Cynthia Smith

Niigata University of International and Information Studies


I have taught English in Japan for 25 years, and am currently at Niigata University of International and Information Studies. I hold an MATESOL and am interested in issues of identity, diversity, and inclusion.


College and University Educators Teaching the L2 Learner What "They" Want and Need: Japanese University Students’ Exposure to and Attitudes toward Singular They more

Sat, Jul 9, 15:15-15:40 Asia/Tokyo

Singular they (ST) is a generic third-person singular pronoun, as in the sentence “If a student comes, give them a handout.” ST is a well-established part of the English lexicon endorsed by many dictionaries, style guides, and universities, and is the generic pronoun of choice by native English speakers in many contexts (rather than generic he or he/she). However, ST’s acceptance among L2 English speakers varies more widely, influenced by factors such as the amount of exposure to natural English and the socio-linguistics of the L1 language and culture. This exploratory study examines the exposure to and attitudes toward ST by 55 Japanese university students of low-intermediate English proficiency. Results indicate that although participants believed ST to be useful, many also held negative perceptions of it, which seemed to stem mainly from lack of exposure and from grammatical beliefs that conflicted with ST. Despite this, many noted its potential to decrease gender bias, and 74% said they wanted to try using ST more. These results point to a need in Japanese EFL classrooms and textbooks to incorporate ST instruction to match the recommendations of style guides and to reflect the natural transitions in the English language.

Cynthia Smith Lily Thukral