A. George

University of Minnesota (UNITED STATES)
This study examines how teaching, through the use of online videos, affects the acquisition of second language pragmatics, specifically the acquisition of requests by students whose first language is English. These online videos bring native Spanish speakers to the foreign language classroom and serve as a model to students in that they show speakers in their age group speaking about topics interesting to them. Pragmatics is often ignored in the beginning foreign language classroom and this paper will show that instruction, even at the beginning level, is essential to teaching learners the differences between making requests in their first language versus their second language.

This paper shows the pragmatic awareness possessed by third semester learners of Spanish and how instruction impacts the performance of these learners’ requests. The results show that participants demonstrated pragmatic awareness, as measured by directness, level of imposition, and social distance, after watching and discussing videos in which native speakers make requests. The participants also completed a written pre and post-test discourse completion test, which elicited requests, before and after a lesson on requests in the target language. The lesson incorporated videos and activities from the Dancing with Words website (http://www.carla.umn.edu/speechacts/sp_pragmatics/home.html), as well as small group and class discussion about directness, level of imposition, and social distance and how this impacts requests in the target language. Differences between target language and native language requests were also pointed out. The results show that without any teaching, very few requests were target-like. After instruction, 45% of the participants improved their production of requests. The results also show that more instruction on how to incorporate target-like grammar into the requests is needed.