This month we are publishing Learning Pragmatics from Native and Nonnative Language Teachers by Andrew D. Cohen. In this post Andrew describes his own experiences of learning pragmatics as well as outlining his research into how language teachers handle pragmatics.
This new book of mine deals with an issue that has been a concern of mine for many years – namely, learning the niceties of pragmatics from native and nonnative teachers of the language. Pragmatic subtleties include knowing just when to use specific greetings in the target language, knowing how to recognize sarcasm when it is directed at you and how to be appropriately sarcastic yourself, knowing how to curse when it is called for, knowing how to make requests in a way that it is well received, and many more things.
At the age of 74, I am currently working on my 13th language, Mandarin, and over the years I have had an opportunity to experience the benefits of learning the language both from teachers who have grown up natively with the language and its pragmatics as well as those who have come to it later on as learners themselves. Clearly, both sets of teachers could have special advantages in terms of what they know about the target language and what they can provide learners. In the book, I invite readers to explore with me this issue, basing many of my insights on an international survey I conducted using Survey Monkey.
Aside from reporting the findings from an international survey about how teachers handle pragmatics, the book also includes sections on:
- defining target language pragmatics,
- suggestions for how to teach pragmatics,
- motivating learners to want to learn about pragmatics,
- the role of technology,
- learners’ strategizing about pragmatics,
- assessing pragmatics,
- ways to research pragmatics.
By studying many languages and living in different cultures around the world, I have become acutely aware of just how easy it is to experience pragmatic failure while engaged in efforts to communicate with others. Below is a picture of me as a Peace Corps volunteer on the High Plains of Bolivia where I had modest success at learning the local language, Aymara, and at practicing rural community development in the mid-1960s. As you can see, I am wearing a local poncho and gorro. This two-year experience kick-started my interest in applied linguistics and provided me an upfront and personal experience attempting to contribute to an indigenous group who mostly wondered why a young American college graduate would do such a thing.
Andrew D. Cohen, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota, USA
For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Context, Individual Differences and Pragmatic Competence by Naoko Taguchi.