“Sorry, I don’t good English”: Japanese L2 students’ written peer feedback in the face-to-face and anonymous review modes
Keywords:peer review, written peer feedback, anonymity, mitigation, hedging
To verify and extend the previous research claim that L2 students from collectivistic Asian cultures are resistant to criticizing others’ work due to a desire to preserve group cohesion, this study explored whether anonymity helps ameliorate their alleged reluctance to give negative feedback. Nineteen Japanese L2 students reviewed essays in the face-to-face and anonymous modes, and their feedback comments were comparatively analyzed according to the types, levels of negativity, and mitigation strategies implemented. The results showed that Japanese L2 students adopt an extremely polite interpersonal rhetorical stance regardless of the peer review mode. Criticism almost always assumes a mitigated form, and it is not uncommon to employ multiple mitigation strategies or lexical hedges in a single comment. The pragmatic competence with respect to hedging disagreement or requests did not correlate with the language used or the reviewer’s L2 proficiency. These observations suggest that the use of mitigating devices is transferred from learners’ L1 repertoire, indicating that cultural attributes might not be a major factor influencing Asian students’ reluctance to provide negative feedback in peer interactions.
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