Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Education (M.Ed.)

Degree Program

College of Education

First Advisor

Nagnon Diarrassouba

Second Advisor

Nancy Patterson

Third Advisor

Cynthia Smith

Academic Year



English language learners (ELLs) face many challenges when learning English. One of those challenges is the figurative language that is used in every day conversations. Often the lack of understanding or misunderstanding, can result in awkward conversations for English learners. This study aimed to identify what interpretations adult English learners at the advanced level give to American English figurative language and how do those interpretations differ or correspond to native speakers’ interpretations. This case study looks specifically at five adult learners from three different countries. The learners met once a week during the summer of 2016 to listen and interpret native speakers’ conversations. Data was collected in multiple ways. Each session was recorded so the sessions could be reviewed afterwards. The participants also filled out dialogue sheets that asked them to identify and define figurative language that was used in the conversations. Notes and informal interviews were also used. What this study found was that there are multiple factors that are important to an English language learners interpretations and understanding of American figurative language. The two critical factors were that participants’ vocabulary and their use of cognates from their native language. Another important factor was their ability to use and understand context clues.

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