Humour as a pedagogical tool in the teaching of English and German equivocal words

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Alfonso Corbacho Sánchez
Luis Javier Conejero Magro


This article proves statistically the effectiveness of humour in the teaching of English and German to Spanish students of foreign languages. The referred lexicon is particularly troublemaking because of the difficulties that such vocabulary poses for Spanish learners of not-Latin-originated languages such as English and German. The approach followed is a quantitative and contrastive analysis dealing with the findings of an experiment carried out with four groups (two groups studying English and the other two German) of Spanish learners. The experimental groups (one for each language) was presented with input they were supposed to learn in sentences and contexts in which the use of the English term, with the meaning of its Spanish ‘false friend’, resulted in nonsensical and highly humorous utterances. In other words, the teaching strategy adopted for these groups included a certain dose of pedagogical humour. The presentation of the same lexical items (both in English and in German) to the other groups (control groups) was more neutral and deliberately bereft of humour. After that, the participants were set a test to find out whether or not they remembered the proper sense of the lexicon taught and could also use it correctly. The results are conclusive and the outcome strongly supports the beneficial effects of pedagogical humour in the language classroom. Thus, the results of the analysis of this case study reinforces the generally accepted assumption that humour increases the degree of motivation of students.


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