Mechanisms of Biases and Cultural Literacy in International Language Education: One Such Story to Carry

Yukari Birkett


Despite equity and inclusion initiatives, the English based colonial model has permeated the kindergarten to college systems, teaching/learning, theories and methods, the perception of second language acquisition, multiculturalism, and language education (Knowles et al., 2015; Macedo, 2019; Phillips & Abbot, 2011; Battiste, 2013). Cognitive neuroscientific discoveries of the complexity of language learning, emotional intelligence, and cultural literacy systematically failed to reach educators. Few studies have focused on what factors impact on cultural biases of foreign language learners, or what factors in learning facilitate the dismantling of durable biases. What are the hidden agendas for teaching and learning foreign languages? For Japanese study abroad and language programs, what aspects of the target language and culture do learners emphasize while de-emphasizing or omitting others? How are implicit biases from white-English coloniality in the K to college systems influencing foreign language education in the U.S.? What elements in learning foster long-term critical cultural literacy? This qualitative study attempts to understand the complexity of implicit biases towards the target culture through first and second-year Japanese language learners who were enrolled at a large college in the metropolitan area of the Northwest region of the United States. The study included online surveys on cultural literacy and in-depth interviews with the volunteers of these populations. They were administered between the summer of 2020 and the winter of 2021. Concepts from Critical Race Theory (Delgado & Stefancic, 2012), Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), and Emotional Intelligence (Goleman, 2011) were used for literature and analyses.