An evaluation of the pragmatic competence of high school students of English in Ethiopia

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Namibia University of Science & Technology, Faculty of Human Sciences


This article presents an evaluation of the pragmatic competence of high school students in the English as a foreign language context in Ethiopia. Learners in an EFL scenario often find the area of language use difficult. Teachers are advised to explicitly teach the pragmatic features of language and make use of authentic models of language to help learners practice using appropriate language in social contexts. In spite of this, data about the pragmatic aspect of language and pragmatic-focused instruction are lacking in an EFL (Ethiopian) context. Textbooks and teachers are integral part of language teaching generally in an EFL setting where there are no opportunities to learn the language informally outside the classroom. The textbooks seldom provide adequate pragmatic information for students to successfully develop their pragmatic competence as the findings of this research indicated. Most of the metalanguage explanations are simple and inadequate as well. The research followed entirely a qualitative design except that some simple statistical calculations were used to compute the frequency, mean and percentage of the numerical data. The data were drawn from the content analysis of two student textbooks (grade 11 and 12), responses of four teachers teaching grades 9-12 and self-perceived competence and pragmatic awareness test results of 183 students. The findings of this study also presented the implications for teaching pragmatics to EFL learners, the development of pragmatic-focused materials, future research and well-designed teacher training. The results of this study also showed that teachers seldom use pragmatic instruction in classrooms, and mostly students have to spend time by themselves developing pragmatic competence without explicit instruction. Overall, the pragmatics instruction was immature and needed to be developed, and teachers needed professional training to be aware of how to teach pragmatics effectively. Although the learners’ self-perceived competence mean score was high, their multiple choice discourse completion test (MDCT) result was low; and this confirmed that self-perceived competence and the actual performance never matched. This is why according to Dewaele (2007) higher levels of self-perceived competence are linked to lower levels of communication which in fact has to be further investigated in the Ethiopian context.


Lecturer published article


Pragmatics, Pragmatic competence, Content analysis, Self-perceived-competence, MDCT, challenges, Opportunities


Shankule, K., & Woldemariam, H. Z. (2015). An evaluation of the pragmatic competence of high school students of English: a case study in Ethiopia. NAWA journal of language and communication, 9(2), 40-63.