"When I don't know what to say, I just post a stamp (emoticon or avatar)," says the student. "Or, when I have to follow a group discussion, I just post a bunch of grinning emoticons."
This, Kohei Yano tells Shukan Kinyobi (March 3), shows how use of smartphone applications like LINE threaten to dumb down users and promote deterioration of the Japanese language.
Yano, the founder of a juku (cram school) is author of a book published by Kodansha titled "LINE is turning children into dummies, and pushing their Japanese language to the verge of collapse."
One thing Yano has observed among middle-school and high-school children who regularly use the LINE chat application is the paucity of their working vocabulary.
Over the past five to six years -- basically since the introduction of LINE to Japan -- vocabulary has rapidly deteriorated. One example is how "kimoi," a corruption of "kimochi ga warui" which means "it turns me off," is used for practically any situation. Young users seem to have lost their ability to verbalize their feelings in more nuanced detail. And this is leading to a proliferation of young people who lack the ability to express a range of feelings. During class there may be some point they don't understand, but don't make any response.
This in turn shows a weakness of the critical mind, which is why it's becoming rare to hear them advance a counterargument in class, such as along the lines of, "Sensei, I understand what you're saying, but don't some people also take a different viewpoint?"
Because of this, there's no sense of developing rapport in a class in a good sense, by which kids band together and learn as a group.
Another sign of the deterioration is students' growing inability to use, or comprehend, figurative language. Yano blames this on youngsters' growing participation in SNS, which is causing a loss of creativity. Since students only make an attempt to understand the literal meanings of words, they can't comprehend media such as poetry.
"What's more, kids, by using only smartphones, can't even operate personal computers," Yano remarks. "They can't even use keyboards, which they regard as requiring striking a sequence of keys in order to make something out of nothing."
So what's the way out of this impending linguistic quandary?
A sensible way is to assign students to write. Just looking up a word in the dictionary and using it in a sentence isn't sufficient. The formula should be to have the student take two words -- "donyoku" (greedy) and "fukakai" (incomprehensible) for example -- and use them in combination, i.e., "All of a sudden that person became money-hungry; I can't figure out what got into him."
"So one student considers how to make the sentence, writes it down and then reads it out loud. Then by explaining it to a third person by reading it aloud, he can confirm that what he said made sense," says Yano.
It would appear that in the world created by LINE users, the existence of others is not recognized. In Yano's view, people who stick with their own close group with tend to display a pronounced lack of interest or creativity toward outsiders. The real concern is how this is permeating Japanese society. The growing numbers Japanese users of LINE, like those of the 2-Channel bulletin board, exhibit characteristically antisocial behavior, and efforts at analysis thereof may lead drawing various conclusions about where the country is headed.© Japan Today