Pragmatic competence in English at the VG1 level: To what extent are Norwegian EFL students able to adapt to contextual demands when making requests in English?

Silje Brubæk


The present article presents an investigation of Norwegian students of English as a foreign language (EFL) and their pragmatic competence in English. The importance of developing such a competence receives a strong focus in the English subject curriculum. However, very few studies have been conducted in the field of pragmatics in Norway, and even fewer Norwegian studies have focused on students’ pragmatic competence in a second language. The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate whether Norwegian EFL students would be familiar with and show awareness of English politeness norms and pragmatic conventions when having to communicate in English. Would they be able to adapt their language, choice of strategy and level of formality to the contextual demands when making requests in the second language (L2)? Forty students answered a simplified version of a discourse completion test (DCT) consisting of four different situations in which the students had to make requests. The results, which were analysed by means of Brown and Levinson’s theory of face threatening acts, indicated that most of the students were at one of the beginning stages of English pragmatic development. Their language use was characterized by first language (L1) transfer and overuse of familiar and informal expressions. When faced with more formal and demanding situations, they fell short and clearly lacked the knowledge and competence that would allow them to communicate successfully. It can be argued that these findings might indicate a lack of focus in Norwegian schools when it comes to developing students’ pragmatic competence. If this is true, an important part of the subject curriculum is being neglected.

Emneord (Nøkkelord)

pragmatisk kompetanse




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ISSN 1504-9922