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Masarykova univerzita
Filozofick fakulta

Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky

Magistersk diplomov prce

2008

Markta Novkov

Masaryk University
Faculty of Arts

Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Markta Novkov
Pragmatics in English Language Teaching:
Culture Specific Ways of Expression
Masters Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: doc. PhDr. Ludmila Urbanov, CSc.


2008

I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,


using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.

.
Authors signature

My sincere thanks go to Dr. Ludmila Urbanov


for her kind support and valuable advice.

Table of Contents

Introduction ....7

Chapter I

Pragmatic Aspects of EnglishTeaching and Learning...8

1.1 The Scope of Pragmatics ... 8


1.2. Pragmatic Competence . 9
1.2.1 Determinants of Pragmatic Competence ..10
1.2.1.1 Level of Proficiency ..10
1.2.1.2 Length of Learning Process ...11
1.2.2

Pragmatic Tests .. .12

1.2.3 Test of Pragmatic and Grammatical Recognition .............14

Chapter II

Cultural Aspects of English Teaching and Learning.18

2.1 Cross-Cultural Pragmatics ..18


2.2 The Extent of Cross-Cultural Training and Instruction .23
2.2.1 Deductive vs. Inductive Pragmatic Instruction .....25
2.2.2 Explicit vs. Implicit Pragmatic Instruction....27
2.3 Cultural Awareness ....28
2.3.1 Cultural Awareness Raising Activities in Business English. 30
2.3.2 Cultural Awareness Raising Activities in General English .34

Chapter III

Specific Features of Czech Learners of English..38

3.1 The Czech Learner ....38

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3.1.1 Grammatical Interference .38
3.1.2

Lexical Interference ....45

Chapter IV

Contextual Approach..46

4.1 Language in Context ....46


4.1.1 Situational Context ....46
4.1.2 Contextualization Conventions .49

Chapter V

Politeness Strategies in Requests50

5.1 Survey of Pragmatic Competence ...............................50


5.2 Face-Saving Devices........56
5.3 Requests: the Form and Meaning ............58

Chapter VI

Textbook Analysis61

6.1 Introduction ....61


6.2 New English File Intermediate ......61
6.3 International Express Intermediate .......68
Conclusion .....77

Summary ....79
Czech Summary......80
Works Cited ...82

Introduction

This work attempts to explore the position pragmatics occupies in modern second
language teaching. I would like to emphasize the importance of the presence of pragmatic
instruction in English language teaching in order to develop learners pragmatic competence
in a meaningful and natural way. Mastering a language does not only mean acquiring great
linguistic competence with focus on accuracy and form. It includes developing pragmatic
competence to avoid inappropriate usage of the language. English language teachers tend to
underrate pragmatic learning and thus make language teaching and learning artificial.
On numerous occasions pragmatic rules for language are applied subconsciously. Native
speakers are not always capable of recognizing these rules in their own mother tongue. The
execution and comprehension of certain speech acts might be significantly incompatible with
conversational management operated in a foreign language.
Without instruction, a learner of high grammatical proficiency does not inevitably show
equivalent pragmatic development. The classroom is the ideal place for a pragmatic
discussion of how the language works and it may lead to absorbing debates on intercultural
awareness.
I intend to outline the most frequent problematic areas non-native speakers have to cope
with in the course of the language acquisition process. I will draw on the most recent
methodological research which has been conducted in respect of the second language
acquisition. Meticulous attention will be devoted to the Czech learner of English and his or
her specifications.
A significant part of the thesis will be found in the analysis and comparison of two modern
English language textbooks with focus on the way they deal with introducing functional

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language, namely requests. Learners of English and their teachers are often reliant on
textbooks and the ways they mediate the comprehension of a language. The format
of a textbook influences the learning process and thus it ought to reflect certain
methodological, linguistic and pragmatic knowledge.

Chapter I

Pragmatic Aspects of English Teaching and Learning

1.1 The Scope of Pragmatics

Pragmatics has been defined in various ways. According to George Yule pragmatics
refers to the study of meaning in interaction or meaning in context, exploring how linguistic
utterances could be interpreted differently as a result of different contextual forces and
communicative goals (2000:3). He defines pragmatics as the study of speaker meaning: the
focus is upon the interpretation of what people mean by their utterances rather than what the
phrases in the utterances mean by themselves. Speaker meaning is necessarily bound to
contextual meaning and how the particular context influences what is uttered. The context
comprises the addressee, the place, the time and other circumstances. Pragmatics also aims at
investigating the invisible meaning: how what the unsaid is recognized to be a relevant part of
a conversation. The proportion of what is said and unsaid is determined by a physical, social
or conceptual distance. In this respect, pragmatics is the study of the expression of relative
distance.
David Crystal proposes another definition of pragmatics as the study of language from
the point of view of users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter
in using language in social interaction and the effects their use of language has on other
participants in the act of communication (1997:301).

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R.C. Stalnaker tends to be briefer, in his words, pragmatics is the study of linguistic acts
and the contexts in which they are performed (1972:383).

1.2 Pragmatic Competence

According to Bachman (1990:87), language competence includes two core components,


organizational competence and pragmatic competence. The former refers to grammatical
competence and textual competence. The latter one consists of illocutionary competence
and social linguistic competence. Illocutionary competence refers to knowledge of
communicative actions and how to perform these actions. Social linguistic competence means
the ability to use language appropriately according to the situation.
Mastering a language does not only mean acquiring great linguistic competence with
focus on accuracy and form, but it also includes developing pragmatic competence to avoid
inappropriate usage of a language in the form of a social and cultural misunderstanding.
Pragmatic failure is far more serious than a failure caused by, for instance, using a wrong
tense. Grammatical errors may imply that a speaker is a less proficient language user but
pragmatic failures might have profound impact on the speaker as a person.
Assuming teachers do not wish their students to appear impolite, uncaring or unfriendly,
pragmatic instruction has to become an integral part of the lessons. In the classroom students
should learn to interpret language in the same way they have learnt to interpret the rules of
their mother tongue.
As Kasper and Rose (2001:5) state The main categories of communicative acts in
Searles (1976) influential classification, representatives, directives, commissives,
expressives, and declarations are available in any community, as are (according to current

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evidence) such individual communicative acts as greetings, leave-takings, requests, offers,
suggestions, invitations, refusals, apologies, complaints, or expressions of gratitude.
The major realization strategies identified for some communicative acts have been found
stable across ethnolinguistically distant speech communities.
Sometimes second language learners as well as native speakers tend to underestimate
pragmatic learning. To reveal the rules of human communication, pedagogic intervention is
necessary not with the purpose of providing learners with new information but to make them
aware of what they know already and encourage them to use their universal or transferable
(L1) pragmatic knowledge in language two (L2) contexts (Kasper & Rose, 2001:6).
At the same time, we have to consider the existence of certain culturally specific
expressions which vary from culture to culture and also certain communicative acts which are
known in some cultures but unknown in others. Then sufficient instructional intervention can
be recommended or even become inevitable in order not to violate the politeness principle
applied to the specific culture.

1.2.1 Determinants of Pragmatic Competence


1.2.1.1 Level of Proficiency

Does proficiency have any influence on the acquisition of pragmatic rules? BardoviHarlig argues that some areas are probably more sensitive to level of proficiency than others.
But in general terms, proficiency has little effect on the realization strategies that learners use
(see Kasper & Rose, 2001: 26-27).
On the other hand, in a study of refusals carried out among Japanese ESL learners at both,
lower and higher level of proficiency, Takahasi and Beebe (1897) found that these two groups

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differed in the order and frequency of semantic formulas they used. The lower-level learners
were also more direct than the higher-level learners.
Maeshiba, N., Yoshinaga, N., Kasper, G. & Rose, S. (1996) found out that transfer may be
also influenced by the level of proficiency. Advanced learners do better than intermediate
learners at recognizing the contexts in which L1 apology strategies cannot be used.
Trosborg (1987) claims that the use of modality markers, such as downtoners,
understaters, hedges, subjectivizers, intensifiers, also improves with proficiency.
Scarcella (1979) found that when making requests, the low-level students relied on
imperatives, whereas higher-level students showed sensitivity to status and were using
imperatives only with close people or subordinates.

1.2.1.2 The Length of the Learning Process

Pragmatic competence is also influenced by the length of the learning process.


Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the length does not guarantee a better pragmatic
competence unless the learners are trained in pragmatics. Without consistent and regular
pragmatic training, the process of gaining pragmatic competence is very slow or it is not
developed at all.
At the beginning of the 1970s there was a shift from teaching based on the presentation
and practice of grammatical structures and vocabulary to a more communicative concept of
learning functions. In 1972 Wilkins published a document which does not describe language
as a set of grammatical rules and areas of vocabulary, but as a system of functional categories.
Wilkinss work was used by the Council of Europe in designing a communicative language
syllabus which described the communicative functions needed for a successful

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communication at a given level of competence. At the end of the 1970s, first textbooks based
on functional syllabuses started to appear. In a typical grammatical syllabus, structures with
the word would tend to appear in the context of the second conditional, it means in later
units. Whereas in a functional syllabus would appears very early in phrases like Would
you like . Even beginners can be made acquainted with social exchanges without having
fully acquired the grammatical background.
Providing that the learners are exposed to a balanced system of teaching, including all the
skills (speaking, writing, reading and listening), grammar structures, vocabulary work and
functional language, they are able to acquire the language and communicate effectively
without the necessity of being in a foreign language environment.
On the other hand, Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford argue that ESL learners are more sensitive
than EFL learners to pragmatic lapses and they identify pragmatic problems more frequently
than EFL learners. ESL learners also regard pragmatic problems as more serious than
grammatical mistakes (see Kasper & Rose, 2001:28). Obviously, the longer the stay is, the
more competent the learners become.

1.2.2 Pragmatic Tests

Pragmatic proficiency has become an essential aspect which is taken into consideration in
modern examination systems. Students who undergo a regular pragmatic training show better
results than those who lack such attention. Focus on pragmatic competence in language
testing reflects the content and form of language teaching.

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Pragmatic proficiency is tested in pragmatic tests. There are written discourse completion
tasks, multiple-choice discourse completion tasks, oral discourse completion tasks, discourse
role-play tasks, discourse self-assessment tasks, and role-play self-assessments.
Bardovi-Harlig and Drnyei (1998) investigated the relevance of grammatical and
pragmatic errors as they are viewed by the English as a foreign language (EFL), English as a
second language (ESL) learners and native speakers (NSs). In a test of 543 learners and their
teachers in Hungary and the United States, the results showed that EFL learners and their
teachers identified and ranked grammatical errors as more serious than pragmatic errors, but
ESL learners and their NS English teachers showed the opposite pattern. Another interesting
result of this study was that learners did not always recognize the pragmatically correct items
(see Kasper & Rose, 2001: 63-79).
Drawing on the situation in the Czech environment, the test would probably bring similar
results. Most learners still regard grammatical errors as more serious than the pragmatic ones.
This is due to the old educational system when students performance was judged by their
errors, not by what they were good at. Unfortunately, the effects of this system are still to be
observed in Czech schools in general. Undoubtedly, the absence of teaching pragmatic
competence at schools contributes to the fact that grammatical errors are still regarded as less
relevant than the pragmatic ones which, paradoxically can lead to much more
misunderstanding and social faux pas.
Most of EFL learners first realize the importance of pragmatic competence no sooner than
during their university studies, maybe not as a part of their practical English seminars but in
seminars of sociolinguistics.

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1.2.3 Test of Pragmatic and Grammatical Error Recognition

The following multiple choice test is to be found in an old edition of English File UpperIntermediate Teachers Book. This test is designed as a revision and consolidation of social
responses as they were introduced in Practical English sessions at the end of each unit in
English File Intermediate. Students are presented with fourteen situations. Their task is to
choose the most appropriate response. One of the three choices contains a grammatical error,
one is false from the pragmatic point of view and one is correct both grammatically and
pragmatically.
The test serves as a valuable source for pragmatic discussion. Students tackle each option,
identify the correct one and give reasons for their choice. Czech adult students may
sometimes feel anxious about making grammatical mistakes in their speech. Some students
require an immediate error correction, which might have a counterproductive effect on their
fluency. By providing activities where they are to compare the relevance and impact of
pragmatic and grammatical errors and an appropriate teachers guidance, students usually
realize that making a pragmatic error may lead to more far-reaching consequences.
Teachers intervention in the form of explicit pragmatic instruction is necessary. Students
benefit from a deductive approach in instruction which is based on a preliminary statement of
rules and patterns of a particular language item. The application of these rules and patterns
follows immediately after the instruction. This prevents students from creating their own
confusing hypotheses, which acknowledges the results of the study conducted by Rose and
Ng Kwai-fun (see Kasper & Rose, 2001:145-169).
My intention is not to provide a comprehensive description of a serious research based on
the analysis of the results of the test. It is rather an attempt to decipher the most frequent

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lapses of Czech students and to specify the main characteristics of Czech learners during my
observation in the class.
The students who took the test and explained reasons for their choices were intermediate
students. Within this level of proficiency possible differences were observable in terms of
language abilities. I am going to illustrate the results of my observation on the situations in
which the appropriate usage of requests was tested.
Examples:
1 Youre at the airport checking in. The airline steward says something about your flight
being delayed, but you dont understand her. What could you say?
a) Sorry, could you repeat?
b) What did you say?
c) Could you say that again, please?

All the students identified option c as the most appropriate. About half of the students
accepted option a as possible without realizing the missing pronoun. Option b was considered
to be suitable before the instruction, but accepted as inappropriate after the instruction.

2 Youre staying at a hotel, and you have to get up at 7.15 the next morning. What do you
say to the receptionist?
a) Could your wake me up at 7.15 tomorrow, please?
b) Call me at 7.15 tomorrow.
c) Can you to call me tomorrow at 7.15, please?

The majority of students identified option a as probably more appropriate than option c
without recognizing the grammatical error in c. Two students considered option b as

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inappropriate because the speaker did not explain the reason why he wants to be woken up
and thus the receptionist would not know what to say in the morning. Half of the students
suggested that option b could become appropriate by adding please. This reflects a general
idea of Czech students that please can make a command sound polite.

3 You bought some jeans yesterday but when you got home you saw the zip was broken.
You take them back the next day. What do you say to the shop assistant?
a) Give me back my money.
b) Id like my money back, please.
c) Could I have back my money, please?

The majority of students identified option c as the most appropriate drawing on a


presupposition that Id like is similar to I want and thus both forms sound impolite. The
grammatical error failed to be recognized. In some cases the phrase Could I have back my
money, please? was identified as inappropriate due to being too polite considering the
circumstances of a complaint.

4 Youre on holiday and youre trying to find the station but youve got lost. You stop
someone in the street. What could you say?
Excuse me,
a) could you tell me the way to the station?
b) how do I get the station?
c) you! Tell me where the station is.

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All students considered option c as impolite. Options a and b were both found appropriate. It
is worth emphasising that when trying to catch somebodys attention, the phrase Excuse me is
to be used instead of Please. Czech learners tend to use Please in similar situations as a result
of a negative transfer.

5 Youre in a friends house and need to make a phone call. What could you say?
a) Do you mind if I use your phone?
b) May I to use your phone?
c) I want to make a phone call, Ok?

All three phrases were found appropriate with certain reservations. Option c was argued to be
acceptable due to the fact that the addressee is a friend and thus I want does not sound
impolite. Some students expressed doubts whether to use the Do you mind phrase. They
considered the phrase rather complicated.

6 Youre on holiday with a friend. Youve got a camera but youd like a photo with both of
you in it. You stop a stranger. What do you say to him/her?
Excuse me,
a) would you mind take a photo of us?
b) do you think you could take a photo of us?
c) sir! Take a photo of us, please.

The majority of students identified options a and b as appropriate and option c as rude. The
phrase Would you mind was considered rather complicated and thus unlikely to be used.

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The results of the test reveal that more linguistically proficient students were able to
recognize the grammatical errors more easily. The same students did not necessarily
demonstrate the ability to recognize pragmatic errors. This fact underlines the claim that
pragmatic proficiency does not rely on linguistic proficiency.
Czech learners appear to be reluctant to adjust to more polite inherent features of the English
language in order to broaden their requesting repertoire. They deliberately restrict themselves
to using Can you and Could you phrases in order to prevent themselves from making
grammatical mistakes, although a majority of students ranked the grammatical errors as less
relevant.

Chapter II Cultural Aspects of English Teaching and Learning


2.1 Cross-Cultural Pragmatics

Bardovi-Harlig in her study Evaluating the empirical evidence (see Kasper & Rose,
2001: 13-32), reviews the empirical evidence in cross-cultural and interlanguage pragmatics
research suggesting that native speakers and nonnative speakers have different systems of
pragmatics. She relies on Cohen (1996) who identifies three areas for such differences: speech
acts, semantic formulas and form. Bardovi-Harlig divides the differences between learners
and native speakers into four categories: choice of speech acts, semantic formulas, content
and form.
Speech acts - authentic conversations and role plays show that native speakers and
learners may use different speech acts in the same situations, or they avoid their performance
at all. For instance, when giving advice, native speakers produce more suggestions, whereas
non-native speakers produce more rejections. Cohen and Olshtain (1993) offer an example of
a situation in which an apology was to be elicited by a non-native speaker (NNS):

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Situation (Cohen & Ohlstein, 1993:54):


You arranged to meet a friend in order to study together for an exam. You arrive half an hour
late for the meeting.
Friend (annoyed): Ive been waiting at least half an hour for you!
You: ----------------------------

Transcript of the role play (Cohen & Ohlstein, 1993:54-55)

Friend: Ive been waiting at least half an hour for you!


Nogah: So what! Its only an a meeting for to study.
Friend: Well. I mean I was standing here waiting, I couldve been sitting in the library
studying.
Nogah: But youre in you house. You can you can study if you wish. You can do whatever
you want.
Friend: Still pretty annoying I mean try and come on time next time.
Nogah: OK, but dont make such a big deal of it.
Friend: OK.

Judgement and perception of this situation by a NNS was completely different from how
a NS perceived it. The NS opted out from performing an apology because he did not consider
keeping someone waiting in his or her own house as a serious offence.
Semantic formulas - NSs and NNSs may also differ in using different semantic formulas.
Semantic formulas represent the means by which a particular speech act is accomplished.
Olshtein and Cohen (1983) claim that an apology may contain an illocutionary force

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indicating device (Im sorry), and explanation (The bus was late) an acknowledgement of
responsibility (Its my fault), an offer of repair (Ill fix it) or promise of forbearance (It wont
happen again). Verbal avoidance was found the second most common strategy of NNSs.
Verbal avoidance can be realized by using hedges (I dont know) (Beebe et al., 1990) or by
postponement, asking for repetitions and requests for more information, all in the form of
questions (Bardovi-Harlig & Hartford, 1991).
Content - even though the NSs and NNSs use the same formula, they may differ in the
content of the utterances. For instance, the Americans tend to give more details in their
explanation session, whereas the Japanese seem to be vaguer (Beebe, Takahashi, and UlissWeltz, 1990).
Refusal to an invitation a/ by an American: I have a business lunch that day.
b/ by a Japanese speaker of English: I have something to do.
Form - in their longitudinal study of pragmatic development in the context of advising
sessions, Bardovi-Harlig and Hartford (1993) proved that at the beginning NSs and NNSs
mainly differed in the choice of speech acts, but in latter sessions the difference lied not in
what speech acts they used but in the form of the speech acts. NSs often used mitigators,
which were never used by NNSs. On the other hand NSs never used aggravators, often found
in the speech of NNSs. Examples:
NS (suggestions): 1/ Perhaps I should also mention that I have an interest in sociolinguistics
and would like, if I can, to structure things in such a way I might do as much sociolinguistics
as I can.
2/ I was thinking of taking sociolinguistics.
3/ I have an idea for spring. I dont know how it would work out, but

NNS (suggestions): 1/ In the summer I will take language testing.

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2/ So, I, I just decided on taking the language structure.

Based on the following examples from Hartford and Bardovi-Harlings study of rejecting
sessions, we can see the same tendency. The NS use downgraders (Im not sure, really),
whereas the NNS chooses an upgrader (at all).
NS (rejection): Im not sure that Im really interested in the topic.
NNS (rejection): I would rather not take this course because the topic doesnt interest me at
all.
There are some more aspects that need to be taken into consideration and they are not so
easily observable - perception and judgement. NSs and NNSs may not perceive and
understand the same situation in the same way. NNSs who were not brought up in the
community that speaks the foreign language may find it difficult to identify the potential
meaning in the given context.
A Czech learner during her stay in Ireland was asked questions which she considered to be
addressed in order to find out her own likes and dislikes:
Do you ever go to the cinema?
In fact, they were regarded as invitations or conversation openers. Not being aware of this
conversational routine, her response to such questions was:
Oh, yes. When its my day off I sometimes go to Carlow to see some art film.
Being quite a sensitive person, she could recognize the speaker did not regard her response as
very satisfactory. But she contributed the speakers dissatisfaction to the fact that he is not
fond of art films and the people who watch them. Later on the NNS realized that the proposed
question was actually an invitation to a date. Her wrong judgement of the situation caused the
speakers feeling of refusal, maybe frustration or offence.

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Wolfson (1989) argues that learners may find difficulties recognizing the function of a
speech act from its illocutionary force. For instance, Americans use compliments as
conversation openers:
American: Your blouse is beautiful.
Chinese: Thank you.
A: Did you bring it from China?
C: Yeah.
The Chinese student was not able to recognize the conversational function of the compliment,
although the American speaker made a second attempt.
A similar case may be seen between NSs of English and their Czech counterparts in their
greetings. The simple How are you, is not intended to gain a detailed description of the life
of the person who is asked, which is often wrongly understood by the Czech learners of
English.
As Bakhtin (1986) says: Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily
into the private property of the speakers intentions, it is populated-overpopulated-with the
intentions of others. Expropriating it, forcing it to submit to ones own intentions and accents,
is a difficult and complicated process (see Kramsh, 1993:27). Kramsh draws on Bakhtin and
claims that it is through dialogue with others, native and non-native speakers, that learners
discover which ways of talking and thinking they share with others and which are unique to
them (see Kramsh 1993:27).
NSs speak not only with their own individual voices, but also the voices of their
community and society, the stock of metaphors this community lives by, and the categories
that represent their way of life (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, Lakoff 1987). (see Kramsh
1993:43).This helps other NSs understood each other, but this collective way of thinking and

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using language makes it difficult for NNSs to communicate with the speech community and
share their knowledge and experience.
Kramsh quotes further (1993:43) Even if they have mastered the forms of the new
language, they still may find it difficult to overcome the differences in order to meet the social
expectations ( Saville-Troike 1992, Becker 1992). Furthermore, the situation becomes more
complicated when we need to face the communication with other NNSs.
Nowadays the contact with English is not restricted to NSs only. NNSs meet other NNSs
who come from communities which might differ in various aspects. Each of these
communities bears their own culture, knowledge, way of thinking and communicating with
other members of the community. How can a NNS be aware of the nuances present in
German, Turkish, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, etc. cultures? The only way which would lead
us to global understanding, to whatever extent it can be considered possible, is training in
cultural awareness. Cultural awareness has to become an important part of a second language
acquisition.

2.2 The Extent of Cross-Cultural Training and Instruction

It is highly questionable to what extent teachers should take these cultural specifications
into account. The sociolinguist Saville-Troike (1992) gives the example of a Japanese learner
who bows a lot to her professors:
One of her professors told her that she shouldnt bow to American professors because it is
not considered appropriate. She replied: I know Americans dont bow, but thats my culture,
and if I dont do that, Im not being respectful and I wont be a good person. (see Kramsh
1993:44).

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Saville-Troike concludes that it should be the learners own decisions to what extent they
will adopt new ways of thinking and doing. On the one hand, not leaving ones own cultural
specifications can be viewed as enrichment and contribution to the second language culture.
On the other hand, it might be misinterpreted by people who are not familiar with all the
cultural nuances, which is completely understandable. The foreign language educator Jorden
points out a dilemma: Without forcing the person to change her ways, I think its extremely
important to explain to her how the average American reads that particular signal. The person
can then make her own decision. (ibid.)
In one ESL class, for example, Japanese students were asked to introduce themselves by
their first name. So they said: My name is Taro and so on, but then suddenly one man, the
oldest in the class, said: I will be called Mr. Tanaka. The teacher was very upset and asked
me what to do about it. And I told her, of course its all right for him to be called Mr. Tanaka,
but he must know how Americans are going to react to someone in this culture who says:
Dont call me by my first name, call me only Mr. Tanaka. (ibid.)
The question is whether teachers should force their students to behave in accordance with
the social conventions of a specific speech community. As Hunfeld writes:
What does the foreign language mean for the foreign language learner? Many things. For
example, the obligation to adapt, to repeat the conventionally sanctioned phrases, to play a
role, to identify (with members of another group). But it also means being able to compare
ones own world of language with that of others, to broaden ones own experience with
language and language use, to insert some uncertainty into ways of speaking one had hitherto
taken for granted, it means border crossing blockade, disturbance-in sum, to use
Humboltswords, it means acquiring a new way of viewing the world. (Hunfeld 1990, see
Kramsh 1993:182)

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It can be argued that the Czech society is not always egalitarian. People are aware of
status differences. It is up to the individual how he or she will tackle the differences of status.
Czechs tend to use surnames and vy form with people they do not know well, their teachers,
doctors, employers, authorities in general.
In everyday life Czechs who do not know each other very well would address themselves
by their surnames. They would say vy and dobr den instead of ahoj. In an English
class, the same people have to face a new situation, and so does the teacher. It does not feel
very natural to call one student Petr and his classmate professor ern or Mr ern. The
students themselves have a similar problem. Petr is expected to call his boss Pavel, which
otherwise would be completely inappropriate and vice versa. This dilemma can be viewed as
a matter of instructional simplification, i.e. it makes the classroom communication easier. But
at the same time we are dealing with a rather sensitive matter. We are adopting a new way of
egalitarian thinking, which is not typical of the Czech society.

2.2.1 Deductive vs. Inductive Pragmatic Instruction

ESL environment brings considerable benefits for learners. The ESL environment in which
learners live and study at the same time is undoubtedly acquisition-rich and pragmatic
instruction does not have to be supplied in such a large extent as in the EFL environment. In
the acquisition-poor EFL environment pragmatic instruction plays an essential role in the
course of natural language learning.
In terms of instructional treatments, two approaches can be applied. Decoo (see Kasper &
Rose, 2001:148) distinguishes Modality A, which is described as a deductive method, and
Modality B, defined as an inductive method. The deductive method suggests that a

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grammatical rule or pattern is explicitly stated at the beginning of the learning process and the
students apply this rule or pattern in the following examples and exercises. The inductive
method works as a guided discovery when students first encounter various examples of a
language phenomenon in an appropriate textual context. The discovery is then lead by the
teacher who asks a few clear concept questions in order to direct students attention to the
important aspects of the language phenomenon and to formulate the rule or pattern
themselves.
The effects of inductive and deductive approaches to instruction in pragmatics were
analysed in the study Rose and Ng Kwai-fun (see Kasper& Rose, 2001:145-170). The
research questions for their study centred on whether learners benefit from instruction in
compliments and compliment responses in a foreign language context and the second question
sought to determine whether there are differential effects of instruction for inductive and
deductive approaches to the teaching of compliments and compliment responses in a foreign
language context. The authors of the study claim that the results from a written discourse
completion questionnaire offer some evidence that the instruction was effective. Nevertheless,
it would have to be concluded from a self-assessment questionnaire and a metapragmatic
assessment questionnaire that there is no evidence that the learners benefited from the
teachers instruction. The results also indicate that although inductive and deductive
instruction may both lead to an improvement in pragmalinguistic proficiency, only the
deductive method may be effective for developing sociopragmatic proficiency. They even
argue that the inductive instruction had a negative impact on sociopragmatic development. It
might have been caused by raising difficult issues without providing unambiguous solutions.
The tentative nature of the conclusions reached in the research provide teachers with a
specific recommendation for providing explicitly the kind of information necessary for

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learners to develop their sociopragmatic proficiency in the target language in order to prevent
confusion and establish comprehension.

2.2.2 Explicit vs. Implicit Pragmatic Instruction

Schmidts Noticing Hypothesis (see Ellis, 1997:55) states that conscious noticing is an
essential condition for converting input to intake. In other words, learning requires awareness
at the time of learning of target features. This hypothesis is verified in numerous studies on
input enhancement in second language acquisition. The studies propose that learners benefit
from attention-drawing activities with pragmatic instruction and appropriate feedback more
than being exposed to new language items without any instruction. They show that the target
pragmatic features are most effectively learned when they are taught explicitly using input
enhancement techniques. Explicit pedagogic intervention is viewed as necessary in order to
develop learners pragmatic ability.
Takahashi (see Kasper& Rose, 2001:171-199) argues that the target pragmatic features
were found to be most effectively learned when they were under the condition in which a
relatively high degree of input enhancement was realized with explicit metapragmatic
information. At the same time, the degree of attainment of a second language pragmatic
competence is to a certain extent limited in the classroom environment. Takahashi claims that
simple noticing and attention to target pragmatic features in the input do not lead to learning.
Tateyama, Kasper, Mui, Tay, and Thananart (see Kasper& Rose, 2001:200) studied the
effects of explicit and implicit instruction in pragmatics with beginning learners of Japanese.
Their pilot study revealed that the explicit group outperformed the implicit group. The effects
of pragmatic instruction on learners were especially apparent in rather complicated situations

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where the learners benefited from the teachers instruction. In a later study, which was based
on the pilot study, Tateyama compared the effectiveness of explicit and implicit instruction via
role-plays and multiple-choice tests. The participants of this study were assigned randomly to
explicit and implicit groups. Instructions for the explicit group comprised of explanations on
the use of specific routine formulas, viewing video extracts containing these formulas, the use
of handouts which illustrated and explained the differences in usage of the routine formulas in
certain social contexts and inevitable discussions. The implicit group was not provided any of
the explicit pragmatic activities. They were asked to watch a video and pay attention to any
formulaic expressions. The results of the new study were rather inconsistent with the results
of the pilot study. There were no significant differences in the performance of the two groups.
The divergence might be accounted for several factors including the insufficient amount of
time, motivation, amount of contact with native speakers outside of class, academic
performance or even individual learning styles.

2.3 Cultural Awareness

Linguistic studies in the field of pragmatics have encouraged awareness of the degree to
which cross-cultural communication is affected by culturally-related factors. These factors
include peoples expectations concerning the appropriate level of formality and degree of
politeness. Cultural awareness is a term which describes sensitivity to the impact of
culturally-induced behaviour on language use and communication.
In Teaching Culture, Ned Seelye (1998) provides a framework for facilitating the
development of cross-cultural communication skills. The following are modifications of his
seven goals of cultural instruction (Tomalin, Stempleski, 1993:7-8).

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1 To help students to develop an understanding of the fact that all people exhibit culturallyconditioned behaviours.
2 To help students to develop an understanding that social variables such as age, sex, social
class, and place of residence influence the ways in which people speak and behave.
3 To help students to become more aware of conventional behaviour in common situations in
the target language.
4 To help students to increase their awareness of the cultural connotations of words and
phrases in the target language.
5 To help students to develop the ability to evaluate and refine generalizations about the target
culture, in terms of supporting evidence.
6 To help students to develop the necessary skills to locate and organize information about the
target language.
7 To stimulate students intellectual curiosity about the target culture, and to encourage
empathy towards its people.

Language and culture cannot be separated. Successful communication entails more than
competence in grammar and vocabulary. Learners must also develop an awareness of verbal
and non-verbal culturally-determined patterns of communication. Culturally different patterns
of communication are a common source of misunderstanding.
Cultural awareness raising activities should become an integral part of English lessons. A
wide range of materials is available. They include textbooks, radio and television broadcasts,
internet sources, newspapers and magazines. Today textbooks contain sections focused on
cultural awareness. These sections are to be found predominantly in business textbooks which
aim to prepare entrepreneurs for situations in which they have to demonstrate an ability to
deal with their foreign business partners sensitively.

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2.3.1 Cultural Awareness Raising Activities in Business English

Paul Emmerson and Nick Hamilton in their latest resource book Five-Minute Activities for
Business English offer a useful bank of activities reflecting real-life business activities such as
emails, telephone conversations, making excuses, negotiating, complaints and cultural
awareness.
I am going to outline some of these activities since I have personally participated in them
as a student. The lessons were led by Paul Emmerson himself. Recently I have used the same
activities myself on the occasion of a methodology workshop. All the participants were
experienced teachers of general English.

Activity 1
Cutural controversy
Procedure:
The teacher writes one of the following statements about culture on the board:
All over the world, wherever you go, people are the same.
Globalisation means that there is now only one business culture.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
I dont think about cultural differences I treat everyone I meet as an individual.
Cultural stereotypes are a dangerous thing.
Business is business all over the world cultural awareness is not that important.

Students are asked to discuss the statement in pairs or small groups, the whole class
discussion can follow. I find this activity very easy to set up. The statements, if carefully

31
chosen according to the capabilities of the students, provoke vivid discussions, especially
when the students are of different nationalities.

Activity 2
Iceberg or onion
Procedure:
A question is stated: Some people think that culture is like an iceberg, other people think that
it is like an onion. If culture is like an iceberg, what is below the water and what is above? If
culture is like an onion, what are the different layers?

Picture 1

Students discuss the questions in pairs or small groups and then they share their ideas with
others.
Suggested answers:
Iceberg Above the water (what you can see) - behaviour, customs, language, dress, music,
food, etc. Below the water values, attitudes, beliefs

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Onion layers staring from the inside self, family, gender, age, social class, ethnic group,
region, country, universal human nature
Onion layers (more business like version) self, team, department, profession, organization,
national culture, international culture

Emmerson suggests a follow-up discussion:


Iceberg discussion its relatively easy to think of how behaviour and customs differ from one
country to another (top of the iceberg), but how do values and beliefs differ? (possible
answers: attitudes to time, directness vs. indirectness, facts and figures vs. personal
relationships, competitive/ individualistic vs. cooperative/collectivist, hierarchical power
structure vs. flat, etc.
Onion discussion Is it true that international business culture is becoming the same all over
the world? How important are the other layers of the onion, national culture (American
business culture vs. European? Chinese vs. Japanese?), professional culture (marketing
people vs. finance people?), company culture (Has anyone worked for two companies in the
same area of business? How were the cultures different?), gender culture (Do women all over
the world have a similar business style?), age culture (Do young people all over the world
have a similar business style?), etc.

Before introducing this activity in the class, students needs, experience, interests, mental
capacity and of course the level of their English (preferably intermediate and upwards) have
to be carefully considered. I can imagine doing this activity in an international company,
where people are used to responding to challenges and dealing with foreign cultures. To make
the activity easier, the teacher can supply possible suggestions on slips of paper and students
are asked to attach them to the pictures of icebergs and onions.

33
Activity 3
Flight to Rubovia
Procedure:
Teacher explains the situation:
You are on your first business trip to Rubovia. You board the flight and the cabin crew and
passengers are all speaking Rubovian. You dont understand a word. A Rubovian business
person sits next to you and wishes you good afternoon in excellent English. Over the next few
hours you have a wonderful opportunity to find out about Rubovian culture, both general
culture and business culture. What questions will you ask the friendly passenger at your
side?
Students write down their questions, 2-3 about general culture, and 2-3 about business culture.
They are asked to read their questions. They can also ask and answer the questions in pairs,
one pretending he or she is a Rubovian. In mixed nationality classes, students can give true
answer about their own culture. If there is time for a language slot, Emmerson suggests
writing all the questions on the board, reformulating any language errors.

Activity 4
Dos and Donts
Procedure:
The teacher writes down:
In (name of a country)
Its worth knowing that
Dont be surprised if
Whatever you do, dont

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The teacher gives a few examples and then elicits ideas from the students. Students can refer
to their travel or business experiences. The discussion can be held on a general or business
level.
At the beginning of this session on cultural awareness, the participants felt slightly
uncomfortable during their performance. It was caused by the fact that they do not have
opportunities to discus cultural differences on a regular basis, and thus they need more time to
adapt themselves to a new situation. The teacher needs to stimulate the activity in order to
provoke students interest and encourage participation. It is necessary to introduce the issue in
a natural way allowing sufficient thinking time to students. The teacher has to establish a
relaxed atmosphere in which students do not feel uneasy to present their ideas and
experiences. Pair work and group work are necessary so that such atmosphere was provided.

2.3.2 Cultural Awareness Raising Activities in General English

Materials on cultural awareness in business textbooks and business resource books are
widely available. General English textbooks operate with the cultural awareness phenomenon
to a rather limited extent, but there are a few examples in which this topic is tackled.
New English File Intermediate offers a double page devoted to British politeness. In a
light-hearted manner students are faced with different views of English politeness. There is a
picture of a drowning man who is calling for help: Help! A passer-by walking his dog is
taken aback by such rude attitude imperatives are considered as impolite, especially when
talking to strangers. But the passer-by, being aware of good manners, does not hesitate to
throw the poor man a life belt as soon as he hears: Excuse me, Sir. Im terribly sorry to

35
bother you, but I wonder if you would mind helping me a moment, as long as its no trouble,
of course.
An article called Culture Shock follows in the same manner. It describes different notions
of good manners among the English and the Russians and mentions various
misunderstandings which can occur due to the lack of intercultural awareness. I am going to
include only a short extract from the article. An English wife, Miranda, complains about her
Russian husband: Another thing that Alexander just couldnt understand was why people said
things like Would you mind passing me the salt, please? He said, Its only salt for
goodness sake! What do you say in English if you want a real favour? The couple solved the
problem of different cultural background by taking a reasonable precaution: At home we now
have an agreement. If were speaking Russian, he can say Pour me some tea, and just
make a noise like grunt when I give it to him. But when were speaking English, he has to add
a please, a thank you, and a smile.
An interesting question is raised as a follow-up to the article: Are people in your country
more like Miranda or Alexander? At first Czech students say they definitely resemble
Alexander more, especially when being at home and communicating with their family
relatives. Nevertheless, on second thoughts, they admit their manners are not exactly Russian
when being out among strangers, for example in a restaurant or other public places, they try to
be more polite.
The third part devoted to cultural differences consists of a listening activity. Students
listen to four people from various countries who have lived in England answering the
question: Are English people too polite?
Lszlo, a Hungarian teacher, claims that English people are so polite that you dont really
understand them. He went for a teachers training course to London. The English tutors were
praising them all, they were talking about their progress, so in the end the trainees were rather

36
surprised that some of them failed the course. He suggests that the English should be more
direct and say what they think.
Paula, a businesswoman from Argentina, thinks that English people are so polite that it
makes the Latin people, who are often noisy and extrovert, think they are cold or unfriendly.
In her opinion the English should relax more.
Melik, an economist from Turkey, thinks it is a good thing that English people are polite
and able to respect other peoples opinions. Their manners are much better than the Turkish
ones. He also says that it does not apply to all English people, for example the football
hooligans.
Renata, a student from Germany, also offers an interesting view. On a rainy day, she was
walking along the streets of London. Everybody was carrying their umbrellas and every time
they accidentally hit her, they would say: Oh, sorry. Im awfully sorry. Im terribly sorry.
Renata does not think English people are too polite. They keep saying sorry and thank
you, but they do not really mean it.
This listening activity offers several views on English politeness with which students can
identify.
In the last speaking activity, students are given five situations (greeting people, in a
restaurant, men and women a mans role, driving, visiting people) and they are to discuss
what is meant to be good or bad manners in the particular situations in their countries.
Although the authors intention was not to introduce the issue of cultural awareness on its own
the activities correspond with the grammar of modals for obligation, and speaking, reading
and listening skills are an important part of the unit too, the topic is very well designed and
students usually appreciate being exposed to any materials which enable them to discuss not
only differences between L1 and L2, but also differences in culture as such. They are often
very motivated during similar discussions, which can naturally become much personalised.

37
Students discuss the notion of English politeness, the way they view it, they can provide
their own experiences. In most cases Czech students tend to misunderstand English politeness
as insincerity. Czech students are not satisfied by the greeting exchanges:
Hi, how are you?

Fine, thanks.

Not bad, thanks.

Very well, thank you.

So, so.

They feel the need for a more negative phrase to be introduced. The so,so response cannot
possibly be the most negative one. A considerable number of Czech students also tend to give
a detailed description of the state they find themselves in at that particular moment and they
are surprised, sometimes offended, when their list of complaints or achievements are not
received with genuine sympathy or enthusiasm.
Invitations are also considered as a cause of a social faux pas. It is said that when
Americans invite people for a visit, it is not meant to be taken literally. Similarly when British
people make an invitation, there is said to be a fifty percent chance that the invitation is real.
A Czech person would probably respond by asking when he or she could come over because
it is in the majority of cases considered to be a binding offer and the person who makes the
invitation, if meant seriously, proposes a date himself or herself.
Czech students, regardless their profession, often have certain reservation towards English
politeness and indirectness. It might be to a certain amount a consequence of personal
inability to reject stereotypes, lack of open-mindedness, but most relevantly, it is caused by
the absence of continuous pragmatic teaching in the classes.

Chapter III Specific Features of Czech Learners of English


3.1 The Czech Learner

38

In this chapter, I am going to draw on Michael Swan and Bernard Smiths Learner
English, a teachers guide to interference and other problems (2001). As the title suggests the
book deals with the phenomenon of interference and helps teachers to anticipate the
difficulties which result from the influence of the learners mother tongues. Swan and Smith
collected contributions from English teachers all over the world. I am going to focus on the
interlanguage of speakers whose mother tongue most resembles the Czech language, and that
is Polish. The interference of Czech is not analysed in the book, but numerous similarities can
be found between the problems caused by Czech and Polish since both languages belong to
the Slavonic branch.

3.1.1 Grammatical Interference

Polish and Czech are highly inflected languages and the word order is much freer than in
English. Czech students may find it difficult to follow the more or less given word order of an
English sentence. Nouns have grammatical gender, number and seven cases. The form of
adjectives depends on the gender, number and case of the nouns they refer to. Verbs also
conform to a particular case. The grammatical function of a word is not indicated by its
position in a sentence.
Czech questions are made by adding a question word or changing the intonation. In
English the word order needs to be changed and with most verbs, an auxiliary has to be used
in a fixed position in the sentence. Czech learners often omit auxiliaries and make mistakes in
the English word order of a question. Typical mistakes: What you said? When you coming
home?

39
In yes /no questions Czech learners tend to omit the auxiliary at the beginning of the sentence:
Want you come to the cinema? Sometimes they concentrate a lot on the auxiliary word and
they forget to use the main verb of the sentence: Did he the dinner? This often happens when
the main verb is do or make.
Negatives in Czech are made by preceding the verb with ne, not by a negative auxiliary as
in English. Typical mistakes: I not know. Czech learners also find it difficult to add s in the
third person singular, positive, negative or questions: He dont know. He dont knows.
On the other hand, overgeneralization can lead to mistakes like this: Do you can sing? Do you
must go? Czech learners often use auxiliary words in positive statements not being aware of
the fact that it is meant for emphasis: I did say it. This often happens in the past simple tense
since learners want to indicate the past by did, and they fail to use an appropriate past form of
a verb.
Unlike in English, multiple negation is possible in Czech. This may results in mistakes
like: Nobody doesnt understand.
Czech learners may sometimes sound rather abrupt drawing onto their own language and
giving short answers Yes and No. Although it is quite common to add a comment in Czech
too, when speaking English, learners tent to give one word answers or they do not follow the
rule of using a proper auxiliary: Did you know that? - Yes. / Yes, I knew. Would you like to
come? Yes. /Yes, I would like.
Czech learners often omit it and there as subjects of sentences: Is rainy. Today is cold.
Here is nice. In my house are four rooms. Is a table in your kitchen?
In Czech there are only three tenses: single past, single present and single future. Although
there used to be a tense in archaic Czech similar to the English past perfect, for instance in the
works by Boena Nmcov or Jan Neruda, but it is not to be seen in Czech today. Czech has
only one word for time and tense, that is as, time and tense are perceived as one. Czech

40
learners find it very confusing to distinguish between past simple and present perfect because
there is no such tense as present perfect in Czech. They usually use past simple instead of
present perfect: He didnt come yet. I never was in England. Sorry, Im late. Did you wait
long?
The difference between simple and continuous tenses also causes plenty of grammatical
mistakes. Although drawing parallels to Czech grammatical system may help here
(dokonavost, nedokonavost, etc.), most learners are not able to apply these aspects of the
Czech language in terms of the English language acquisition. Typical mistakes: What do you
do now? I watch TV. They work at the moment. I live here all my life. When you phoned last
night I cooked dinner. (for I was cooking dinner) She cried all afternoon. Conversely, once
learners become familiar with a new structure, they tend to overuse it: Im going to work
every day. We were often dancing when we were going to school. Learners also wrongly apply
their newly acquired knowledge of progressive forms when dealing with state verbs: Im not
believing him. The soup is tasting good. A word by word translation is typical of early stages:
I am said (for I said).
The past perfect is viewed as one of the most troublesome and unnatural by preexperienced Czech learners. But the fact that this tense is quite logical and can be clearly
shown on time lines does not correspond with the threatening impression this tense might
create. The past perfect is hardly used by native speakers themselves in spoken English.
There is a considerable confusion in future tenses. Czech does not distinguish between a
future tense for plans, predictions, arrangements, spontaneous decisions, promises, etc. Czech
learners often use going to and will at random: Ok. Everything is planned. Well go on holiday
for three weeks. They often use present simple instead of present continuous for future plans
and arrangements: Where do you go at the weekend? They also seem to overlook the
progressive aspect: What will you do tomorrow at ten? I will study for my exam. The future

41
perfect tense is a big problem, as all the perfect tenses are: He will finish it by Friday
afternoon. (for He will have it finished by Friday afternoon.) Czech people use future tense
after time expressions (when, as soon as, until, etc.) and in conditional clauses (after if). This
might lead to typical Czech errors: When she will come, I will tell her. If I will pass the test, I
will be happy.)
In reported speech Czech does not know change tenses after a past reporting verb, it uses
the tense of the original speech: He said me you are ill. I asked her what are her hobbies.
Moreover, the word order after the introductory phrase is that of a question. Czechs often say
said me instead of told me.
The passive voice in English, in most cases, equals the Czech passive, although it is not
used as often as in English. The progressive aspect of the passive in Czech is usually indicated
by a time adverbial now. Czech learners tend to avoid using the passive being misled by a
word by word translation from Czech, which would sound awkward, especially when a
preposition is to be used in the passive construction. The Czech learner finds such sentences
very odd: This house hasnt been lived in. She doesnt like being looked after. Some more
typical mistakes: It is repaired now. She born in March.
In conditionals, as stated above, Czech uses the future tense in subordinate clauses of
condition: If it will rain, we will stay at home. In Czech, the conditional structure with would
is used in both parts of a sentence in the second and third conditional: If you would tell me, I
would do something about it.
Modals are another area where Czech learners often make mistakes. In negatives and
questions, they tend to use auxiliary words as a result of overgeneralization: Do you must go?
Also the use of tenses causes problems: I will must go. The difference between you must, you
mustnt, you have, you dont have to creates confusion among the learners. Short answers are
sometimes used incorrectly: Shall I wait for you? Yes, you shall. May I come in? Yes, you

42
may. Can and know are often used incorrectly: I know ski. I can him (for I know him). Can is
used instead of may to talk about current possibility: She can know the answer. Or a
completely different structure is used: Probably, she doesnt know the answer.
Perfect and progressive infinitives are often avoided: She could see it (for She could have
seen it). He must work now (for He must be working now). Learners tend to use maybe,
probably, its sure instead.
Infinitives with to, without to and ing forms need to be memorized and practiced to be
used correctly. Czech students often omit to from the infinitive: Id like dance. He wants
come. They also tend to use infinitives more than ing forms, or they use a noun instead: I
like read. I like books. Czech uses subordinate clauses where English uses an object +
infinitive structure: He wants that I help him. (for He wants me to help him.) Would you like
that I open that window. (for Would you like me to open the window?) Czech also uses
infinitives or subordinate clauses where English uses an object + present participle structure: I
saw her come/ I saw how she came/ was coming. (for I saw her coming.) Infinitives of
purpose are sometimes used instead of subordinate clauses in English: He stopped that he
could smoke. (for He stopped to smoke.) In other cases infinitives are also possible in Czech: I
went to the butchers (to) buy some sausages. Very confusing are probably verbs that can be
followed by both, an infinitive or an ing form with a difference of meaning: stop, remember,
regret, go on, etc.
Reflexive verbs and pronouns are quite common in Czech. Sometimes Czech learners tend
to overuse them: I woke myself, I washed myself, I shaved myself, I dressed myself. There is
also certain confusion between oneself and each other: They looked at themselves.
The word order is much freer in Czech than in English. The main areas of difficulties are:
1. The position of adverbs: I dont speak well English. I have very much like apples. Never
she forgot. Often I go to the cinema.

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2. Final preposition: From where are you? What music do you listen? At what are you
looking?
3. The verb often immediately follows the relative pronoun: This is the house where live my
parents.
4. Subject pronouns do not have to be present in Czech sentences, thanks to inflections: (He)
told me about his new job which enjoys.
Some more typical errors related to the word order (see Urbanov & Oakland, 2002: 96):
I wanted to know what was he doing there. (I wanted to know what he was doing there.)
Important is that everybody knows what is wrong. (It is important that everybody knows what
is wrong.)
Under no circumstances children are to see the film without an adult. (Under no
circumstances are children to see the film without an adult.)
Never again he would tell her secrets. (Never again would he tell her his secrets.)
So angry I was, I told him what I thought of him. (So angry was I, I told him what I thought of
him/ I was so angry, I told him what I thought of him.)
He likes to remember the good old days. (He likes to remember the good old days.)
From the Czech Republic twenty military vehicles were sent. (Twenty military vehicles were
sent from the Czech Republic.)
In the city centre was a big party. (There was a big party in the city centre.)
To dance together they started eight years ago. (They started to dance together eight years
ago.)
Last year we had free two weekends. (We had two weekends free last year./Last year we had
two weekends free.)

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There are no articles in Czech. Consequently, some learners do not use them at all, many
use them incorrectly, and other learners tend to overuse them: I have dog. He is doctor. Film
yesterday was fantastic. The leaves fall off the trees in autumn.
Possessive determiners and pronouns, personal pronouns are the same in Czech: this book
is my. Possessive determiners are often omitted when it is clear from the context who the
possessor is: I have to do homework. Aunt is coming for the weekend. Parents live in Brno. I
broke leg. Eat breakfast.
Countable and uncountable nouns and the correct use of much/many, a few/a little may
also cause grammatical errors: I need a little apples. Unlike in Czech, words like news,
money, information, furniture, bread, advice, etc. are uncountable in English. Hence, Czech
learners may say: how many informations, how many money, I need an advice. On the other
hand, some Czech words exist only in the plural (doors dvee): The doors are open.
Similarly, some and any can be confusing: I havent some oranges. Would you like wine? It
can happen to somebody. (for It can happen to anybody.)
Relative pronouns are the same regardless of whether they are used for humans, animals
or objects. As a result, learners may make the following mistakes: This is the man which I saw
on TV. What and that are often used incorrectly: Tell me all that you know. This is all what I
want.
Adverbs are sometimes used in Czech where English requires an adjective. This happens
after the verbs of senses: It looks terribly. It smells well.
Prepositions are highly problematic for Czech learners. There are some similarities, but
also differences as for the use of a particular preposition. In some phrases, prepositions are not
even necessary in one language or the other: listen (to) music, marry (with) her, leave from
Prague.
Another area of difficulty is phrasal verbs, which do not exist in Czech.

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3.1.2 Lexical Interference

In this chapter, I am going to describe problems Czech learners might have in terms of
vocabulary. There are a considerable number of words that are identical or similar in both
languages. Some loan words, although identical in pronunciation, are often mispronounced by
Czech learners, e.g. sweater, which is often pronounced incorrectly as /swi:tr/. Most words
that are similar or identical differ in pronunciation, therefore mistakes in pronunciation occur:
hotel (stress on the first syllable instead of the second one). There are a lot of false friends
which have a different meaning in English, e.g. brigade brigade, aty dress, concept
concept, kanl canal, etc.
Czech learners are willing to accept that two or more Czech words have one English
equivalent (sklenice, sklo, brle glass/glasses). On the other hand, they find it rather
confusing when one word in English have numerous, often quite different meanings (book
kniha, rezervovat, uinit zpis, etc.). There are certain pairs of words which are usually
associated with one Czech equivalent: clock/watch, hobby/ horse, house/home, finger/toe,
politics/policy, job/work, yet/still/already, say/tell, speak/talk, remember/remind, lend/borrow,
learn/teach, look/watch, make/do, excuse me/sorry, etc. The English word please is sometimes
used incorrectly, since it has a wider use in Czech. Unlike in Czech it cannot be used as a
response to Thank you, or instead of Here you are, Pardon, Come in.
The word have is often misused in phrases like: I have nine years, I have like football, Have I
go there?(for Im nine, I like football, Shall I go there?).

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Chapter IV Contextual Approach
4.1 Language in Context

Foreign language pedagogy is aware of the need to teach language in context. In this
respect the language classroom offers a unique and specific context. As Hymes (1972: xix)
claims: The key to understanding language in context is to start not with language, but with
context.
Realizing a speech event means not only having a choice of grammatical and lexical
structures but it also involves the ability to decide which of them to choose according to the
whole situation. At the beginning of their learning process, learners tend to use grammatical
and linguistic features that seem to be the simplest, for example in terms of shortness,
similarity to their own language, or just the appealing sound of it. Some learners, not being
guided appropriately by their teachers, or because of their own reluctance to accept the
teachers instructions and recommendations, find it sufficient to use only one of the many
request phrases available in English. They use Can you/Could you in every situation,
regardless what the situational context conveys.

4.1.1 Situational Context

Hymes (1974), drawing on Malinowski and Firth, and expanding Jakobsons notion of
context, devised his own set of factors to describe the situational context of the speech event.
He lists these under the acronym SPEAKING.
Setting - the place is of certain importance we tend to change our language in
accordance with the setting of our conversation. Does the conversation take place in a caf, in

47
the street, in a railway station, in the directors office, on a conference? Learners need to be
familiar with the place so that they can adjust their language accordingly.
Participants carry various roles during their conversation. In various situations,
participants are given roles, for example, a parent, a teacher, a classmate, a patient, a shop
assistant, a client, a business partner. A child cannot be talked to in the same manner as an
adult. This is a well-known fact and the awareness of necessity to alter our language
depending on the people we are talking to has to be considered in the classroom environment
too. We tend to be more polite when talking to a person we do not know well, a person more
senior in age or someone who is of a higher status. English has no special pronouns through
which we show politeness and familiarity like some languages, for instance Czech ty/Vy.
Familiarity is expressed in other ways, for example we tend to omit polite addresses in front
of peoples surnames such as Ms, Mrs, Mr, professor, doctor etc. We can use first names or
even nicknames instead.
Ends - the purpose of a conversation is also significant. Students have to be familiar with
the aim of a conversation they are going to perform as a role-play or simulation. They need to
know why they are having a conversation and what the outcome is supposed to be: an
arrangement to meet, to make a bargain in a shop, to give an honest opinion to a friend, to ask
someone a favour, etc.
Act sequences - certain types of talk require certain linguistic forms. They are culture
specific. Each culture has its adjacency pairs typical for certain speech events. One way
meanings are communicated and interpreted through the use of adjacency pairs. They can be
classified as utterances produced successively by two speakers in such a way that the second
utterance is identified as closely related to the first one. These utterances are related, not any
second pair can follow any first pair part, but only an appropriate one, a greeting is followed
by a another greeting, an apology by an acknowledge, a congratulation by a thanks, and the

48
like. McCarthy (1991:120) argues that the function of the initial part of an adjacency pair is
determined by the context which it is uttered in. Thus, a single word Thanks can be an
expression of appreciation, surprise, reproach, relief, etc. depending maybe on the intonation.
This is closely related to what Hymes calls the key the tone, manner or spirit of the act,
which can be serious or ironic. For example the word Hello can be said in many various ways
according to the situation.
Instrumentalities - learners have to be aware of the differences between written and
spoken English which affect our language in several ways. Spoken communication usually
requires fast, immediate production and understanding. On the other hand, when we write, we
usually have time to revise, check and rewrite what we have written. Similarly, the addressee
can read, reread and discuss the piece of writing he or she receives. In spontaneous speech we
have very little or no time to prepare what we are going to say. Our speech is often filled with
silent pauses, voiced-filled pauses (erm), repetitions, false starts. We use discourse markers
small words or fixed phrases that indicate our involvement in the conversation and how we
want it to continue. Contractions are used instead of full forms in order to make the
conversation more natural. There are also phenomena such as the dialect, accent or other
variety of English that learners should be aware of, but it is not very likely that learners will
be able to imitate these.
Knowledge of norms of interpretation and interaction, especially turn-taking signals an
already existing very good command of language. This can only be achieved by careful and
consistent training and it also requires certain intrinsic personal qualities for such skill to be
developed.
Context is also determined by different genres categories such as anecdotes,
presentations and other public speeches, commercials, newspaper articles, poems, riddles etc.

49
In the language classroom students should be able to distinguish various genres by being
exposed to as many of them as possible.
All the previously mentioned features of interaction should be taken into consideration in
the classroom environment as well as they are present in everyday L1 communication.

4.1.2 Contextualization Conventions

Even if members of a community which speaks the same language communicate a


message, it may be interpreted according to different interpretive conventions. In social
interaction, how an utterance is said is more important than what is said. The utterances
people exchange are related to the situational and cultural context in which they occur. There
are certain verbal, paraverbal (stress, intonation, tempo, laughter) and non-verbal signs (gaze
direction, gesture, body posture, tone of voice) that help to interpret the utterances. Gumperz
calls them contextualization cues (see Kramsh, 1998:27).
The situation becomes even more complicated when speakers have to face different
cultural tendencies. For an English language learner, learning how to interpret and use
contextualization cues is extremely difficult. Gumperz (1996:383) explains the reason why
they are difficult to learn: because of the complexity of the referential processes involved and
their inherent ambiguity, contextualization cues are not readily learned, and certainly not
through direct instruction, so that second language speakers may have good functional
control of the grammar and lexicon of their new language but may contextualize their talk by
relying on the rhetorical strategies of their first language. Contextualization conventions are
required through primary socialization in family or friendship circles or intensive

50
communicative co-operation in a finite range of institutionalized environments. (see Kasper
& Rose, 2001: 82)
Foreign language learners are restricted to the classroom with limited input and occasion
for practice. In order to learn to communicate in an appropriate manner, learners have to be
able to distinguish different speech styles and the social meaning associated with a particular
speech style. They need to know what their social role is in a given speech event and what the
social expectations of such a role are in a given society. It is necessary to instruct students to
pay attention to the occurrence of contextualization cues in order to recognize the relationship
between linguistic form and its social interpretation. Presumably, it is easier to decipher
contextualization conventions when learners can rely on positive transfer from their mother
tongue.

Chapter V Politeness Strategies in Requests


5.1 Survey of Pragmatic Competence

In the following chapter I intend to provide examples of the Czech perception of


politeness in the area of requests. Are Czech learners of English sensitive enough to
distinguish how the Politeness Principle (Lakoff, 1995) operates differently in the Czech and
English environment? And are they willing to recognize the rules of a polite conversation at
all?
Czech people tend to be more direct than the English people. This directness is often
apparent as a result of a negative transfer from Czech. What a Czech learner of English
regards as polite, a native speaker may view to have quite an opposite impact, being
inappropriate and causing social disharmony.

51
All the participants in my survey were adult intermediate learners of English with a
university degree. They varied in profession: doctors, university lecturers, company
managers, lawyers, politicians, local authorities. Sex or age of the participants was not taken
into consideration. No particular pragmatic instructions had been given to them before the
test. It is difficult to say to what extent they had come across pragmatic training, since they
had been taught by several teachers each of whom would have their own preferences in
teaching methods and priorities. They had also been exposed to a number of course books.
The aim of this survey was to test their pragmatic competence, which considering their level
of proficiency, should already have developed to some extent. According to the common
European referential framework, learners of English at intermediate level (B1) are expected to
be able to understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly
encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. They should be able to deal with most situations
likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken. They should manage
to produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can
describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and
explanations for opinions and plans.

Part 1
In the first part of the survey participants were provided with a number of requests:

a. Id be grateful if you could


b. Could you
c. I wonder if you could
d. Is it alright if we

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e. I wonder if it might be possible to
f. Please could you
g. Do you mind
h. Would you mind
i. Can I have
j. Do you think I could
k. Could you possibly
l. Thank you in advance for your help in this matter
m. Id appreciate your help on this.
n. Would you

They were supposed to mark the phrases F (formal), I (informal), N (neutral).


The table below illustrates the students perception of different formality levels of the
requesting phrases. Neither the successful identification of the phrases nor performance of
particular participants is commented on as these were not the objectives of the survey.

Table 1.
F
a. 94%
b. 6%
c. 56%
d. 19%
e. 81%
f. 31%
g. 12%
h. 69%
i. 19%
j. 31%
k. 44%
l. 75%
m. 63%
n. 19%

I
25%
25%
50%
13%
25%
6%
37%
13%
12%
19%
25%

N
6%
69%
19%
31%
6%
69%
63%
25%
44%
56%
44%
6%
37%
56%

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There was substantial variation across the participants. The participants were not
particularly consistent in their perception of different formality levels. Despite the low
number of participants, the survey reflects a rather low pragmatic ability of students. The
results demonstrate the findings that a relatively high level of proficiency does not guarantee a
high level of pragmatic competence.
In the feedback session participants tried to justify their choices. There was no general
tendency to describe the method which was used during their identification stage.

Part 2
In the second part of my pragmatic survey, students were to decide which of the phrases
they would never use in a conversation and, on the contrary, which do they use most often.

Question 1: Which of the phrases would you personally never use? Why not?

Students comments:
S1: I would never use phrases a, c, e, k, l, m, because they are too formal and too long and I
forget what I wanted to ask.
S2: e, a, c because they are too complicated
S3: l because its very formal
S4: l, m, e
S5: m, e too formal for me
S6: c, e These phrases are rather complicated. Im not familiar with them.
S7: c too polite
S8: e too complicated
S9: i too informal

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S10: d
S11: l
S12: e, l
S13: a, f, m these phrases are very formal

There was a unifying tendency not to select the long phrases for being complicated and too
polite. The rest of participants were not able to identify any phrases they would not probably
be willing to use.

Question 2: Which ones do you use the most often?

Students choice: b. (12), n. (10), f. (8), i. (7), h. (4), g. (3), j. (3)

Students follow their strong inclination to use short phrases with modals can and could, which
they probably learnt at the beginning of their studies. This might have not been in the context
of requests but as means of expressing ability.

Part 3
The third part of the survey was conducted in the form of a multiple choice test.
Participants were supposed to read five requests and choose a response which is not
appropriate. No grammatical errors were included. Students were to recognize errors related
to an inappropriate formality or politeness level and some typical errors caused by a negative
transfer from Czech were also included.

1/ Do you mind opening the door for me?

55
a. Not at all.

b. OK.

c. Yes, of course.

2/ May I come in?


a. Of course.

b. Please, do.

c. You are welcome.

3/ Can you switch off the TV? (mother to her son )


a. Yes, of course.

b. Sorry, but

c. Im sorry. Thats not possible.

4/ Could I borrow your dictionary? (two classmates)


a. OK. Here it is.

b. Yes, sure.

c. By all means.

5/ Would you be kind enough to let me know?


a. Yeah, sure.

b. Yes, certainly.

Negative transfer was apparent in request 1 and 2. 41% of participants identified option c
(Yes, of course) as an inappropriate response to Do you mind opening the door for me? Only
18 % considered the phrase You are welcome as not appropriate in request 2. Requests 3, 4
and 5 were much better evaluated. 76% of participants chose the correct option in requests 3
and 4, and 78 % as for request 5. The results of this sub-test show that the students were
relatively capable of identifying the inappropriate level of formality and politeness. On the
other hand, they were rather misled by the temptation to rely on the rules of Czech social
responses.
It is evident that the participants pragmatic knowledge of requesting strategies is not very
profound. They would obviously benefit from the teachers pragmatic instruction if it was
given on a regular basis. Another factor has to be taken into consideration, and it is the

56
students motivation. Learners often use English primarily as a means of communication.
Their ambition is to become capable of making complete sentences without inspecting their
pragmatic functions. In an EFL environment the motivation to understand the social meaning
of utterances is rather low.

5.2 Face-Saving Devices

Requests are face-threatening acts. Tsui (1994: 103) explains this intrinsic quality of
requests: they either predicate a future action of the addressee and in so doing put some
pressure on him to do or to refrain from doing an action, hence infringing on his freedom of
action, or they predicate a future action of the speaker and in so doing put some pressure on
the addressee to accept or reject it, hence incurring a debt or a responsibility for the action
done.
Tsui suggests using various strategies to minimize the threat, such as using hedges,
apologizing for transgression, using softening mechanisms.
There are certain speech acts, and requesting is one of them, which require special
attention in terms of politeness. Compare:
Familiar: Shut the door, will you?
Rather polite: Would you please shut the door?
More polite: I wonder if you would mind shutting the door.
Learners should be aware of these nuances so that they are able to avoid possible
misunderstandings caused by an inappropriate use in different contexts. Czech learners often
tend to think that it is completely sufficient to insert please in to the request to make it sound
polite. This strategy might work in Czech, but in English it has little effect in making a really

57
polite impression. Please usually has to be combined with devices of indirectness such as
using a question, the hypothetical could or would, etc. Compare:
Lend me your mobile, please.
Would you mind lending me your mobile?
Please could I possibly borrow your mobile?
I wonder if you could possibly lend me your mobile.
When making a request speakers have to be aware of how urgent the request is. Taking it
into careful consideration, the degree of indirectness should change accordingly. In all
probability, a greater degree of indirectness would be used in asking someone to extend an
important deadline than it would be used in requesting someone to open a window. Goffman
(1967) distinguishes between the notion of free and non-free goods. Free goods include
those which do not require special permission and are not costly to the hearer to be realized,
for instance when asking someone to pass the salt in a restaurant. Requesting these goods
necessitate a minimal degree of indirectness. On the other hand, non-free goods might be
considered as potentially intrusive to enquire and they entail using a relatively high degree of
indirectness (see Thomas, 1995:130). Lakoff (1974) argues that free and non-free goods do
not necessarily need to be material. (ibid.)
The notion can be extended to information. In English speaking countries it might be
viewed as impolite to enquire about peoples occupation, income, politics, religion, marital
status etc., especially when dealing with a stranger, whereas in the Czech environment some
of the topics are considered as acceptable to a certain extent.

5.3 Requests: the Form and Meaning

58
The aim of this chapter is to provide a theoretical description of requests which will be
followed by a texbook analysis focused on the way requests are introduced in English
textbooks.
In the following analysis example sentences and phrases from Leech and Svartviks
A Communicative Grammar of English and Emmersons Business Grammar Builder are going
to be used:
* Requests are performed in order to influence the addressees to do what we want them to do.
With the aim of getting someone to do something a direct command can be used: Shut the
door. Come here. Put that down. Commands may often sound impolite, especially when
uttered by someone we do not expect to be in the position of making commands. On the other
hand, it is not considered impolite or tactless when a mother says to his son: Just look at this
mess. Tidy it up, right now. This command is made within a family and it is not viewed as
impolite by the son, although it can be seen as rather annoying from the sons point of view.
* One way to tone down or weaken the imperative force of a command is to use a rising or
fall-rise tone, instead of the usual falling intonation: dont forget your wallet.
* Another way is to add please, although please is sometimes not enough, or the tag question
wont you, why dont you, will you: Please hurry up. Look after the children, wont you? This
way, please! Have a drink, why dont you. Dont be late, will you.
* The auxiliaries will/would for willingness and can/could for ability are used very frequently.
Would and could are considered more tactful than will and can. We can add the word possibly
to make the request more polite:
Will/Would you give me a hand with these suitcases?
Could you (possibly) open the widow, please?
Can anyone tell us what the time is?

59
* Negative questions, which expect a positive answer, can also be used. They are less
tentative and more persuasive:
Wont you come in and sit down?
Couldnt you possibly come another day?
* More indirect ways show how to make a polite request:
I wouldnt mind a drink, if you have one.
Would you mind starting over again?
I wonder if you could put me on your mailing list, please.
Would you be good/kind enough to let me know?
I would be (extremely) grateful if you would telephone me this afternoon.
I wonder if youd mind writing a reference for me.
* Requests with mind:
Would you mind opening repeating that? followed by -ing
Would you mind if I smoked? followed by an if clause using a past simple verb
Do you mind if I close the window? followed by an if clause using an infinitive
Questions with mind mean Is it a problem for you? To agree to a request we say no.
A: Would you mind opening the window?
B: No, of course not./ No, not at all.
* To refuse phrases like Im afraid, Im sorry, To be honest, Well, Actually are used and a
reason should be added. This strategy makes the refusal sound more tactful.
A: Would you mind making me a cup of coffee?
B: Im afraid Im a little busy right now.

A: Would you mind making a couple of copies for me?


B: Oh, Im sorry the copier is out of order at the moment.

60

A: Would you mind if I took a day off tomorrow?


B: Well, to be honest, its a bit inconvenient.

A: Do you mind if I smoke?


B: Id rather you didnt, actually./Actually, Id rather you didnt.

A: Would you mind if I borrowed the company car tomorrow?


B: Thats not really possible Im afraid.

* These sentences are typical in formal letters:


I would be very grateful if you would
I would appreciate it if you could
Would you kindly
Thank you in advance for your help in this matter.

Chapter VI Textbook Analysis


6.1 Introduction
In a foreign language environment, where learners have very few opportunities to
communicate with speakers of the target language outside of class, a careful choice of
materials is of great import. English, contrary to other foreign languages taught in the Czech
Republic, is spoken and taught worldwide and there is an abundance of multimedia materials
comprising copious textbooks. In the following analysis I intend to focus on two current and
commonly used textbooks and the way they meet modern methodological demands including
creating realistic context, pragmatic instruction and natural communicative opportunities.

61

6.2 New English File Intermediate

Lesson plan
New English File is a multi-level text book for students of general English. At the end of
each unit there is a practical English section which aims to consolidate and extend students
knowledge of functional language. It helps students feel confident in typical everyday social
situations. The sections are: introductions and greetings, requests and permission, giving
directions, making suggestions, giving opinions, giving and reacting to news, apologizing and
giving excuses. These lessons also highlight other useful social English phrases. To make
these everyday situations come alive there is a story in which two main characters {Allie and
Mark} appear throughout the book, continuing from New English File Elementary. The
situations are set in an environment of a music company, but the phrases introduced are not of
a business character.
I am going to analyze how the authors of New English File Intermediate, Oxenden and
Lathan-Koenig, deal with requests and permission. The goal of this lesson is to revise and
extend ways of making requests and asking for permission. The target phrases are:

Requests
Would you mind (sending me those concert dates)?

Response
Of course not.

Could you (help me)?

Sure.

Do you think you could (send me the requests by email)?

Yes, of course.

Can you (come and see me when you have a moment)?

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Permission
Is it OK if (I take tomorrow afternoon off)?

Im sorry but

In the first stage a situation is set that is going to create a context for the phrases they are
going to practise. It is a listening activity. Students are asked to answer three questions:
1 What does Jacques ask Mark to do?
2 What does Mark ask Ben to do?
3 What does Nicole ask Allie?
The teacher elicits the answers, i.e. favours (the characters are already familiar to the students
from previous units) ask each other to do.
After the lead-in part, students look at the dialogues they have listened to:
Jacque

Mark? Would you mind ----------------- me those concert dates?

Mark

Of --------------- not. Ben Are you busy?

Ben

Me? Never.

Mark

--------------- you help me? I cant open this document.

Ben

----------------- .

Mark

Thanks.

..
Allie

Hi, Nicole.

Nicole

Could you sign these, please?

Allie

Sure.

Nicole

Is it ------------------ if I take tomorrow afternoon off?

Allie

Im -------------------, but tomorrow is really difficult.

Nicole What about Friday afternoon?


Allie

Friday? Thats fine. Do you ---------------------- you could ------------------------ me the

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request by email?
Nicole

Er, yes, of ------------------------ .

Allie

Hello? Hi Mark. ------------------ you come and see me when you have a moment?

In pairs, students guess or remember the missing words, they are not to write them in yet.
The recording is played again for students to check. Afterwards, they go through the dialogue
line by line and check their answers. It is recommended that alternatives are discussed with
students and to see whether the answers which were guessed incorrectly are suitable or not.
The correct answers are:
Jacque

Mark? Would you mind sending me those concert dates?

Mark

Of course not. Ben Are you busy?

Ben

Me? Never.

Mark

Could you help me? I cant open this document.

Ben

Sure.

Mark

Thanks.

..
Allie

Hi, Nicole.

Nicole

Could you sign these, please?

Allie

Sure.

Nicole

Is it OK if I take tomorrow afternoon off?

Allie

Im sorry, but tomorrow is really difficult.

Nicole What about Friday afternoon?


Allie

Friday? Thats fine. Do you think you could send me the request by
email?

Nicole

Er, yes, of course .

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Allie

Hello? Hi Mark. Can you come and see me when you have a moment?

After all the target phrases have been elicited, the focus turns to pronunciation. Students
repeat the highlighted phrases and copy the rhythm and intonation.
In the following stage students focus on the chart in their textbooks and are asked to complete
the chart with the key phrases from the recording under an appropriate column:
Request:

Response:

Permission:

Response:

The Teachers book recommends the teacher to point out that:


- the expression you use in a given situation often depends on several aspects, for instance
how big the favour you are asking is, or how well you know the person you are having a
conversation with.
- you can also use Can/Could/ May I to ask for permission, e.g. May I use your phone?
- the verb after Would you mind must be the ing form. This phrase requires a negative
answer, e.g. (No,) of course not if you agree to the request.
- apart from of course not, the other responses can be used for all requests or giving
permission.
The next stage is designed to practice the target phrases in mini dialogues. Students
choose one of the following things they would like someone to do for them and they ask as
many other students as possible. They are instructed to sound polite and explain why they are
asking the favour.
look after (my children, my dog, my cat, etc.)
lend me (some money, your car, a book, etc.)
give me a lift (home, to the centre, etc.)
help me (with my homework, to paint my flat, etc.)

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In a whole class discussion, students report on how many students accepted their request
or permission.

Evaluation
The evaluation part is going to be based on the following criteria: providing an
appropriate context, choice of target phrases, formality distinction, accuracy vs. fluency and
the balance of skills.
Context the target phrases are not introduced out of context. Students are provided with
sufficient information as to the place where the conversation is set in the office of a music
company. They are offered other variations in the speaking activity during which students
receive more ideas about various settings in which they might use the target phrases. In terms
of requests and permission students realize place is not of great importance since making
requests and asking for permission can take place in almost any environment. What I find
more important are the roles of participants which are made known to the students. They are
familiar with all the people in the conversation, i.e. Allie the managing director of the
company, Mark the marketing director, Nicole Allies personal assistant, Ben the graphic
designer, Jacques the PR manager. The nationality of the participants is very well thought
out: Allie is British and some of her French colleagues regard her as rather cold and reserved.
Mark is an American and thus considered more direct than Allie. The other participants are
French and we can see different tendencies regarding how directly and formally they perform
their roles. Students obtain all the relevant information about the person being addressed and
the person doing the addressing in order to ask a favour. This knowledge is essential in terms
of different levels of formality students need to be aware of. I am going to deal with formality
later on. Another significant aspect of context is to know the purpose of the conversation the
target phrases occur in. It is generally accepted that in order to persuade someone to do us a

66
favour it is necessary to make a request. Jacques asks Mark to send him the concert dates
because he needs to fulfil his daily duties at work. Mark asks Ben to help him open a
document because he would like to read it. Nicole asks Allie if she can have an afternoon off
because she probably needs to make some private arrangements. And Allie asks Mark to come
to her office so that she can talk to him. What the teacher must emphasize is the difference
between how requests are made in Czech compared to how they are successfully realized in
English. The focus is on the form or content of the request or permission. Students need to
become aware of certain conventions of English requests and asking for permission. The
teacher is instructed to point out that Would you mind is followed by a negative response in
order to accept a request. Moreover, it is necessary to stress that commands should not be
made when asking a favour, otherwise they would sound impolite and thus would most
probably be not accepted, or what is worse they might cause offence. The Czech teacher has
to bear in mind such nuances to provide students with appropriate pragmatic instructions. Not
all these diversions from cultural conventions are mentioned in the book. As far as
pronunciation is concerned, students are given enough guidance via repetition and drills. The
importance of intonation and rhythm are areas which are sometimes underestimated by
language teachers. Without guidance students do not know that accepting a request or
granting permission can, to an extent, depend on the tone or the manner with which it is
uttered.
Choice of phrases the authors chose four phrases for requests, one for permission and
four way of responding to the phrases. In my opinion, this number is completely sufficient.
We cannot expect students to acquire more than ten phrases per a lesson. The textbook does
not show a tendency to overload students.
The phrases are of different formality levels and this clever choice enables students to
communicate their needs in a considerable scale of social and professional situations from

67
formal (Do you think you could ? Would you mind ..?), to neutral and informal ones
(Could you .?, Can you ?, Is it OK if ). Students can see how different phrases are used
in the provided conversation in relation to who was asked and by whom (the boss asks his or
her employee, or the employee asks the boss, etc.) They can identify the most formal phrases
in the dialogue and discuss if they find the other phrases, which are less formal, appropriate in
the given situation. The different cultural background of the participants can also be taken into
consideration. Generally, the Americans (Mark) tend to be more direct than the British (Allie),
which can be exemplified on different formality levels of the phrases they used.
Accuracy vs. fluency the text book provides enough space for both. Accuracy activities,
which always come first, aim to focus on the form of the target phrases. To practise accuracy
is the goal of the exercise where students have to fill in the gaps, they practise pronunciation
and write the phrases under the correct heading. All these activities require immediate
correction. Functional language cannot be practised without fluency activities. One of the
fluency activities is provided at the end of the requesting session in the form of a role play.
Students use the target phrases in meaningful conversations. They are corrected after the
activity so as not to interfere with the aims of the activity. In some cases instant correction is
required, but these errors must be dealt with very sensitively.
Skills both receptive (listening, reading) and productive (speaking and writing) skills are
integrated and in balance.

6.3 International Express Intermediate

Lesson plan
International express offers a combination of general and business English. Its aim is to

68
provide adult learners with the language necessary to be able to communicate their needs in
professional and social situations. At the end of each unit there is a section called Focus on
Functions. It contains essential and useful functions which should increase learners'
confidence in the everyday situations a professional person is exposed to. Functions
introduced in International Express Intermediate are: introductions and greetings, welcoming
a visitor, answering the phone, making and changing appointments, giving opinions, agreeing
and disagreeing, participating in a meeting or discussion, advice and suggestions, leaving
recorded messages, using mobile phones, requests and offers, exchanging information, giving
talks and presentations, types of business communication, texting, writing emails, describing a
process, interviewing techniques, business correspondence, social responses and saying
goodbye.
I am going to analyze the way the authors deal with requests in unit six. Harding and
Taylor, the authors of this text book do not introduce requesting on its own. Requests are
combined with offers and exchanging information.
The target phrases are:
Requesting:

Agreeing:

Could you ?

Yes, of course.

Would you mind ?

Not at all.

Do you think you could ?

Yes, thats no problem.

Do you mind ?

No, of course not.

Can you ?

Yes, Ill do that.

Offering:

Accepting:

Declining:

Would you like me to ?

Yes, if you could.

Thanks, but you neednt bother.

Shall I ?

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As a lead in, the teacher focuses students' attention on a box containing the following
phrases:
Can you... ?
Would you mind ... (+ - ing)?
Do you think you could ... ?
Could you ...?
I'd like you to ...
Do you mind ... (+ -ing)?

Students are asked to distinguish which phrases sound more like an instruction from those
that sound like a request. This should make the students realize the difference between a direct
instruction and a polite request. At this point students can discuss the situations in which they
would be more likely to use an instruction and when a request would sound more appropriate.
The context can be made more specific and students may realize how the communicative
strategies differ from Czech to English environment.
In the following stage students are asked to put the requests in order of formality. Teacher
can illustrate the different formality levels on the board as suggested in the Teacher's book
(from formal to informal):
Do you think you could ...?
Would you mind ...?
Do you mind ...?
I'd like you to...
Could you ...?
Can you... ?

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It is important to make students aware of various formality levels so that they are able to
use them in specific situations. Some situations are provided:
Ask
1 a colleague to translate a letter for you.
2 a friend to do some supermarket shopping for you.
3 your secretary to work three hours overtime this week.
4 a colleague to give you a lift to the train station.
5 your secretary to make some photocopies.
6 your son or daughter to tidy their bedroom.
7 a colleague to help you move some furniture.
8 a friend to water your houseplants while you're on holiday.

Students are to decide which phrases are appropriate in the given situations and they have
to explain their choices. The teacher's book suggests stressing that for a more difficult request,
an indirect phrase is generally preferred. Stressing that there might be differences between
cultures is also recommended. In Czech direct phrases, even commands followed by please
may sound acceptable. Nevertheless, they are not acceptable in British English.
In the next stage, students listen to a conversation between Rosa, the Project manager, and
Claire, the secretary (characters already known to students since they appear in every unit).
The goal of this activity is to listen for specific information, i.e. write the information Rosa
asks Claire to get.
Students listen to the conversation once again and this time they are to note down the
target language into the following frame:
Requesting:

Agreeing:

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Offering:

Accepting:

Declining:

The teacher elicits ideas from students. If necessary, the teacher can provide some possible
answers himself or herself.
During the following stage, students practise making requests, agreeing and refusing in
mini role-plays. The context is provided:
You are colleagues. Practise making and responding to requests. Give a reason when you
refuse a request.

Student A

Student B

Ask Student B to
1 help you translate a document.
2 to give you lift to the airport.

Agree.
Refuse.

Student A adds two more requests. Students change roles.

Student B

Student A

Ask student A to
1 explain a new computer system.
2 look after a visitor next week.

Agree.
Refuse.

Student B adds two more requests and student A responses.


The next stage is set up in order to practise making and responding to offers. Students
work with a different partner. The context is provided:

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You are preparing for a seminar. Practise making and responding to offers. Give a reason
when you decline and offer. Add one more offer each.
Studen A

Student B

Offer
1 to set up the audio-visual equipment.

Accept.

2 to check the number of participants.

Decline.

Student B

Student A

Offer
1 to open the windows.

Decline

2 to get supplies of stationery.

Accept

Evaluation

Context the text book creates sufficient and authentic context necessary to make a
conversation meaningful. The instructions in the Teachers book explicitly recommend
reminding students of the previous unit and the story in MCT so far. MCT, an international
multimedia production company, is considering a visit to three regions of Spain where the
project they are currently working on is supposed to be carried out. The situation is set in the
professional environment of a successful company and all the encounters with the
protagonists create a friendly but formal atmosphere. The target phrases come from a
conversation between Rosa Lanson, the project manager and her secretary Claire. Apart from
this rather formal environment, students are also given the opportunity to discuss which
phrases sound appropriate in situations of a different character, for instance in a conversation
among family members, friends, or colleagues. By holding such discussions students should

73
realize the necessity to alter requests and offers in accordance to the setting of a situation in
which they are requesting or offering and the status of participants in a topical context. Most
Czech students seem reluctant to use formal expressions although it is necessary in certain
situations in order to achieve their goals. It is vital to emphasize that requests are realized with
certain intentions and purposes. For example, Rosa Lanson makes a request because she needs
her assistant to find out information about flights to Spain, which will certainly save a lot of
time. The assistant offers to ask about flights to Bilbao in order to show willingness to help
her boss. All the phrases used in their conversations show relatively high level of formality, by
this formality Rosa Lanson shows her appreciation of her secretary especially when she sees
that Claire is very busy. Claire shows her sense of duty and respect to a person of a higher
status. If students would like to ask someone a favour, they need to know how to adjust the
form and content of a request depending on the setting, the participants or the urgency of their
request. In this respect, students obtain all the relevant information about the addressee and
the addressor in order to ask a favour. This knowledge is essential in terms of the different
levels of formality students need to be aware of. I am going to deal with formality in more
detail later on.
An essential feature of a successful conversation is not the mere ability to produce phrases
without being responded to. It is vital to be able to respond to these phrases appropriately.
International Express provides phrases that students might use to respond to the requests and
offers which were introduced at the beginning. Students are taught how to express agreement
with a person who is requesting, or accept an offer:
A: Would you mind ?

B: Not at all.

A: Do you think you could ?


A: Do you mind ?
A: Can you ?

B: Yes, that no problem.

B: No, of course not.

B: Yes, Ill do that.

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There is no explicit instruction in the Teachers book which would recommend highlighting
responses to the Would you mind and Do you mind phrases. Czech students tend to give
positive replies in order to accept the requests. Students need to become aware of certain
conventions of English requests. The teacher should point out that Would you mind is
followed by a negative response in order to accept a request. Students who have been using
International Express since its elementary level are likely to be familiar with cultural
differences and their reflection in the English language. But it is a constant struggle to revise
how certain conventions work in English compared to Czech. It is necessary to stress that
commands should not be made when asking a favour, which is rather common in the students
mother tongue. Students need to be instructed that commands sound impolite and might cause
offence. The Czech teacher has to bear in mind such nuances to provide students with
appropriate pragmatic instructions. Czech teachers bring a clear advantage to the learning
process because if properly instructed, they are capable of understanding potential
problematic areas Czech students have to face and they should be able to offer a reasonable
explanation, which it is sometimes necessary to provide in Czech.
Special attention is paid to a very sensitive area of refusals. Students are asked to brainstorm
phrases used to refuse a request, they are to analyze how these phrases are introduced and
what is necessary to add in order to make them sound more tentative: Im afraid , Im sorry
but . The Teachers book suggests the following phrases: Im sorry, but thats not possible.
Im afraid not. I think that will be very difficult. Sorry, but . I would personally change
very (difficult, inconvenient) to a bit (difficult, inconvenient) to make the rejection even more
tactful. Students tend to repeat one or two phrases throughout the activities. It is up to the
teacher to encourage students to use as many phrases as possible.
The textbook does not provide any repetition activities to practise individual phrases with the
appropriate intonation and rhythm unless the teacher stops the whole recording after each

75
target phrase and asks the class to repeat the phrases. When omitting pronunciation practice,
students might jump to the wrong conclusion that the pronunciation aspects of language are of
little importance. Pronunciation must not be underestimated. Czech learners are often accused
by English native speakers of speaking in a very monotonous way, which sometimes sound
rather rude even though this was not the intention. The lack of pronunciation activities is not a
general problem of International Express. The textbook offers pronunciation sections in every
unit, but I think students would benefit from more frequent drilling pronunciation activities.
Choice of phrases the authors chose five requesting phrases and five ways of responding
to them, two phrases for expressing offers, one phrase of acceptance and five phrases for
declining an offer. I consider the number of target phrases sufficient. As I mentioned before
the textbook also provides students with useful pragmatic information about what techniques
to use to make declining phrases more tentative and polite.
The phrases are of different formality levels and their choice helps students to
communicate their needs effectively and confidently in a considerable scale of social and
professional situations from formal
(Do you think you could ? Would you mind ..?), to neutral and informal ones (Could you
.?, Can you ?). Students are offered a variety of situations knowing their roles in the
conversation and thus are provided with opportunities to acquire phrases of different formality
levels in natural contexts.
Accuracy vs. fluency students work with ready made phrases. This is not the first time
they come across requests and offers. On an even larger scale, students learn to make requests
and offers in International Express Pre-intermediate. Focus on accuracy can be seen in the
identification stage where students are to place the target phrases under the correct heading
and during the discussion on the formality and politeness of the phrases. It can be considered
as both an accuracy activity with focus on form and immediate correction and a controlled

76
pragmatic discussion. Fluency activities in the form of role plays create an inevitable part of
International Express functional language sections. Although the students are given scenarios
which they have to follow, after the prescribed tasks they are allowed to add two more
requests. It might slow down the activity to a certain extent since students A and B will both
need some thinking time to invent requests and responses to them. On the other hand, making
their own requests makes this activity more personalized and students may find the
opportunity to choose whether to agree or refuse more realistic than copying instructions from
the book. Controlled practice changes into a slightly freer practice.
Skills the unit incorporates both productive (speaking and writing) and receptive skills
(listening). In terms of reading, this can naturally be integrated after the listening activity. The
teacher might ask students to go through the tape script at the end of the book and find more
phrases which they were unable to identify in the listening activity.
Conclusion

Both textbooks succeed in creating sufficient context for the requesting situation of the
particular conversations. Students are provided with relevant information on the role of the
speakers concerning their status in the company, personal relationships and nationality. Apart
from the main conversation, extra situations are offered in order to use requesting phrases in
different contexts especially with regard to the formality level. Students are given
opportunities to practise the target phrases playing roles of friends, colleagues, a boss with an
employee or parents with their children. International Express, being a business textbook to a
certain extent, tends to provide a more formal environment for the main characters of the
company that provides the thematic background running through the whole textbook.
Furthermore, it does not neglect less formal events. Although New English File introduces its
sections of functional language using the same strategy, i.e. providing a background of an

77
international company with the same main characters reappearing throughout the textbook,
generally, the whole environment tends to be rather informal by focusing more on the
interpersonal relationships of the characters. In order not to omit more formal requests, the
practical English section in which requests are introduced, shows a tendency to mix both
formal requests (Would you mind sending me the concert dates? Do you think you could send
me the request by email?) and informal (Could you help me? Can you come and see me when
you have a moment?).
Concerning other pragmatic instructions, each book pays attention to slightly different
areas of pragmatic information. I am now drawing on the instructions as they appear in the
teachers books. New English File stresses the importance of giving a negative response after
Do you mind , Would you mind phrases to agree to the request. International Express is
more thorough in providing teachers and students respectively with pragmatic information. It
stresses that with more difficult requests, an indirect phrase is preferred. Emphasizing that
there might be differences between cultures is also recommended. In this respect, in students
own language, direct phrases can be used more often or may be more acceptable than in
English. It gives examples of responses to requests including the Do you mind ?, Would you
mind ? phrases. It helps students to deal with giving negative responses, which are
undoubtedly the most face threatening situations. The textbook suggest using tactful phrases
Im afraid and Im sorry, but, I think .
Both textbooks provide a sufficient number of requesting phrases. Requests are not
introduced on its own, which corresponds with Tsuis claim that requests are often performed
under a linguistic disguise in order to reduce the face-threatening effect (1994:103-115).
Students are given examples of phrases of all three levels of formality informal, neutral and
formal. Students are not overloaded by too many phrases which could not be absorbed in one
requesting session. On the other hand, what can be viewed as problematic, are the following

78
stages of the unit. As the design of the unit in International Express suggests, the session on
requests should be immediately followed by a session aimed at practising exchanging
information: asking, checking, confirming, correcting and showing understanding. It is rather
questionable whether students are able to cope with three language functions at the same time,
i.e. requests, offers and exchanging information, although in the given context they co-exist.
The textbook should serve as a guide to the teacher. It is the teachers responsibility to
predict how much his or her students are capable of absorbing in one lesson. In this respect
the teacher can decide whether to manage all the three functions at one time or whether to
divide the unit into two separate lessons.
New English File does not introduce requests and offers on their own, either. The
requesting session is followed by a brief Social English/ Office Gossip section.
The character of the useful phrases is completely different from the character of the
phrases in the previous requesting section. It is up to the teacher to decide whether this section
should be included in the lesson or not. Taking into consideration the nature of the phrases
and the fact that the section is relatively short, implementing it into the lesson should not have
a very disturbing impact on the lesson. In addition, it might work as a possible follow-up
activity regarding the chronological aspect of the story.
In terms of balance between the accuracy and fluency activities, both books meet the
methodological demands. Accuracy activities are provided in the form of gap-filling, frame
work and drills. Extra gap-filling activities are to be found in the workbook, which serves as a
way to reinforce the newly acquired language in home conditions.
Fluency practice is supplied in the form of role plays of various scenarios from the very
formal to the very informal ones.

79
Summary

In this work I have attempted to profile the scope of pragmatics and its significance in
modern English language teaching. I have drawn on recent methodological research and
recapitulated its findings, emphasizing the significance of pragmatic instruction in order to
develop basic pragmatic competence in conjunction with grammatical competence.
Defining pragmatic competence is inevitably linked to the phenomenon of cross-cultural
pragmatics. This in turns leads to considerations of cross-cultural training and instruction
along with the incorporation of culture awareness raising activities into the classroom setting.
I have outlined the most frequent problematic grammatical and lexical areas non-native
speakers might encounter in the course of the second language acquisition process. I have
specifically directed careful attention to the Czech learner of English.
The last part of the work is devoted to the area of requesting strategies, the way they are
tackled in modern English textbooks. Czech attitude to performing requests in English is
taken into consideration and the principal differentiations between Czech and English
requesting strategies have been outlined.

Czech Summary

Ve sv prci jsem se pokusila definovat zkladn cle pragmatiky a zdraznit uplatovn


pragmatickch princip v modern vuce anglickho jazyka. Oprala jsem se pi tom o
vsledky souasnho metodologickho vzkumu v tto oblasti. Mm zmrem bylo
podtrhnout vznam ptomnosti pragmatickch instrukc ve vyuovn, co spolu

80
s prohlubovn gramatickch dovednost dv pedpoklad k rozvjen pragmatick
kompetence ve shod s gramatickou kompetenc.
Vymezen pragmatick kompetence nevyhnuteln smuje k fenomnu vnmn odlinosti
kultur, reflektovn kulturnch specifik v jazyce a nsledn zaazen tomu odpovdajcch
aktivit do vyuovn cizch jazyk. Pragmatick instrukt a diskuze se stvaj nevyhnutelnou
soust plnohodnotn vuky.
Zvltn pozornost byla zamena na esk studenty a jejich nejastj gramatick a
lexikln pochyben pi osvojovn si anglickho jazyka.
Posledn st prce je vnovna oblasti tvoen zdvoilch dost a zpsobu jakm jsou
dosti prezentovny v souasnch uebnicch anglickho jazyka. Zsady tvorby anglickch
dost jsou konfrontovny s eskm vnmnm tohoto eovho aktu.

81

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Analysed Textbooks:
Hardig, K. & Taylor, L. (2005). International Express-Intermediate. Oxford: OUP.
Oxenden, C. & Koenig, C.L. (2006). New English File-Intermediate. Oxford: OUP.