Complaints: Sample Teaching Materials

Indirect Complaints (Boxer & Pickering, 1995, pp. 52-55 [©])

  1. Present and discuss indirect complaint sequences taken from spontaneous speech.
    • Typical responses to complaints and responses (agreement, reassurance or commiseration)
    • Advice responses that serve to encourage the speaker
    • Joking and teasing responses that demonstrate light-hearted goodwill
    • Question responses to show interest in the speaker’s complaint
    • Commiseration responses in exclamatory form
  2. Present sample complaints without responses and encourage discussion on how each complaint makes students feel.
  3. Ask students to fill in the indirect complaint that might come before the following responses. For each of such complaint exchanges, have a group discussion about how setting, context, and interlocutor variables affect how people complain and respond.
  4. Ask students to arrange short conversations in order.
  5. Give the context of a situation with gender, social status, social distance relationships, and have small groups play roles of mini-drama, videotape, play back and analyze the interactions.

(See Boxer 1995 for details and examples of this plan.)



Boxer, D. & Pickering L. (1995). Problems in the presentation of speech acts in ELT materials: the case of complaints. ELT Journal, 49 (1), 44-58.

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