Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education (IME)


Humor is a complex and dynamic mode of communication that serves a number of important social functions. While humor is found in all cultures, English language learners (ELLs) in the United States must learn to navigate American humor with all of its inherent cultural, social and linguistic particularities. The ability to appreciate, comprehend and produce humor is a critical and necessary skillset for full fluency in English. Research has been done on the subject of incorporating humor into the language classroom and the benefits of doing so are myriad (Bell, 2005; 2009). However, very little research has been done on the possibility of explicit instruction in English language humor as a topic of study in its own right.

This study addresses that gap in literature by reporting the views, experiences and advice of ELLs who have faced the challenge of becoming fluent in English language humor. The 10 participants in this study are interviewed about their perceptions of American humor, asked about specific challenges they faced and reported on methods they used to enhance their competence using English language humor. Drawn from their voices, recommendations are made for the possible inclusion of explicit humor instruction in the English language classroom as well as suggestions for ways educators can support students in achieving competence in English language humor.