Introduction to Japan: Language, Culture and Society

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Modern Languages
Course Code
MODL 2273
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Certificate in Global Competency
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To be determined


Course Description
This course surveys Japanese language and culture from social, historical and theoretical perspectives. During the course, students will learn about the linguistic, cultural, and social aspects of modern Japan by exploring the history and usage of the Japanese language and by examining various cultural products. The course is taught in English. Prior knowledge of Japanese is not required.
Course Content

This course consists of the following three integrated components:

Basic concepts and theoretical frameworks

Students will learn basic introduction on the terms and concepts needed for critical analysis and understanding of language and culture.

- The nature and definition of language and culture

- Critical perspectives related to language and culture (e.g., ideology, discourse and discursive formation, language and power)

- Concepts and terms related to language and culture (e.g., high/low culture, popular/mass culture, collectivism and individualism, harmony, uchi and soto, honne and tatemae, orientalism and self-orientalism, Self and Other, imperialism, nationalism, hegemony)


Japanese language, culture, and society

With a particular focus on linguistic elements, students will learn about the language, culture and society of Japan.

- The development of Japan as a nation state and the Japanese language

- Japanese language education in the world

- Language policies and language education in Japan

- Linguistic ideologies in Japan

- The development of Japanese orthography and its usage in different contexts

- Japanese lexis and expressions: etymology of Japanese words, loanwords in Japanese, Japanese loanwords in other languages, slang, idioms and proverbs

- The Japanese language and translation: difficulty, what is lost in translation

- Gender/regional/generational difference in the Japanese language

- Japanese nonverbal communication


Analysis of Japanese cultural products

Students will explore aspects of Japanese language, culture and society through an examination of various cultural products such as literature, anime, food, mascots and festivals. The topics and themes may include, but are not limited to:

- Japanese social and cultural identities

- Japanese aesthetic values and religious beliefs

- The discourse on race and ethnicity in Japan

- Social stratification and minorities in Japan

- Gender and family system in Japan

- Japanese sub-cultures and pop-cultures (e.g., cosplay, otaku culture)


Learning Activities

Methods of Instruction may include, but are not limited to, the following: lectures, screening of audio-visual materials, small group work, class discussions and debates, and field trips


Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on this general outline:

- Attendance and participation worth no less than 15% but no more than 20% of the final grade

- One term project or exam worth no less than 20% but no more than 30% of the final grade

-One final research or analysis paper worth no less than 20% but no more than 30% of the final grade

- One final presentation worth no less than 10% but no more than 20% of the final grade

- Other means of assessment - such as quizzes, journals, portfolio, and in-class essays to be presented to students in the course outline at the beginning of the semester

Learning Outcomes

Successful students will:

-develop their knowledge of linguistic, cultural and social aspects of modern Japan

-develop their ability to critically analyze the construction and representation of the language and culture

-develop a critical awareness of their own views and attitudes toward different languages and cultures

-develop their appreciation of, and sensitivity to, different cultural practices and perspectives

-develop their ability to express their thoughts and opinions verbally and in writing, including the ability to demonstrate their understanding of course content


Textbook Materials

Textbooks and materials to be purchased by students.

Coursepack and/or textbook. A list of recommended textbooks and materials will be provided in the instructor's course outline which will be available to students at the beginning of each semester.

Examples of textbooks that may be used for this course include:

- Gottlieb, N. (2005). Language and society in Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

- Hendry, J. (2012). Understanding Japanese society. London: Routledge.

- Sugimoto, Y. (2014). An introduction to Japanese society. Sydney: Cambridge University Press.



None (however, students are encouraged to register in MODL 1171 concurrently)





Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for MODL 2273
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX SOSC 2XX (3)
Athabasca University (AU) AU LANG 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU HUEL 2XX (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) No credit
Langara College (LANG) LANG ASIA 2115 (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) No credit
Okanagan College (OC) OC MODL 295 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU ASC 201 (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) No credit
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV ASIA 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC INTS 203 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV JAPN 2XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PAAS 2XX (1.5)

Course Offerings

Fall 2023

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Section Notes

MODL 2273 090 - This is a fully online asynchronous course.

Students must have regular access to computers and Internet. Students are encouraged, but not required to also register in MODL 1171 or other Japanese levels.

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