TC Ed.M. Alumnus Fred S. Tsutagawa to Present at AAAL 2011

| February 24, 2011

Conference: American Association for Applied Linguistics 2011 Conference, Chicago, March 26-29, 2011.

Title: The effects of explicit humor instruction on the humor comprehension of advanced second language learners of English


Humor is widely recognized as a ubiquitous and vital psychosocial construct that is important to individuals on various mental, emotional, physical, and interpersonal dimensions, but has yet to be explored in Applied Linguistics and aspects of second language instruction (SLI). This study examined the efficacy of increasing humor competence and/or humor appreciation of specific scenes from Hollywood comedy films in advanced university-level second language learners (SLLs) of English as a second language (ESL) by providing explicit humor instruction of sociocultural-historical knowledge bases. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of mind (SCT) is used as the framework to describe the phenomena of humor competence and appreciation. The SCT, a general theory of learning, proposes that individuals are a product of the totality of their social and educational experiences, with interactions with their environment via cultural artifacts and tools also significantly contributing to aspects of personality and cognition. In this study, the experimental group of non-native speaking university students (n = 17) watched four short movie clips from the Hollywood films Shrek, Shrek 2, and Undercover Brother and were given explicit humor instruction of sociocultural-historical knowledge bases necessary for complete native speaker-like understanding. Explicit instruction of sociocultural-historical information was found to increase overall humor competence in SLLs while having nominal effects on humor appreciation for the chosen movie excerpts. Explicit humor instruction also appeared to raise learner awareness of these knowledge bases. Additional survey questions and observations indicate that native speakers and non-native speakers alike (N = 54) felt that humor is generally important to them in their personal lives, and that humor instruction is something that could be addressed more in SLI. Hopefully, these preliminary results augur well for further studies into humor pragmatics instruction, and many potential avenues for further research are explored.