Teaching communicative competence is an integral part of language instruction. Misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations have risen during overseas joint seminars. This has primarily been due to the Swedish students' failure to utilize an appropriate politeness strategy. Sweden is one of the most egalitarian societies and the elimination of the use of ni (polite ’you’) reflects this. However, it is important to point out that cultural and social norms are not interchangeable and that one must adapt to the language one is speaking and culture one is in.
Japanese utilizes many honorific expressions, which vary in complexity according to social distance, relative power between the speakers, and situations. Yet the Swedish learners of Japanese do not often see the necessity of learning these expressions and view them negatively. Though the Swedish system of politeness has hardly been studied, politeness discourse also exists in Swedish. Cross-cultural data on politeness discourse shows that the politeness strategies in different cultures differ considerably indicating that Swedish students need to recognize this in order to communicate smoothly in Japanese. The learners should consider the politeness discourse as a part of the rules of the language rather than something that can be modified based on one’s opinion.
Showing the usage of the Japanese honorific system more systematically and contrasting it with Swedish politeness strategies will enable the students to communicate more successfully in Japanese.
In this study, I plan to 1)show the differences in politeness strategies between Swedish and Japanese speakers, 2)extract the misuse of the honorific expressions in Japanese by Swedish students, and 3)examine why students make these types of errors.