Learning and interaction: Developing through talk

  • Broady E
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There has been much reflection recently on how language gets used in language classrooms, by language learners and by language teachers. Rather than the perennial debate about target-language use, the author is referring to the growing body of classroom research in the area of linguistics known as pragmatics. Pragmatics, as defined by Crystal 1997:301, involves looking at "language from the point of view of 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 other participants in the act of communication." Pragmatics includes areas such as the study of politeness and the analysis of conversation, and, in particular, it highlights aspects of how people realise their interpersonal relationships in language and, in particular, spoken language. Studies using conceptual tools from pragmatics tend to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, and this may generate impatience on the part of the hard-pressed classroom teacher on the look-out for good classroom recipes. In this article, the author considers Diane Naughton's research on cooperative strategy training in relation to oral interaction in a foreign language setting. She found Naughton's study refreshing because it clearly abandons the notion that language learning will automatically take place through "natural" communication in the classroom. She also considers some insights from conversational analysis, an approach to analyzing spoken language which emphasizes careful, close analysis of authentic data in order to highlight "recurrent, identifiable patterns in talk-in-interaction" and "how verbal activities such as greetings, requests, compliments, among others, are co-constructed by social actors." Here, the author stresses that the bigger debate is how to build effective "learning" through talk. (ERIC)

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  • Elspeth Broady

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