Japanese Conversation and Reading

I.     Course Prefix/Number: JPN 206

       Course Name: Japanese Conversation and Reading

       Credits: 3 (2 lecture; 2 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

JPN 205 or consent of instructor.

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course reinforces oral and written communication skills. Content includes a variety of speaking and essay-writing activities, and develops reading ability with Japanese materials. Topics are drawn from classical and contemporary life and culture.

IV.   Learning Objectives

  1. Use spoken Japanese in class discussions, debates, role playing activities.
  2. Develop skills in written expression by composing essays on the topics of class discussion.
  3. Develop reading ability through learning materials related to classical and contemporary life in Japan.
  4. Specify a vocabulary base for authentic use of language in realistic situations.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

Week Chapter Topic Exam
1-2 8

Japanese Traditional Performing Arts

Kyogen Plays and Laughter

Main Topics:
Japanese Traditional Performing Arts

Telling a Story

Cultural Note:
Japanese Songs
Traditional Japanese Performing Arts

Language Notes:

Telling a story using a presentation form
ᾸᾸplot summary
ᾸᾸthe ending remarks

Writing assignment:
*After watching traditional Japanese performing arts, write about which was the most interesting one for you and which one you want to see on stage.

More Suggested Writing Topics:
*Write about traditional performing arts in your home country/hometown.
What are the similarities and differences between Japanese traditional performing arts and the traditional performing arts from your country/hometown?
*What is your view of self-confidence?
Which is more important, self-confidence or knowing your real ability? (Based on the reading and the dialogue from the chapter.)
*Can traditional performing arts survive in the future?
3-4 9

Education in Japan

Reading: 日本の教育の現状
The Present State of Japanese Education

Main Topics:
Merits and demerits of Japanese education system
Academic Meritocracy
(a society which sets a greater value on the academic career of an individual than on his real ability)
Fiercely competitive (entrance) examinations :”Examination War”
Refusal to go to school [psychological problem]

Giving Compliments/Receiving compliments

Cultural Notes:
Japanese Body Language
The views of compliments

Language Notes:
A called B
The fact/news/rumor that s + v ~
Provide the meaning/definition of a word
Provide the meaning/implication of someone’s action/or the state of something

Writing Assignments:
Explain the educational system in Japan.
  1. What kind of system; How many years of compulsory education?
  2. What are the good points?
  3. What kinds of problems do you have? How can they be solved?
Suggested Writing Topics:
*In your country is everyone getting equal education?
*Write about school textbooks in your country
  1. Does every school use the same textbooks?
  2. What do you think of using the same textbook in all the schools? What do you think of using different textbooks?
  3. Do textbooks need to be officially approved?
  4. Who chooses the textbooks?
* In your country, do you or don’t you have a society which sets a greater value on the academic career of an individual than on his real ability? Why do you think so? Give examples.
*Write about bullying
  1. Does bullying exist in your country?
  2. What kinds of bullying do you see?
  3. What kinds of children are bullied? What do they do if they are bullied?
  4. Do you think that bullying will disappear? What can we do to stop bullying?
*Why do Japanese people react to the compliment the way you see in the dialogue? Why do you think Japanese people react that way?
*In your culture, what do people do when they receive a compliment? Do you think it is O.K. for you to react the same in Japan?
*In your culture, which is considered more important, being humble or having self-confidence?
5-6 10

Handy Stores in Japan

Japan, the Vending Machine World Power

Main Topics:
Handiness/Problems of Vending Machines
Japanese Convenience Stores

Asking for/conveying information

Cultural Notes:
Standard Japanese and Dialects
What is / what is not culturally taboo to sell in vending machines

Writing Assignment:
*Why do we have vending machines?
*What kinds of functions do vending machines have in Japan?
*What are the advantages and disadvantages of vending machines? How are they regulating the products and who can buy them?
*What do they sell in Japanese convenience stores? What do the stores do to attract people? What do they sell in the convenience stores in your country? Who goes there?
*Do you like buying things on a machine or in the store? Why?

More Suggested Writing Topics:
*What should not be sold in a vending machine? What would you like to buy in a vending machine? Why?
*If you were to design a vending machine, what kind of machine would you like to make?
What would you sell?
Where would you place it? Why?
*Write about dialects in your language.
How do you/people view regional dialects?
Is there one “correct way” to say things?
How are dialects treated in school?
7-8 11

Japanese History

Reading: 日本の輸入の歴史
The History of Imports in Japan

Main Topics:
The History of Imports in Ja
織田信長 (Oda, Nobunaga)
豊臣秀吉(Toyotomi, Hideyoshi)
徳川家康(Tokugawa, Ieyasu)
(Famous Shoguns)

Talking about past occurrences

Cultural Notes:
Is curry and rice Japanese food?
(History of curry in Japan)
Japanese History
Bakufu (Old Japanese Regime)
Meiji Restoration (Samurai Government ends)

Language Notes:
a little different i-adjective “ooi”
adverb/adverbial phrases that can modify a noun in Japanese

Writing Assignments:
*How do foreign countries influence one’s culture?

More Suggested Writing Topics:
*In your culture/country, do you have staple food like rice in Japan that influenced the way people live or the way people think?
*in your culture/country, are there things that people do as customs though they are originally from foreign countries? Are they exactly the same as when they are first introduced to your culture/country? Have “foreign cultures” been adapted to your culture and changed their original forms (something was added, something was omitted, transformed to something entirely different)?
*In your culture/country, which country has the most influence? How?
*Currently, culturally peaking, which country has the greatest influence on your county? What is happening?
9-10 12

Japanese traditional craftsmanship

Reading:  和紙からのメッセージ
Messages from Washi (Japanese paper)

        Main Topics:
Special qualities of Japanese paper
Story of One Thousand Cranes

Explaining how to make things

Cultural Note:
Japanese Traditional Craftsmanship
Handcrafts in Japan

Language Notes:
ookii vs ookina
The absence of particles

Do a presentation about how to make things/how to eat certain food/ how to write/how to do things.
ᾸᾸIntroduction: Why you are presenting this.
ᾸᾸProcess: First, second, third, and then, finally.
ᾸᾸEnding Remarks

Writing Assignment:
*Write about traditional handmade crafts from your culture?
What are they? How are they used? How are they made?
*(Based on a Thousand Cranes story)
In Japan, wishing for someone’s good health and peace (in the world), people often make a thousand cranes. How did this tradition come about?
In your culture, is there anything that people do to wish for good health and peace?

If the answer is yes: What do they do? How did that tradition start?
If the answer is no: What would you like to do to wish someone’s good health and peace? Why?

More Suggested Writing Topics:
*In your country, do you have some symbols that represent peace? Why do those symbols mean peace? What is the story behind it?
*Have you ever read about personal stories of people who experienced atomic bombs in Japan? Read a story/watch a movie about them. Write your reactions.
*How is nuclear energy used in your country?
What purpose and for what is it used?
  1. nuclear weapon/nuclear bomb
  2. nuclear power
  3. nuclear fuel
  4. others
*What do you think of owning nuclear weapon in your (or any other) country?
11-12 13

Japanese people and the Nature

Reading: 私と先生
My teachers and I

Haiku: The World’ Shortest Poems

Main Topics:
The Nature in Japan
Depiction of Nature
Senryuu: 17-syllable Poems

Developing a conversation
(Asking additional questions/stating your feelings)

Cultural Note:
Haiku (5-7-5 poems)—components of haiku
Senryuu (17-syllable poems)
waka/tanka: 31-syllable poems
Manyoushuu: compilation of poems made in the 8th century
(20 volumes; 4500 poems)

Language Note:
Sentence Final Particle (終助詞)Part 2

Do a presentation after interviewing someone
Ask a Japanese person questions (5 questions).
ᾸᾸRequest an interview
ᾸᾸConduct an interview
ᾸᾸReport back the interview
ᾸᾸᾸᾸThe interviewee’s name
ᾸᾸᾸᾸThe interviewee’s occupation
ᾸᾸᾸᾸThe most interesting part
ᾸᾸᾸᾸWhat you learned from the interview

Writing Assignments:
*Read famous Haiku
Find the season
Based on the reading “How to Understand Haiku”, write the meaning of each haiku
Do a research on the Haiku Poets. Write about them.
(You can do a research reading books and using the Internet.)

More Suggested Writing Topics:
*Write about a poet from your culture/country
The name of the poet
What is he/she famous for?
13-14 14

Japanese Politics

Reading: 政治家になるための条件
The Conditions for becoming a Politician

Main Topics:
Japanese Political System
Hereditary Diet Members
Merit and Demerit of TV/Movie Star Diet Members

Giving Opinions/Agreeing/Disagreeing

Cultural Note:
Japanese Imperial Household

Language Note:
~んです。(~n desu)
Functions of ~ n desu:
ᾸᾸConforming something
ᾸᾸProviding a reason
ᾸᾸHinting a hearer
ᾸᾸExpressing the speaker’s emotion

Suggested Writing Topics:
*Write about the political system in your country
*What kinds of conditions do you have in order for someone to be a politician in your country?
*Do you have a favorite politician? Write about him/her.
State the reason why you like that politician.
*In your country, when someone is running to be a politician, what do they talk about during the debate?
*In your country, have some TV/movie star become politicians?
What did they do before they became politicians?
*What do you look for in politicians? Is it important to you which political party he/she belongs to? Is it important to know what kind of religious belief he/she holds?
*Are you interested in becoming a politician in the future?
What would you like to accomplish if you became a politician?
15-16 15

The World and the Future of my Country

Reading: 世界がもし100人の村だったら
If the World were a 100-people Village
(abridged edition, excerpt)

Ms. Maathai’s MOTTAINAI Campaign
The Mottainai movement speared by the Nobel
Peace Prize recipient.

Main Topics:
World Social Problems
Mottainai Movement
Picture Book: Mottinai Baasan (Mottainai Granma)

Giving Opinions/Agreeing/Disagreeing

Cultural Note:
4R(Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Repair)
*Mottainai as a cultural concept

*Mottainai expresses a negative feeling (sadness, grievance, embarrassment, humility) produced by someone or something that has ended up in a way other than it was meant to.
(The way something is "meant to be" can be determined by the individual, but more likely it is a general/societal/cultural understanding of the rightful state of things.)

Mottanai has many different uses. Depending on the context, it is translated into many different meanings in English.

Language Note:
Examples and Metaphors

Writing Assignments:
*What can you recycle in your country?
What are other things you think we should be able to recycle?
What do you do to make the environment better? What should you do?

More Suggested Writing Topics:
*20 years from now, what do you think you are doing? Where will you be? What will you be doing?
*What do you think the state of the earth is 50 years from now?
*What language do people speak in your country? Is that the aboriginal langue that existed in your country?
*Which is more important, think of the future or enjoy the moment?

*Do you consider your country a “material society” or a “spiritual society”? Why do you think so?
*Why do you think “Mottainai Movement” will help resolve the environmental problems, promoting equal distribution of resources, or prevention of terrorism and wars? (Based on the reading.) Do you agree with these claims?
*In your language/culture, do you have the concept or a word for “mottainai”?

VII.  Methods of Instruction

Class work is organized around the communicative functions used in a variety of speaking and writing situations.  Students will engage in paired and small group activities, prepare oral reports, review and edit written work.  Listening activities in and out of class will involve students in the use of authentic audio and video materials.  Just over 500 kanji are covered in this course.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

This course must be taught face-to-face.

Because of the participatory nature of this course, students are expected to attend regularly, prepare assignments by the deadlines specified in the syllabus, listen to laboratory tapes, take part in classroom discussions and activities, and write essays (four essays, 1-2 pages) on various topics.  Mid-term and final oral presentations will be assigned.

The Oakton Community College catalog states: Oakton Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, or marital status in admission to and participation in its educational programs, college activities and services, or employment practices. 

In keeping with this policy of tolerance and non-discrimination, in this class all of us (myself included) should strive to:

  • Listen and give careful consideration to all ideas expressed in class, especially those that are different from our own, without attacking or demeaning the people who have those views, and
  • Avoid using insulting terms or telling offensive jokes when talking to or about individuals or groups.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton’s Schedule of Classes.
  • Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese Learning Through Content and Multimedia, by Mayumi Oka, Michio Tsutsui, Junko Kondo, Shoko Emori, Yoshiro Hanai, and Satoru Ishikawa. Tokyo:  Kurosio Publishers, Latest Edition.
  • A Japanese/English dictionary

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

The final grade will be determined by:

1 Attendance/Participation 20%
2 Homework 25%
3 Exams 25%
4 Quizzes 30%

Grading Scale:

1. A 100% - 90%
2. B 89% - 90%
3. C 79% - 70%
4. D 69% - 60%
5. F 59% and below

Workbook or electronic assignments must be done by students outside of the classroom in order to practice the course content. These assignments will count as 25% of the course final grade. Students need to have at least a D (60%) in this section in order to pass this course.

XI.   Other Course Information

In this section, each instructor should specify policies on attendance, make-up exams, and late assignments.

Heritage speakers may not take this class.

Oakton has two Language Labs to support your language study. The Language Labs offer the perfect atmosphere for doing your lab homework, meeting with a language tutor, attending a conversation group, or working on a computer. You can find a variety of language specific resources and equipment: language reference books and other supplementary language materials, headphones with microphones, keyboard covers for typing in another language, and more. Language Lab personnel are always available to help students working individually. Visit one of the Language Labs today:

Des Plaines, Room 2446, 847.635.1612
Ray Hartstein (Skokie) Campus, Room C132, 847.635.1493

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.