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The impacts of teacher-student power relationship on the learning of negative speech acts Wang Jinba Yuncheng University. Abstract:
The power disparity between language teachers and their students is often a critical factor in the students’ willingness to participate in teacher-student interaction in the classroom, particularly with regard to potentially negative speech acts such as disagreeing or refusing. Based on the questionnaire conducted on 16 Chinese students of English in Monash University, this paper attempts to explore three questions: 1) Are Chinese students of English as reluctant to use disagreeing statements as they may seem to teachers? 2) what are some reasons for reluctance to use disagreeing strategies in the language classroom? 3) how can teachers encourage students to learn to use negative speech acts more effectively?
The literature, such as Beebe & Takahashi (1989), suggests that: Chinese learners of English are not truly reluctant to use disagreeing speech acts; they are not as obsequious and circumspect as conversational wisdom would have us believe.
Three reasons are tentatively discussed here: power inequality, linguistic deficiency and lack of cultural understanding
In a large degree, the majority of L2 or foreign language learners by default have a limited linguistic ability. Because of this deficiency, they are at a disadvantage when communicating in English, especially with native-speaker teachers. Added to this is the problem of potential face-loss which is a great concern for Chinese people. Therefore, making linguistic errors in front of the teachers or the classmates increases the risk of losing esteem.
It is important to seek to circumvent the power distance between teacher and student. This is far from a simple task, because the power inequality is culturally ingrained and the approach of “let’s all be equals” may not be successful for this reason. Nevertheless, it is possible to stimulate an egalitarian mood through the use for certain classroom tasks which lend themselves to practicing negative speech acts. Such tasks allow students to interact with one another in power-equal / power-unequal situations. role-plays are useful for this purpose because the status of the two speakers can be altered at will: students can act out a situation in which they are playing the role of friends, and then they may perform the same situation in power-unequal roles. They may then discuss the difference in language.