Abstract There has been to date a long tradition of research in workplace discourse. The bulk of the research has focused on professional white-collar workplaces, but a handful of studies have examined working-class settings such as factories and building sites. This area of research has, however, been concerned with interactions involving co-workers. Studies examining interactions between newcomers and experienced others, such as Holmes and Woodhams (2013), are rare. Using data collected in the working-class setting of the professional kitchen, the current study presents interactions between newcomer trainee cooks and the cooks they worked under. It focuses on the use of directives, which was a prevalent feature of their interactions. As individual utterances, the directives would seem to be designed to elicit specific, ad-hoc actions from trainees. However, closer analysis reveals that series of directives may serve important instructional purposes. Findings from the study are useful in raising the awareness of those assigned to mentor trainees in work settings and should enhance on-the-job workplace training as well as support newcomers as they adjust to their new workplaces. 1. INTRODUCTION There has been to date a long tradition of research in workplace discourse. The bulk of the research has focused on professional white-collar workplaces (Drew and Heritage 1992; Sarangi and Roberts 1999), but a handful of studies have examined working-class settings such as factories and building sites (Clyne 1994; Sunaoshi 2005; Baxter and Wallace 2009). Research in working-class settings has focused on intercultural communication (Clyne 1994; Sunaoshi 2005) and the construction of professional identity (Baxter and Wallace 2009; Holmes and Woodhams 2013). For example, Clyne’s study (1994) examined verbal interactions in car, textile, and electronics factories in Melbourne, Australia, between workers whose first language was not English. Baxter and Wallace (2009) focused on informal conversations among White, British, male builders at building sites, and showed the means by which the builders constructed their identity as members of a White, British, working-class profession. This body of research has, however, been mainly concerned with interactions involving co-workers. Studies examining interactions between newcomers and experienced others in the workplace, such as Holmes and Woodhams (2013), are rare. Holmes and Woodhams’ study examined building apprentices’ construction of professional identity through their conversations with experienced co-workers, showing the relationship between the apprentices’ proficiency in appropriate ways of communicating (‘talking the talk’) and the extent of their integration into the community of practice. Interactions involving newcomers and experienced others are studied in professional socialization studies in language socialization research. These studies focus on the demands of workplace linguistic and cultural practices and are oriented to the preparation of individuals to meet these demands in the course of their education and working lives. However, there is only a ‘rather meagre trickle of workplace and professional socialisation research’ (Roberts 2010: 213). Moreover, the bulk of the research has been based in university classrooms rather than workplaces (Phillips 1982 and Mertz 2007 in law and Vickers 2007 in engineering), and these studies have been largely concerned with academic disciplines and white-collar professional contexts. The heavy focus on academic and professional contexts is conceivably due to the special use of language, for example in case presentations in courtrooms and medical settings, an emphasis on language in the socialization process, and the availability of language-rich data in these settings. It could also be due to the nature of professional socialization studies (ethnographic, holistic, and longitudinal and based on naturally occurring data), the need to provide evidence of learning, and the challenges in gaining access to workplaces, as Roberts (2010: 213) has noted. There is thus room to explore interactions between newcomers and workers in working-class settings and what they tell us about discourse in these workplaces. In addition, where newcomers and experienced others are concerned, an obvious line of research is the process of transition newcomers undergo, and experienced others undertake to support, as the former adjust to their new workplace. The newcomer entry experience has rarely been the focus of investigation in linguistics, but it has been widely studied in organizational behaviour research. Joining a new workplace is a daunting experience for newcomers, as they are faced with the challenging tasks of adapting to new settings and learning the relevant attitudes and behaviours required for performing in their roles (Saks and Ashforth 1996). A number of studies have shown that newcomers to the workplace encountered a period of uncertainty (Feldman and Brett 1983; Miller and Jablin 1991), frustration, anxiety, and stress (Katz 1985). One of the ways newcomers coped with the entry experience was through verbal interactions with co-workers. By asking overt and indirect questions, they gathered information relating to job function, performance, and social integration (Miller and Jablin 1991). As they sought and received information they needed to adjust to the work setting, uncertainty decreased, job satisfaction increased, performance improved, and inclinations to leave the job decreased (Morrison 1993). This line of research has produced findings with important practical implications that can help newcomers cope with the entry experience and adjust to their new settings. But it has relied mainly on self-reported data in survey questionnaires and interviews. Linguistic studies of naturally occurring talk from ‘real-life’ interactions in actual workplaces between newcomers and experienced others may be illuminating. Where learning the ropes in the workplace is concerned, the bulk of the research on workplace learning has relied on similar methods as the studies in organizational behaviour on the entry experience. In the Journal of Workplace Learning for example, several relevant studies (e.g. Milligan et al. 2015 on individual behaviour and the role it plays in learning; Neher et al. 2015 on learning opportunities in the course of work; and Kyndt et al. 2016 on personal characteristics and learning outcomes) have been premised on responses from individuals in completed questionnaires and interviews. Research using these methods has contributed extensive insight on the individual and institutional mechanisms underpinning work and learning. However, other insights remain obscured when similar approaches are repeatedly applied and different approaches not explored. Though there have been recent studies using direct observation (Naweed and Ambrosetti 2015) and audio- and video recordings of situated interactions (Ajjawi et al. 2015), the close study of the relationship between work and learning in the actual workplace and the social interactions within it, which combine to influence work and learning, continues to be an area that is under-examined. This article draws on linguistics in a study of workplace learning and seeks to address the general issue of how newcomers learn to work in their new workplaces, through the specific issue of how work instruction is delivered in a particular setting. It represents an attempt to show how linguistics may be applied in more ways than have been traditionally supposed in applied linguistics, a point made by Shuy (2015) in his call to apply linguistics beyond language learning, testing, and measurement. Although applied linguistics has achieved many successes in these areas, it can be expanded to other ‘areas of opportunity’ (2015: 435) and, therefore, show that the field has much to offer in areas beyond classroom language (2015: 436). Using data collected in the working-class setting of the professional kitchen, the current study presents interactions between trainee cooks and their co-workers. It focuses on a prevalent feature of these interactions—the use of directives. As individual utterances, the directives would seem to be designed to elicit specific actions by trainees on relevant tasks. However, closer analysis within the context of the work setting reveals that series of directives may serve important instructional purposes. 2. DIRECTIVES In the workplace, getting others to carry out tasks is one of the activities people routinely engaged in. Discourse involving instructions and explanations or interactions in which a ‘discursively dominant speaker [tells] an addressee how to do something or what to do’ (Koester 2010: 70, italics in original) is a frequently occurring genre (Koester 2010). Directives have been defined as ‘utterances designed to get someone to do something’ (Goodwin 2006: 517). They form a class of speech acts that have the ‘illocutionary force’ of getting the hearer to do something (Searle 1977: 34). As noted by Jones (1992), ‘directive usage cannot be adequately understood without considering the specific contexts in which directives occur’ (1992: 427). In her study of a dance group meeting, Jones found that there was little difference between men’s and women’s use of directives and that other factors appeared to influence directive usage more. Directives were used the most when there were threats to the conversation, for example unclear speech and negative comments, that outweighed the face-threatening act of the directive; when there was a high degree of solidarity between participants; and when there was a high degree of involvement in the conversation. Vine (2009) showed that the frequency and density of directives were influenced by the purpose of the interaction. Ervin-Tripp’s (1976) seminal work on directives identified six different forms in which directives were realized: need statements, imperatives, imbedded imperatives, permission directives, question directives, and hints. Vine (2004) showed that directives were realized in the imperative, interrogative, and declarative forms. Vine (2009) showed that specific situations gave rise to a higher use of the imperative form. These included at the end of a long discussion where imperatives served to summarize or clarify the required actions, when there were multiple tasks, and in the case of NOW directives (when the action required was immediate). Holmes and Stubbe (2015) found that the imperative form was frequently used where ‘tasks were very familiar and routine and the power relationships clear and uncontested’ (2015: 33). In most studies of directives, a functional, rather than formal, approach is taken in distinguishing directives from other speech acts. For example, in the study by Vine (2004), directives and requests are differentiated by factors such as the authority of the speaker over the hearer and the right of refusal of the hearer. If the speaker is of higher status and the hearer has no right of refusal, the speech act (‘control act’) is identified as a directive (Vine 2004: 31). Thus, the utterance ‘can you please make sure that the room is booked for the whole day’ is identified as a directive because it was made by a superior to her subordinate but would have been classified as a request if the speaker and hearer were of equal rank (Vine 2004: 39). The current study follows Vine’s functional approach in identifying directives. In a non-English-speaking context, Lee-Wong’s (2000) study of request strategies used by Mandarin, or Putonghua, speakers in Melbourne, Singapore, and the People’s Republic of China found that direct and explicit strategies were preferred. These strategies, or impositives, were conveyed through imperatives, direct questions, want/need statements, and presumptive statements (Lee-Wong 2000: 75). In impositives, the ‘propositional content is “clearly expressed and conveyed by basic action verbs that indicate the desired action, e.g. ‘bring, get, take, change, show, lend’”’ and the ‘proposition and intent of [Speaker] are expressed with a minimal number of words’ (Lee-Wong 2000: 78). Some examples of impositives using action verbs, glossed in English, are: ‘Give me the better ones’, ‘Have a little more’, and ‘Bring a little sugar back’ (Lee-Wong 2000: 78–9). The writer suggests that the use of direct strategies reflects some degree of the Confucian principle for clarity and communicative norms that follow ‘the Principle of Least Effort’ and ‘the Principle of Sufficient Effort’ (Lee-Wong 2000: 96–7). All the interactions in this article took place between hierarchically higher-positioned workers and lower-placed trainees in professional kitchens in Singapore. Most of these interactions were carried out in Mandarin and/or a specific variety of English, Singapore Colloquial English or Singlish. Directives were pervasive in these interactions and as the analysis will show, they seemed to serve more than the function of getting someone to do something. Although the first-pair part of the directive exchange has been studied extensively (Ervin-Tripp 1976; Brown and Levinson 1978; Holmes and Stubbe 2015), analysis of the second-pair part may also be illuminating. Koester’s (2010) analysis of the uptake of directives explained the use of ‘more polite’ and ‘less polite’ forms of directives. In comparing the different responses in the uptake between addressees in asymmetrical and symmetrical roles in relation to the speaker, speakers were found to use ‘more polite forms’ to minimize interactional asymmetry and ‘less polite’ forms when there was an absence of overt asymmetry, which thus reduced the risk of face threats and lessened the need for mitigation. Craven and Potter’s (2010) analysis of the uptake helpfully distinguished directives from requests. The writers’ close analysis of the uptake revealed that there were embedded expectations in directives and that directives were not structurally designed to project mere acceptance or non-compliance as relevant next actions, as requests can do. Drawing on data from video-recordings, the writers provided accounts of verbal and non-verbal responses in the uptake and discussed the consequences of next actions in response to directives. They showed that responses to directives were clearly circumscribed. When they were issued, directives projected compliance; significantly, when compliance was not forthcoming, directives were reissued, reformatted, and intensified (upgraded directives) progressively to compel it. In addition to studying the use of directives between workers and trainees, the current study also considers the uptake of directives in those interactions. More than just requesting particular actions, directives functioned as work instruction and directive/uptake sequences constituted instructional events in which trainees learned to work. 3. DATA AND METHODS The examples in this article are drawn from an overall research on the experience of trainee cooks learning to work in professional kitchens in Singapore. Eight trainees and 55 kitchen workers took part in the overall study. Data were collected through participant observation, field notes, and audio-recordings of verbal interactions between workers and trainees. Fieldwork was carried out over 16 weeks in nine kitchens (online appendix). An average of 13 days and 104 h were spent in each of six kitchens, 2 days and a total of 32 h in two other kitchens, and 6 days and a total of 48 h in the last kitchen. Overall, participant observation in the kitchens involved approximately 700 h. The field notes consisted of notes from the field, memos, and a research diary (Richards 2003: 138). Activities in the kitchens and features of the setting, people, and behaviour were recorded (Richards 2003: 130, based on Spradley 1980). Scratch notes (Sanjek 1990: 95) written in the field were typed out on the computer at the end of each day, and details from headnotes, or ‘notes in my mind, the memories of my field research’ (Ottenberg 1990: 144), were added to them. Audio-recordings of conversations between workers and trainees were collected using a small Sony digital recorder that I carried around during each shift at work. The recorded data were transferred to my computer at the end of each day and transcribed for analysis following the conclusion of the fieldwork. For the purpose of discussing general features of talk, a standard form of transcription was sufficient, and I relied on most of the conventions in Richards (2003: 173–4). Interactions in my data often involved Mandarin, switches between Mandarin and English/Singlish, as well as the use of specific terms in Hokkien, a Chinese dialect, and Malay. All non-English text was translated into English. Where Singlish was used, an English gloss is provided. As an insider to this speech community, I am confident that the translation and glosses closely approximate the meanings expressed by participants in the interactions. As the eight trainees were deployed to work in different kitchens, it was impossible to collect data as a participant observer with all of them at the same time. One trainee, Max, was singled out and followed most of the time. Interactions between workers and Max were recorded extensively and as they took place in everyday work situations. Although what follows is presented in the form of a single case study, it is important to note that notes and recordings relating to Max were compared with those of the other trainees and that the findings presented here can be regarded as representative. The primary data sets in analysis were the field notes and transcripts of worker–trainee interactions. Data analysis involved a period of deep engagement and disciplined immersion in the field notes data, with themes relating to the experience of the trainees gradually emerging. Insights generated from the analysis of the field notes provided a clear picture of the place of talk in this work setting, types of interactions that occurred, and the varied nature of verbal interactions between workers and trainees. The transcripts were analysed in detail using terms and principles from conversation analysis. The focus was on actions accomplished through talk. The current study draws on a sample of the overall data. Talk in this particular setting did not have as central a place as it did in other workplace settings that have been widely researched such as hospitals, courtrooms, classrooms, and offices. Although it involved terms, even language, that would be discernible only to those who had experience of kitchens, it certainly did not possess a specialized discourse that required a process of language socialization. This is not surprising. What was striking was that talk, in the sense of a verbal exchange, between workers and trainees was minimal and infrequent. Physical demonstrations were made to show kitchen requirements, techniques, and procedures to trainees, and they often involved no talk at all. In place of talk, directives and brief comments were pervasive. Interactions consisted of single-turn utterances preceding a solicited action from the trainees or following the incorrect actions of trainees. The kitchens observed in the study were based in Singapore. They varied in the type of cuisine served, scale of operations, kitchen size, and the number of workers employed. The busiest and largest kitchen employed 12 cooks and served up to 1,000 orders a day. The smallest kitchen hired three cooks who prepared set meals and light snacks and served fewer than 20 orders a day. The social structure of the kitchens was strictly hierarchical and trainees ranked at the lowest. A typical working day saw trainees receiving directives from workers and carrying them out. The directives came from relatively higher-ranked sous chefs and lowly ranked commis cooks, and trainees were expected to comply. Typically, no verbal response was given, nor were they necessary. Trainees responded by physically carrying out the required actions. Only in cases where trainees provided acknowledgement or sought clarification were there more than one speaking turn in the interaction. Unlike many work settings that have so far been studied, and although English is the official first language in Singapore, the medium of instruction in all schools and tertiary institutions, the ‘primary working language’ and ‘used in the government, commerce and business, in legislation and the law courts, and in science and technology’ (Lim and Foley 2004: 5), hardly any English was used in the kitchens observed in the current study. Rather, Singlish, also known as Singapore Colloquial English in the literature, was widely used. Moreover, as most workers were ethnically Chinese, and Singaporean or Malaysian in nationality, Mandarin was often the preferred language. In their interactions with trainees, most workers used Mandarin, a few sometimes switched between Mandarin and English/Singlish, and two workers who did not speak Mandarin spoke only English/Singlish. 4. ANALYSIS 4.1 Use of directives Example 1 (utterances taken from a range of interactions): This one, cut. Cut. All. Na onion qu qie Get onion go cut. ‘Get the onions and cut them.’ Qu na oxtail stew gen onion soup Go get oxtail stew and onion soup. ‘Get the oxtail stew and onion soup.’ Qu butcher na dong xi Go butcher take things. ‘Go to the butchery and pick up the meats.’ Qu qie pumpkin Go cut pumpkin. ‘Cut the pumpkins.’ Na zhe ge qu xi Take this go wash. ‘Take this ladle and wash it.’ Na yu pian Get fish slices. ‘Get the fish slices.’ Workers often directed trainees to carry out some aspect of their own work. Many tasks were trivial, for example fetching ingredients from one section of the kitchen to another. This situation is reminiscent of that in Lyngsnes and Rismark’s (2011: 170) study of apprentices working in restaurants who were given ‘second-rated job tasks’ and orders by other employees and had little say over what they could do. Example 1 shows utterances made by workers to Max. The utterances were directives to Max to do something and they were all made by people of higher authority than Max. Directives were typically delivered in the bald imperative form. As we see in Example 1g, the directive utterance is formatted in its canonical imperative structure, using the base form of the verb. It is direct and explicit, consisting only of the actions required (‘Take’ and ‘wash it’) and the object to be acted on (the ladle). It has been shown that ‘being direct’ and the use of imperatives were features in workplace contexts where power relationships were ‘clear and uncontested’ (Bernsten 1998; Holmes and Stubbe 2015). This is certainly the case here between the higher-positioned workers and the trainees. Moreover, most of the imperative directives were made in Mandarin, the most commonly used language in the kitchens, and as Lee-Wong (2000) has shown, Mandarin speakers preferred the use of direct and explicit strategies for making requests. In addition to that, directness was a feature of ‘normal’ talk in the kitchens, and directives in the imperative form were an economical and efficient way of eliciting solicited actions. They were unremarkable and often necessary in the exigencies of the moment when actions needed to be carried out swiftly. These utterances were unembellished, bare, and efficient, conveying only exactly the task that needed to be done. In most cases, the directives were straightforward enough to be understood and trainees simply carried out the solicited tasks. In others, workers physically demonstrated to trainees what they expected them to do. In Example 2, following sous chef Peter’s directive to Max to dice the carrots, the former proceeded with a physical demonstration to show the latter how the carrots should be diced. Peter begins and ends his instruction with directives (underlined) and no words were spoken during the physical demonstration. Example 2 Peter tells Max to dice the carrots: ‘Come, cut this.’ He takes a carrot, halves it and slices the halves into strips. He lines the strips parallel to each other and cuts them into cubes. He tells Max to carry on with the rest: ‘Finish the rest’ and leaves. (Field notes) Directives in imperative form were commonly used in interactions between workers and trainees. Most of these interactions involved task allocation. The interactions were brief (consisting mainly of single-turn utterances), direct, and explicit and rarely involved interpersonal markers that are often found in workplace discourse (Koester 2006: 104). Workers and trainees oriented to talk as a tool, or ‘a means to an end’ (Holmes and Stubbe 2015: 26) that enabled the work-related physical actions to take place. 4.2 Compliance as next action Trainees responded to the directives by complying. In response to the directives listed in Example 1, Max complied by physically carrying out the actions elicited by them. Implicit in the directives was the expectation of compliance and its immediacy. The expectation of immediate compliance is perhaps most obvious in cases where compliance was not given immediately. In such situations, trainees would verbally acknowledge the directive, thus assuring the worker that the directive was heard and implicitly conveying the trainee’s intention to carry it out. In Example 3, Max was working on a task (processing the vegetables) and close to completing it when a worker (Paul) directed him to collect fresh produce from another department. Example 3 ‘Store ar?’ 1 Paul Max get the stores. 2 Max Store ar? 3 Paul Ar have to bring the trolley ar. 4 Max Orh ‘Store ar?’ 1 Paul Max get the stores. 2 Max Store ar? 3 Paul Ar have to bring the trolley ar. 4 Max Orh ‘Store ar?’ 1 Paul Max get the stores. 2 Max Store ar? 3 Paul Ar have to bring the trolley ar. 4 Max Orh ‘Store ar?’ 1 Paul Max get the stores. 2 Max Store ar? 3 Paul Ar have to bring the trolley ar. 4 Max Orh In line 1, Paul directs Max to collect the ‘stores’, or the fresh produce, from the receiving department. Max did not leave immediately to do so but continued working on his task. As he did so, he verbally responded to the directive by seeking confirmation on the task to be carried out (‘Store ar?’, line 2, the Singlish ‘ar’ is a confirmation-seeking discourse particle, Wong 2001: 18; here, Max was seeking confirmation that Paul had directed him to pick up the ‘stores’ and not something else). Paul responded with the assent-giving ‘Ar’ (Gupta 1992: 46) in line 3 and advised Max to bring the trolley with him (‘have to bring the trolley ar’, the ‘ar’ particle here used for emphasis, Wong 2001: 16). Max acknowledged the advice (‘Orh’, line 4). Trainees typically complied immediately with the directives issued to them; when their compliance was not immediate, some action was usually done to at least acknowledge the directive. In the example, Max provided verbal acknowledgement through a confirmation-seeking turn (line 2), which indicated he had heard the directive. The turn extended the verbal exchange and prompted a response from Paul, giving Max some time to complete his then on-going task. With the task then swiftly completed, Max carried out Paul’s directive. Vine (2009, 2004: 32–3) makes a distinction between NOW and LATER directives with reference to the temporal completion of the action(s) in the directive. In NOW directives, immediate compliance is required, and in LATER directives, the completion of the action is delayed to another place and time (ibid.). NOW directives were also frequently imperative in form (Vine 2004: 75)—the immediacy of the action required ‘tends to mean that it is permissible to overlook considerations of politeness’ (Vine 2009: 1401). Based on this description, most of the directives in the current study were NOW directives: Compliance was often required immediately and the directives were almost always imperative in form. However, the function of the NOW directives and the directives in the current study is arguably different. The NOW directives Vine referred to were used as a discourse management device, for example in slowing down the verbal exchange (‘hang on’ and ‘oh hold on’, Vine 2009: 1401). The directives in the current study were not used in this manner; rather, they responded to the demands of the work context and required immediate compliance to maintain the flow of work. Although similar in form and in the expectation of compliance as the NOW directives in Vine’s (2004, 2009) research, the directives in the kitchens differed in that they were not used to manage the discourse, that is to slow down the action, but rather to keep the action (of work) going. 4.3 Actions in sequence Workers’ directives seemingly involved ad-hoc tasks given to trainees so that workers could be relieved of part of their work. They were frequent throughout a working day and trainees were expected to respond to them with immediacy and compliance. However, if we consider the contexts in which the directives occurred, the directives were not merely used to elicit random actions from the trainees. Directives, understood in sequence, were instructional in function. The series of examples below shows the contexts in which the directives in Example 1a, b, and c were given: From Example 1a: Demi chef Samy arrives. He checks on vegetables in the walk-in chiller. He takes a bag of broccoli out and tells Max to cut them: ‘This one, cut.’ Max opens the bag of broccoli and starts to cut them. (Field notes) From Example 1b: Max finishes with the broccoli and starts wiping the work counter. Samy brings a bag of garlic over and places it on the counter. He tells Max: ‘Cut. All.’ Max starts to cut the garlic. (Field notes) From Example 1c: Simon comes over as Max finishes with the garlic. He tells Max: ‘Get the onions and cut them.’ Max goes into the chiller and removes the bag of onions. He places it on the work counter, opens the bag and starts to work on the onions. (Field notes) In Example 1a, Max was directed by demi chef Samy to cut the broccoli that had been delivered to the kitchen. Max complied and carried out the directive. When the task was completed, he was directed by Samy again, this time to cut the garlic (Example 1b). When he completed that task, demi chef Simon approached him and assigned him the task of cutting the onions (Example 1c). The directives were in fact a series of work instructions to process the vegetables, which was a routine task in the kitchens. Vegetables ordered the day before were delivered every morning and processed in the hours before lunch service. The task had been carried out by the workers Samy and Simon before they directed Max to do them. As directed, Max processed the vegetables. In the days that followed, he continued to do as he was directed on that first day: Example 4 Max starts preparing the work counter. He gets a cutting board and a knife. He opens a bag of cauliflower and starts to work on them. (Field notes) Likewise, following the directive in Example 1h, Max routinely replenished the sliced fish, and following the directive in Example 3, Max took on the collecting of fresh produce as a routine activity. The directives were treated as work instruction rather than periodic assistance on ad-hoc tasks and they were oriented to as such. The directives were complied with immediately and the tasks were carried out as routines. The directives represented invitations to Max to participate in the ongoing work and, therefore, to learn to work. Participation in work activities is key to learning in the workplace (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998; Billett 1999, 2004). As they participated in work activities, newcomers had opportunities to learn through, for example, practising and refining skills, supervision or coaching, learning from mistakes, and receiving feedback (Eraut 2004: 267). The directive utterances may be seen as random calls for assistance to help with one task or another. However, when they are understood as parts of a sequence, the directives form a series of step-by-step instructions on the procedure for each routine activity. The directive interactions thus constituted instructional events in which trainees received instructions about work tasks and opportunities to participate in actual work. 4.4 Further instruction and specific directives In addition to general directives in which tasks were allocated to the trainees, specific directives were made when workers provided explicit and precise instruction on tasks. In Example 5, as Max worked on the vegetables, demi chef Simon approached him. Example 5 Max starts preparing the work counter. He gets a cutting board and a knife. He opens a bag of cauliflower and starts to work on them. Simon watches Max as he cuts the cauliflower and tells him that he was cutting it too slowly: ‘Too slow’. He takes the knife from Max and starts to cut the cauliflower. He lines the cauliflower in a row with the stems on the side of the trash bin, and in one motion, cuts and sweeps the stems into the bin. He continues to work in this manner. (Max had been cutting the cauliflower one at a time.) (Field notes) In the example, Simon had been watching as Max worked on the task and he observed that Max’s method was not efficient. Simon then instructed Max, through a physical demonstration (underlined), on a faster way of processing the cauliflower. Example 6 provides further illustration. In this example, Max was working on the onions. As he did so, Simon, who again had been watching Max, approached him and showed him how to dice the onions more finely (underlined). Example 6 Max opens a bag of onions and starts to dice them. Simon stands by and watches him. Then he approaches Max and says: ‘Cut one’. After Max did so, Simon takes an onion and dices it himself. Turning to Max, he asks: ‘What’s the difference?’ Max replies: ‘It’s finer.’ Simon smiles. He takes another onion and another and slices them. He puts the knife down and steps aside. (Field notes) Simon began the interaction by instructing Max to cut an onion and the latter complied. Simon then diced an onion himself. He elicited Max’s observation and, implicitly, Max’s acknowledgement of how his method was inferior to Simon’s. Simon then showed Max how the onions should be diced. As trainees worked on the tasks, workers were on hand to provide specific instruction. These tasks would have been done by the workers themselves had they not allocated them to the trainees, and workers were therefore still responsible for the efficiency in which the output was produced and the quality of the output. As trainees worked on the workers’ tasks therefore, workers stood by and offered further instruction and specific directives aimed at meeting the output requirements. These interactions may be characterized by the following instructional sequence: Worker: Do X. Trainee: (comply, with incorrect actions: further instruction and specific directives) (comply, with correct actions: allowed to go ahead) 4.5 Directives in response Directives typically initiated an interaction and were used to direct trainees to tasks. However, they also occurred in second position in response to trainees’ actions that required correction. As trainees gradually assumed the work required of them, they sometimes made mistakes. Example 7 Max removes the lobster shells from the oven with his hands. The shells are hot and brittle. Max holds them gingerly. As he is about to place them on the plate, one of them breaks up and half the shell drops to the floor. Simon sees this, sighs and tells him: ‘That’s why I always tell you to use tong, use a plate, use a piece of cloth’. (Field notes) In Example 7, Max’s actions were judged to be incorrect and Simon made a comment in response. Simon conveyed his directive in the declarative form and instructed Max on the proper way of handling the lobster shells (underlined). Max subsequently handled the lobster shells in the manner instructed by Simon. (Although Simon used the adverb ‘always’, this was the first time that Max was handling the lobster shells; the adverb ‘always’ was used for emphasis.) Example 8 provides another illustration. In this example, demi chef Mei saw Max using a piece of table cloth to clean the chopping board. In response to the incorrect action, she directed Max to wash the chopping board with detergent instead (underlined in Example 8): Example 8 Max gets a red chopping board to slice the bacon. He uses a piece of cloth to wipe the chopping board. Mei sees this and tells him: ‘Have to wash. Cannot simply wipe it. Use soap to wash’. Max smiles sheepishly and goes to wash the chopping board (Field notes) These examples show physical actions occurring in first position that prompted verbal directives in second position to correct the actions. It is worth noting that one of the ways in which trainees learned to work was through making mistakes (Pang 2015). Generally, mistakes were pointed out by workers and passed without much fuss. In professional kitchens, mistakes were in fact common and inevitable, and cooks learned to deal with them: ‘Cooks acquire techniques for coping with inevitable mistakes. It is the ability to deal with errors, not the ability to avoid them, that characterises the skilled worker’ (Fine 1996: 31). When trainees failed in carrying out the correct actions, workers stepped in to provide instruction. Trainees’ mistakes were not problems in themselves; rather, they presented trainees with learning opportunities. In Examples 7 and 8, respectively, Max learned the correct way of handling the lobster shells and of ensuring the chopping board was clean. In these interactions in which directives occurred in second position in response to the trainee’s actions, the instructional sequence is: Trainee: (doing a task) Worker:(trainees’ actions were incorrect; directive on correct actions) (trainees’ actions were correct; allowed to go ahead) As we have seen, directives occurred in first and second position to allocate tasks to trainees and to correct their actions, respectively. These directive interactions may be understood by reference to the constructs of textual incidents and textual objects (Sinclair and Mauranen 2006), in particular, the different sequential combinations of textual objects (verbal utterances) and contextual (non-verbal) objects (Sinclair and Mauranen 2006: 149–50) in different textual incidents (ibid.). The interactions in Example 1 show a textual–contextual relationship in which directive utterances solicited physical actions from trainees. The interaction in Example 3 shows a textual–textual relationship in which verbal utterances begin and complete the textual incident. Finally, the interaction in Example 5 shows a contextual–textual relationship where physical, non-verbal actions prompted verbal comment. 5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION As earlier studies have shown, it is important to consider the social and discursive contexts in which directives are used. The strict hierarchy in the kitchens meant there was a clear distinction in power status between workers and trainees. Directives were issued by workers who were of higher authority than the trainees. In the context of that hierarchical relationship, compliance in the uptake was assumed and expected. Particular contexts influenced the form of directives. Weigel and Weigel’s (1985) study of a migrant farmworker community found that directives in the imperative form were frequently used. The writers suggest that the preference for imperatives was a function of high tension in the migrant labour camp, the consequence of antagonistic relationships in the community, and the fact of the open physical environment. The specific conditions of the environment, that is the characteristics of the relationships and the physical setting, appeared to be a strong determinant of the use of directives in the imperative form. In a similar way, the work context of the professional kitchen had features that influenced the use of directives in the imperative form. Interactions with trainees took place only when necessary, and utterances were characterized by their instrumentality. Directives took the form of imperatives to solicit or correct actions efficiently, economically, and urgently. The directives in worker–trainee interactions conveyed work instruction and presented learning opportunities. The directives were complied with, usually immediately; when compliance was delayed, some form of acknowledgement of having heard the directive and having the intent to carry it out would be given. Rather than ad-hoc requests for assistance, directives in sequence were series of instructions on routines and tasks that were part of the overall work of a cook in an ordinary working day, and these routines and tasks were what constituted ‘work’. In addition to general directives in which tasks were allocated, specific directives were made when workers provided explicit and precise instruction on tasks that trainees were carrying out. Although directives typically initiated an interaction, they were also seen in second position in response to physical actions in first position. As trainees gradually assumed the work, they sometimes made mistakes, which prompted instruction from workers to correct the actions. In this manner, trainees gradually learned and assumed the duties expected of them. This article has presented examples from one trainee’s, Max’s, experience, and therefore a single case study, but the findings are based on a much wider analysis and corroborated by accounts from other trainees in the overall research and are fairly representative. Further research on directives in other service and blue-collar settings would be illuminating on the question of directives serving as work instruction. Most interactions in the current study took place in Mandarin. Lee-Wong’s (2000) study showed that in making requests, Mandarin speakers tended to prefer direct and explicit strategies conveyed through, for example, imperatives. Conceivably, the cultural-linguistic background of the workers influenced their use of the imperative form in giving directives. However, as mentioned, directives in imperative form were an economical and efficient way of eliciting solicited actions. They were unremarkable in the kitchens that were production-focused and physical actions often needed to be solicited and carried out swiftly. Furthermore, the instructional dimension of the directives is unlikely to be culture-specific, though this could be investigated in further research. The investigation on language use between trainees and workers in the current study speaks to claims made by workplace researchers in education on the nature of workplace learning. Eraut (2004) has observed that the implicit, embedded learning in the workplace is not always discerned by learners themselves: Most respondents still equate learning with formal education and training, and assume that working and learning are two quite separate activities that never overlap, whereas our findings have always demonstrated the opposite, i.e. that most workplace learning occurs on the job rather than off the job (2004: 249). Unlike formal learning situations, learning at work is highly implicit. For example, validation of work competence has been observed to be conveyed implicitly (Pang 2015). Rather than explicit verbal comment, validation was understood through the physical actions of workers, in the absence of comment on trainees’ actions and in trusting trainees to work independently with no other worker present. Trainees often complained that they were not learning anything during the work placement, even as they were working every day. But what were in fact opportunities to participate at work and to learn were often mistaken to be something else, specifically, simply running an errand. The implicitness of the learning situation may be due in no small part to the linguistic means by which such ‘errands’ were conveyed, that is through directives such as ‘do this’, ‘get that’. Some trainees saw carrying out directives as merely running errands. In fact, the directives conveyed work instruction and were invitations to trainees to participate in, and learn about, the work of a cook. Moreover, it was through carrying out the directives that trainees received further instruction and advice. The implicitness of the kitchen learning situation clearly contrasted with what trainees were accustomed to at college. In practical lessons, for example, instructors explained in great detail the whole process of preparing a dish—pointing out ingredients, showing students the different cuts, and physically demonstrating how the dish was to be cooked. In physical demonstrations, instructors provided explicit, step-by-step instructions on procedures and tasks, and asked questions to monitor students’ understanding. The knowledge and skills that students had to learn were made known to them explicitly, and they were verbally and systematically guided through simple and then increasingly complex tasks designed to achieve the requisite knowledge and skills. In the placement kitchens, trainees were thrown directly into the fray of things. Learning opportunities occurred in the flow of work, and instruction was embedded in the carrying out of directives and the doing of tasks issued in them. Trainees had to discern and interpret the opportunities for learning, and to overcome the disconnect between placement learning and academic learning. The disconnect between both types of learning has been reported among accountancy students (Anderson and Novakovic 2017) and is an issue that may be investigated further. Joining a new workplace is a daunting experience for many, and in the case of trainees, the challenges involved are compounded by their lack of experience, knowledge, and skills required at the workplaces they are about to join. It would be beneficial to trainees to be aware of the possible contrasts in the learning situation at college and at work and the implicitness of the learning situation in the latter, as well as how work information and instruction are conveyed in the workplace. Workers assigned to mentor trainees should be aware of how their approach to teaching trainees is received and understood by them and make the necessary and relevant adjustments to support learning. Findings from the current study are also helpful in informing the content of college information sessions for students going on work placements, specifically in highlighting the nature of the instruction they are likely to receive there. These findings have been presented to relevant college administrators, trainers, and career counsellors who have found them useful in advising students at the beginning of work placements and upon college graduation. Although the conclusions from the current study on a small number of students in a particular work setting may not be definitive, they do suggest that the placement experience may be worth close study to better understand the contexts that students are going into. This deep understanding should enhance the purpose and benefits of the work placement and support students better as they make the transition from college to work. SUPPLEMENTARY DATA Supplementary material is available at Applied Linguistics online. Conflict of interest statement. None declared. Priscilla Pang's main research interests lie in workplace discourse, professional socialization, and qualitative research methods. The current study draws from data in her PhD research, which is described in her thesis entitled, ‘Where actions speak louder than words: The experience of trainee cooks on work placement in Singapore’. 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Applied Linguistics – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 30, 2018
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