Unit 1: Introduction to Pragmatics In Language Education

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Continue to Unit 2: Pragmatic Instruction (Implicit and Explicit): Studies and Teaching Examples


  • Using the mini-lecture, the participant will discuss their preliminary understanding of pragmatic instruction and how it relates to their language education knowledge and experience through a K-W-L (know-want-learn) learning journal.
  • The participant will demonstrate their ability and motivation to further educate themselves on pragmatics instruction by navigating the internet to find outside resources and adding sources to a comprehensive final list.


What is "pragmatics?"

  • The academic definition of pragmatics is “the study of people's comprehension and production of linguistic action in context” (Kasper, 1993, as cited in Castillo, 2009). This definition infers the following; first, that people need to be able to understand something and “notice” that cue in order to produce a linguistic action in reaction to that; second, linguistic action must be in context and relevant to the situation at hand. Additionally, pragmatics is also defined as “the study of language from the point of view of the users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interaction, and the effects their use of language has on the other participants in an act of communication” (Crystal, 2008, as cited in Castillo, 2009).

Essentially, pragmatic competence helps speakers decide what to speak or write based on context.

Pragmatic Competence: Hierarchy

What is its role?

The majority of language learning classrooms focus on two things: vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary lessons provide the words in order to speak a language, and grammar informs the speaker of how and in what form to use these words. Both of these facets of language learning are necessary for language learners to acquire. Unfortunately, pragmatics (context-specific word selection), is frequently ignored in ELL lessons.

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Why does it need to be taught?

If pragmatic instruction is not taught, there are a variety of consequences that can impact the ability of language learners to effectively communicate in the target language. These consequences can range anywhere from offending a speaking partner in conversation, having trouble conducting business deals reliant on socialization in the workplace, etc. What all of these situations have in common is this-- without high pragmatic competence, second language speakers will be unable to be properly proficient in the language. Grammatical and vocabulary instruction alone are not sufficient to gaining language mastery (Bardovi-Harlig, 1996).

An example of negative effects associated with low pragmatic competence involve Japanese EFL speakers. Many Japanese speakers who learn English do so to conduct business or diplomatic relations, and oftentimes do so with other non-native speakers of English. Due to a lack of genuine exposure to social situations with native English speakers, these non-native speakers do not have high levels of pragmatic competence in English and suffer consequences as a result. One such consequence is shown in an example below:

“...Japanese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were experiencing difficulty ... due to lack of English skills. In fact, a coalition of fifty Japanese environmental NGOs was "unable to supply adequate input into decisions made at the Earth Summit . . . [because they were] handicapped by a lack of members who [could] speak English well enough" (p. 2).” (Kenneth, 1994)


So, it’s obvious that there is a clear need for pragmatic instruction, yet oftentimes it is ignored or overlooked-- but why? This is oftentimes due to language educators being unsure of how to incorporate pragmatics instruction in their curriculum, as well as what type of instructions and methods that they should use.

The solution to this problem is to:

  • Educate language instructors on why pragmatic instruction is needed
  • Describe the benefits of instruction and consequences of lack of instruction
  • Define and elaborate upon both implicit and explicit pragmatic instruction
    • Provide potential teaching strategies for both types of instruction
      • Encourage educators to motivate and engage their students within these strategies
  • Direct educators on how to further develop their craft in regards to pragmatic instruction and resources to learn more information in the future



  1. Go to this link and follow the instructions
  2. Optional: Post your journal response in the Unit 1 discussion board.


Go to Unit 2: Pragmatic Instruction (Implicit and Explicit): Studies and Teaching Examples

References and Resources

Additional Resources:

Here is a video by Crash Course that discusses in depth what pragmatics is.


  1. Bardovi-Harlig, K. (1996). Pragmatics and Language Teaching: Bringing Pragmatics and Pedagogy Together. Pragmatics and Language Learning,7, 21-39. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED400702.
  2. Crystal, D. (March, 2008). Two Thousand Million? English Today, Volume No .24 (Issue 1). Retrieved from http://ill.sit.edu/illiad/illiad.dll?SessionID=D141939695E&Action=10&Form=69&Value=9969
  3. Kasper, Gabriele (Editor). (1993). Interlanguage Pragmatics. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press, Incorporated. http://site.ebrary.com.reference.sit.edu:2048/lib/worldlearningsit/Doc?id=10086827&ppg=10
  4. Kenneth, R. R. (1994). Pragmatic Consciousness - Raising in an EFL Context. Pragmatics and Language Learning,5, monograph, 52-63. Retrieved March 20, 2019, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED398740.