Keeping up with native speakers: The many and positive roles of repetition in the conversations of EFL learners

| December 31, 2004
Keeping up with native speakers: The many and positive roles of repetition in the conversations of EFL learners

Keywords: Second language acquisition: communication strategies: English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners: lexical problems: Faculty of Education, Monash University: allo-repetition in the EFL learners’ conversations: intonation pattern: cross-cultural conversations

Dr. Erlenawati Sawir
Monash University, Australia

Bio Data
Erlenawati Sawir is a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia, whose current research is on the social and economic security of international students, and university leaders’ strategies in the global environment. She gained her Doctoral Degree at Monash University, Faculty of Education in 2003.

Address for correspondence:
Faculty of Education
Monash University, Building 6,
Clayton Campus
Wellington Road, Victoria 3800

The paper examines one feature of communication strategies, allo-repetition (two-party repetition) in conversation. It explores the many roles of repetition through a study of informal dyadic conversations between English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners from Indonesia, Vietnam and Japan, and native speakers of English. Allo-repetition contributes to development, maintenance and coherence of a conversation; and is a principal strategy under the control of non-native speakers that enables them to communicate their positive involvement and interest in conversation where language skills are unequal. The data discussed in the paper confirm six categories of allo-repetition identified by Tannen (1989) and others: to indicate participatory listenership, to justify listenership, to request for confirmation, to request for clarification, to stall, and to indicate surprise. The study confirms the positive roles of repetition strategy in maintaining the conversation. The paper also presents an additional form of allo-repetition, to ensure correctness, which appears to take a more important role in cross-cultural conversations in which one party is a conscious learner of English. As the data indicate, in the interpretation of repetition strategies, prosodic characteristics such as intonation, the ensuing responses by the interlocutors, and the use of associated speech particles, can all help to explain the various functions of allo-repetition.

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