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Influence of fellow L2 learners on pragmatic development during study abroad

  • Tim Hassall

    Tim Hassall is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University, where he teaches courses in Indonesian and translation. He holds a master’s degree in applied linguistics (TESOL) and a PhD degree in applied linguistics. His main research interests are interlanguage pragmatics and language acquisition during study abroad.

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From the journal Intercultural Pragmatics


This is an initial exploratory study of how study-abroad learners influence each other’s pragmatic development in naturalistic settings. It focuses on a cohort of 12 Australian learners of Indonesian during a short summer course and uses a multimethod approach, including a pretest/posttest instrument, diary entries, and regular interviews. Findings revealed a variety of influences on each other’s development. Learners noticed pragmatic features in talk produced by fellow learners that was addressed to native speakers of the target language. They also sometimes noticed features in talk by native speakers that was addressed to their fellow learners, or in talk between fellow learners. They reflected on the relevant features and often modified their knowledge about them. The learners also talked with each other about the pragmatics of the L2 in various ways, such as through explicit discussion, correction of each other’s performance, or the telling of personal anecdotes. That talk too prompted the learners to reflect on pragmatic features and modify their knowledge about them. The learners also planned complex pragmatic action together and performed it together, which can affect pragmatic development in myriad ways. To sum up, the study changes our perceptions of how learners learn pragmatics during study abroad by showing how time spent with fellow learners can stimulate that learning.

About the author

Tim Hassall

Tim Hassall is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University, where he teaches courses in Indonesian and translation. He holds a master’s degree in applied linguistics (TESOL) and a PhD degree in applied linguistics. His main research interests are interlanguage pragmatics and language acquisition during study abroad.


I am grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.


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Appendix A

Transcription conventions


bracketed ellipses indicate material has been omitted


uppercase indicates the word was stressed by the speaker

dash indicates an untimed pause (more dashes indicate longer pause)

[the taxi driver]

square brackets enclose explanatory material


rounded brackets enclose nonverbal phenomena


question mark indicates rising intonation


colon indicates lengthened vowel


diagonal slash denotes abruptly cut-off word

Appendix B: Instructions to participants for diary entries (adapted from DuFon 2000)

What is a diary entry about? It is based on any ‘incident’, broadly speaking, which affects your knowledge or your perceptions about that language feature (e.g. about leave-taking, address terms, complaints) in some way. This incident might be e.g. a verbal exchange that you participate in, or one which you observe, or one which you see on TV. (That is by no means an exhaustive list of what a relevant ‘incident’ could be.)

How do you structure a diary entry? A good two-part structure is like this:

(i) start with a narrative of the incident itself. Include sufficient concrete scene-setting details for a reader to grasp it (when was it, where, who were the participants, etc.). This is a personal, subjective telling of the event: include any relevant emotions etc.

(ii) step back from the incident. Add more objective, distanced comments about it, e.g. about whether it provided you with insights about that feature/ raised questions about it/ changed your views on it in some respect / confirmed your ideas /left you confused/ made you consider changing your own behavior/ etc.

Length of entries: From my own experience of keeping diaries of the identical type, ½ – 1 single-spaced handwritten page is the typical length of a decent entry. (That’s not a hard and fast rule, but a sound guide.)

Published Online: 2015-11-10
Published in Print: 2015-11-1

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton

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