With the growing global networking and cross-cultural communication, interest in the teaching and learning of second languages has also increased. However, the bulk of research in interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) has revealed that foreign language learners, despite their grammatical and lexical proficiency, frequently fail to approximate target-like pragmatic norms (Bouton, 1994; Bardovi-Harlig, 2001; Bardovi-Harlig & Mahan-Taylor, 2003). Awareness of pragmatic norms is crucial as its absence can lead to cross cultural miscommunication (Beebe & Takahashi, 1989a).
ILP research also shows that learner’s pragmalinguistic knowledge develops relatively slowly (Schauer, 2004; 2009; Barron 2002). But evidence suggests that it is amenable to instruction (Rose, 2005; Cohen & Ishihara, 2013). Both instruction (e.g., see Bardovi-Harlig & Mahan-Taylor, 2003 for review) and feedback to learners (Belz & Kinginger, 2003) can accelerate this process. Yet in spite of the need for pragmatics instruction and the existence of pedagogical models, ILP is rarely a major component of teacher training programmes (Vellenga 2011, Vasquez & Sharpless, 2009).
The present study, as part of a larger project on ILP development in French secondary schools, seeks to address some of these gaps in literature by focusing on teacher training for teaching pragmatics to English as foreign language (EFL) learners. As part of their teacher education programme at a French university, fifteen pre-service teachers participated in the study as part of a classroom research course. The course focused on
a) multiple research methods and data analysis techniques and various pragmatic aspects including
b) ILP awareness-raising via authentic materials including TV series/films and corpus data, and
c) the design and implementation of activities to teach both pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic dimensions of request strategies to EFL learners (aged 11 to 18).
The participants worked in groups and prepared six lessons. The data for our study include
- lesson plans and teaching resources for the student-teachers’ lessons
- video-recordings of three classroom activities
- learner focus-group discussions and video-stimulated recall interviews with teachers and tutors
- audio-recorded class presentations of the participant teachers
- a pre-study oral production task to assess the participant teachers’ knowledge about requests strategies.
A preliminary analysis of the data reveals that the novice teachers, despite some initial difficulty, used authentic materials quite effectively to engage pupils in discussion and reflection on request behaviour. The tutors appreciated the focus of the activities on pragmatics and confirmed that pragmatics is rarely a focus in curriculum despite its importance. However, the learners’ responses varied across classrooms and teachers.
The presentation gives main findings regarding student-teacher classroom implementation of lessons on English requests, with implications and recommendations for French EFL instructional contexts.
interlanguage pragmatics, EFL, secondary schools, France, language teacher education.
Requests: a speech act
A request is a directive speech act whose illocutionary purpose is to get the hearer to do something in circumstances in which it is not obvious that he/she will perform the action in the normal course of events (Searle 1969). By initiating a request, the speaker believes that the hearer is able to perform an action.
The structure of a request may consist of two parts: the head act (the actual request) and modifications to the request (external or internal).
The perspective of requests can be emphasized, either projecting toward the speaker (Can I borrow your notes?) or the hearer (Can you loan me your notes?). Since we must take into account many factors when we make requests (e.g., age, social distance, gender, and level of imposition), speakers often employ different strategies (linguistic and non-linguistic) to minimize the effects of our request on the other person
Request strategies are divided into three types according to the level of inference (on the part of the hearer) needed to understand the utterance as a request. The three types of requests include:
- direct requests
- conventionally-indirect strategies (CI)
- non-conventionally indirect (NCI) strategies (hints)
Direct and conventionally-indirect requests comprise a continuum of different strategies. Read more …
(See also Blum-Kulka et al 1989)
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Request lessons: americanenglish.state.gov
Elicitation resources for requests (Cartoon oral production task)
Editors: Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig Rebecca Mahan-Taylor
Teaching Pragmatics is a collection of 30 lessons that can help English learners use socially appropriate language in a variety of informal and formal situations
- Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE)
- US corpus available on the Lexical Tutor website
- Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English
- BRITISH NATIONAL CORPUS
- CORPUS OF AMERICAN SOAP OPERAS
- BYU-BNC: BRITISH NATIONAL CORPUS
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