Interculturality Meets Pragmatics in EFL Teaching & Learning
This first national conference on ‘Intercultural and Pragmatic Approaches to EFL Teaching & Learning within an Algerian Context: Setting a Research Agenda’ (Inter-Prag22) aims at bringing into light for Algerian English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, learners, and other stakeholders the importance of two areas in foreign languages teaching and learning: intercultural communicative competence and pragmatic competence. It aims at setting a research agenda relevant to the Algerian context for the next decade. This research agenda will seek to raise the right questions and demonstrate how to address and transmit them to whom they may concern. To this end, it encompasses various levels of education (middle, secondary, and tertiary) and encourages the submission of various types of contributions: empirical studies (complete or in progress), state of the art papers (comprehensive, systematic reviews with implications for EFL classroom), book reviews (relevant books released within the last three years), and creatively devised activities for intercultural/pragmatic instruction (showing their theoretical foundation and implementation procedure).
Pioneer researchers like Byram (1997, 2021), Arasaratnam-Smith (2017), and Fantini (2019), emphasized the multi-faceted nature of the intercultural communicative competence. Though researchers may not agree on the constellation of the various subcomponents of this concept, they do agree on the fact that it is a complex ability. It involves various domains (knowledge, attitudes, skills, awareness), potentials (cognitive, effective, behavioural), and idiosyncrasies (e.g., open-mindedness, motivation, flexibility/adaptability, empathy, and tolerance) (Félix-Brasdefer, 2021).
Intercultural communicative competence is “a complex of abilities needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself”
(Fantini & Tirmizi, 2006, p. 12).
Research on the effect of instruction on awareness and development of intercultural communicative competence shows that it is not resistant to instruction and assessment in classroom settings (e.g., Byram, 1997, 2021; Fantini, 2019; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013; McConachy, 2018; McHugh & Uribe, 2021). Many techniques have been used for instruction: reflection, collaboration, awareness-raising, discussions, research-based activities and assessment (e.g., reflective diaries, portfolios, surveys, comments on real-like interactional scenarios), online exchanges, short stories, and so on (Chun, 2011; Félix-Brasdefer, 2021; Rezaei & Naghibian, 2018).
Axes: Interculturality Strand (non-exhaustive list)
- Teaching and developing intercultural communicative competence
- Assessing intercultural communicative competence
- Exploring cultural/intercultural input in (EFL) textbooks and ways of enhancing it
- Teachers’ and learners’ attitudes towards intercultural/cultural content available at their disposal within their practicing context (or lack thereof)
- Integrating interculturality with other subjects (literature, study skills, translation, linguistics) in EFL instruction and challenges facing it (preferably with reference to ‘content and language integrated learning, CLIL’)
- Significance of Intercultural telecollaboration in communicative awareness and development
- Role of translation tasks in developing intercultural communicative awareness and competence
Undoubtedly, teaching pragmatics in a foreign language context – compared to a second language context – is a more challenging and daunting task (Cohen, 2016). Fortunately though, like in intercultural communicative competence, findings from research studies about second/foreign language pragmatics are conclusive on the benefits of instruction on developing pragmatic features (e.g., speech acts, implicature, mitigation) at both levels, pragmalinguistics (linguistic resources used to convey illocutionary force) and sociopragmatics (knowledge on and performance according to the target community’s social norms like social power and social distance) (e.g., Ahmadian, 2020; Alcón-Soler, 2015; Bardovi-Harlig, Mossman, & Vellenga, 2015; Cohen, 2019; Derakhshan & Eslami-Rasekh, 2015; Félix-Brasdefer & Cohen, 2012; Fukuya & Martínez-Flor, 2008; González-Lloret, 2008; Ishihara, & Cohen, 2010, Kasper & Rose, 2002; Romero-Trillo, 2012; Roever, 2022; Rose, 2005; Taguchi, 2019; Tajeddin & Alemi, 2014).
Pragmatic competence can be defined as
“A composite of abilities that allow the intercultural speaker to understand and negotiate different aspects of communication such as speech acts in interaction, address forms in formal and informal situations, and direct and indirect meaning, based on knowledge of the sociocultural expectations of the target culture. It also includes awareness of the contextual factors and the status of participants that are part of the communicative event (social power, social distance, and degree of imposition).”
(Félix-Brasdefer, cited in Félix-Brasdefer 2021, pp. 1-2)
The literature is very rich in studies that showed the fostering effect of both explicit (direct focus on pragmatic features via supplying metapragmatic input and tasks for awareness-raising) and implicit (inciting the learners themselves to induce the pragmalinguistic forms and sociopragmatic ones) instruction. Both types of intervention are ample opportunities for raising awareness on form-function-context interrelationship, practising of pragmatic features, and supplying of feedback (Félix-Brasdefer, 2021).
Pragmatic instruction is inescapable given the fact that EFL textbooks are often criticised for not offering adequate pragmatic input (e.g., Roever, 2022; Vellenga, 2004). They lack varied pragmalinguistic forms, focus on sociopragmatic norms, rich metapragmatic discussions as well as opportunities to talk about and reflect on cross-cultural differences between learners’ mother language and the target language (e.g., Dendenne, 2014, 2019; Khodadady & Shayesteh, 2016; Limberg, 2016; Neddar, 2010; Ren & Han, 2016; Siddiqie, 2011; Ton Nu & Murray, 2020; Vaezi, Tabatabaei, & Bakhtiarvand, 2014; Vellenga, 2004).
If teaching pragmatics within the Algerian EFL context is seemingly less popular and an underexplored area, it is no surprise that assessing pragmatic competence as well has not received the attention it deserves. Therefore, contributors are strongly encouraged to cover this axe, shedding light on various assessment/testing methods of productive and receptive skills: discourse completion tasks, role plays, multiple choice questionnaires, elicited conversation (Félix-Brasdefer, 2021; Roever, 2022) and the role of teacher feedback.
With the rise of (i.e., choosing English as the medium of communication among those who do not share a common language), The fact that English is used all over the world in a myriad of domains (e.g., business, tourism, academic publishing, cross-border education) among those who do not share a common language should not be neglected. This came to be called English as a lingua franca (ELF)/English as an International Language (EIL). Therefore, it is incumbent on the present conference speakers to show the relevance of an EFL/EIL perspective in pragmatic instruction, adopting a wide conception of ‘appropriateness’ (e.g., McConachy, 2019; Tajeddin & Alemi, 2020), as well as pedagogical intervention for intercultural communicative competence.
Axes: Pragmatics Strand (non-exhaustive list)
- Classroom pragmatic instruction (explicit and implicit)
- Teaching and learning speech acts, politeness, impoliteness, etc.
- The relevance of technology in researching, teaching, learning, and assessing EFL pragmatics
- Materials development and textbook design for EFL pragmatics
- Place of pragmatics in EFL textbooks
- Assessment of learners’ pragmatic competence (at the productive/receptive level using spoken/written data)
- The place of pragmatics in teacher education/teacher education programmes (preferably with reference to Algerian ENS)
- Teachers’ and learners’ attitudes towards teaching/learning pragmatics
- Learner strategies and learner autonomy in EFL pragmatic development
- Contrastive pragmatics between (written/spoken) Arabic/Berber and English and its relevance to EFL teaching and learning
- Exploring Algerian EFL learners’ interlanguage pragmatics (based on spoken/written data) and pointing out to areas of instruction
- Relevance of translation in pragmatic awareness-raising and instruction, and relevance of pragmatics in translation tasks
- Relevance of pragmatics in teaching and learning phonetics and phonology (e.g., pragmatic meaning conveyed by intonation, stress, tone, etc.)