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Teaching L2 pragmatics to young EFL learners: exploring the potential of two graphic novels

by Gila A. Schauer (University of Erfurt, Germany)



Studies have shown that many EFL teachers consider components of pragmatic competence, such as the ability to communicate appropriately and effectively in the L2, to be an important part of their learners’ (intercultural) communicative competence (e.g., Savvidou and Economidou-Kogetsidis 2019; Schauer 2022). However, EFL textbooks and materials analyses have revealed that materials for young learners frequently do not feauture sufficient pragmatic input (e.g., Glaser 2020; Schauer 2019). If commercial EFL materials do not provide rich and varied pragmatic input opportunities, then other input options need to be explored that could provide EFL teachers of young learners with suitable materials for teaching L2 pragmatics.

Children’s literature is one possible input option that may provide young EFL learners with authentic target language input. While picture books may be the first children’s literature format that comes to mind – since picture books are frequently used in primary EFL classrooms – a recent study of 22 picture books used in EFL instruction has revealed that picture books may only offer limited pragmatic input due to limited direct speech instances and limited coverage of speech acts (Schauer 2019). 

The present study examines the pragmatic potential of two graphic novels appropriate for young EFL learners, as graphic novels – due to the very nature – contain a considerable number of direct speech instances.

The two graphic novels investigated are “Baloney and friends” by Greg Pizzoli (2020) containing 81 pages, and “Smell my foot” by Cece Bell (2019) containing 69 pages.


The investigation will focus on eight speech acts: greetings, leave takings, requests, repsonses to requests, expressions of gratitude, repsonses to expressions of gratitude, apologies, responses to apologies.

It will address the following research questions:


1) How many instances of the above-mentioned speech acts are featured in the two books?


2) Do the graphic novels contain different strategies/formulae for the individual speech acts or do they only provide a limited set of options?                                                                                                                                                    

3) Do the graphic novels contain additional content that could be used to teach pragmatics, e.g. conversations about appropriate / polite behaviour?






Glaser, Karen (2020). “Pragmatikvermittlung im Englischunterricht der Primarstufe: Der Sprechakt `Begrüßen‘ in Lehrplänen und Lehrwerken“. In Limberg, Holger / Glaser, Karen (eds.). Pragmatische Kompetenzen im schulischen Fremdsprachenunterricht. 199-248. Peter Lang.


Savvidou, Christine / Economidou-Kogetsidis, Maria (2019). “Teaching pragmatics: Non-native speakers teachers’ knowledge beliefs and reported practices”. In: Intercultural Communication Education 2 (1). 39-58.


Schauer, Gila A. (2019). Teaching and learning English in the primary school: Interlanguage pragmatics in the EFL context. Springer.


Schauer, Gila A. (2022). “Intercultural Competence and Pragmatics in the L2 Classroom: Views of In-Service EFL Teachers in Primary, Secondary, and Adult Education”. In: McConachy, Troy / Liddicoat, Anthony J. (eds.). Teaching and Learning Second Language Pragmatics for Intercultural Understanding. 173-198. Routledge.