Sunday, September 23, 2007

ESL Speakers and Understanding Humor

One of the more difficult things for ESL speakers to master is humor. Aspects of the English language (or any language, for that matter) that make humor difficult include: different definitions for the same word, different stress on a word can make the meaning different, vocabulary limitation, grammar tenses, etc. Just about all the things that an ESL student must learn to read, write, speak and understand English are necessary for ESL learners to, for example, understand a joke told in English.

However, in addition to the language itself, there are also cultural references that the ESL student must know and understand to be able to understand a joke or other humor.

When an ESL speaker does finally start to understand humor in English, then he or she will know that he or she is making progress.

Of course, I'm not addressing the fact that different people, even speakers of the same language and from the same culture, just may not agree about what is funny.


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