Production and Comprehension Aspects of Pragmatic Competence in an Immersive Language Program

Vahid Rafieyan, William Rozycki


Since pragmatic ability appears to be a vital skill for social transactions, Bardovi-Harlig and Mahan-Taylor (2003) have argued for the inclusion of explicit instruction in pragmatics within general language instruction. However, their study adopts a speech-act framework that does not differentiate between pragmatic production and pragmatic comprehension. L1 learners develop a comprehension stage before producing appropriate utterances (Berk, 2012), and it may be that L2 learners do likewise. To advance pedagogy, this paper addresses four research questions within the context of a residential, immersive language program in an EFL setting: 1) Is there any relationship between language proficiency and the production aspect of pragmatic competence? 2) Is there any relationship between language proficiency and the comprehension aspect of pragmatic competence? 3) To what extent does an immersive language program lead to the development of the production aspect of pragmatic competence? and 4) To what extent does an immersive language program lead to the development of the comprehension aspect of pragmatic competence?

Japanese first-year college students (n=30) were assessed through three instruments at the start of a one-year language immersion program: TOEFL PBT; a 32-item pragmatic production test (Bardovi-Harlig, 2009); and a 58-item pragmatic comprehension test (Taguchi, 2007, 2008, 2012). The correlation between language proficiency and pragmatic production, as well as between language proficiency and pragmatic comprehension, was computed through Pearson correlation coefficient. Fifteen of the subjects thereupon participated in an intensive language program. At the end of the academic year, all 15 subjects took the pragmatic production and comprehension tests again (post-tests). The findings of the one-year longitudinal study on the efficacy of language instruction in an immersive language program, and its relation to both production and comprehension aspects of pragmatic competence, is demonstrated. Language proficiency had a positive correlation with gains in both pragmatic production and pragmatic comprehension. Also, language instruction, even without specifically addressing pragmatic instruction, had a significant effect on developing both pragmatic production and pragmatic comprehension. 


Immersive language program; Language proficiency; Pragmatic competence; Pragmatic comprehension; Pragmatic production

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