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The Politeness Strategy of Bina Nusantara’s 1st Semester Students

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Background of Study

When speaking with an older person, politeness is something important that we have to use in it. Being polite to everyone is a must if you want to gain their respect. If you communicate nicely, they will do the same to you too. There are a lot of university students who communicate with their lecturers each and every day. For example, they communicate with them to ask questions or want to discuss something that they don’t understand in classes. But do they use the right politeness strategy in it? Sometimes, they don’t understand how to be polite and respectful. There are a lot of factors why they’re being impolite, maybe their parents didn’t teach them about it, living in the wrong environment, or maybe the teachers never taught them how to be polite to everyone in particular.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of politeness is no other than the behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people. Nowadays, people are being rude to each other. It is quite sad because they shouldn’t be like that when they can actually respect each other. It is no one’s fault though, it depends on the person also. If they decide that they want to live and being rude like that, then so be it. But then they have to at least know about being polite so they will not hurt other people with their words. So in order to be considered as a respectful and considerate person, we have to be polite to everyone, especially with an older person.

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In this paper, I am interested in discussing the first semester students of Bina Nusantara University’s politeness strategy when communicating with their lecturers. The reason why is choose the first semester students of Bina Nusantara University is because I want to know how they usually interact with their lecturers, I’ve interacted with them once and some of them are being wild and impolite because maybe they’re still in the first semester and doesn’t know the consequences if they’re being impolite toward lecturers.

Problem Formulations

There are two problems that I will analyze, which are:

  1. How do the first semester students of Bina Nusantara University communicate with their lecturers?
  2. What type of politeness strategy do they prefer to use when communicating with their lecturers, the positive or negative strategy?

Scope and Limitation

This paper is concerned and more focused on politeness strategy that is being used by the first semester students of Bina Nusantara University. It took place on West Jakarta. The respondents are the English department’s first semester students. The ages of the respondents were 17-20 years old students who are taking English Literature major. The respondents were 20 students. The research was a questionnaire made by using Google forms.

1Goal and Function

The goal is to find out how do they (first semester students) communicate with their lecturers and what kind of politeness strategy they use in it. And I also want to know if they communicate politely with lecturers when they’re not in class. The function is to show awareness that students should be polite to their lecturers.

Literature Review


Politeness is an interaction that is used every single day by a lot of people. However, it can also be used to show awareness of other people’s face (Yule, 1994). We can use this politeness when we are communicating with a person in any situations whether we’re close or not to the person we’re talking to. According to Penelope Brown — an American anthropological linguist and Stephen Levinson—a British social scientist, politeness were very influential (Watts, et al., 2005). Why is it called influential? Because when we talk nicely to someone, the person who we talked to is also being nice towards us. In contrast, if we talk harshly to someone, they will respond harshly too, that’s why it is influential.

Politeness Strategy

There are two kinds of politeness strategy. We know it as negative politeness strategy and positive politeness strategy. These strategies are used in communicating with other people. Usually when we want to ask or invite someone to do something. We shall differentiate negative and positive politeness because it is not the same, as the name suggests. To begin with, negative politeness strategy is intended to avoid conflicts by asking for something, this strategy uses yes or no questions and also presents disagreements as one’s opinion.

The next one is positive politeness strategy, it is intended to avoid conflicts also but by highlighting on the friendliness and avoiding disagreements. For example telling criticism with inserting compliments or jokes that will not offend the person who we’re talking to (Nordquist, 2017). It is also intended to tell or ask about something that we want or to offer and promise about something, and usually exaggerating the interest in the person and the speaker themselves.


The method for this research is no other than using books from the library and making a questionnaire with Google forms and also taking references from the internet. The library sources are mostly from the online library that is available on BINUS’ library site and the rest is from the physical books from BINUS Kijang’s library. The questionnaire on Google forms have been made and filled up, the result will be presented later on. And finally, I am also taking some references from the internet, and I will put it on the reference chapter.


The participants for this research are Bina Nusantara first semester students who take the major in English Literature. The total of participants is 20 people.


The instrument for this research is in the form of a questionnaire. I used Google form questionnaire to collect the answers.

Data Compilation

The data has been gathered and read by me, I wrote the data on a piece of paper to know the most common answer that I’ve received in the questionnaire. Next, I will attach the following question and the most common answer.

Have you ever asked something to your lecturer directly?

For this question, I asked them to provide examples. Most of the answers are saying that they raise their hand first and then ask when they’re allowed, 9 participants answered this. The other answers are implying that they just asked right away without raising their hand first, 6 participants answered this. And finally, the rest of them said that they almost never ask questions in classes or ask when the class ended, the other 5 participants answered this.

Have you ever asked something to your lecturer indirectly?

For this question, I also asked them to provide examples. There are various answers to this question. The most common answer is they asked through text message, 8 participants answered this. The next one is that they asked through e-mail, 5 participants answered this. And then some of them even asked their friends to ask the lecturer, 2 participants answered this. Next, two more person said that they prefer asking through messenger or LINE application. The last three said that they prefer not to ask at all.

How do you ask it to your lecturer?

For this question, examples are provided by them. First, the most common answer is that they ask them with formality in it such as “Good morning Sir / Ma’am, I am (name) from (class). I would like to ask…” and then after asking they said, “Thank you Sir / Ma’am or Sorry to disturb you.” 15 participants answered this. Meanwhile, 2 students asked directly like “Sir / Ma’am, how about this one? I don’t understand.” Without any formalities. The other 3 answered “Excuse me, I would like to have an appointment, would it be okay with you?” which is too formal, like they’re going to meet someone very important to them like their boss or anyone else.

Data Analysis

The questions were made by me with the help of Google forms, I made the questions are because I was inspired by how most of the students communicate with their lecturers these days. I began to spread the questionnaire to LINE groups which have first semester students in it and asked them to fill the questions I’ve made. The questionnaire lasts for a week before I finally closed it and began to collect the answers. The data were analyzed according to the politeness strategy that they usually use when they interact with their lecturers every day. According to the answers given, most of the students use the negative politeness strategy in interacting with their lecturers. Indeed, some of them still use the positive politeness strategy in their conversation. But mostly, negative politeness strategy is used by them.


In this chapter, I will provide examples when they’re interacting with their lecturers. This analysis is based on the politeness strategies definition that had been taught by my lecturer in class. The first analysis is the negative politeness strategy and the second one is the positive politeness strategy. In order to know the respondents in the dialogues that I will provide as an example below, I will give a code for each respondent:

L: Lecturer

S: Student

Analysis of Negative Politeness Strategy

Dialogue 1

In this dialogue, the conversation between L and S will take place directly in a classroom during the lecture. S wanted to ask a question because L was explaining too fast and S couldn’t follow L’s explanation. S: (While raising their hand) Excuse me, Ma’am. I can’t seem to understand the explanation about the project earlier, could you please explain the project one more time? L: Oh sure, S. I will explain it one more time. Thank you for asking.

According to the conversation above, the way S asked to L is considered as a negative politeness strategy because S asked with a yes or no question with the modal is mentioned as “could” and “please”, S also mentioned “explain the project” so L could understand which part does she has to explain again. Also, S mentioned, “you” which was aimed at L, not anyone else. Thus, L decided to explain the lecture one more time because S asked nicely and L thanked S for that.

Analysis of Positive Politeness Strategy

Dialogue 1

In this dialogue, the conversation between L and S will also take place in the classroom after the lecture is over. S wanted to ask about the explanation that L gave earlier because S still don’t understand about it.

S: (Comes to L’s desk) Ma’am, I was wondering if you could tell me more about the explanation earlier.

L: Sure.

According to the conversation above, the way S asked L is considered as positive politeness strategy because S just asked without saying “Excuse me”. Instead, S just called with honorifics only. Then, S said what they wanted L to do which is “Tell me more about the explanation earlier” with mentioning the line “I was wondering if you could…” that shows the act of requesting. In the end, L agreed to explain it one more time even though S didn’t ask that nicely.


Many children and especially students should at least know a thing or two about politeness. It should be taught to them by their family or teacher so they know how to respect everyone they meet. Without politeness, everyone would be rude to each other and there will be a lot of arguments from various people.


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