Date of Graduation

Fall 12-15-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

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


School of Education


Teaching English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Brad Washington


This study examined the importance of explicitly teaching humor to upper-intermediate and advanced adult English language learners (ELLs), and filled in the gap that exists in studies and literature by examining the use, and implementation of humor in English as a second language/foreign language (ESL/EFL) curricula. Humor is an important human behavior, playing a crucial role in communication, social interactions, and comprehension of a second language (L2) culture. High-level ELLs often lack the linguistic and cultural awareness necessary to effectively communicate. Language courses often accentuate test-taking and language strategies, and courses that explicitly engage with and teach humor to students are simply not available. This thesis utilized a qualitative research approach to conduct interviews with ten ELLs from various cultures in order to better comprehend the issues facing learners in their linguistic and cultural learning journeys. The data collected serves present educators in being able to construct viable curricula using the explicit instruction of humor in the language learning classroom. The participants in this study disclosed that not having access to courses concerning humor acted as a limitation for them in many ways. Humor allows ELLs a more relaxed environment in which to learn, fosters strong class cohesion, aids in knowledge retention, and is a constructive way to learn about vocabulary, syntax, semantics and discourse conventions (Bell, 2009). The explicit instruction of humor also supplies learners with the necessary social and cultural awareness many fail to achieve even at higher levels of language acquisition. The data collected over the course of this thesis serves present educators by providing tools to assist them in the construction of viable curricula using the explicit instruction of humor in the language learning classroom. This thesis concludes with recommendations for educators to implement explicit humor instruction in order to supply ELLs with applicable language tools for both language development as well as comprehension of a second language culture.