The impact of Western criticisms of Japanese rhetorical approaches on learners of Japanese

James Mckinley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For learners of Japanese, a conundrum arises at university level as they are expected to be able to shift between direct and indirect language in various writing tasks. The apparent indirectness in inductive language is required of regular writing tasks such as response essays and e-mails, while the directness of deductive academic writing, a quality traditionally attributed to academic writing in the West, is now a universally accepted quality of academic writing in any language. This shift can cause confusion for students, perhaps in part due to the widespread misunderstanding of it by linguistics researchers from the West in the past. This is not to suggest that English speakers, for example, do not make similar shifts in language use from non-academic to academic registers, but for learners of Japanese as a second language, the shift is less understood. In this article, I draw on some original data to support the posited theories. While instructors may make a clear distinction between the direct and indirect genres of writing, students do not always make the same distinction. Students may display a clear understanding of the Western criticisms of Japanese rhetorical approaches, but experience confusion when trying to meet the writing expectations of their instructors. University instructors of Japanese need to address the Western criticisms when clarifying the specific genres and uses of particular rhetorical approaches in written Japanese, and put more emphasis on the differences between written and spoken Japanese.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303–319
JournalLanguage Learning in Higher Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of Western criticisms of Japanese rhetorical approaches on learners of Japanese'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this