Acquiring communicative L2 writing competence is a challenging task: However, the adequate performance of potentially face-threatening speech acts, such as requests, is crucial when it comes to maintaining good personal relations with readers; nowadays this is most noticable in e-mail correspondence.
In order to facilitate the teaching of culturally specific text norms and to account for frequently observed transfer mistakes in learners' texts, writing styles have to be contrastively described in the learners' L1 and their target language. Previous research revealed cross-cultural differences in the realisation of spoken requests (Blum-Kulka et. al, 1989); and it has been pointed out that Japanese politeness structures differ considerably from those of Western languages (Matsumoto, 1988; Ide, 1989).
In view of the lack of research on written requests, and to contribute to the comparison of politeness styles in Eastern and Western languages, the aim of this paper is to describe differences in requestive behaviour in German and Japanese e-mails. For this study 200 e-mails written by German and Japanese students were collected in an experimental design. Their contents as well as their formal and linguistic properties were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively.
These and other findings shall contribute to the development of teaching materials that will enable Japanese students to write German e-mails more appropriately and to encourage them to write e-mails in their target language.