English as a lingua franca versus lingua receptiva in problem-solving conversations between Dutch and German students

Gerda J. Blees 1 , Willem M. Mak 1  and Jan D. ten Thije 1
  • 1 Utrecht University


In most universities, English as a lingua franca (ELF) is used for international courses. To promote linguistic diversity and facilitate first language education, some universities have experimented with lingua receptiva (LaRa). However, it is not clear yet which mode is most effective. This study compared the effectiveness of LaRa and ELF in conversations between Dutch and German students. Eight pairs of students, each consisting of one native Dutch and one native German, solved four maze puzzles: two using ELF and two using LaRa. Conversations were videotaped and compared quantitatively and qualitatively, and participants completed a questionnaire about their proficiency in and attitude towards the languages used. Problem-solving effectiveness was significantly higher using ELF than using LaRa. However, participants were also more proficient in English than in the native language of their conversation partner. Analysis showed that it was this difference in proficiency and not the language mode that explained the higher effectiveness of ELF. Language attitude and previous exposure did not have a significant effect on effectiveness. The study shows that linguistic prior-knowledge is an important factor to take into account when choosing a multilingual communication constellation.

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Applied Linguistics Review serves as a testing ground for the articulation of original ideas and approaches in the study of real-world issues in which language plays a crucial role by bringing together critical reflections of current debates and new theoretical and empirical research. Topics range from aspects of the linguistic and communicative competence of the individual to language- and communication-related problems in and between societies.