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Sumimasen, one of the most common expressions, shows politeness and gives a sense of honor, and it has been shown through several studies that Westerners find this concept difficult to understand (Ide, 1998, et.al.). Another reason why it is challenging is that it also has multiple meanings (See Figure 1), so that it can be used to express both gratitude and apology (Yamamoto, 2004). Many scholars have examined its authentic usages or semantic meanings. However, there is very little research that investigates how role-play affects Japanese learners’ interpretations of Sumimasen. Even though most teachers still teach students that Sumimasen is simply translated into “I’m sorry” in English, this paper will approach Japanese learners’ conceptions of Sumimasen. In order to make Japanese learners aware of the multipleusages of Sumimasen, prior to doing role-play, Japanese learners were surveyed about their preconceptions of the use of Sumimasen, participated in role-play using the various forms, and reevaluated about their conceptions of Sumimasen in a post questionnaire and interviews.
Senior Thesis written by Niki Sugiyama.