Using cultural products to teach onomatope in Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) classrooms

The Japanese language has an abundance of onomatopoeic and mimetic expressions. Native speakers use this unique feature of the language frequently. However, in the reading of Japanese authentic materials, such as literature, newspapers and advertisements, many intermediate to advanced JFL students are unable to understand the meaning of onomatope. The purpose of this project is to provide Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) teachers and students effective and easy-to-use teaching materials focusing on onomatope, presented through the use of authentic cultural products such as literature, music and song, newspapers, and advertisements. Commonly used and highly functional onomatope words, phrases, and expressions are presented with abundant examples of English translations. Useful resources are listed to facilitate selection of materials. This project focuses on teaching Japanese onomatopoetic and mimetic words in JFL classrooms, using Japanese cultural products. Depicting not only various sounds and voices produced by animated beings and inanimate objects, Japanese onomatopoeias and mimesis also describe “non-audible” situations, such as appearance, scenes, and psychological states of living things, including humans and animals. This type of lexicon is not adequately addressed in JFL classrooms, despite its unique and effective functions (mainly as adverbs), and frequent use in daily life. Japanese onomatope have rich and unique cultural and linguistic elements. By learning onomatope via authentic materials, such as the cultural products introduced in the appendices of this project, JFL learners can more effectively acquire onomotope in a natural way. When JFL students acquire this important linguistic aspect of language, they are able to deepen their understanding of Japanese culture, and develop more native-like, natural expressions and communicative competence.