflexivity and introspectively examine the reason why they feel or think the way they do about a culture that is different to their own.
By recounting and critically examining one’s own personal and cultural biases and applying this knowledge to how one understands another cultural group, autoethnography can serve as a therapeutic method of seeking to better understand ourselves and our relationships. Autoethnography can also assist with reduce prejudice and promote cultural change (Ellis et al, ibid). What’s not to love?
I am excited to engage in my own autoethnographic research journey when I complete my major project. I would like to examine how my active participation in cosplay and the subculture in Australia has shaped my understanding of Japanese culture. I also plan to interview my grandparents, who know very little about cosplay, to gain a deeper understanding of how understanding and perceptions of Japanese culture can be shaped through exposure to the cosplay subculture in Australia.
Bastian, H 2016, The biggest bias we have to deal with is our own, image, hildabastian.net, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://hildabastian.net/index.php/33-march-2016>
Ellis, C, Adams, TE, & Bochner, AP 2011, ‘Autoethnography: an overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 1-12.
Hayen, T 2014, Empathy, image, Hayen Centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling, viewed 18 August 2017, <http://www.toddhayentherapy.com/empathy-in-relationship/>
Julie2233212 2014, Yes, yes…please keep taking about yourself. I always yawn when I am enthralled, image, SomeEcards, viewed 18 August 2017, < https://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/yes-yesplease-keep-talking-about-yourself-i-always-yawn-when-i-am-enthralled-0ad18/>
Like many children of the 1990’s I started my mornings with a healthy diet of Pokémon, Sailor Moon and Hamtaro. Never did it occur to my five-year-old self that this simple morning ritual was the beginning of my life-long love for not only anime and manga, but the Japanese language and its culture.
My adoration of Japanese popular culture made watching Godzilla an interesting experience. Viewing this cult-classic made me reflect on how I, a white, Australian female view and understand Japan.
First and foremost, I initially found Godzilla (the actual monster) to be a bit of a joke. Now I’m pretty accepting when it comes to mythical creatures. I’d give my right arm for Pokémon to be real. But honestly, how the heck was I meant to take that lumpy cross-eyed lizard seriously? I knew Godzilla was a pop-culture phenomenon – I’ve even stayed in a hotel in Shinjuku where Godzilla is literally climbing out of the roof.
But what I didn’t realise was that Godzilla was so much more than just an ugly puppet – it was actually a parable for the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that devastated Japan in 1945. In fact, a character in Godzilla explicitly states that “Godzilla [is] a product of the atomic bomb that still haunts many of us Japanese.”
This shocking realisation not only heightened my interest in the film’s storyline, but also caused me to sympathise with both the Japanese people and Godzilla itself. The heartbreaking visual of the inconsolable little girl screaming for her deceased mother made me contemplate the horrendous and very real impact of the atomic bombings that devastated Japan. Simultaneously however, I felt sympathy for Godzilla. The monster was misunderstood from the very beginning and was brutalised by the terrified citizens. The scene where Godzilla was being shot at whilst walking through the ocean caused me particular distress, as I realised that this scene had been referenced in Pokémon. The enormous dragon Pokémon, Dragonite, is a direct reference to Godzilla, and is described as “the biggest Pokémon ever…[who has]…travelled the world looking for friends…because it is alone.” Just like Godzilla, Dragonite is violently shot at and returns to its ocean home, friendless and misunderstood.
Watching Godzilla has truly opened my eyes to the importance of this monster in its Japanese context – it is an enduring symbol of the horrors of WWII. I also learnt how our culture influences the way in which we interpret and understand texts from cultures different to our own. So Godzilla, if you are out there, hit me up for coffee. I’d love to get to know you better and hey, maybe we can invite Dragonite too?
Hornyak n.d. Hotel Gracery, Shinjuku, image, Shinjuku Station, viewed 27 July 2017, <https://www.shinjukustation.com/hotel-gracery-shinjuku/>
Godzilla n.d. image, Den of Geek, viewed 27 July 2017, <http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/books-comics/pok-mon/46416/pokemon-the-ray-bradbury-homage-hidden-in-a-classic-episode>
Dragonite n.d., image, Pikachu made me do it!, viewed 27 July 2017, <http://pokemon-made-me-do-it.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/13-mystery-at-lighthouse.html>