Using Humor in English Language Teaching to Motivate the Students in Learning

Table of Content


Research Background

The teacher is always seen as a serious and authoritative person in teaching. Quite often many students are afraid to ask questions or discuss with their teacher. Even though the teacher should make students become more active in learning and also motivate students. But not all teachers always show the side of their seriousness. Many teachers also insert fun things in teaching. One of them is jokes and humor.

Humor does seem funny so many people who think it will not be inserted in teaching and learning activities. Indeed if excessive it will make the classroom atmosphere not conducive. But this method can be tried if the teacher in question likes humor.

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Many definitions are provided to define humor throughout history such as the definition of Langston Hughes as “laughing at what you haven’t got when you ought to have it” (As cited in Walker, 1988, p.101). It was also defined by Montgomery which says “Humor is a perceptual and a cognitive process involving an ability to recognize and appreciate the absurd and incongruous aspects of a situation” (1997, p.170). And according to The Oxford English Dictionary, humor is defined as “the ability of being amusing, especially as expressed in literature or speech” (Stevenson & Waite, 2011, p.695). From these various definitions, we can conclude that the term humor is a broad term which refers to anything that makes others laugh (Martin, 2007, p.5).

The definition of motivation starts with the root word, motive. Webster’s Dictionary defines motive as, something that causes a person to act. Therefore, motivation can be defined as, the act of providing motive that causes someone to act (Shanks, 24). In other words, according to Nancy Shanks, motivation causes someone to act and someone else cannot make someone motivated.

Learning is a multidimensional process that involves the interplay of multiple sources of 78 motivation (e.g., interest, values, goals, beliefs) and cognitive variables (e.g., prior knowledge, 79 strategy use; Pintrich, Marx, & Boyle, 1993).

One of the theories in determining what one describes as humorous is Incongruity Theory. Incongruity Theory is the feeling of amusement which derives from the unexpected or surprise that contradicts with past experience, cognitive frameworks and expectations (Kozbelt & Nishioka, 2010; Perks, 2012). Even though it is subjective in nature, humor value can be measured with the rating of an appropriate sample from any population (Kozbelt & Nishioka, 2010). In his study to determine the effect of humor on memory, Carlson (2011) found that humorous stimuli predicted better recall compared to inspirational stimuli.

T.S. Elliot once said, ―Humor is also a way of saying something serious‖. How can teachers take advantage of laughter in academic settings? Unfortunately many teachers fear humor, since they think of it as equal to losing their authority and therefore something to be avoided.

In addition to the linguistic, cultural, and pragmatic applications for humor in language education is the benefit of humor for the illustration and practice of language discourse patterns. Indeed, humor pervades daily discourse and interaction (Schmitz, 2002), and thus, according to socio-constructivist models, has a hand in creating and maintaining identity as well (Brown, 2000). Trachtenberg (1979) emphasizes the importance of developing the discourse capabilities one utilizes in his/her native language to the same or similar degree in the TL. To ignore the comedic elements of discourse in the TL, according to Trachtenberg (1979), is to lose a part of one‘s identity during the language learning process. Schmitz (2002) believes that classroom exposure to humor prepares students to understand and react to this pervasive and authentic element of discourse during real communicative language interactions.

Therefore, language teachers may incorporate humorous examples/exercises into student role-plays, oral interviews, or written dialogues to acclimate students to the presence of humor in discourse and to demonstrate its patterns of usage. S/he may also have students create and incorporate their own humor/jokes into discourse contexts while providing appropriate corrective feedback on humorous usage and style (Trachtenberg, 1979)

Research Question

  1. Can humor be understood by students in learning English?
  2. How did the humor happen to motivate students?
  3. Previous Studies

(Azizinezhad & Hashemi. 2011) have shown that laughter is crucial to our health and that the use of humor in class can do something of a miracle. Teaching experience has shown that humor helps keeping students interested and motivated. Humor and laughter can also help less sociable students in language classes to participate with the group, to feel a part of the peer group, join class activities and group work without feeling exposed or vulnerable.

(Binti Zabidin, Nursyafiqah. 2015) showed that successful language acquisition requires extensive word knowledge. However, learners are reportedly unable to increase their word knowledge due to insufficient meaningful input in the language classrooms. This paper intended to present another tool to encourage learners’ vocabulary development. It examined the effect(s) of using short narrative jokes on ESL learners’ word comprehension and retention. The findings of this study indicated that humor could relatively influence word comprehension and retention. One of its implications is for language teachers to include humor in vocabulary teaching and learning.

(Debreli, Emre & Bilokcugla, Hasan. 2018) Since humor reflects one of the most authentic and universal speech undertakings in the human discourse, the use of humor within the context of second language pedagogy can display important advantages, not only for the language teacher, but also for the learner. For a constructive learning and teaching atmosphere in the communicative classroom, the ‘affective filter’ should be low – and one way of achieving this could be the use of humor.


Experiment Design

This research will use Pre-Experimental Research Design. This is the simplest form of experimental research design. A group, or various groups, are kept under observation after factors are considered for cause and effect. It is usually conducted to understand whether further investigation needs to be carried out on the target group/s, due to which it is considered to be cost-effective. And the type of pre-experimental research design is one-case shot study.

One shot case study is a type of pre-experimental design where a single group of test units is exposed to an experimental treatment and a single measurement is taken afterwards. It only measures the post-test results and does not use a control group. The process are sample was immediately given treatment without being given a test first. Then after that, it is observed so that the results are influential or not.

X O2


The variable is divided into 2 parts. Namely dependent and independent. Dependent variable is a variable that can only be influenced but cannot influence. While the independent variable is a variable that can be influenced and can also influence. In this research there are independent variable is Using Humor in English language teaching. And the dependent variable is motivate the students.

Population and sample

  • Population

Population is a complete set of elements (persons or objects) that possess some common characteristic defined by the sampling criteria established by the researcher. The population for this research is all student college.

  • Sample

The selected elements (people or objects) chosen for participation in a study; people are referred to as subjects or participants. The sampling technique used was random sampling. Only 26 respondents.

Technique of Data Collection


Questionnaire is a series of questions designed to elicit information, which is filled in by All participants in the sample. This can be gathered either by oral interview or by written questionnaire. This is the most common type of research instrument.

Steps to make a Questionnaire

  1. Researchers may read literatures about the topic look through available a questionnaires or obtain help from experts.
  2. Open-ended questions are preferable than closed questions since they reflect respondent’s attitudes, which are expressed in his own words.
  3. If yes-no questions are used; additional information may be gained by leaving space for respondent’s own idea.
  4. The possibility of a middle ground statement is also important.
  5. Every item in a questionnaire should relate to the topic under study.

Advantages of a Questionnaire:

  • Relatively simple method of obtaining data.
  • Less time is consumed.
  • Researcher is able to gather data from a widely scattered sample.

Disadvantages of a Questionnaire:

  • Responses to a questionnaire lack depth.
  • Length of the questionnaire is limited according to the respondent’s interest.
  • Some items maybe misunderstood.

This research will use data collection techniques using a questionnaire. Because the dependent variable is about motivation which can only be observed using questionnaire data collection. Observations will be carried out in the classroom. Students will fill in each questionnaire given by the researcher.

The questions on the Questionnaire:

  1. Since when did you study English?
  2. While studying English, is your teacher always serious in teaching?
  3. If not, has your teacher ever used humor when teaching?
  4. When are you at the level of what the teacher uses humor when teaching?
  5. Is humor relevant to the material being discussed at that time?
  6. And what is your response when your teacher uses humor in the learning?
  7. Is it because the teacher uses humor, you become motivated to learn English more actively?
  8. Is there a difference between using humor with ordinary learning (without humor)?
  9. In your opinion, is it important that teachers use humor when teaching English?
  10. So far, is learning English fun?

Data Analysis

Data analysis is the process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusions and supporting decision-making.

The process of data analysis:

  1. Data requirements, the data is necessary as inputs to the analysis, specified based upon the requirements.
  2. Data collection, data is collected from a variety of sources.
  3. Data processing, data literally obtained must be processed or organized for analysis.
  4. Data cleaning, the process of preventing and correcting these errors of the data.
  5. Exploratory data analysis, to begin understanding the messages contained in the data.
  6. Modeling and Algorithms, this step is applied to the data to identify relationships among the variables, such as correlations or causation.
  7. Data product, is a computer application that takes data inputs and generates output, feeding back into the environment.
  8. Communication, in this step the users may have feedback and the data may be reported, data analysis to support the requirements.

Qualitative data analysis is usually based on an interpretatitive philosophy. The idea is to examine the meaningful and symbolic content of qualitative data. That are not easily reduced to number that are related to concept, opinions, and behaviours of people in social content or like an information such as interview transcript, notes, video, and audio recording, image and text document.


Of all the questions in the questionnaire. It can be concluded that most of the 26 respondents, have studied language using humor. They also get teaching English using English when the level of elementary and high school, the reason may be that at the level of elementary school all teachers will make all the instructors more cheerful. And at that time, the humor given was in accordance with the material being discussed, because humor was given lightly and easily understood. The responses they gave also varied, but most felt that the humor made the classroom atmosphere more warm and cheerful. So that makes them feel motivated in learning English. And also has a significant difference between using humor and not using humor because the class atmosphere is warm and cheerful and also makes the teacher feel closer to the students. They also feel that humor in learning English is very important, because foreign languages will indeed be difficult if they are not applied with a variety of entertaining learning methods. As a final question, they answered that the learning of English he had gone through from the elementary school level to the present (Lecture) was really fun. That means they feel that learning English from year to year is increasingly developing in accordance with the sophisticated information technology and nowadays English is indeed a foreign language that is truly required to be mastered.

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Using Humor in English Language Teaching to Motivate the Students in Learning. (2021, Oct 21). Retrieved from

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