Enhancing the production of spoken English : an ethnographic case study of teaching language pragmatics

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Research in the Hong Kong context suggests that instruction in pragmatics is still problematic in universities due to a lack of instructional material, methods and types of tasks possible. The macro-skill of speaking is under-researched and lacks non-theoretical pragmatics-related teaching techniques. Most Chinese EFL research is limited to the study of homogenised groups of higher-proficiency university students. The subjects of this study are ten Chinese EFL adult learners studying the pragmatics of English outside of university. Three research questions drove the formulation of three subsequent hypotheses: Can learners’ attendance to instances of language be used to increase adult learners’ metacognition? Which orienting tasks best enable students to switch focus from shallow-level processing to deeper-level processing of language? Does multimodal input from video viewing facilitate pragmatic knowledge? Hypothesis one posits that when teachers make reflective practices surrounding the process of language learning accessible to adult learners, they can be coached to self-monitor their learning and make strategic adjustments. Hypothesis two posits that when the teacher opts for a communicative language teaching approach emphasising authentic tasks of communication, learners are more likely to sustain motivation and commitment. Hypothesis three posits that exploiting activities such as watching videos and learners self-recording their speaking performance on their mobile phones can facilitate the learners’ acquisition of pragmatic knowledge. It found students’ reactions to integrated multimodal input encouraged attendance to instances of language and responses to teacher input scaffolded improved student output by enabling them to reflect on their typical language usage and consider strategy adjustment. Underlining the importance of attentive monitoring by learners of their speech and both generalised and specific teacher feedback, were found to improve students’ pragmatic knowledge.
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