Production of apologies in English: Variation by L2 proficiency and apology situations

Document Type: Original Article


1 Allameh Tabataba’i University

2 Islamic Azad University



 Production of speech acts and the strategies akin to their production by foreign language learners are key to understanding the development of interlanguage pragmatics. The speech act of apology has received great attention in interlanguage pragmatic studies due to its frequent use in spoken communication and its pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic variations across languages and cultures. This study aimed to determine what strategies are used by EFL learners in the Iranian context to produce the speech act of apology. Data for the study were elicited through a written discourse completion task from two groups of lower- and higher-proficiency learners studying English at a language center. Consistent with many previous findings, the results revealed that when apologizing all participants considerably preferred “direct apology strategy” to other strategies. By contrast, the indirect strategies of “offering promise of forbearance” and “expressing concern for the hearer” were used the least frequently. The findings did not substantiate any meaningful effect on the appropriateness of EFL learners’ apologies in terms of their proficiency. This study suggests that (1) there is a gap between L2 learners' linguistic development and their pragmatic development, (2) incidental exposure to speech acts is not sufficient for pragmatic development, and (3) there is a need to increase EFL learners' pragmatic awareness.