Cultural Expectations in Expressing Disagreement: Differences between Japan and the United States
Keywords: Expressing disagreement, silence, ambiguity, clarity, alleviating intercultural misunderstandings.
Kansai Gaidai University, Japan
Otemon Gakuin University, Japan
Junko Kobayashi is an associate professor at Kansai Gaidai University, Japan. She is the author of 8 English textbooks on intercultural communication.
Linda Viswat is a professor at Otemon Gakuin University where she teaches courses in intercultural communication. Her research has focused on learning strategies of Japanese university students and the development of a learning community.
The article identifies problems between Japanese students with intermediate English proficiency and native English speakers in the United States when expressing disagreement. The survey results indicate that common ways by which Japanese students express disagreement are likely to be either misinterpreted or viewed negatively by Americans. For English education aimed at promoting intercultural understanding, it is not sufficient just to introduce Japanese students to formulaic patterns for expressing disagreement. The article explores the kind of instruction that is necessary to alleviate intercultural misunderstandings caused by differences in how disagreement is expressed. While the subjects of the article are Japanese students, the recommendations are applicable to other Asian students as well.