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‘I must borrow your notes’: Teaching Politeness Strategies. Presented by: Shira Packer, M.A. spacke@yorku.ca York University English Language Institute (YUELI), Toronto, ON NOT FOR REPRODUCTION OR CIRCULATION WITHOUT THE EXPLICIT PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR . Workshop Objectives.

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i must borrow your notes teaching politeness strategies

‘I must borrow your notes’: Teaching Politeness Strategies

Presented by:

Shira Packer, M.A.


York University English Language Institute (YUELI), Toronto, ON


workshop objectives
Workshop Objectives
  • To increase understanding of
    • relationship between politeness & pragmatic competence
    • the consequences of pragmatic error
    • requests, apologies, and compliments across cultures
    • planning pragmatic lessons
    • English learners’ perceptions of pragmatic instruction
  • To use this information to
    • Increase repertoire of effective teaching techniques which target politeness
    • Develop pragmatic lessons which target learners’ communicative needs
    • Help students take charge of their own pragmatic development
your experience with esl learners politeness
Your Experience with ESL Learners & Politeness
  • Introduce yourself and describe your experience teaching and/or administering English language learners.
  • To what extent do you think students understand politeness in our culture? Explain.
  • In your opinion, to what extent can and should politeness be taught?
what is the relationship between politeness and pragmatic competence
What is the relationship between politeness and pragmatic competence?


=“the study of communicative action in its sociocultural context” (Kasper & Rose, 2001, p.2)

Pragmatic Competence

=“the speaker’s knowledge and use of rules of appropriateness and politeness which dictate the way the speaker will understand and formulate speech acts [an act which the speaker performs when making an utterance (Searle, 1979)]” (Koike, 1989 as cited in McLean, 2004. p.75)


= “behaving or speaking in a way that is correct for the social situation you are in, and showing that you are careful to consider other people’s needs and feelings” (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 2005)

what are the consequences of pragmatic error
What are the consequences of pragmatic error?
  • Pragmatic errors may:
    • cause miscommunication between native and non-native speakers
    • threaten the speaker’s face (Goffman, 1959)
    • create unintended offence or flattery
    • strain social relationships
    • result from lack of cultural understanding
    • lead to lack of confidence in oral academic discourse
    • contribute to stereotypical labeling of language learners as insensitive or rude (Clennell, 1999)
why should we teach pragmatics in the classroom
Why should we teach pragmatics in the classroom?
  • Only some pragmatic knowledge is universal or can be positively transferred from L1
  • Clear up some misconceptions about English (e.g. ‘please’)
  • Pragmatic errors are not always recognizable by the speaker
  • Build student’s confidence in a sheltered environment
  • Make learners aware of the existence of pragmatic competence and the consequences of lacking it
  • To increase awareness of what they already know about universal or L2 pragmatic knowledge
  • Encourage positive transfer
  • Encourage them to notice aspects of pragmatics that are particular to English (Rose & Kasper, 2001)

What are the goals of pragmatic instruction?


Requests, Apologies, & Compliments

What sociological factors help us choose an appropriate politeness strategy when making requests, apologies, and compliments?
  • Social distance between of speaker and listener (including age, gender, etc.)
  • Power relations between speaker and listener
  • Conversation setting
  • Conversation topic
  • Degree of imposition (requests)
  • Severity of offence (apology)
  • Value of complimented item
how do requests apologies and compliments vary across languages
How do requests, apologies, and compliments vary across languages?

Main functions are thought to be universal (Yu, 2005)

  • Requests: speaker would like… something of the listener
  • Apologies: speaker would like… to repair the relationship with the listener
  • Compliment: speaker would like… to establish solidarity with the listener

Requests vary according to:

  • direct vs. indirect
  • use of supportive moves
  • perceived value of requested item/task

Apologies vary according to:

  • complete vs. incomplete set
    • explicit apology
    • Acknowledgment of responsibility
    • Offer repair
    • Explanation or excuse
  • sincerity intensifiers
  • downgrade responsibility
how do requests apologies and compliments vary across languages cont
How do requests, apologies, and compliments vary across languages?(cont…)

Compliments vary according to:

  • frequency
  • gender (Herbert, 1990)
  • topic (e.g.: appearance & possession vs. ability & performance)
  • secondary functions (e.g. conversation openers, setting example for good behaviour, requesting a gift)
  • response strategies

What are some response strategies to “I really like your sweater?”

    • Acceptance
    • Downgrading
    • Questioning
    • Returning
    • Shifting credit
planning pragmatic lessons
Planning Pragmatic Lessons
  • What are the recommended methodologies to help learners develop pragmatic knowledge?
  • What types of activities can instructors use to give learners opportunity to practice?
and the research says
And the research says….
  • Form focused instruction (Eslami-Rasekh, Eslami-Rasekh, & Fatahi, 2004; McLean, 2004)
    • Talking about language, how to vary forms, softening and intensifying devices, etc.
    • Discussing appropriate uses in different contexts
  • Contrastive L1-L2 discussions (Eslami-Rasekh, 2005; Rose, 1994, 1999 as cited in Martinez-Flor & Uso Juan, 2006)
    • Highlights what can and cannot be positively transferred
    • Validates learners’ mother tongues
  • Explicit consciousness-raising activities (House, 1996; Kasper, 1997 a cited in Karatepe, 2001; McLean, 2004)
    • Brainstorming
    • multiple choice questions
    • discourse completion tasks
    • role-play error correction and/or creation
    • simulation
    • drama
pragmatic lesson planning analysis
Pragmatic Lesson Planning & Analysis
  • Awareness building discussion questions
  • Presentation of language strategies
  • Controlled Practice:
    • Dialogue error correction
    • Matching and/or identification of forms and functions
    • Music dictation: Jealous Guy by John Lennon
    • Film clip analysis: As Good As It Gets Clip
  • Creative Practice:
    • Role-play
    • Rewrite dialogue
    • Speech writing
works cited 1 3
Works Cited(1/3)
  • Bachman, L. (1990). Fundamental considerations in language testing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Blum-Kulka, S., House, J., & Kasper, G. (1989). Cross-cultural pragmatics: Requests and apologies. Norwood, NJ: Albex.
  • Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.
  • Clennell, C. (1999). Promoting pragmatic awareness and spoken discourse skills with EAP classes. ELT Journal, 53(2), 83-91.
  • Eslami-Rasekh, Z. (2005). Raising the pragmatic awareness of language learners. ELT Journal, 59(3), 199-208.
works cited 2 3
Works Cited(2/3)
  • Eslami-Rasekh, Z., Eslami-Rasekh, A., & Fatahi, A. (2004). The effect of explicit metapragmatic instruction on the speech act awareness of advanced EFL students. TESL-EJ, 8(2), Retrieved on August 27, 2008 from http://tesl-ej.org/ej30/a2.html.
  • Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.
  • Herbert, R. K. (1990). Sex-based differences in compliment behavior. Language in Society, 19(2), 201-224.
  • House, J. (1996). Developing pragmatic fluency in English as a foreign language: Routines and metapragmatic awareness. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18, 225-252.
  • Hymes, D. (1972). Reinventing anthropology. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Kasper, G., & Rose, K. R. (2001). Pragmatics in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Manes, J., and Wolfson, N. (1981). The compliment formula. In F. Coulmas (Ed.), Conversational routine (pp. 115-132). The Hague: Mouton.
works cited 3 3
Works Cited(3/3)
  • Martínez-Flor, A. & Usó-Juan, E. (2006). A comprehensive pedagogical framework to develop pragmatics in the foreign language classroom: The 6th approach. Applied Language Learning, 16 (2), 39-64.
  • McLean, T. (2004). Giving students a fighting chance: Pragmatics in the language classroom. TESL Canada Journal, 21 (2), 72-92.
  • Olshtain, E., & Cohen, A. D. (1983). Apology: A speech-act set. In N. Wolfson & E. Judd (Ed.), Sociolinguistics and language acquisition (pp. 18-35). Rowley, Newbury House.
  • Searle, J. (1969). Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge, English: Cambridge University.
  • Yu, M. (2005). Sociolinguistic competence in the complimenting act of native Chinese and American English speakers: A mirror of cultural values. Language and Speech, 48(1), 91-119.