METM10 poster presentation

Interactiveness of oral presentations at medical conferences in the UK and Japan

Chieri Noda – Tokyo, Japan

Background: While written scientific genres have explicit rules that must be adhered to, oral presentations are not bound by such rules. This places an additional burden on non-native English speakers, especially those who have had little exposure to spoken English. Recent research on oral presentations has shown clear differences in the linguistic features of oral presentations and research articles. However, little research has been done on the communicative strategies used by Japanese researchers in their oral presentations.

Purpose: To determine the differences in communicative strategies used in English oral presentations in the UK and Japan.

Methods: Oral presentations given in English at medical conferences in the UK (n=12) and Japan (n=12) were video recorded and transcribed. All presenters at the British conference were either native or highly-proficient English speakers who worked at British hospitals/universities. All presenters in Japan were non-native English speakers. The presentations were analysed using concordance software to determine the frequency of passive structures, personal pronouns, discourse markers, and rhetorical questions. The functions of these features were also analysed.

Results: Passives were predominant in the Japanese corpus. -˜We' was the most frequently occurring pronoun in both groups, but almost twice as frequent per 1000 words in the UK corpus. The presenters in the UK used both -˜exclusive we' (referring to themselves) and -˜inclusive we' (referring to all conference participants or the medical community). The Japanese presenters used fewer -˜inclusive we', discourse markers, and rhetorical questions. The presenters at the British conference used a literary style in their slides and a conversational style in their spoken text while the Japanese presenters tended to use a literary style in both.

Conclusions: Presenters in the UK use interactive conversational features not only to guide the audience through their talk but also to elicit the audience's intellectual involvement. The less frequent use of these interactive features by Japanese researchers indicates their dependence on the language they have acquired for writing research articles. Increasing awareness of register differences would enhance the rhetorical appropriacy of Japanese presenters. The study should also have implications for those who translate or edit research articles and oral presentation texts in English.


Chieri Noda is an English-Japanese translator and interpreter. She also has experience in teaching English at Japanese medical schools and in giving English language assistance to Japanese medical researchers. This research is part of her MA dissertation in Communication which was submitted to Birkbeck, University of London, in September 2010.