Importance of Teaching Pragmatics in a Foreign Language Classroom
Pragmatics requires a well-defined environment for the learner to grasp the basic concepts of communicative aspects of the target language. The complexity and sophistication most foreign languages are characterized with, a foreign language student would take as long as 10 years to attach quality communicative meaning like the natives; this can be reduced by enhancing the quality of pragmatics for second language learners. Like every learning situation, the environment has a big role to play in the learning process. As a matter of fact, language is tied to culture and socialism and shaped by psychology; therefore, the most appropriate place to learn pragmatics should demonstrate a greater capacity in providing the best environment in relation to these aspects. Numerous studies have been carried out to establish how second language learners develop meaningful communicative responses for the sounds they learn. The patterns depicted by these studies reveal the importance of learning pragmatics concurrently with sound patterns. This makes the foreign language classroom, with important aspects like teachers and the use of technology, as the most appropriate place for the development of pragmatics by foreign language students.
Importance of Teaching Pragmatics in a Foreign Language Classroom
Pragmatics is a core aspect of language that helps the language student in building meaning with corresponding sound patterns. Studies have revealed that it is possible for a language student to learn pragmatics in a foreign language classroom. As a matter of fact, this particular learning configuration has its importance to the foreign language student. It is logical that a foreign language student will experience different types of phonemic challenges in the process of mastering the language. This approach depicts that, in the process of mastering the basic concepts of phoneme and pronunciation, the student attaches meaning to each aspect of the foreign language learnt. Students display varying abilities with respect to integration of foreign language concepts and pragmatics. However, it is believed that the strategy and stage with which pragmatics is introduced in the learning process impacts on the students’ ability to create a perfect link of the two.
For instance, considering the first theoretical approach, the acculturation model, developed by Schumann in 1978, he studied a 33-year-old Costa Rican man who was learning English as a second language. Schumann tracked the performance of the participant and compared it to numerous virtual models and theorizes the possible constraints that were responsible for the low development rate of pragmatics in the participant. Schumann studied the learning process on the basis of social and psychological aspects of learning foreign languages; hence, the model is fundamentally a social-psychological model of pragmatics development. The theory described the acquisition of second language by new learners to be shaped by factors broadly classified as social and affective variables. The social variables included the power relations between the groups of second language learners and target language speakers; their integration pattern (that can be described as assimilation, acculturation, or preservation), relative enclosure, cohesiveness and size as well as group attitude and intended duration of stay.
A plain analysis of these factors can virtually depict or totally define the social environment the second language student is exposed to during learning. Additionally, the target language community has been described as of great significance in shaping the learning environment for the student. Moreover, the affective factors include language shock, culture shock, integrative versus instrumental motivation and ego permeability (Kasper & Rose, 2001). These are virtually strong theories that display the psychological environment of the student. Fundamentally, every learning principle requires an environment that suits that particular combination. Therefore, it is logical that the study was successful in establishing the logical reasons behind the participant’s performance with respect to the acquisition of language and development of pragmatics. Essentially, this necessitated more research to establish the best possible environment that would suit the development of pragmatics to a second language student. In this context, scores of research findings highlight the foreign language classroom as a core site for this process owing to the numerous beneficial aspects it is characterized.
Therefore, it is important to study more models pertaining to the relationships between environment and development of pragmatics to establish a comprehensive model that captures the concepts eluded by these theories. The cognitive-psychological theory for instance pioneered a more conclusive approach in the study of the development of pragmatics with respect to second language students. Most importantly, these theories capture and appreciate the significance of culture in the language acquisition process. As a matter of fact, given the dynamic aspects of language, culture, social and psychological environment happen to be the most influential tools that determine the performance of the student with respect to pragmatics, or any other aspect of language.
The researches on the development of pragmatics in divergent situations show that there is a pattern that could be manipulated to ensure the best is achieved out of the learning process (Cohen, 2008). For instance, studies have revealed that it would take much time for a second language learner to develop pragmatics to the level of native speakers; therefore, recommendations have been tailored to enhance the pragmatics perception process of second language learners to reduce this time span. This most likely happens when second language students are left to develop pragmatics by themselves, for example, by living among natives. In fact, it forms the basis of teaching pragmatics in foreign language classrooms. It reduces the time students take to perceive the meaning and connect to aspects of language.
Fundamentally, materials that enhance the development of pragmatics are an important aspect of this subject. There are numerous materials that guide and enhance the perception of pragmatics (Cohen, 2008). How and where the learner sources these materials as well as the ultimate significance it equals to being paramount. In teaching classes, it is perceived that the teacher will provide materials that will aid in the development of pragmatics as awareness, conversational management, opening and closings, requests, refusals, compliments and complaints. However, relevant materials are everywhere, though, the available materials like those in televisions, and magazines do not portray the virtual truth about the image of life described. In learning processes, it is paramount for the student to grasp the fundamental concepts before theorizing them; because pragmatics is best learnt in the foreign language classroom.
Another important factor in this aspect is the teacher’s experience in the extension of pragmatics in the teaching process. Most teachers, owing to the experience they have developed as a result of teaching language for a very long time, find themselves teaching pragmatics in the classrooms (Cohen, 2008). In fact, a survey of any number of language teachers will highlight the use of divergent strategies in teaching pragmatics in the course of teaching. However, it is logical that the extent of development in teaching skills with respect to pragmatics will vary among teachers. This will most often rely on the time taken, and frequency of the extension made for pragmatics. This information, coupled with the numerous findings from research on pragmatics shows that teachers are at the best position in ensuring faster and quality development of pragmatics in second language learners.
Additionally, teachers have a profound role in facilitating the learning of pragmatics in relation to second language learners. It is logical that the second language learners require instructions when learning second language pragmatics. The teachers should make it their responsibility to guide the students through the learning process and also in the development of pragmatics. Given the high stances allocated to teachers by virtue of their position as tutors, it is expected of them to lead students through extensive programs relating to language acquisition and development. In this context, the teachers should set the standards and formulate the mechanisms through which pragmatics would be taught in foreign language classes. Moreover, the teachers, owing to the experience they have in language, would know the speech-pragmatic's requirement of every student, hence establishing the best way to help the student.
Second language learners also have the responsibility of making the best out of the available materials that to some extent display an insight in high performances with respect to the development of second language pragmatics. Logically, the environment a student or any other individual for that matter is exposed to, determines his/her performance in any task at hand. It is perceived that in classrooms and with the help of teachers, students are at a safer highway in their quest to develop pragmatics. It would be easier for the students to identify the relevant materials relating to their language of choice, and furthermore, know how to utilize such materials. For instance, there are no doubt numerous materials out there that depict various aspects of pragmatics, however, not every material is relevant to the language used, some are explicit and have no significance for the development of pragmatics. Additionally, this platform makes it possible to assess the performance of students with respect to the perception of second language pragmatics (Bardovi-Harlig & Dörnyei, 1998).
The communicative context of pragmatics makes it a fundamental aspect of any language. In this context, correct grammar is one of the rules that should be observed by second language learners. For learners to comprehensively adopt communicative tags of a foreign language as gratitude, apologies, and others, an official interactive context is required (offered by classroom environments). However, it has been established in numerous studies that foreign language students, who learn pragmatics by themselves, in situations outside classes, tend to fix aspects of language to ensure the flow. This corrupts the pragmatic as well as grammatical perception of language. Therefore, there exist perfect models that ensure such situations are addressed if pragmatics is taught in a foreign language classroom.
It is important that second language learners study pragmatics in the language acquisition stage in order to best understand the language patterns and the meaning of certain types of conversations. For instance, speech acts has an effect in assessing the sound and meaning performance of the learner. It is easier for the learner to perceive meaning alongside sound patterns as the acquisition process continues. Fundamentally, the role of learning pragmatics at this stage integrates two distinct stages into a single unit. In most cases, second language students learn language patterns and later integrate meaning to them. This approach makes it possible to do this simultaneously. Additionally, this setup makes it possible to assess the student using conversational aspects like speech and gratitude. Therefore it is undoubtedly important that the learning process is scaled down to a single unit to not only reduce the duration of perception of the second language, but to also add more quality on the process.
Pedagogical models have been the most preferable models for teaching communicative actions in foreign language classrooms. For instance, sociolinguistic evidence can be used as a model containing five steps through which pragmatics can be developed and assessed. The five steps are diagnostic assessment, model dialogue, evaluation of the situation, and feedback as well as discussion (Cesar & Cohen, 2012). This particular model forms a chronological manner with which the situation is analyzed as demonstrated by Garcia (1996, 2001) in the acquisition of Spanish as a second language. An analysis of the individual steps displayed by his descriptions reveals a model that can be utilized in foreign classes to teach students basic communicative aspects in pragmatics. This model coupled with the classroom as the most appropriate site makes it possible to equip students with gender sensitive pragmatic aspects.
It is important to note that there are numerous pedagogical approaches that can be used in the teaching process. This advantages the learning process as a teacher can adopt any particular system that best suits the class. Furthermore, there are very many situations that an individual would feel obliged to respond to, formulating a single model for every situation will most probably jeopardize the sensitivity of most situations. This is what takes place in most cases when foreign students learn pragmatics in environments other than classroom, sensitivity to important aspects of a particular situation is normally assumed. As a matter of fact, the foreign language teacher can formulate divergent situations and use a variety of pedagogical approaches in evaluating and responding to every situation with the sensitivity it requires (Bardovi-Harlig & Dörnyei, 1998).
In conclusion, research findings and the conceptual approach demonstrated by the aspects discussed above; display the foreign language classroom, as the most appropriate venue for teaching pragmatics. It is important to understand the concept of foreign language pragmatics before deciding on the most appropriate mechanism for its development. Given the dynamic characteristic of language, certain aspects like pragmatics require a flexible learning environment that incorporates situations that can be manipulated while relevance to the target language is maintained. As a result of this configuration, teachers and second language learners both have a responsibility of shaping the foreign language class into the most suitable arena for the development of pragmatics.
Bardovi-Harlig, K., & Dörnyei, Z. (1998). Do Language Learners Recognize Pragmatic Violations? Pragmatic versus GrammaticalAwareness in Instructed L2 Learning. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2 , 233-262.
Cesar, J. F., & Cohen, A. (2012). Teaching Pragmatics in the Foreign Language Classroom: Grammar as a Communicative. Hispania, Vol. 95, No. 4 , 650-669.
Cohen, A. D. (2008). Teaching and assessing L2 pragmatics: What can we expect from learners? Language Teaching, 41(02), , 213-235.
Kasper, G., & Rose, K. (2001). Pragmatic Development in a Second Language. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.