Scholarly article on topic 'Transfer of Requestive Speech act from L1 to L2 in Iranian EFL Learners'

Transfer of Requestive Speech act from L1 to L2 in Iranian EFL Learners Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Omid Tabatabaei, Zeinab Samiee

Abstract The present paper is an investigation of cross-cultural differences in requestive speech act between Persian and English. The study is an attempt to find whether Iranian EFL learners would transfer their L1 requests into the L2, and if there would be any differences between English request strategies by Iranian EFL learners and English native speakers (ENSs). In order for the learners’ language proficiency to be gauged, the Oxford Placement Test (OPT) was used to select 20 Iranian high proficient EFL learners and 20 low proficient ones out of 64 EFL learners. The EFL learners filled out the English and Persian versions of the DCT (Discourse Completion Test). In addition, 20 monolingual Persian native speakers (PNSs) and 20 English native speakers (ENSs) were also selected. The request strategies were classified into three different categories of Direct, Conventionally Indirect, and Non-conventionally Indirect strategies. The results revealed the significant differences in the use of request strategies between EFL learners and ENSs. Lastly, the results also showed that pragmatic transfer of requestive speech act does not occur from L1 to L2 in Iranian EFL learners.

Academic research paper on topic "Transfer of Requestive Speech act from L1 to L2 in Iranian EFL Learners"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 70 (2013) 239 - 244

Akdeniz Language Studies Conference 2012

Transfer of requestive speech act from L1 to L2 in Iranian

EFL learners

Omid Tabatabaeia*, Zeinab Samieeb

a/bEnglish Department, Najafabad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Najafabad, Iran

Abstract

The present paper is an investigation of cross-cultural differences in requestive speech act between Persian and English. The study is an attempt to find whether Iranian EFL learners would transfer their L1 requests into the L2, and if there would be any differences between English request strategies by Iranian EFL learners and English native speakers (ENSs). In order for the learners' language proficiency to be gauged, the Oxford Placement Test (OPT) was used to select 20 Iranian high proficient EFL learners and 20 low proficient ones out of 64 EFL learners. The EFL learners filled out the English and Persian versions of the DCT (Discourse Completion Test). In addition, 20 monolingual Persian native speakers (PNSs) and 20 English native speakers (ENSs) were also selected. The request strategies were classified into three different categories of Direct, Conventionally Indirect, and Non-conventionally Indirect strategies. The results revealed the significant differences in the use of request strategies between EFL learners and ENSs. Lastly, the results also showed that pragmatic transfer of requestive speech act does not occur from L1 to L2 in Iranian EFL learners.

© 22012 The Authors. Published b y Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012

Keywords: Pragmatic Transfer, Requestive Speech Act, Language Proficiency, DCT

1. Introduction

Learning an L2 needs mastery over different cultures as well as grammatical rules and lexicon. That is to say, mere mastery over formal properties cannot lead to the appropriate use of the language. If L2 learners do not have enough knowledge about sociocultural rules of the L2, they exploit their own sociocultural rules (pragmatic transfer) which may lead to intercultural misunderstanding and cause serious consequences.

* Omid Tabatabaei. Tel.: +00-000-000-0000; fax: +00-000-000-0000 E-mail address: tabatabaeiomid@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.060

Kasper defined pragmatic transfer as "the influence exerted by learners' pragmatic knowledge of languages and cultures other than L2 on their comprehension, production, and acquisition of L2 pragmatic information" (Kasper, 1992, p. 17).

Requests are more frequent than other speech acts such as apologizing or promising (Trosborg 1995). Request as one of the speech acts may exist in all languages, but its realization may differ according to different cultural norms. Some SLA researchers explored the speech act of request in English (Francis, 1997; Kaneko, 2004; Kim, 1995; Parent, 2002). Other studies focused on request realization in Spanish (Ruzickova, 2007), and in Japanese (Kahraman & Akkus, 2007; Kubota, 1996). Investigation of the nature and styles of requests can help practitioners and decisions makers in the field to prepare EFL learners to use appropriate strategies to communicate more effectively and efficiently.

Blum-Kulka, House, and Kasper (1989 cited in Francis, 1997) determined three degrees of directness in requests, depending on the extent to which the illocution is transparent from locution: Direct requests, conventionally indirect requests, and non-conventionally indirect requests or hints. In direct requests, the illocutionary force of the utterance is indicated by grammatical, lexical, or semantic means (e.g., "Give me some water.", "Let them lighten your face again. ", and "Younger master, I beg you let my son go."). Conventionally indirect statements express the illocution via fixed linguistic convention established in the speech community (e.g., "How about cleaning up?", "Why do you refuse such a miserable woman as me?', and "Would you mind changing seats?"). Non-conventionally indirect requests require the addressee to compute the illocution from the interaction of the locution with its context (e.g., "The game is boring." and "I missed the class yesterday.").

Thus, the current study has intended to (1) investigate whether Iranian EFL learners transfer requestive speech act from first language (L1) to second language (L2) and (2) determine whether there are any differences between the English request strategies uttered by Iranian EFL learners and ENSs.

2. Method

2.1. Participants

The participants, including 4 groups, were all university students at M.A. (Master of Arts) and M.Sc. (Master of Science) levels. All participants' age range was between 23 and 33. It should be mentioned that the Iranian participants had never been in any English speaking countries. The first two groups were selected from a population of sixty four male and female students of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) studying at Islamic Azad university of Najafabad. They took the Oxford Placement Test (OPT), and finally 20 participants were considered as the lower proficiency group and the other 20 participants represented as the higher proficiency group. The third group, male and female students at M.A. level, consisted of 20 monolingual Persian Native speakers (PNSs). They were studying history of ancient Iran at Islamic Azad university of Najafabad. Among them, the participants who had not passed English courses in any English language institute or had little knowledge of English were selected. Finally, the fourth group who participated in this study consisted of 20 English native speakers with equal numbers of male and female at University of Alberta, in Edmonton of Canada in different majors. They did not know any other L2. The English native speakers replied to the questions through e-mail. These universities were chosen because of the researcher's accessibility.

2.2. Materials

The materials selected for this study were OPT (Oxford Placement Test), Multiple choice Questionnaire (MCQ), and Discourse Completion Test (DCT).

2.2.1. Oxford placement test (OPT)

In order to classify the participants into two groups of high and low proficiency, the OPT (Allan, 2004) was administered to 64 students of English Teaching. The OPT included 100 grammar and 100 listening items. The test format was multiple-choice.

2.2.2. Multiple choice questionnaire and discourse Completion Test

The elicitation instruments used for data collection were the Multiple choice Questionnaire (MCQ) and open questionnaire (DCT), developed by Rose (1994), Billmyer and Varghese (2000). Although Manes and Wolfson (1988, cited in Billmyer & Varghese, 2000) explained that ethnographic observation is the most authentic data in sociolinguistic research, difficulties of collecting data based on this method are well-documented (Aston 1995) and have led to the use of an elicitation procedure known as the discourse completion test (DCT). The written DCT has been commonly used in studies of cross-cultural and interlanguage speech act performance. First of all, a large number of participants can be surveyed with a DCT more easily than role-plays, thus making statistical analysis more feasible (Rose, 1992). Rintell and Mitchel (1989) explored that NSs and NNSs responses showed similar patterns in oral role plays and in DCT questionnaires. However, NNSs responses were to some extent shorter than those of NS.

The MCQ included 15 situations and DCT included 3 situations. Since the responses provided by participants in DCT may be not uniform, and consequently, it is difficult to categorize, analyze and interpret them. Moreover, some respondents may not provide the precise information which is necessary for the validity of data. On the other hand, in order not to lead the result in a specific direction in MCQ due to the researcher's partiality, bias, in other words, limitation of respondents' freedom.Thus, the researcher utilized the combination of MCQ and DCT.

2.3. Procedure

At the outset of the study, 64 students of Teaching English as a foreign Language (TEFL) in M.A. level at Islamic Azad University of Najafabad, Iran (EFL learners) were given the OPT (r=0.85) to homogenize the participants' proficiency level. From that population, 40 participants, representing two homogeneous groups, were selected via OPT level chart. Only 20 learners whose scores ranged from 150 to upper scores were selected to take part in the high proficiency group, and only 20 learners whose scores fell below 119 were chosen to take part in the low proficiency group.

In the second phase, the above mentioned EFL learners filled out the English and Persian versions. In order to avoid a practice effect in EFL learners, there was an interval of 2 weeks in between the two tests (Persian and English). The third group, students in history of ancient Iran at Islamic Azad University of Najafabad, was comprised of 20 monolingual Persian Native speakers (PNSs). The last group, 20 ENSs, studying at the University of Alberta in Edmonton of Canada was asked to fill out the English version of MCQ and DCT questionnaire through E-mail. Having formed two groups, the researcher administered the English and Persian versions of the MCQ and DCT questionnaire to the two groups so as to compare English request strategies of EFL learners with those of English native speakers. The reason for using the same questionnaire in the two languages was to make certain that the EFL participants' responses in both languages were comparable.

3. Results and Discussion

In order to answer the first question, the responses of the NPSs had to be compared with those of the EFL participants through employing one-way ANOVAs to see if transfer from L1 to L2 occurred. Table 1 indicates the descriptive statistics together with the results of the ANOVAs.

Table 1. The Results of the Descriptive Statistics and ANOVAs for the First Null Hypothesis

Native Persian Mean SD Proficiency English Q Mean SD Persian Q Mean SD ANOVA F p

25.65 1.899 High Low 27.65 29.1 1.981 2.693 26.30 25.75 2.250 2.023 4.958 .010 15.472 .000

As it can be seen in Table 1, the amount of F-observed for both comparisons- that is, group high and group low— is significant ([high] F-observed= 4.958, p= .010; [low] F-observed= 15.472, p= .000). In order to find the exact place(s) of difference(s), Scheffe post hoc test was run. Tables 2 and 3 show the results of the post hoc tests for the high group and the low group, respectively.

Table 2. The Results of the Scheffe Post hoc Test for the High Group

Group Group Mean Difference Sig.

High EFL (P) -.65 .607

Native Persian

High EFL (E) -2.00* .012

Native Persian .65 .607

High EFL (P)

High EFL (E) -1.35 .123

High EFL (E) Native Persian 2.00* .012

High EFL (P) 1.35 .123

*The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level. **The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.

Table 3. The Results of the Scheffe Post hoc Test for the Low Group

Group Group Mean Difference Sig.

Low EFL (P) -.10 .990

Native Persian

Low EFL (E) -3.45* .000

Native Persian -.10 .990

Low EFL (P)

Low EFL (E) -3.35* .000

Low EFL (E) Native Persian -3.45* .000

Low EFL (P) 3.35* .000

*The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level. **The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.

As tables 2 and 3 display, there are differences between native Persian responses and the responses to English questionnaire in both high and low groups which means transfer from L1 to L2 did not occur because such differences were not available with regard to Persian questionnaire for neither high nor low groups. Therefore, the first null hypothesis stating that "transfer of requestive speech act does not occur from first language (LI) to second language (L2) in EFL learners" is retained; in other words, in EFL learners, requestive speech act in the foreign language is not affected by that of the first language.

To answer the second question, the responses of the English native speakers were compared to the responses of the high and the low groups to the English questionnaire for each strategy. Table 4 indicates the descriptive statistics together with the results of the ANOVAs for this comparison.

Table 4. The Results of the Descriptive Statistics and ANOVAs for the Second Null Hypothesis

Strategy Native English High EFL Low EFL ANOVA

Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD F p

Direct 3.7 1.031 5.2 1.436 9.75 1.293 124.141 .000

Con. Ind. 10.4 1.143 9.0 2.0 5.2 1.576 55.768 .000

Non. Ind 1.9 .308 1.7 .979 1.05 1.050 5.498 .007

As table 4 shows, the three groups performed differently in all three strategies ([direct] F-observed= 124.141, p= .000; [conventionally indirect] F-observed= 55.768, p= .000; and [non-conventionally indirect] F-observed= 5.498, p= .007). To find out the exact place(s) of difference(s), Scheffe post hoc tests were employed for each strategy. Table 5 presents the results of this Scheffe test.

Table 5. The Results of the Scheffe Post hoc Test for the Second Hypothesis

Direct Con. Ind. Non. Ind.

Group Group Mean Sig. Mean Sig. Mean Sig.

Difference Difference Difference

Native EFL High -1.50** .002 1.40* .029 .20 .758

English EFL Low -6.05** .000 5.20** .000 .85** .010

High EFL Native English 1.50** .002 -1.40* .029 -.20 .758

EFL Low -4.55** .000 3.80** .000 .65 .061

Low EFL Native English 6.05** .000 -5.20** .000 -.85** .010

EFL High 4.55** .000 -3.80** .000 -.65 .061

*The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level. **The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.

According to Table 5, the low group's use of direct strategy was significantly more than the other two groups, that is native English and high group (for both comparisons p= .000). Regarding conventionally indirect strategy, native English group used this strategy more than the high group and the low group (p= .029 and .000, respectively). At the same time, the high group used this strategy more than the low group (p= .000). Considering the third strategy, that is, non-conventionally indirect strategy, English native speakers used this strategy more than the low group (p= .010), but the differences between English native speakers and the high group and also between the high group and the low group were not statistically significant (p= .758 and .061, respectively). As a result, the second null hypothesis stating that "there are no differences between EFL learners and English native speakers in the use of direct, conventionally indirect, and non-conventionally indirect strategies" is safely rejected, and it can be claimed that EFL leamCTs' use of different request strategies differs from that of English native speakers.

4. Conclusion

The aim of the present study was to examine the issue of pragmatic transfer of request strategies in Iranian EFL learners in order to determine the differences of interlanguage realization of request speech acts by Iranian learners and native speakers in English.

There are differences between the use of L2 learners' strategies and use of native speakers', but L2 learners and native speakers have similar accessibility to the range of speech acts and realizations. More importantly, in order for the L2 sociocultural constraint on speech acts to be pragmatically competent, L2 learners should know how their culture-specific background can influence their application of the requestive strategies in English. There were differences between native Persian responses and the responses to English questionnaire in both high and low groups. On the other hand, there were similarities between EFL learners in both high and low (Persian questionnaire) and PNSs (Persian questionnaire).

Finally, it is hoped that research in L2 pragmatics will raise our awareness of pragmatic development in speech act realization and of the nature of strategies as well as enable SLA researchers to consider effective methods of teaching pragmatics in EFL classrooms. When learners' awareness is raised, they may find better ways of learning English while trying to reduce the effect of the first language as much as possible. Further research can be designed to investigate variables such as social distance and social power. The gender and age of participants may be attended too.

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