ICIS Newsletter

ICIS News, Volume 3:1 (March 2006)

by User Not Found | 10/26/2011
In This Issue...
Leadership Updates A Message From the Cochair

Piper McNulty, Instructor, Intercultural Communication, De Anza College, Cupertino, California, USA, pipermcn@aol.com


After 30-plus years as a teacher/trainer working across cultures, I marvel at all that remains to be discovered about how we communicate across the globe.


I currently teach intercultural communication (IC) at a community college in Silicon Valley, California, USA, to a mix of international and resident students. As many of you find in ESL and EFL classrooms, my students’ experiences and perspectives make for some very interesting class discussions. Just yesterday, during an introduction of high and low context behavior, a Portuguese American wondered aloud whether he would have a clue if he ever went to work in Japan. Last week as we listed what status markers might dictate who speaks in a hierarchical culture, a Guyanan woman set her classmates rocking back on their heels by bluntly responding, “Race!” And in a recent peer coaching activity, a Chinese international student gently but firmly informed her chatty classmates that she’d have a much better chance of getting a word in edgewise if they could just stop talking for a minute and make room for a bit of reflective silence. This weekend, my students are writing their own responses to a staffer Donna Fujimoto and I met at the St. Louis TESOL conference a few years back, who complained to us that while on vacation in Thailand “They [the Thai people with whom she interacted] didn’t speak English very well!”

As we, as a TESOL Interest Section, work to spread awareness of the knowledge, attitudes, and skills that can help the world’s citizens become socially appropriate and personally effective across cultures, let us be ever mindful that the study of intercultural communication and intercultural relations yields much that is of practical value not only for our students, but for ourselves and our colleagues wherever we teach throughout the world. Globalization is no longer just around the corner: It is everywhere, in the classroom, in the workplace, in our neighbourhoods, and in our cyberspace interactions. Whether we teach in an ESL or EFL context, to a homogeneous or ethnically diverse student population, we are constantly communicating across cultures. And whether the identity groups with whom we interact differ from our own by national, ethnic, or regional culture, or by age, gender, occupation, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, or physical ability, understanding the dynamics of in-group to out-group interactions can help us become better communicators. Moreover, beyond the interpersonal scale, better IC knowledge, awareness, and skills can help decision makers in national governments, the military, nongovernmental organizations, and corporations listen, understand, and hopefully make decisions that better serve all the globe’s inhabitants. We are truly training the citizens of tomorrow for perhaps the greatest challenge they will face in the 21st century: simply getting along.


I do hope many of you will be able to join us in Tampa, Florida, for the 2006 convention this coming March. With the support of the convention committee we now have a grand total of 35 ICIS events on the program, including our Academic Session, jointly designed and sponsored with the English as a Foreign Language IS; two InterSections: one with Video and Digital Media, ESOL in Elementary Education, and English as a Foreign Language, and another one with the ESL in Bilingual Education IS; our annual Networking Reception after the Wednesday evening business meeting, plus papers, discussions, colloquia, workshops, demonstrations, and a poster session on topics as diverse as “Is Culture Dead in TESOL?”, “Teaching Language and Culture Through Hip Hop,” and “Nonnative Teachers, Race, and the Postcolonial World.” In addition numerous other concurrent sessions throughout the convention address IC themes and concepts. Our ICIS webmaster, Rebekah Muir, is putting together a list of IC-related events across the convention, to be posted on our TESOL-linked ICIS website. To see those that are specific to our IS and put together your own convention itinerary, visit http://www.tesol.org/planner. Choose the “Please click here for planning your itinerary” link, then choose the advanced search function and search for presentations by the Intercultural Communication Interest Section. To see the abstract for a specific event, click on the presentation title.


I’d like to extend my grateful appreciation to the many volunteers who have worked hard in support of our Interest Section this past year, including Nancy Tumposky, my cochair; Incoming Cochairs Susan Coakley and Sara Keyes, who have already been busy setting up the Discussion Groups and the booth; Natalie Hess and Armeda Reitzel, past chairs and advisors (Armeda is also our e-list manager); Web site designer Rebekah Muir; Andrew Bowdler, our newsletter editor; Mary Huebsch, assistant newsletter editor; Donna Fujimoto, Don Snow, and Victoria Tuzlukova, members-at-large; Sallee Prieto, secretary/historian; and all those who read proposals this last summer. Thank you to all of you for your hard work!


Come join us at our ICIS annual open business meeting, Wednesday evening, March 15, in Tampa where we will be eliciting your suggestions for future directions for IC in ESL/EFL including topics for InterSections with other ISs and a possible PCI on IC. We will also be discussing the proposal reviewing process (so do attend if you would like to be a proposal reviewer) and electing folks to fill several positions on the steering committee.


See you in Tampa!





Introducing Your Cochairs Elect

Sara Keyes is relatively new to TESOL and to ICIS. Her background is in neither EFL nor IC, but archaeology, though she has traveled extensively and studied several languages. After 6 years of excavating shipwrecks with the Texas Historical Commission (Austin) and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (Texas A&M), she began a transatlantic history PhD at the University of Texas-Arlington.  In August 2003 she was hired to substitute at the Center of English Language (CEL), a small private IEP inDallas serving mainly Asian adults. She instantly fell in love with EFL and soon left her history program. Sara is still at CEL today, as a full-time instructor, curriculum developer, and student records coordinator.

 Susan Coakley


I have been teaching at the University of Delaware’s English Language Institute since January 2000. I usually teach English for academic purposes, as I enjoy talking to students about American universities and arguing about grammar. I also teach in teacher training programs, in which English teachers from countries such as Chile andKorea come to Delaware to study current pedagogy and American culture. In addition, I supervise University of Delaware student teachers, who are completing their training to become ESL teachers. The common thread in all these jobs is my interest in intercultural communication.

Articles and Information Events of Interest to ICISers at TESOL 2006

Academic Session

Whose Culture, Whose Pragmatics?

Intercultural Communication IS with English as a Foreign Language IS (ICIS+EFLIS) (We decided to do a joint Academic Session. It’s not an InterSection but an Academic Session jointly designed by two ISs. Not the norm, but hey...)

Part I: Presenters’ Presentations

Friday, March 17, 9:30-11:15 a.m.

Tampa Marriot Waterside Hotel/Meeting Room B

Part II: Discussion

Friday, March 17, 2:00-2:45 p.m.

Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel/Meeting Room 10



Piper McNulty, De Anza College, Cupertino, California


Ulrich Bliesener, University of Hildesheim, Germany

Jane Hoelker, Academic Bridge Program, Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development

Lia Kamhi-Stein, California State University, Los Angeles

Ryuko Kubota, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ali Shehadeh, College of Languages and Translation, King Saud U., Saudi Arabia

If a Chinese and an Italian interact in English, what communication norms will they use? PRC? Italian? American? British? Their own negotiated, evolving, idiosyncratic patterns? How are the norms for intercultural conversations negotiated? Panelists from five continents address this issue, drawing on their extensive experience working outside their L1 communities.


Stretching Young Learners’ Literature Toward New Understandings

Intercultural Communication + Video and Digital Media + ESOL in Elementary Education + English as a Foreign Language

Wednesday, March 15, 8:30-10:15 a.m.

Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel/ Florida, Salon IV


Natalie Hess (Organizer), Northern Arizona University, Yuma, Arizona

Jane Hoelker, Qatar Foundation, Doha, Qatar

Armeda Reitzel, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California

Betty Ansin Smallwood, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C.

Johanna Katchen, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan Republic of China

The presenters will note how literature for children and adolescents promotes both language learning and cultural sensitivity. Cultural values embedded in literature for the young can encourage or demean, elevate or degrade. Presenters understand how analysis of such literature both in text and in film reflects and creates cultural norms.

Negotiating Multicultural Identities

Bilingual Education + Intercultural Communication

Thursday, March 16, 2:00-3:45 p.m.

Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel/Grand Salon A


Timothy Anderson, ESL Instructor, Gallaudet University

Mary Petron, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M International University

Piper McNulty, Instructor, Intercultural Communication, De Anza College, Cupertino, California

How do multicultural students and teachers negotiate their cultural identities amid pressures from both home and target culture communities? This Bilingual Education and Intercultural Communication InterSection explores the complexities of multicultural identity development within and outside school settings. Participants representing bilingual/bicultural, deaf culture and intercultural communication contexts will address this question.

Studying Long-Term Resident Nikkei in Japan

Donna Fujimoto, fujimoto@wilmina.ac.jp

“I’m Nikkei sansei”

When I first went to Japan I learned quickly that I had to identify myself as a Nikkei sansei. The word Nikkei refers to emigrants from Japan and their descendants, andsansei means third generation. In other words, I am a third-generation Japanese American. Having grown up in the United States where the first and second generations before me, the issei and nisei, were forced into concentration camps during World War II (or they had to live under tight curfews in Hawaii), it was not surprising that I and many other sansei or yonsei (fourth generation) did not learn to speak Japanese while growing up. Thus, looking Japanese but not being able to read or speak it made it necessary for me to explain who I was to Japanese people. It was (and still is) somewhat of a defensive measure—to explain beforehand why I may not behave exactly as a Japanese national might, thereby lessening the chances of misunderstanding or confusion.

Nikkei as a Research Topic

The experience of learning about and trying to adjust to Japanese society has been difficult, rewarding, and life-changing, and it is still ongoing. People have been very interested in my experiences, and some have encouraged me to make presentations or write about being Nikkei. I was happy to receive such positive encouragement; however, telling my story seemed too personal and not important enough to warrant such attention. Recently, however, I changed my mind.

This change of heart has been fueled by the realization that the Nikkei experience is of interest to more than just myself and a few other individuals. I recall being surprised the first time I learned that there are actually academic departments in Japanese universities devoted solely to the study of Nikkei in North and South America. I began to hear of academic conferences and seminars focusing specifically on Japanese Americans. It had never occurred to me before that Japanese Americans like myself are the subject of academic inquiry in Japan.

Intercultural Awareness

Having been actively interested in teaching and research in the field of intercultural communication for many years, I did not really need to be convinced that a study of Nikkei who live in Japan would be a positive contribution to the field. Because Nikkei look like Japanese nationals, we are sometimes treated as Japanese (especially as our language and pragmatic skills improve) by both Japanese and non-Japanese and sometimes not. We experience being an outsider sometimes and an insider other times. There are times when we have to consciously shift in order to emphasize our Japanese qualities, on the one hand, or our North American ways, on the other. This stepping back and forth between the invisible lines between Japanese society and our American thinking can shed light on intercultural differences and similarities.

Rethinking Identity

At the same time as I was doing research in the field of language learning and teaching, I became aware of important trends in various fields that added to my changing viewpoint. In the field of ESL and EFL, the study of identity of both students and teachers has become increasingly important. My identity as a Japanese American teacher in Japan may make a difference in my language classroom. How my students view me may also make a difference. I began to consider identity more seriously.

In the fields of sociology, psychology, politics, and cultural studies, there has been a shift in the concept of identity and the self. The traditional and simple ways of defining the self (using static labels such as inherited physical attributes, affiliations, personality traits, personal accomplishments, etc.) are no longer sufficient. In the modern era, more abstract and more complex identifications are a part of the self-concept. In other words, purpose and values that are not obvious to an outside observer are intricately linked with a person’s identity. For many researchers, then, identity is being viewed as a dynamic process of self-definition. Identity can change as people interact with others and as they live their lives.

Starting a Nikkei Research Study

Probably the biggest reason that I decided to begin research on Nikkei was my interaction with other Nikkei. After having several long discussions with another Nikkei about films made by Nikkei women and about other Nikkei-related topics, we decided to organize discussion sessions with other Nikkei who were also long-term residents. It took a while before it actually got started, but we finally had a successful meeting on February 29, 2004, when eight Nikkei gathered to share their stories. The members were all long-term residents, having lived for 5 to 30 years in Japan (except for one participant who was visiting Japan at the time). The participants ranged in age from 28 to 68 and were born in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington State. There were four females and four males. One male was single while all other members were married and had children. One male and one female were married to Caucasian Americans while the other five were married to Japanese nationals. Members of the group were people I had known before or had been introduced to by a colleague or other group members. All of them agreed to be videotaped and consented to the videotapes being used in a research project and/or documentary.


In December 2004 I made the first attempt at research on the Nikkei session. At the beginning of the videotaped session, each person had given a long self-introduction while the other group members asked informal questions and made comments. As the research paper was for a doctoral course on narrative analysis, I transcribed excerpts of these self-introductions, identified 10 complete narratives, and then used narrative analysis on the resulting data. I have since revised that study and have written an article entitled “One Approach to the Study of Identity: Listening to Nikkei Voices,” which will be published in March 2006. Preliminary results of the analysis revealed the following recurring themes: The Nikkei expressed being very different, not fitting in, having difficulty, having to think about “Who am I?” and thinking of or wanting to hide the fact of being different. It should be noted here that the narratives within the self-introductions centered mostly on the Nikkei’s initial experiences inJapan.

Additional Data

Further analysis needs to be done on the other parts of the discussion during the session. Data are not lacking as seven additional sessions involving different members of the Nikkei group have been video- or audiotaped since February 2004. More Nikkei have joined in our sessions, and currently 22 Nikkei have participated in some way so far. Three sessions have been interviews followed by discussions. Three more sessions have been unique in that the discussion centered around the Nikkei Game, a board game that I developed in September 2004. Rather than having everyone make long self-introductions, I felt we needed another way to share since the group members had changed. Thus, to keep the atmosphere light and fun, yet still focused on the Nikkei theme, the game was used as a sustaining prompt.

The Nikkei Game

The idea of the game is quite simple. A player picks a card that has a common everyday word on it, such as dentist, gas station, nervous, or bicycle. The player has to think of an actual experience related to the card that had something to do with being Nikkei. After the player tells the story, other members can comment and share stories of their own. After all the stories have been told, the other players must guess where on the game board the main player will put his or her game piece. The game board shows different degrees of reactions in terms of behaving as a North American or as a Japanese.

Every time we have played this game, it has been enormously successful in bringing up daily incidents, many of which were long forgotten. Interestingly, people have reported that they talked about some incidents that they had never shared with anyone before, not even spouses or close friends. This was not because they had wanted to hide these experiences, but it had simply not occurred to them to tell anyone because the experiences had been so ordinary and seemed not worth sharing. In the context of an interested Nikkei audience, however, the mundane was welcomed and appreciated and oftentimes these experiences took on new significance. People have reacted with surprise that someone else shared the same feelings, or were astonished at how different their reactions were from others in the group. Being Nikkei they had assumed that another Nikkei would share their reactions. The Nikkei Game has been successful at highlighting commonalities and differences. Thus, both as a device for research to elicit talk about being Nikkei and as a solidarity-building activity, the Nikkei Game has contributed positively to the group sessions.

Our Name—the Nikkei Gathering

I have changed in my view and now see that the Nikkei are a legitimate topic for research. As I tell people about the Nikkei group and the research, more and more people are expressing interest. In January 2006 I participated in a podcast interview in which I talked about our Nikkei group (McCarty, 2006). A magazine article is also being written on our work. In fact, in preparation for this article, we were asked what the name of our group was. As we did not have an official name, I simply chose one that I had used in my e-mails to group members. Thus, for now we call ourselves the Nikkei Gathering.

Despite an official name, we are unlike most other groups. We are not a social organization, nor a club, nor a political group, nor a research group per se. All of our members have never been in the same place together, as we meet when and where it is convenient. Not all of the members have met each other. However, this has not seemed to detract from the solidarity that has developed. As most of the members live in the Kansai area, the bulk of the meetings have been there, but we have had sessions in Tokyo as well as other locations at language conferences. A few members have never been in a session, but they stay informed by e-mail. Membership is open to anyone who identifies as Nikkei and who has lived for an extended period in Japan. Nikkei identity does not require 100% Japanese blood. Rather, Nikkei identity is an abstraction that depends much more on one’s qualitative emotional attachment to being Nikkei.

Concluding Remarks                                                          

Having the opportunity to share with other Nikkei has been both enjoyable and uplifting. Nikkei group members have been able to delve more deeply into various topics than we normally could in discussions with family or friends. Several members have commented that they have not had any opportunities to talk with other Nikkei until now, so the time spent in our Nikkei Gathering is valuable. We are continuing to accumulate more videotapes for our archives, which will be available for members who wish to use them for research or other purposes.


Though it is clear that academics from both Japan and North America are interested in studying people of Japanese heritage, there is perhaps only one study that I am aware of about Nikkei who have chosen to live in Japan. This is a great opportunity for members of the Nikkei Gathering. Rather than have Japanese or North American academics study us, it would be far better for us to do the research ourselves. This way we can make sure that the research is accurate and that our voices are clearly heard.


Fujimoto, D. (in press). One approach to the study of identity: Listening to Nikkei voices.

Kiyo, Journal of Osaka Jogakuin College, vol. 35 (pages unknown).

McCarty, S. (presenter). (2006, January 26). Japanese Americans return to their roots [Podcast radio program]. Retrieved February 11, 2006, from http://stevemc.blogmatrix.com/2006/01.25/0000/.

Donna Fujimoto teaches English at Osaka Jogakuin College and has lived in Japan for 24 years. She is currently in the doctoral program of Temple University Japan,Osaka campus. Her research interests besides Nikkei include intercultural education, pragmatics, conversation analysis, and the study of small-group discussions.

About This Member Community Intercultural Communication Interest Section (ICIS)

ICIS promotes intercultural awareness, respect for all cultures and cocultures, and increased intercultural competency among TESOL educators and scholars.

The current leadership of the ICIS is as follows:


Piper McNulty, Cochair


Nancy Tumposky, Cochair


Susan Coakley, Cochair-Elect


Sara Keyes, Cochair-Elect


Natalie Hess, Past Chair


Armeda Reitzel, Past Past-Chair


Andy Bowdler and Mary Huebsch, Newsletter Editors

Rebekah Muir, Webmaster

Sallee Prieto, Secretary/Historian

Don Snow, Donna Fujimoto and Victoria Tuzlukova, Members-at-Large

Why not log on to the ICIS TESOL Web site at http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/seccss.asp?CID=919&DID=4022 and see what you can do to get involved?