V-P Paul Snowden visited Kanagawa Sohgoh High School in Yokohama on July 6 in response to an invitation to run a workshop on the topic of “vagueness in Japan”. More than 40 pupils, from first to third grade, attend the workshop, which ran for 90 minutes from 4:00 p.m. Some of those pupils had also registered to join one of Kyorin University’s summer camps.
Many topics of communication were covered during the main pupil-based activity, which took the form of groups of four or five discussing one of five given tasks. After five minutes or so of discussion, the spokesperson for each group announced their conclusion. All tasks led to the realization that the Japanese language is vague in terms of its grammar （generally no plural forms, no subject for the verb in many situations, verb tenses not always logical） and also in the tendency in social circumstances to remain silent or rely on vague gestures. These items of vagueness were compared and contrasted with different tendencies in English-speaking societies.
However, it was also pointed out that Japanese language and society are not unique in having a degree of vagueness: English, too, can be vague at times. Both languages, for example, use vague ways of expressing the negative, and vague items of pronunciation that are hard for non-native speakers to catch.
What was not vague was the pupils’ attentive attitude and willingness to participate in the very lively workshop.