FC Pragmatics: Lesson 3

Pragmatics: Lesson 3




Contextualized Practice

What can the teacher do in terms of concrete activities in the classroom to incorporate pragmatics into the language classroom? Make your own list of suggested activities before looking at what the students and teacher offered.


Brainstorming about pragmatics activities.
Duration: 01:37

An example of contextualized practice would be any of the role plays seen in previous segments of this pragmatics module; e.g., the first video on the page for


“Sociocultural norms.
In contextualized practice, the situated activity should be appropriate and follow target language sociocultural norms. This will help make learners aware of how to select the best ways to express themselves in the given context and also how to react to what is said to them appropriately and successfully.


Since pragmatic expression and interpretation by definition are realized in the context of language use, a natural choice to practice pragmatics is found in dialogues in the classroom that the learners themselves have to create.
Observe the following activity; then think about how this example can help learners understand pragmatics and practice their language.
Actividad: ¿Cómo nos organizamos nosotros?
Ahora es el turno de que tus compañeros y tú se organicen las actividades domésticas en su casa compartida. Decidan quién es responsable de los quehaceres domésticos que aparecen en la actividad anterior. Now is the time for you and your friends to organize the chores in your shared house. Decide who is responsible for the chores that appear in the previous exercise.

Modelo: Model:

• Yo prefiero lavar los platos y regar las plantas. ¿Y tú? • I prefer to wash the dishes and water the plants. And you?
• Prefiero planchar la ropa, pero no quiero quitar el polvo. • I prefer to iron the clothes, but I don’t want to dust.


A discussion of features taught in the dialogue.
Duration: 01:47

One point made in the video is that learners need to know not only how to initiate a speech act but also how to respond to one in a coherent and appropriate manner to continue the conversation. Dialogues are valuable because they:
• entail a wider scope of language practice, at sentence level,
• move from word to phrase to longer units,
• emphasize co-construction of meaning or the changing roles of “speaker” and “listener”, and
• can illustrate sociocultural differences in the dialogue.
• Formulas
• Bardovi-Harlig (2001) mentions the centrality of formulae in everyday pragmatic expression. With this in mind, what formulae do we use all the time to imply a speech act in English that often confuse learners? Should these be taught? If so, how? Jot down your ideas before you see how our participating language teachers answered this question.

• Discussion of formulaic expressions.
• Duration: 01:40

• One teacher brought up the issue of sincerity, referring to how the pragmatic expressions in the target language could be interpreted by the learner. Without an understanding of why the expressions are different in the target language, the learner could easily come to question the sincerity of the native speaker formulaic expressions.

• Another issue that our language teachers raised was how learners who have spent much time in the target culture learn the L2 pragmatic expressions to the point that they also become formulaic to them. Often advanced learners (such as teachers and graduate students of the target language) report that they do catch themselves transferring some expressions.

• Discussion of formulaic variation.
• Duration: 03:54

• The question discussed here is whether some of the colloquial L2 formulae that are not easily translated literally in the learner’s native language should be taught in the L2 curriculum. The ensuing discussion brings up when and how they should be taught.

Metapragmatic Discussion

Metapragmatic discussion occurs when the learners and instructor engage in a dialogue about pragmatic expression that they have just seen and heard. The purpose is to point out and make students aware of pragmatic features. The discussion and awareness can take place explicitly or implicitly. That is, as seen in the following video, the instructor and learners can discuss rules and analyze different features directly and explicitly. Or the instructor can have the learners learn implicitly, in which the learners experience the pragmatics and draw inferences themselves about what they have seen and what was implied (implicatures).
Metapragmatic discussion focuses on linguistic nuances and their meanings. Think about the difference in illocutionary force, or the intended meaning, among these options to make a request for use of another’s car:

a. Can you lend me your car?
b. Could you lend me your car?
c. I would like you to lend me your car.

What do you think is the difference in force and meaning in the options? Now compare your answers to those given by the students in the video.

Language teachers discuss differences in illocutionary force.
Duration: 02:55

Building Awareness of Sociocultural Norms

An interesting part of a language class is observing learners’ reactions when they become aware of differences in sociocultural norms, which are what guide pragmatic expression and interpretation. Metapragmatic discussion centers on the linguistic level, while discussion on sociocultural norms focus on societal norms that operate as the basis for the linguistic expression.

A discussion on awareness of sociocultural norms.
Duration: 04:26

As seen in the video, three important factors surface in discussion of sociocultural norms:

Consider the following example of a sociocultural norm in American English:
Situation: Your friend Mary looks distressed and says to you: “Oh, I have an awful headache and I have an interview today.”
Your first response is to say:
a. It must be allergies.
b. I’m sorry to hear that.
c. Don’t feel badly, lots of people do.
d. What bad luck.

• Politeness; attention to “face”
• Sociocultural differences
• Conversational expectations
The goal in discussing these issues is to help the learner build toward adopting or at least accepting the norms of the target language. At the same time, it is important to avoid stereotyping the behavior of speakers of the target language.



[Module Instructor Dale Koike]. 2010. [Pragamtics]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.