Preparing adult ESL students for the workplace
The relationship between second language (L2) comprehensibility and pragmatics is explored in two experiments involving instruction of speech acts to learners enrolled in a Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program. The study was designed to determine whether improved pragmatic competence results in enhanced comprehensibility (how easy L2 speech is to understand). Two intact classes participated; one received 25 hours of pragmatics instruction, while the control group received the standard curriculum (no focus on pragmatics). Both classes were recorded in role-plays based on several scenarios at pre- and post-test. Transcriptions of the role-plays were coded according to a rubric; although the control group showed superior performance at the outset, the experimental group’s scores exceeded those of the Control group at post-test with a medium effect size. A subset of pre- and posttest role-plays (two refusals and two requests) were randomly assigned to 56 native English listeners who rated the speech samples for social appropriateness, comprehensibility, and fluency. The experimental group’s posttest productions on all scenarios were perceived as significantly more socially appropriate, with three scenarios showing significant improvement in comprehensibility. Although one scenario improved in fluency, another showed a decline. The results suggest that pragmatics instruction enhances L2 speech comprehensibility.
Keywords: pragmatics instruction, comprehensibility, fluency, adult immigrants, oral communication skills
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