What are the benefits of incorporating pragmatics in the EFL classroom?
Here are 5 tips on fostering language learning by effectively developing our learners’ pragmatic competence in the target language.
While native speakers are usually able to identify a grammatical error produced by a non-native speaker, they may not do the same or react in the same way with an ‘error of appropriacy’ (pragmatic error). The consequences there are potentially more serious as such errors may not only impede communication, but they may also be considered as signs of rudeness. In their article on designing pragmatics-focused materials for the EFL classroom, Crandall and Basturkmen (2004) note that “foreign language textbooks offer very limited examples of real-life language use and the pragmatic connotations that these entail”. Coursebooks usually limit their content to “useful expressions”, without offering opportunities for further analysis of when and how these TL phrases are used in everyday life.
What can we, therefore, as teachers do to foster language acquisition and at the same time shift our learners’ focus to the functionality and the use of the basic ‘speech acts’ they will encounter while using the target language? Below you will find some key points to consider when focusing on raising our learners’ awareness of the basic rules of pragmatics and how these can be implemented to improve communication in the TL.
Enriching the TL input
When introducing pragmatics in the foreign language classroom, Ellis (1997) advises teachers to first consider the following factors:
During the speaking activity, our main role should be that of a facilitator, making sure that the task is being carried out smoothly and that all learners participate equally. We must also try to reduce TTT (teacher talking time), step away from the central scene, monitor from a distance and try not to interrupt the flow of the activity. Effective feedback is an important part of these tasks, as teachers need to carefully select the points they need to focus on and whether or not they need to intervene and comment ex. on the appropriateness of language use, etc.
Basturkmen, H. & E. Crandall (2004). Evaluating Pragmatics-focused Materials. ELT Journal Vol. 58/1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ellis, R. (1997). Second Language Acquisition Research and Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rignall, M. and C. Furneaux (1997). Speaking. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall