Academic journal article Babel

Issues in Recreational Language Classes

Academic journal article Babel

Issues in Recreational Language Classes

Article excerpt


A key consideration in course planning and teaching is motivation, which is sometimes considered the single most important factor in the practical realisation of language teaching in the classroom (e.g. Tudor, 2004). The motivation students have for attending recreational courses can be somewhat different from that of students in school and university programs. Unlike students in some classes, they come to class of their own will, which means that they are initially motivated. This motivation may relate to such things as a desire to visit Japan as tourists or to work there, or having Japanese friends, or thinking that Japanese learning will be beneficial for their jobs. Some students may even be taking the class just to meet other people, though in my own classes there seem to be few in this category. In any case, the students may not actually have strong Japanese learning goals. In fact, none of my former or current students seems to have a great and immediate need to acquire the language. Although the primary objective of the course must be to make progress in language learning, many of my students want to enjoy a gradual learning process rather than making rapid progress. They would like to take their time to learn Japanese without making intensive efforts. It's a recreational course, after all.

One consequence of this is that when learners successfully complete their first term, they are hesitant about continuing the course, worrying that it may become more difficult. Naturally, as a Japanese teacher I would like all of my students to continue. I've found it a good idea to talk with them at the end of the first term about how they want to study Japanese in the second term. Through negotiation, the teacher can make the next course more suitable for their needs and preferences while at the same time encouraging them to continue their learning.

No matter how students are motivated initially, however, teachers must keep them motivated. In this, teachers play an important role in the classroom (Song, 2005), particularly for a course conducted outside of the target language country, because students do not have many opportunities to use the target language outside class. It is easy for students to lose interest when necessity, stimulus, or feedback are not readily available. A course program must be well planned to sustain students' motivation.


The Japanese short course we are considering here has one evening lesson each week for eight weeks, with each lesson running for two and half hours, with a 15-20-minute break near the middle. Since the learners may be coming to class after a hard day at work, it may not be appropriate to make the program too intensive, and yet students must sense that they are making progress.

For a longer course it could make sense to assign a set text, such as the popular Japanese for Busy People (Association for Japanese Language Teaching, 1994) with its accompanying audiocassettes. While the students can be encouraged to purchase and use such a text, however, it seems a tall order to require them to spend money for a text when they cannot be expected to complete even a third of its 30 lessons during the eight weeks, and when there is no guarantee that they will continue into a more advanced course. Accordingly, I create my own teaching material, which has the advantage that I can personalise the class for my students. When students can relate a lesson to their own daily life, they find it more interesting, and consequently they become more motivated (Lile, 2002).

In designing the course material I try to help students develop a solid foundation in the language system rather than teaching only useful phrases and expressions. That is because students' ultimate goals vary a great deal. Some say that they want to study at a university in Japan while others want to visit Japan as tourists. Understanding the language structure helps their learning regardless of what level they want to reach eventually. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.