Competence in Sensitive Situations in English by Thai University
Students (A Case Study of Business English and Tourism Industry Students
from Dhonburi Rajabhat University)
The objectives of this study are as follows. 1) To study students’ English pragmatic competence, speciically to judge whether their language usage is appropriate and communicative in the area of negative acts (sensitive situations that involve imposition). 2) To compare the English pragmatic competence of Business English and Tourism Industry students in the area of negative acts. This study takes both a qualitative and a quantitative approach. The data were collected using a questionnaire (discourse completion test) that presents six situations, two each dealing with requests, complaints and disagreements. The respondents had to interact with people older than or the same age as themselves in given situations. The subjects were 73 students from the Business English program (48 third year and 25 fourth year students) and 48 students from Tourism Industry programs (39 third year and 9 fourth year students) at Dhonburi Rajabhat University, totaling 121 students. The same or similar responses in each situation were grouped and tallied. The indings were then analyzed descriptively and presented in percentage form. They show that 1) the majority of Business English respondents possess pragmatic competence. 1.1) In making requests, nobody uses a direct strategy, and most start their requests by using “Excuse me, can you/could you…” before stating the request. 1.2) When stating disagreement with friends, they often use a direct statement, but they avoid this when dealing with older people, instead using a variety of appropriate strategies (e.g. “I think…,” “excuse me,” or suggestion and compromise.) 1.3) “Excuse me” and “sorry” are mostly used in complaints with older people before the complaint is stated. With friends, they use “excuse me” or “sorry,” but they also use several other strategies including direct complaint. 2) Generally, Tourism Industry students also possess pragmatic competence, but to a lower degree than Business English respondents. 2.1) Requests and complaints to older people are dealt with appropriately. 2.2) Many respondents 113 Patana Srisuruk prefer a direct strategy in disagreement and complaint with friends. 3) Unexpectedly, there is also a high number of students whose responses are irrelevant and do not address the questions, or that use literal translation.
Keywords : pragmatic competence, request, disagreement and complaint