Introduction to Japan: Language, Culture and Society

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
MODL 2273
Introduction to Japan: Language, Culture and Society
Modern Languages
Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Start Date
End Term
Not Specified
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Contact Hours
4 hrs/week
Method(s) Of Instruction
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


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 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


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

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)





Which Prerequisite