Tübingen English as a Lingua Franca

TELF is an applied linguistics research project that systematically combines conversational ELF output data with introspective and retrospective accounts by speakers and interlocutors. This combination allows for differentiated insights into the nature of ELF communication; it provides rich examples of how speakers use their “own English” to cope with the communicative challenges of a lingua franca situation.

The TELF corpus is a collection of video-recorded and transcribed discussions by mixed groups of four to six native and non-native speakers of English from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Each discussion is followed up with introspective interviews addressing the participants’ learning history, English requirement profile, and performance in the discussion. Drawing on TELF-data, our research focuses on divergences between meaning and comprehension, co-construction and monitoring, and “pushing” one’s limits of expression.

The TELF database is accessible via an online application supporting the detailed analysis of transcripts (including retrospective commentaries by participants in the form of interlinear glosses), questionnaire data, introspective interviews and retrospective accounts. A restricted demo access to the database application is available via the menu on the right.

The discussion


A group of speakers are presented with a problem from a business context (the “Midwestern intercom problem”) and asked to discuss its implications. The problem is “ill-structured”, has no correct solution, but can be approached from a number of different angles. The output-corpus currently consists of 36 discussions (ca. 100,000 words) with around 160 speakers from more than 30 different linguistic backgrounds.

The “Midwestern problem”

Detailed Interview


Each discussion is followed up with structured introspective one-on-one interviews addressing each participant's learning history, attitudes and communication and learning requirements.

Interview questions


searchA questionnaire complements the interview, and makes it possible to quantify introspective data via Likert scales.This provides further valuable clues for the interpretation of output phenomena.

Retrospective interviews

searchFor a growing subset of discussions, the structured introspective comments are being further enriched by detailed retrospective interviews. Speakers see the discussion video and are interviewed about their own and their interlocutors’ performance, as well as each participant's perception of specific incidents and selected scenes during the discussion. The goal is to complement the objective output data with 360° subjective data of "what was going on". This data is valuable for revealing covert phenomena (such as misunderstandings that are not visible in the output), as well as for confirming or disconfirming researchers' initial hypotheses.

Sample clips from retrospective interviews

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