The roles of language proficiency and study abroad in Japanese students’ receptive pragmatic competence
This study investigated the pragmatic competence of 50 Japanese English major students, divided into two groups, one of which participated in a study abroad (SA) program and the other stayed at home (AH) taking regular university classes. Two tests were used to measure two aspects of the students’ pragmatic competence. The Irony Test measured their ability to identify negative and positive irony. The Metapragmatic Test measured their ability to identify inappropriate speech acts and their understanding of why they were inappropriate. Results showed that, compared with a group of native speakers, the students had difficulty in identifying both irony – especially positive irony – and speech act inappropriateness. The students’ language proficiency was related to their metapragmatic ability but not to their ability to detect irony. A comparison of the SA and AH students revealed a small advantage for the former in the Metapragmatic Test but not in the Irony Test.
Keywords: Japanese university students, pragmatic competence, irony, metapragmatic knowledge, study abroad