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Face: an example

When can everyday interaction become face-threatening? In this video, participants watch a scenario in which face is threatened in a classroom.
DORIS DIPPOLD: So, let’s look at an example which is taken from an English class.
TUTOR: So, question four. Which of the following tenses is correct?
STUDENT 1: Simple past?
TUTOR: No! That’s wrong! What about my friend next to her?
STUDENT 2: It’s the present perfect.
TUTOR: Yes, it is.
DORIS: Please note that the feedback, ‘that’s wrong’ on the student’s incorrect answer was delivered in quite a thundering voice. Like, ‘that’s wrong!’ Whenever I’ve discussed this example with students and also with teaching professionals, they suggested that the very direct feedback, the ‘that’s wrong’, could have been taken as quite offensive as there was no attempt made at softening the impact on the student. So, the teacher’s strategy here potentially violates the student’s sense of self-worth and seriously questions her competence. So, therefore, it could be seen as a serious violation of face. However, I’ve not been actually able to speak to the student in question. So, their perception of the event might’ve been quite different.
Then there’s the issue of the tutor’s way of addressing the other student as, ‘my friend.’ And that could also be seen as a threat to identity as the student may not be in the belief of being the tutor’s friend. It is worth saying in this context that the notion of face is not always only linked to individual identity. In some cultures, in particular Asian cultures, group or collective identities and relationships with others are very important and also under threat of being violated.

This short animation provides an example of a scenario where face is threatened.

Here, the way in which the teacher gives feedback to the student could be interpreted as a threat to face.

The teacher provides feedback very directly, without any softeners. The potential of face threat to the student arises from the fact that the feedback puts into question the student’s competence.

Subsequently, the teacher addresses the second student with the words ‘My friend’. This form of address blurs the role boundaries between teacher and student, which entails a potential of threat to face to the student as their role and identity in the encounter has not been acknowledged.

How do you feel about this teacher and their actions? In the comments, explain what prompts your thoughts and feelings.

How can the content of week 2 of this course (contextualisation cues, etc.) explain any differences between your interpretation and that of other learners?

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