Requests by Chinese EFL learners and native speakers of English

The case of formulaic expressions


  • Jing Meng University of York, UK
  • Beatrice Szczepek Reed School of Education, Communication and Society King's College London



requesting, discourse completion task, language learning, pragmatic competence


Language learners' requesting behaviour has been the focus of pragmatic research for some time, including that of Chinese EFL learners, who constitute a large proportion of English speakers globally. The present study replicates elements of Wang (2011), focusing on the use of formulaic expressions and exploring the differences between advanced Chinese EFL learners and native speakers of English with regard to the use of request formulae. The study also investigates whether significant exposure to the target language in country is connected to a more native-like use of request formulae. Wang's Discourse Completion Task was adopted to elicit request utterances from three groups of participants: advanced Chinese EFL learners studying in China (at home students) and in the UK (study abroad students), respectively, and native speakers of British English. The findings show that, although in some respects study abroad students in the UK employed request formulae in a more native-like manner compared to at home students in China, neither group showed close approximation to the request behaviour of the native speaker group. The findings are discussed in the context of current debates, including interlanguage variations, interactional competence, and native speaker norms and intelligibility.

Author Biographies

Jing Meng, University of York, UK

Jing Meng has a Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching from the University of York, UK. She is interested in Interlanguage Pragmatics and the language use of Chinese learners of English.

Beatrice Szczepek Reed, School of Education, Communication and Society King's College London

Professor of Language Education

Head of School, School of Education, Communication and Society

Beatrice Szczepek Reed is Professor of Language Education at King’s College London. She works in the field of Conversation Analysis, specifically on the prosody of naturally-occurring talk and cross-cultural comparisons. She has written the monograph Prosodic Orientation in English Conversation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), the textbook Analysing Conversation: An Introduction to Prosody(Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), and her work has appeared in Journal of Pragmatics, Applied LinguisticsResearch on Language and Social Interaction, Pragmatics and Society, and Classroom Discourseamongst others.


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How to Cite

Meng, J., & Szczepek Reed, B. (2020). Requests by Chinese EFL learners and native speakers of English: The case of formulaic expressions. East Asian Pragmatics, 5(2), 195–221.