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LINGUIST List 20.4185

Mon Dec 07 2009

Diss: Anthro Ling/Socioling: Nilep: 'Articulating a Transnational...'

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        1.    Chad Nilep, Articulating a Transnational Family: 'Hippo family' language learners in Japan and the USA

Message 1: Articulating a Transnational Family: 'Hippo family' language learners in Japan and the USA
Date: 07-Dec-2009
From: Chad Nilep <chad.nilepcolorado.edu>
Subject: Articulating a Transnational Family: 'Hippo family' language learners in Japan and the USA
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Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Chad Nilep

Dissertation Title: Articulating a Transnational Family: 'Hippo family' language learners in Japan and the USA

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics

Dissertation Director:
Kira Hall

Dissertation Abstract:

Hippo Family Club is an international language-study organization with
hundreds of local chapters around Japan, as well as several in the United
States, Korea, and Mexico. The group also partners with other organizations
in various countries to operate study-abroad and other foreign exchange
programs. Hippo's primary activity, though, is the self-directed study of
multiple foreign languages. The organization sells audio recordings that
relate stories in multiple languages. Club members believe that by
listening to these stories and repeating their content, attending weekly
chapter meetings where they practice speaking, and participating with the
club's exchange programs they can acquire the ability to speak many foreign

This dissertation presents an ethnographic study of Hippo Family Club
practices in Japan and the United States. The analysis presented here is
based on ethnographic field work in several sites, including Osaka and
Kanagawa prefectures in Japan and Massachusetts in the United States,
between 2005 and 2009. During this time I participated as a member of
Karagoku Family, a Hippo Family Club chapter in Osaka prefecture. I also
participated on various occasions with several other chapters, interviewed
members of the various chapters, and recorded interactions at weekly
meetings. The study combines ethnography with discourse analysis.

I argue that club members in Japan and the USA view the learning of
multiple languages as a means to build a form of cosmopolitan citizenship.
Cosmopolitan citizenship is a view of personal identity formed not within
the nation-state but as a member of a transnational group. Club members
view themselves as part of a global community of fellow club members and
language learners. This view of identity freed from national or ethnic
groups and instead tied to an international organization is seen as a break
from Japanese tradition. In contrast, even though club chapters in the
United States use the same learning materials and express ideas about
language learning that appear very similar to those expressed in Japan,
American members do not experience the same break from tradition. Given
the differences in US and Japanese ideologies of language learning,
American members view Hippo as an addition to traditional practices.

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