For the last twenty years, increased emphasis on aural/oral communication skills has been the mainstay of Japanese governmental policy in English education, a trend symbolized by the introduction, in 1994, of ‘Aural/Oral Communication A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ into the senior high school curriculum. Reflecting the changes in pedagogical emphasis, university English classrooms have incorporated more training in communication skills through listening comprehension exercises, shadowing and conversational exchanges. The teaching of communication skills here does not mean encouraging students to engage in random conversation or memorize set phrases for use in particular situations. Rather, ‘true’ communication with others means reading minds and sensing others’ thoughts and emotions.
Providing various contexts in which human relationships are established and developed, drama and theatre texts are valuable resources. Their use demands that students read between the lines and judge the characters and their relationships, paying attention to how they express themselves. To give students a deeper understanding of the conversational communication strategies and contexts used in drama, systematic instruction in the speech act itself and in the use of conversational implicature to convey speakers’ intentions is necessary.
Drama and theatre texts can be easily integrated into communication training courses through such activities as role-play, listening comprehension, and even written reporting of scenarios. This talk will explore the value of drama and theatre texts in communication skills acquisition and specify what texts we should use and how we should teach them.
Tetsuko Nakamura is an Associate Professor at Nippon Medical School, where she teaches English language and cultures. She has been exploring the effective use of literary texts in the Japanese university classroom, producing articles on teaching English through fiction, drama and autobiographies, and also on the acquisition of reading and writing skills in academic contexts. She co-edited English through Literature (2009) and Big Dipper Writing Course (2007). Her interests include Irish prose and fiction in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Her recent publications concern the role of women characters in the works of Jonathan Swift, Maria Edgeworth and Charles Lever, and also in big house novels.