Academic journal article English Language Teaching

A Cross-Cultural Study of Offering Advice Speech Acts by Iranian EFL Learners and English Native Speakers: Pragmatic Transfer in Focus

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

A Cross-Cultural Study of Offering Advice Speech Acts by Iranian EFL Learners and English Native Speakers: Pragmatic Transfer in Focus

Article excerpt


The purpose of the present study was to compare the speech act of offering advice as realized by Iranian EFL learners and English native speakers. The study, more specifically, attempted to find out whether there was any pragmatic transfer from Persian (L1) among Iranian EFL learners while offering advice in English. It also examined whether Iranian EFL learners' perception of directness/indirectness in the realization of offering advice develops as a result of proficiency development. In order to achieve the objectives, a Discourse Completion Test (DCT) was used to collect the speech act of offering advice from among Iranian EFL learners and native English speakers. The findings indicated that Iranian EFL learners were not as balanced as native English speakers in the use of indirect use of offering advice. It was also observed that Iranian EFL learners had not acquired the pragmatic competence to offer native-like advice with regard to social power and social distance between interlocutors. The result also revealed that Iranian EFL learners and the native English speakers favored a number of similar strategies for the realization of offering advice, though there were differences in terms of frequency use of the speech acts of offering advice. Thus, this study showed evidence of pragmatics transfer.

Keywords: Iranian EFL learners, cross-cultural studies, pragmatics, offering advice, transfer, directness

1. Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

Throughout the English language teaching history, the successful language use has been regarded as an important principle and the use of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) was an attempt to foster the successful language use (Hymes, 1971). Thus, the accuracy of language use has gained momentum in second language acquisition. When Hymes (1971) proposed the concept of "communicative competence", i.e., the speaker's knowledge of both linguistic and socio-cultural rules in spoken language, the style of both second language teaching and learning underwent a change of focus from grammatical competence to communicative competence.

According to Hymes' theory, the aim of language instruction is to teach learners not only to use language accurately but also to use it appropriately. There are four types of knowledge including feasibility, attest ability, possibility as well as appropriateness, which are all integral parts of communicative competence. Therefore, pragmatic competence, which has been defined as "the speaker's knowledge and use of rules of appropriateness and politeness, which dictate the way the speaker will understand and formulate speech acts" (Koike, 1989, p. 279), makes an essential component of Hymes' conceptual model. Undeniably, language learners who wish to become communicatively competent, not only need to have knowledge of lexicon and grammar, which are "important...but not sufficient" (Olshtain & Cohen, 1991, p. 154), but also to acquire knowledge of "the social and contextual factors underlying the English language" (Uso-Juan & Martinez-Flor, 2008, p. 349); the knowledge is of great significance in inter-cultural communication (White, 1993).

Research into the field of second language acquisition (SLA) indicated that the learners' native language plays an influential role in learning a second/foreign language. In this regard both positive transfer (facilitation) and negative transfer (interference) may play a role. According to Kasper (1992), two types of negative pragmatic transfer (pragmatic linguistic transfer and socio-pragmatic transfer) might interfere with communication. The negative pragmatic linguistic transfer is taken into account as the influences of first language pragmatics on language learners' inter-language pragmatic forms and functions. The negative pragmatic transfer can result in the use of forms and functions in the learners' second/foreign language (called also inter-language) which might be different from those used by the native speakers of the target language. …

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