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Noriko Hanabusa is the Japanese Language Program Coordinator and a Professor of the Practice at the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures of the University of Notre Dame. She graduated from Keio University with a Bachelor of Laws, and worked for the JTB Corporation for four years before pursuing a Master of Arts in Japanese Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She started teaching at the University of Notre Dame in 1994, and teaches all levels of Japanese language. She specializes in Japanese Pedagogy, and her current research interests include Content Based Instruction and Collaborative Learning. She was a recipient of the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2009, and the Kaneb Teaching Awards in 1999 and 2005, University of Notre Dame. She was also included in the 2010 edition of Who’s Who in America. During the summers she teaches at Hokkaido International Foundation, Princeton in Ishikawa, and Middlebury Japanese School.


Hanabusa has co-authored several books and articles on the topic of teaching Japanese language.



Nakama 1a: Introductory Japanese:  Communication, Culture and Context. Student Activity Manual (Second Edition). Co-author with Yukiko Hatasa and Kazumi Hatasa. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company, June 2008.

 Nakama 1b: Introductory Japanese: Communication, Culture and Context. Student Activity Manual (Second Edition). Co-author with Yukiko Hatasa, Kazumi Hatasa and Yoko Kawano.

Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company, August 2008.

“Language Across the Curriculum ‘Introduction to Japanese Popular Culture’ in the Spring 2009
Semester.” Bridging Japanese Language and Japanese Studies in Higher Education: Report from the Forum on Integrative Curriculum and Program Development, Association of Teachers of
Japanese Occasional Papers. December 2009, pp.13-14.
“Toward ‘Contents’ in the Beginning Language Class.” Co-author with Atsushi Hasegawa,
Kazumi Matsumoto and Mano Yasuda. Japanese as a Foreign Language Education: Multiple Perspectives (refereed). Tokyo: Kuroshio Publisher, May 2008, pp.135-150, 307.
“A study on acquisition of fillers by summer Japanese program participants in Japan.” Co-author
with Yoko Collier-Sanuki. Journal CAJLE, Japanese Linguistics and Pedagogy Vol.5 (refereed),
Canadian Association for Japanese Language Education, August 2003, pp.65-87.


Interview  (Translation by Chia Xin Yu)

1.What is the structure of your classes like? Who are your students? 

 We teach year one to year five students. The year one and two students are taught via team teaching. The other levels are assigned one teacher per class.


 2.How do you link pop culture with the study of language in your class? What kind of materials do you use, and what activities do you conduct in class? How do you think this has benefitted your students?

Sadly, we are currently not offering pop culture classes anymore. This is because the teacher-in-charge (Dr. Deborah Shamoon) has left.

 When Dr. Shamoon was here, we held a content course every one to two years. It was not linked to Japanese language courses at the start, but we tried integrating it into our Advanced Japanese course (for students who have completed the 3rd year Japanese class) twice in the spring semesters of 2010 and 2011. This joint course was named ‘Language across the Curriculum’. Dr. Shamoon and I decided on the teaching plans together, and taught together in a joint teaching program for this course. We used the materials Dr. Shamoon used in her content course on pop culture (in English), for example, Murakami Haruki's works and Tezuka Osamu's manga etc., in their original Japanese versions. We discussed the readings in class, watched movies, and did storytelling in Japanese. 

It was a one credit course, so we only had one 50 minute class per week. As a result, I do not think that there was a significant improvement of the students' language skills. However, I do believe that the students gained an understanding that language and content are not two separate things, but are linked to each other. I feel that this realization will be beneficial in their studies. It was also a small class (of only three people), so the students had many opportunities to hone their language skills through discussions and storytelling practices. Normal Advanced Japanese classes have a class roster of ten and above, so I do not think that we could have carried out the same activities with that many students.

3. What research methods do you use in your study of Japanese Pedagogy?


Rather than a researcher, I consider myself to be a teacher instead. Therefore, my “research” consists of picking up on interesting discoveries during class and presenting about them during academic conferences. I have also contributed articles to books, and co-authored the NAKAMA Student Activity Manual (workbook accompanied with a textbook which is widely used in the US). I firmly believe that research should be connected with the activities held in class. When conducting research on teaching Japanese language, one should always ensure that it is relevant to the actual process of teaching during class. The value of our research lies in how it can be applied.

 I have also been thinking recently about how I am not just a “Japanese” teacher, but also an “educator” as well. I used to be very caught up in only teaching Japanese language, focusing on small details like mistakes in grammar. However my way of thinking has changed of late. I want to provide Japanese language education in a broader sense. I want to provide students with not just the knowledge of Kanji and a wide vocabulary, but also adequate communication skills and understanding of Japanese culture and society. These are the things I have been working on recently.

4.Lastly, do you have any interesting research findings that you would like to share? For example, advice on how students who have reached a certain level of Japanese ability can continue to improve themselves?

 The topics I am interested in recently are:

 -The problems of evaluating students and assigning grades

 -Promoting independence in students

 -Cooperative learning

 -Content based learning

I believe that students should not study just for the sake of attaining good grades. They should be constantly self-motivated, and continue to find lasting enjoyment in the process of learning the Japanese language. I am currently exploring ways to guide my students in this positive direction.

This semester, I am teaching 1st, 2nd and 3rd year Japanese classes. I particularly enjoy teaching the 3rd year class this semester as there are four students out of nine who have just returned from study abroad programs in Japan. They have discovered  interesting facts while they were in Japan which I have never thought of. For example, we are reading about Japanese speech style (casual speech, keigo, male/female speech, etc.) in this chapter. One student told us that she went to the Maid Cafe in Japan this past summer, and the maid called her goshujinsama (my master).She may have mistaken it with ojousama (my mistress), but I am not sure about this. Another student said that it might be because the difference between male and female speech has declined, and suggested that this might be why the Maid called her goshujinsama, which is the same as for other male clients. 

I think those students found things, which they could never have learnt from textbooks. Textbooks tend to have stereotypes about Japanese culture, which are not always true. I really want them to discover things on their own and look at the contents of textbooks more critically. Of course study abroad in Japan is definitely a plus, but they can do a lot through the internet too. 

-Interview and translation done by Chia Xin Yu


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