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Student perceptions of email communication in the academic context in Taiwan

Li-Jung Daphne Huang1, Yuanshan Chen2
1Providence University, Taichung, Taiwan. 2National Chin-Yi University of Technology, Taichung, Taiwan


Language use in email writing by English as a foreign language (EFL) learners has been studied extensively. In particular, email communication in student-professor interactions in the academic context received attention of many scholars. These studies focused on developing pragmatic competence among language learners (e.g., Chen, 2015; Economidou-Kogetsidis, 2015). However, research on students’ perceptions is scant. Therefore, this research investigates the students’ perceptions of email communication in terms of formality, politeness and directness. A questionnaire and focus-group interviews were implemented. 201 Taiwanese EFL learners from a university were recruited for the questionnaire and 20 learners were selected to participate in the interviews. The questionnaire was designed to investigate the students’ perceptions of email usage and their evaluation of emails. The interviews were conducted to gather in-depth information. Three main findings were elicited from the questionnaire and interviews. First, the students recognized the university context and email medium as formal and the expected email style as polite but direct. Second, power asymmetry in the student-professor relationship played a more important role than social distance, which led to a choice of formal language style in the email correspondences. Third, students were not equipped with sufficient pragmalinguistic resources to perform appropriate questions. Therefore, implicit instructional activity was suggested for EFL learners to conduct form-function-context mapping to achieve appropriateness. Based on Cohen (1983), the reformulation strategy was proposed in L2 email instruction.


Email, Perception, Formality, Politeness, Directness

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023