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Abstract The present study reports a descriptive comparison of apology strategies used by Iranian EFL learners and English native speakers in different situations to determine whether and to what extent inter-language realizations of the speech act of apology resemble or differ among them. For this purpose, a Discourse Completion Task (DCT) including five different social situations was distributed among 21 Iranian MA students and also emailed to15 English native speakers around the world. The findings revealed certain similarities and few differences in terms of the frequency and the type of strategies used by the participants in those situations.

Academic research paper on topic "A Comparative Analysis of Apology Strategy: Iranian EFL Learners and Native English Speakers"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1658 - 1665

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

A Comparative Analysis of Apology Strategy: Iranian EFL Learners and Native English Speakers

Reyhaneh Salehi*

English Department, Islamic Azad University, Torbat-e Heydarieh Branch, Torbat-e Heydarieh, , Iran

Abstract

The present study reports a descriptive comparison of apology strategies used by Iranian EFL learners and English native speakers in different situations to determine whether and to what extent inter-language realizations of the speech act of apology resemble or differ among them. For this purpose, a Discourse Completion Task (DCT) including five different social situations was distributed among 21 Iranian MA students and also emailed to15 English native speakers around the world. The findings revealed certain similarities and few differences in terms of the frequency and the type of strategies used by the participants in those situations.

© 2014 The Authors. PublishedbyElsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: Apology strategy; DCT; EFL learners; native English speakers

1. Introduction

Communicative use of language seems to result in an attractive area in pragmatics and sociolinguistics. Among speech acts apology sounds to be most frequently used in human's daily life. This kind of speech act seems to be culturally influenced providing several opportunities for contrasting and comparing different languages on a cultural basis.

According to Goffman (1971), apologies are defined as remedial interchanges which are employed to reestablish social harmony following a real or virtual offence. He adds that a successful apology has several felicity conditions the most important of which are for the apologizer to admit the offense, to take responsibility for that offense, and,

* Corresponding author: Tel.: +98-915-303-7621. E-mail address: reyhaneh.salehi89@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.590

finally, to offer some compensation to repay. Olshtain (1989) defines an apology as a speech act aiming at offering support for the hearer who was actually or potentially suffered by a violation. "When one offers an apology, one shows willingness to humiliate oneself to an extent that makes an apology a face - saving act for the hearer and a face - threatening act for the speaker" (cited in Dadkhah Tehrani & Rezaei & Dezhara & Kafrani, 2012, p.1). Nevertheless, the current study aims at investigating apology strategies used by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers in English.

1.1. Statement of the problem

Eliss (1992), King and Silver (1993) and in recent years Baleghizadeh (2007) have argued that teaching speech acts to EFL learners has a marked effect on their performance. Like other speech acts, apology which should be a reflection of true feelings according to Alfattah (2010), is face-threatening (Brown & Levinson, 1987), so it demands full understanding of its usages in order to prevent misinterpretation which may cause miscommunication. Therefore, to achieve the purpose of this study, the following research questions are raised:

Q1. How do apology strategies resemble and differ between Iranian EFL learners and native speakers of English in terms of frequency in English?

Q2.What kinds of apology strategies do Iranian EFL learners and native speakers of English use most often in the same situations?

2. Review of literature

Comparison of apology strategies used in different contexts and by different speakers has been focused frequently. Farashaiyan and Yazdi Amirkhiz (2011) did a descriptive-comparative analysis of apology strategies among Iranian EFL and Malaysian ESL university students indicating that the pragmatic performance of students relies upon particular factors rather than language proficiency. It was found that speakers of more or less the same level of proficiency, however in certain cases dealt with identical apology circumstances quite differently. For example, Malaysian students utilized fewer strategies in apologizing compared to their Iranian counterparts. These differences might be due to such factors as speakers' socio-economic and socio-cultural backgrounds, negative transfer of pragmatic norms from their L1 and the speakers' EFL/ESL status. Typologically speaking, the differences between Iranian and Malays are related to mostly the attributes of the given speakers like their learning style priorities, test-taking strategy preferences and personality (Farashaiyan &Yazdi Amirkhiz, 2011).

DadkhahTehrani et.al. (2012) investigated the different primary and secondary strategies used by Iranian EFL students in different situations as well as the role of gender in this regard. It was found that the statement of remorse was the most widely used strategy by male and female students; also this strategy was used more frequently by female participants compared to male participants. In addition, the four primary strategies used by the male respondents were accounts, compensation reparation, negative assessment of responsibility, while those used by female respondents were compensation, showing lack of intent to do harm, accounts, reparation. Negative assessment of responsibility was more frequently used by males compared to females. Female students used the strategy of promise not to repeat offense in 10% of the situations, while this strategy wasn't used by males at all (Dadkhah Tehrani et.al.,2 012).

Shariati and Chamani (2010) investigated apology strategies in Persian and came to this conclusion that explicit expression of apology with a request for forgiveness (bebaxs'id) was the most frequently used apology strategy in Persian. The above strategy together with acknowledgement of responsibility constituted the most frequent combination of apology strategies among Persian speakers. Persian speakers, also, used the same series of apology strategies used in other investigated languages; however, such strategies appeared to be used on a cultural basis (Shariati &Chamani, 2010).

Karimnia and Afghari (2012) in a study entitled " On apologizing in Persian: A socio-cultural inquiry" suggested the universality of apology strategies; however, the adoption of apology strategies in their study supported the

culture-specific dimension of language use. Their results indicate an orientation toward positive politeness as stated by the speaker trying not to defame themselves. However, speakers didn't use apology strategies (e.g., taking responsibility, intensification and promise of forbearance) in order to preserve their positive face. Instead less dangerous strategies i.e., IFID (illocutionary force indicating device) and explanation were more frequently used (Karimnia & Afghari, 2012).

Bayat (2013) in a study on the use of speech acts suggested that speakers use a variety of strategies based on the type of performatives. The variety of the strategies used is attributed to certain circumstances of the communication and characteristics of those participating in a communication. On the other hand, there is a relationship between the different cases in which the acts are performed. There are eight different strategies in dimension of apology. Giving a reason, especially, is apparently the most frequently used strategy of apology. In the act of complaining, a total of ten strategies were identified. The most common strategy for complaining is reflecting results strategy. Reflecting results in the act of complaining provides the male acted person with an implicit justification to remove the existing negativity. Reflecting results strategy serving as an indirect expression, in some cases can be viewed as a gentle form of communication. In the act of refusing, six strategies were identified. The most frequent strategy is giving a reason strategy. Giving reasons strategy is important in comparison with other strategies regarding justifying a refusal to offer. Direct refusal, refusing particularly by using swear words and expressing non-necessity of offer among other strategies, can be explained by the low level of respect between the parties of communication. Regarding thanking, a total of six different strategies were identified. Among these, thanking directly is the most commonly used strategy. Thanking has a strengthening role in relations indicating that the parties recognize the goodness done and reflecting their corresponding sensitivities. The reason for adopting thanking directly as a favored strategy may be due to this. The other strategies used have the characteristics of linguistic expressions which convey thanking more implicitly. It was found that apology carried out clearly regarding explicitness and implicitness. Generally being expressed this act explicitly is a reasonable case as apologizing is relevant to the fact that the speaker does not tend to damage the relationship. Nevertheless, it is not the same case for the act of complaining. The act of complaining is mainly done implicitly. This may be due to the fact that the speaker complaining is under the risk of maintaining relationship with the other party (Bayat, 2013).

3. Methodology

3.1. Participants

36 participants took part in this study. Both sets of participants in the study included male and female individuals who were between the ages of 24 to 30. Twenty one non-native learners in this study were Iranian MA students studying English as a foreign language (EFL) at Islamic Azad University in Torbat-e-Heydarieh Branch as well as fifteen native speakers of English majoring in Language and Literature around the world. Due to the difficulty of finding willing native speakers of English to participate in this study on a voluntary basis, the researcher in this study was not able to have an equal and homogenous native sample, but non-native respondents were relatively homogenous in terms of their academic /linguistic experiences and age.

3.2. Instrumentation

To collect the required data for the present study, a modified version of 'Discourse Completion Task'(DCT) from Cross-Cultural Speech Act Realization Project (CCSARP) (Blum-Kulka, 1984) was used. It included a brief description of five selected different discourse situations and one participant dialogue for each situation of daily language interactions in order to check the learners' different strategies of how to apologize people in various contexts. So the participants were asked to put themselves in those hypothesized situations and then supposed to identify themselves with the persons committing the offenses in the situations and to write their responses in English as realistically as possible according to how they would actually respond in the given situations. The researchers

chose this kind of questionnaire because it was supposed to enable them to reach large numbers of respondents and statically control for variables and analyze the data accordingly.

3.3. Procedure

The Discourse Completion Task (DCT) was distributed among MA students of Islamic Azad University of Torbat-e-Heidarieh who were studying English as their foreign language and also was sent through email to native speakers of English around the world. They completed the questionnaires as they were asked to imagine themselves in the situations and respond as they would say in their daily conversations and then gave/sent them back to the researchers. The necessary instruction was presented in English in the paper and also by the researcher and one example was also given.

4. Results and Discussion

Having collected the required data based on the DCT and above mentioned procedure, the researcher conducted the analysis of data and classified those strategies in order to find the answers for their research questions and also to test the hypothesis formulated for it. So in order to classify these strategies, a model based on Cohen and Olshtain (1981) and Olshtain and Cohen (1983), as well as on the CCSARP coding manual (Blum-Kulka et al., 1989) has been used. Therefore, the researcher who was also analyzing the data identified and described the participants' utterances based on this category of apology strategies which included: an expression of apology (IFIDs), an expression of responsibility, an explanation or account of the situation, an offer of repair, and a promise of forbearance.

In the process of analysing data, the percentage of apology formulas employed by both groups of learners in expressing their apology was calculated and interpreted qualitatively for every situation separately and then finally, the results were compared with those of native speakers to explore the similarities and differences between the two groups and their cultures.

The results of the analysis of the data for the first hypothesized situation which was collected from 36 subjects are presented in Table 1. They indicate the percentages of both groups of subjects' choice of each strategy.

SITUATION 1:

At the professor's office you have borrowed a book from your teacher, which you promised to return today. When meeting your teacher, however, you realize that you forgot to bring it along. Teacher: "I hope you brought the book I lent you."

You: ............................................................

Teacher: "OK, but please remember it next week."

Table 1. Distribution of apology strategy by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers (situation 1).

Strategy Type

Iranian EFL learners

Native speakers of English

Use of IFID + taking responsibility

Use of IFID + promise of forbearance

Use of IFID + taking responsibility+ promise of

forbearance

Use of IFID + taking responsibility +concern for the 9.5% 13% hearer

Use of IFID 9.5% 0%

Use of IFID + explanation/account 4.7% 6.6%

Taking responsibility + promise of forbearance 4.7% 0%

According to the results in Table 1, the use of an IFID along with taking responsibility has the highest percentage and then is the most common strategy used by the subjects in both groups (Non-native= 38% and Native= 60%). But the frequency of the next strategy hasn't been followed in an organized way and it is not the same in both groups. Whereas for Iranian EFL learners, the use of IFID proceeded by promise of forbearance is considered as the second strategy that they use frequently (19%), for native speakers it is followed by taking responsibility (20%). Based on data in this table, it can also be understood that in this situation, native speakers usually do not use the strategies 2, 5 and 7; however, those strategies might be used by Iranian EFL learners.

For situation 2, the results of the analysis of the data are presented in Table 2.

SITUATION 2:

You promised you would buy your neighbour a newspaper while in town, but you forgot. Your neighbour: "Did you get the paper?" You: .........................................

Table 2. Distribution of apology strategy by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers (situation 2).

Strategy Type Iranian EFL learners Native speakers of English

Use of IFID + taking responsibility 28.5% 33%

Use of IFID + account +taking responsibility + offer of 19% 0%

repair

Taking responsibility + concern for the hearer 14.2% 0%

Use of IFID + explanation/account 9.5% 6.6%

Explanation/account + taking responsibility 9.5% 0%

Explanation/account + concern for the hearer 0% 20%

Use of IFID + taking responsibility + concern for the 4.7% 13.3%

hearer

Use of IFID +account + taking responsibility 4.7% 6.6%

Use of IFID +taking responsibility + offer of repair 0% 6.6%

Use of IFID + promise of forbearance +concern for the 0% 6.6%

hearer

Use of IFID + concern for the hearer 0% 6.6%

Use of IFID + taking responsibility + offer of repair + 4.7% 0%

promise of forbearance

Use of IFID + account +taking responsibility + concern 4.7% 0%

for the hearer

As illustrated in Table 2, in this situation the frequency and the number of strategies used by the subjects have been considerably discrepant. For both Iranian EFL learners and native speakers in English, the use of "IFID along

with taking responsibility" (strategy number 1) has the highest percentage of use (28.5% for Iranian EFL learners and 33% for native speakers). However, the other used strategies are of different frequencies of occurrence among the participants. For example, regarding the native speakers' strategy use, their use of "account or explanation along with concern for the hearer" can be considered as their second used strategy where as it is not the same for Iranian EFL learners and for them "taking responsibility along with concern for the hearer" is the next most frequently-used strategy.

Considering the next situation and analysing the data, we come up with somehow similar results:

SITUATION 3:

An acquaintance you had given bus directions to the day before sees you on the street.

The acquaintance: "You know you gave me the wrong bus number for the movie theatre yesterday! By the time we got there, we had already missed half the movie." You: ...................................

Table 3. Distribution of apology strategy by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers (situation 3).

Strategy Type Iranian EFL learners Native speakers of English

Use of IFID + denial of responsibility 38% 60%

Use of IFID + taking responsibility 4.7% 0%

Use of IFID 4.7% 0%

Use of IFID + concern for the hearer 4.7% 0%

Denial of responsibility 4.7% 0%

Use of IFID + denial of responsibility + concern for the hearer 4.7% 0%

Taking responsibility + concern for the hearer 19% 0%

Use of IFID + denial of responsibility + lack of intent 14.2% 20%

Blame the hearer 9.5% 13%

Use of IFID + account + taking responsibility 9.5% 0%

Denial of responsibility + concern for the hearer 4.7% 6.6%

Use of IFID + promise of forbearance 4.7% 0%

Here, what is apparent can be put in some similarities in the use of strategies number 1 and 2 in both groups with the highest frequency of occurrence (for Iranian EFL learners 47.6%, 14.2% and for native speakers 40%, 20%) and more inconsistencies in the use of other strategies. As the data in this table displays, native speakers in English did not use some strategies which have been used by Iranian EFL learners (strategies number 3, 4, 7, 8, 9) and vice versa, i.e. Iranian EFL learners also did not make use of some strategies that native speakers have been using ( strategies number 10, 11, 12).

SITUATION 4:

Parking your car at work in the morning, you bump into a colleague's car. The other car is damaged and it is clearly your fault. Your colleague is there.

You: ...................................

Your colleague: Do not worry.

Table 4. Distribution of apology strategy by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers (situation 4).

Strategy Type Iranian EFL learners Native speakers of English

Use of IFID + taking responsibility 33% 6.6%

Use of IFID + offer of repair 28.5% 73.3%

Blame the hearer + offer of repair 14.2% 0%

Offer of repair 9.5% 6.6%

Use of IFID + taking responsibility + offer of repair 4.7% 13.3%

Taking responsibility 4.7% 0%

Taking responsibility + offer of repair 4.7% 0%

Here, the participants in first group, i.e. Iranian EFL learners chose to apologize by the use of an IFID plus taking on responsibility as their first common used strategy (33.7%) for the damage they have caused; however, the way that native speakers apologize in the same situation was quite different in the other group, i.e. most native speakers would make use of an IFID plus offering of repair as their most frequently used strategy. It can also be seen that where Iranian EFL learners blame the hearer and then offer of repair (strategy number3), native speakers in English would make use of an IFID plus taking responsibility along with offering of repair in the same situation (strategy number 5).

As shown in table 5, the subjects provided the use of IFIDs as their most explicit and most direct apology strategy in this situation.

SITUATION 5:

You arranged to meet a friend in order to study together for an exam. You arrive half an hour late for the meeting.

Friend: "I have been waiting at least half an hour for you!" You: .............................................................

Table 5. Distribution of apology strategy by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers (situation 5).

Strategy Type

Iranian EFL learners

Native speakers of English

Use of IFID + explanation/account 28.5%

Use of IFID + account + concern for the hearer 4.7%

Use of IFID + account + taking responsibility 19%

Use of IFID + promise of forbearance 14.2%

Use of IFID + account+ taking responsibility + concern 4.7% for the hearer

Use of IFID + taking responsibility + promise of 4.7% forbearance

Use of IFID + concern for the hearer 14.2%

Use of IFID + denial of responsibility 4.7%

Reyhaneh Salehi /Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 1658 - 1665 Use of IFID + justification of hearer 4.7% 0%

As the data presented in table 5 reveal, the use of IFID is repeated in all the strategies in this situation. It seems that the subjects had this perception that they should certainly apologize by using IFID and that is compulsory in this situation. And also, they used different types of expression of remorse to show that they are unhappy with whatever happened. Some of the strategies have not been used by native respondents (strategies number 5, 7, 8, 9), whereas the frequency of IFID with other strategies nearly remain in the same percentage.

5. Conclusion

As it was mentioned previously, the present study aimed to provide a descriptive comparison of apology strategies used by Iranian EFL learners and native speakers in English display in dealing with identical apology situations to determine whether and to what extent inter-language realization of the speech act of apology by Iranian learners differs from apology realization by those who are native speakers in English. For this purpose, 36 participants and five different social situations were chosen for this study. Examining those strategies, as the findings of this study demonstrate, there are some similarities and differences in Iranians and native speaker's tendencies towards utilization of apology strategies. Both Iranians EFL learners and native speakers in English used similar types of strategies in many of the situations; however, sometimes one group were using some strategies which were not observed in other groups' performance. In other words, although the participants were nearly at the same level of proficiency, in few cases they dealt with identical apology situations quite differently. As indicated in the tables (1-5), in certain situations Iranian EFL learners and native speakers in English have had similar tendencies in utilization of apology strategies. For example, the "use of IFIDs" and "taking responsibility" is among the strategies with almost similar frequency of occurrence among both groups. Maybe it can be concluded that the participants have the perception that they have to use IFID like "I am sorry" and it is compulsory in each apology situation. Therefore, from tables (1-5) it can be understood that the extent of using strategies varies in different situations but for the majority of informants in these studies, the essential components of apology were explicit apology expression (IFIDs), responsibility statements, promise of forbearance, offer of repair and concern for the hearer.

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