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Factors affecting the development of L2 pragmatic competence: a Saudi-Chinese comparison of apology strategies

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posted on 2023-08-30, 17:16 authored by Marzouq Nasser H. Al Sulayyi
Successful use of L2 involves not only mastering the grammatical forms but also knowing how to apply them appropriately in a variety of social settings, which involves so-called „pragmatic competence‟. The variables affecting L2 pragmatic competence are: L1 and culture interference, environment and type of exposure to L2, L2 linguistic competence, and L2 instruction (Bardovi-Harlig 2013). This longitudinal study of eight Saudi and eight Chinese learners of English investigated various components of L2 pragmatic competence, with the aim to analyse the relative contributions of L1 and L1 culture, general linguistic proficiency, attitude to English language and culture, and length of stay in the UK to determining the level of pragmatic competence in English by means of several data collection instruments and over three stages. To measure the predictor variables, the participants completed language background and usage questionnaires, testing their attitudes to English language and culture. Secondly, they took a general language test (essay writing, interview, vocabulary test, grammar and listening tasks). The dependent variable, i.e. pragmatic competence, was assessed using a role play and written completion tasks focusing on apologising in English in a variety of situations, whereby the appropriate level of formality was also evaluated, together with the overall apology success. Their responses were coded qualitatively with regard to the apology strategies employed, while overall pragmatic success was rated by trained English NS judges, and statistical tests were conducted. The challenges included recruitment and retention of suitable subjects, the recruitment and retention of interlocutors and assessors, and the logistics of coordinating numerous face-to-face tests. The main findings revealed that L2 proficiency constitutes the most significant contributor to the development of L2 pragmatic competence, coupled with social familiarity and power. However, attitude, L2 usage, and length of stay in the UK appear to be statistically insignificant contributors to that development.



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