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Understanding jokes is part of the process of native language acquisition, and jokes are part of the charm that belongs to any language. Learning to understand jokes in a new language is both a cause, and a consequence, of language proficiency (Cook 2000).


The most obvious benefit of understanding jokes is that it can help students feel more comfortable in their new language. A shared moment of humor lowers the affective filter, that invisible barrier that makes learners feel awkward and uncomfortable. A low affective filter is one of thecornerstonesof successfully learning a new language (Krashen 1982). If a class can laugh together, they are likely to learn better together, too. Jokes based on wordplay have additional benefits because they build metalinguistic awareness, or conscious awareness of the forms of language, and this,


___( I )___, helps in learning more language (Ely and McCabe 1994; Zipke 2008; Lems 2011). In particular, metalinguistic awareness boots reading comprehension and encourages higher-order thinking. ___( II )___ native speakers need to access a great deal of linguistic information and background knowledge to “get” a joke (Aarons 2012). At the same time, jokes that are based on wordplay in another language can be really hard to understand because they need to be processed very quickly. In a social setting where everyone is standing around chatting, understanding a joke that comes up may seem like a high-stakes test. Not understanding a joke in this situation can make someone feel like an outsider and create a sense of isolation. ___( III )___, an important part of learning a new language is learning to enjoy its jokes.


Puns: A special form of joke Puns are a special form of humor based on double meanings. Puns are sometimes nicknamed “the lowest form of humor” and often greeted with groans, but in fact, the language knowledge needed to understand a pun is very sophisticated (Pollack 2011).___( IV )__ they require processing the sound and meaning of words twice, puns demand considerable language agility. __( V )__ humor based on sight gags, funny facial expressions, or amusing visual arrangements, the humor of pun is based on language play.




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