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November 2020

&EJUPSJBM Looking back on the past year, it has certainly been event- ful. As the school year began, society was turned on its head by a global pandemic that has changed the way we live, socialize, and work. Teachers were suddenly forced to adjust to online classes, which is no small feat in itself, but even more so in the case of foreign language learning. Here at Alma we did our best to help those who use our textbooks through those difficult times. We first created digital complements in the form of digital textbooks, slideshows, and online forms. We also organized online workshops which focused first on basic issues and then progressively became more and more specialized, as the tools became available and we became more familiar with the technologies.

%JHJUBM DPNQMFNFOUT It has become clear that printed textbooks are more indis- pensable than ever, as another “window on the content”, es- pecially if a student’s main window is a smartphone screen. However, in the shift to online teaching, digital complements became a necessity. To complement our textbooks, we creat- ed three kinds of resources: 'MJQCPPLT Alma Publishing issued digital versions of its printed text- books, with “pages” that can be “turned.” These were invalu- able at the beginning of the first semester, when many stu- dents hadn’t yet received their textbooks.

4MJEFTIPXT Google Slides are a convenient way to project content during Zoom classes, and an excellent base from which to make screencasts. The textbook contents have been broken down to better fit the screen without the need to zoom in, and au- dio tracks are embedded.

We witnessed the resilience of teachers who learnt a host of new techniques and started applying them to get results, and not simply project the appearance of normality. We were happy to play our role as a publishing company cen- tered on practical teaching. Looking beyond the crisis, toward a future when it will again be possible to travel and study abroad, we started a project that had been brewing for a long time. The Ibunka Project is aimed at bringing intercultural communication concepts into second language teaching. In this Newsletter, we introduce the online survey behind the Project. On a separate page in this packet, we introduce the upcoming textbook that will be based on the survey responses. I wish all of you a safe and smooth end to this tumultuous year, Bruno Vannieu, Editor-in-chief

0OMJOF GPSNT Google Forms provide a way for students to submit work. These have been ready-made for teachers to use, based on the entire content of the Conversations in Class textbook. ◼


We assumed that asking people with intercultural experi- ence (i.e. people who have lived or are currently living abroad), would result in some interesting responses. This turned out to be true, and though it’s still early days, the survey has given us some great insights and fascinating snippets of experience that we believe bring these topics to life.

*T UIFSF B QMBDF GPS JOUFSDVMUVSBM DPNNVOJDBUJPO JO TFDPOE MBOHVBHF DMBTTFT Most language teachers have a gut feeling that intercultural awareness should be at the heart of language learning. We all know that students should learn about communication styles, patterns, and habits at the same time they are learn- ing vocabulary and grammar. This should be happening at least from the intermediate level. Why is it so difficult to actually pull this off in the classroom? 8IBU`T TUPQQJOH VT A major problem is that talking about culture—in the sense of unconscious cultural habits, the kind that can lead to misunderstandings—is always tricky ground. As soon as you make a statement about a given cultural group, you run the danger of reinforcing stereotypes. Even without meaning to, pointing out cultural traits can make your students be- lieve that all members of that cultural group behave in a certain way, which we all know is untrue. You may also un- willingly reinforce the simplistic “us versus them” mentality. That may be why common practice is to lecture students on general concepts, like “individualism”, or “cultural sub- groups”, or “perception and culture”, and to sprinkle these with a few well-chosen examples. The problem is that this approach requires considerable skill and a good amount of time to do well. It’s also true that many of our students have a hard time expressing themselves in such abstract terms. So most of the time, the teaching of intercultural communi- cation ends up being restricted to specialized courses. There are valid reasons for this, but the reality remains that many more students will take language classes than con- tent-based classes on intercultural communication. How can we reach more students with this important content? 'PDVT PO UIF JOEJWJEVBM Maybe it's simply a question of approach. Our hunch is that it is possible to address specific cultural traits without creat- ing more stereotypes. To do this, we need to focus on indi- vidual stories, not monolithic cultural entities. It’s far simpler to talk about people, not “cultures”. That, in essence, is why we created the Ibunka Survey. The idea is to ask a large number of people from a range of backgrounds to share their opinions and stories on a number of specific daily life topics.

In some Western countries, giving a tour of one’s home and expecting guests to help themselves is quite normal. In others, such as France, it is not.

5IF TVSWFZ The topics covered in the survey are everyday issues that almost everyone has a view on, even if they don’t usually think much about them. For example, one of the themes of the survey is how peo- ple deal with sleep, tiredness, and managing their energy. In Japan, it is common for people to fall asleep almost anywhere because they have “given their all” in school, work, or another effort. Tiredness has a rather positive im- age, and sleep is tolerated in places where it might not be in other cultures. In most Western cultures, for example, more emphasis is placed on efficiency and on the need to be well-rested in order to be efficient. These tendencies influence many practical choices in daily life. They are in- teresting because they help explain misunderstandings that sometimes occur when people cross cultural bound- aries.

“Giving his a ll” or “Can’t manage himself”? How you interpret this photo depends on your culture.

Another situation is the relationship you have with your home. Is it cluttered and closed-off, a private nest for your family’s eyes only? Or is it always more or less ready to wel- come visitors? Do you actually enjoy bringing friends into your home, or do you prefer public places such as cafes and restaurants? Everyday life is filled with these cultural habits, these “obvious”, unconscious habits that we have learnt since childhood. However, we do not want to suggest that the practices of any one culture are unique or weird. Through our surveys, we want to show a panorama of views from many different people so that students can appreciate that cultural issues are not all black-or-white, them-vs-us issues, and also that there are sometimes interesting commonalities which can be used positively in communication across cultures. " DPMMBCPSBUJWF EBUBCBTF The results and the questionnaires of the Ibunka Survey are available as an open resource on Just as we can improve the resolution of a photograph by adding more pixels, we are hoping to add more and more view- points as more and more people take the surveys. As a foreign language teacher living in Japan, you have precious intercultural experiences. Would you like to share

some of them with us? We are always open to adding more pixels to our snapshots. Please visit and help! ◼ Stephen Richmond, Author

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English textbooks French textbooks

For teachers

We are happy to send free sample copies of our textbooks to prac- tising teachers in Ja- pan. You can contact us through our website: Or by email: The books in our “Teaching in Japan” series for teachers are available for sale on our website and on Amazon Japan.

Speaking (low intermediate)

Communication (beginner)

How to Test Speaking Skills in Japan

Over the Wall of Silence

Speaking (beginner)

French society (intermediate)

How to Test Speaking Skills in Japan, Japanese edition

Enseigner l’oral au Japon


Saturday, December 5th, 2020 Doshisha University, Karasuma Campus Nearest station: Imadegawa (Kyoto City Subway, Karasuma Line) • Registration: • Admission is free of charge. • The 19th Autumn Workshop is sponsored by Alma Publishing.

The Autumn Workshop is an annual gathering aimed at sharing practical solutions or classroom research on common challenges we face in teaching spoken commu- nication to Japanese students. This year, the Autumn Workshop will be conducted in hybrid form : • In Kyoto for those who are able to attend in person. We’ll have a well-ventilated room, masks on, and hy- dro alcoholic gel available. After the workshops, we’ll eat, drink and be merry in the same room, thus avoid- ing crowded restaurants. • Online for those who prefer.



12:30 - 13:00


13:00 - 14:30

Successful Conversation Tests: In Class & Online Speaking tests can be powerful tools that help students learn. Unfortunately, many teachers are put off by the apparent complexities involved of conducting such exams, especially in an online context. However, developing an effective approach simply requires understanding a few key principles. The details can be boiled down into four clear steps. This presentation will include practice time for marking actual recordings. We will cover workflows for speaking tests via online learning platforms such as Zoom. While this presentation is geared towards teachers new to oral assessment, all participants will be able to pick up some new ideas. The Ibunka Survey: A Mosaic of Intercultural Experiences In a survey we have recently launched, we ask people about aspects of their daily lives that we think are connected to cultural habits. One of the surveys is on the home, specifically whe- ther one invites guests over or prefers to socialize in public places such as cafes and restau- rants. One anonymous respondent said, “In my experience, Japanese homes are a cluttered mess. Ours is a disaster, and I do not enjoy having people over.” Does that ring a bell with you? In this workshop, we’ll start by discussing aspects of daily life that can be frustrating to foreign expatriates in Japan, as well as the pleasant surprises. We’ll then look at what topics are most appropriate in the context of second language classes in order to elevate students’ awareness of the diversity of cultures. Classroom Activities for Intercultural Communication Learning How can we bring aspects of intercultural communication learning into an ESL class? We’re currently experimenting with an inductive, content-based approach in a low-intermediate language class at a university in Kyoto. In this workshop, we will describe the challenges of this approach, as well as some of the discoveries we have made. We will conclude by discus- sing specific classroom practices and how to adapt them to different levels (low intermediate, intermediate, high intermediate).

Jerry Talandis Jr University of Toyama

14:45 - 15:30

Bruno Vannieu Laboratoire de la Méthode Immédiate

15:45 - 16:30

Stephen Richmond Kyoto University of Advanced Science

16:40 -

Socializing (pizza, beer and non-alcoholic drinks)

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