InterCom, a customizable weekly newsletter for language professionals, is provided by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon. InterCom is sponsored through a Title VI Language Resource Center grant.

Topic of the Week: Digital Games and L2 Pragmatics: Leveraging Existing Resources

by Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

The past decade has witnessed profound interest in the ways in which practitioners and researchers alike have considered digital games in the foreign language classroom (Sykes and Reinhardt, 2012). With intentioned application to classroom teaching, the potential benefits of the use of digital games to facilitate second language (L2) pragmatic acquisition remain. One key, fairly untapped, resource is existing communities surrounding various types of commercial games (Thorne, Black, and Sykes, 2009).

Popular commercial games offer access to online communities of players around the world. As such, discourse patterns, interactional strategies, and cross-cultural communication are critical, core activities of participation in games communities and offer learners the opportunity to engage in a variety of digital contexts.  Teachers can leverage this potential through the use of activities that: (1) introduce learners to various types of pragmatic behaviors through salient and targeted observation, (2) enable leaners to analyze these behaviors in existing communities, and, eventually, (3) gain the skills necessary to participate in multilingual communities. Reinhardt and Thorne (2008) propose the Bridging Model, an approach designed to increase literacy and participation in attendant discourse communities. Their model targets five core objectives, and, while not only applicable to games and L2 pragmatics, it is highly relevant.  

Their “advanced language proficiency goals intend to:
1.    improve understanding of both conventional and internet-mediated text genres, emphasizing the concept that specific linguistic choices are associated with desired social-communicative actions;
2.    raise awareness of genre specificity (why certain text types work well for specific purposes) and context-appropriate language use;
3.    build metalinguistic, metacommunicative, and analytic skills that enable lifelong learning in the support of participation in existing and future genres of plurilingual and transcultural language use;
4.    bridge toward relevance to students’ communicative lives outside of the classroom; and
5.    increase student agency in relation to the choice, content and stylistic specifics of the texts contributing to the language learning process.”
-    from Thorne and Reinhardt (2008, p. 566)

To reach these goals, Thorne and Reinhardt (2008) propose three instructional steps. First, during the Observation and Collection stage learners collect and observe relevant information, as made salient by the instructor. This step is followed by Guided Exploration and Analysis, in which learners are supported in detailed analysis of the target pragmatic behaviors. Finally, at the Creation and Participation stage they are encouraged to engage with the community in some way and, ideally, participate. While certainly not the only approach, commercial games and their attendant discourse communities offer one resource to promote L2 pragmatic development. For further information, sample lesson plans, and game reviews, see Games2Teach, a resource designed to support language teachers in the implementation digital games in the language classroom.


Sykes, J. & Reinhardt, J. (2012). Language at Play: Digital Games in Second and Foreign Language Teaching and Learning. Series on Theory And Practice In Second Language Classroom Instruction, J. Liskin-Gasparro & M. Lacorte, series eds. Pearson-Prentice Hall.

Thorne, S., Black, R., & Sykes, J. (2009). Second Language Use, Socialization, and Learning in Internet Interest Communities and Online Games. Modern Language Journal, 93, 802-821.

Thorne, S. L. & Reinhardt, J. (2008). “Bridging activities,” new media literacies and advanced foreign language proficiency. CALICO Journal, 25, 558–572.

Activity of the Week

  • Using a Game to Facilitate Complexity in Pragmatic Interactions

    By Ben Pearson, University of Oregon graduate student in the LTS program.


    • Students will be able to observe and interpret the mannerisms and strategies that a group of English speakers use as they play the hidden-roles game Are you the Traitor?
    • Students will be able to understand more complex pragmatic interactions, like bluffing and negotiation tactics, that are involved in discourse.
    • Students will be able to use strategic language, such as bluffing and negotiation, while playing Are you the Traitor?


    Part 1 - Observation

    1. The teacher plays a video clip showing a demonstration of the party game Are you the Traitor? For this section, the teacher will not explain the rules of the game or how to win, but rather present the students with some discussion questions about how the players are behaving (See Materials below).
    2. The teacher goes over the questions with the class and then plays the video again, only this time telling the students to pay attention to the mannerisms and strategies that the players in the video are using. After watching the video, the teacher gives the students time to organize their thoughts, and then share their thoughts in pairs first, and finally share their thoughts with the whole class.

    Part 2 - Analysis

    1. The teacher uses the points that the students brought up in the discussion to lead into a more controlled discussion about speech acts and pragmatic language use, specifically negotiation tactics and bluffing. By introducing this to the students, the teacher will facilitate their understanding of the more complex pragmatic interactions involved in discourse.
    2. After this, the teacher returns to Are you the Traitor? and elaborates more on the rules and objectives of the game, handing out the chart which shows which target person the player has to point at in order for their team to win (See Materials below).
    3. From there, the teacher asks the students to remember the players in the video clip and to determine what card they had based off of how they behaved and what kind of questions they were asking. The teacher could play the video clip again if the students need a reminder. Using the same ‘Think - Pair - Share’ exercise before, the teacher will challenge the students to explain why particular players behaved in a certain way.

    Part 3 - Extension

    1. After making sure that the students understand the rules of the game and the complexity of the interactions, the teacher breaks the students up into equal groups and has them actually play Are you the Traitor? The teacher projects the general procedure of the game on a screen so that the students can play the game more smoothly. In each group, there should be a scorekeeper who keeps track of how many games each team wins. The students are allowed to keep their handouts in order to make sure they know who they need to point at in order to win. The teacher should also explicitly tell the students not to show their card to anyone; it could lose the game for them! As the games are going on, the teacher provides assistance or suggestions, if necessary.
    2. After the students have played a decent number of games, the teacher will bring the class back together and ask them how they liked the game, what happened in their groups, and what strategies they came up with. The teacher will bring the students back to the topic of speech acts and pragmatic language use by referring to some of the strategies that the students came up with in order to win the game for their team.


    Discussion Questions:

    1. What are the players trying to figure out from the other players?
    2. What sorts of body movements/behaviors do you notice the players doing?
    3. What sorts of questions are the players asking? Are the players telling the truth? How can you tell?
    4. How do you know the game is over?

    Find the Rules and Guiding Chart here

CASLS Spotlight: The UO Chinese Flagship Program and CASLS at The Language Flagship Annual Meeting

Julie Sykes (Co-Director, UO Chinese Flagship Program), Zhuo Jing-Schmidt (Co-Director, UO Chinese Flagship Program), and Li-Hsien Yang (Interim Coordinator, Chinese Flagship Program) from the University of Oregon attended The Language Flagship Annual Meeting, May 16-19, 2015, in Norman, Oklahoma.

Flagship Programs from all over the country gather annually to discuss best practices, receive annual updates on the program, and learn about new initiatives. Some highlights from this year include:
• The announcement of the Flagship Technology Innovation Center to be housed at the University of Hawaii. Congratulations to Dr. Julio Rodriguez and Dr. Madeline Spring who will lead the center!
• An update on the Flagship Proficiency Initiative currently underway around the country. Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Utah all discussed the results of proficiency testing at their institutions.
• K-16 collaborating partners presented on accomplishments and future directions. Dr. Sykes and Mr. Michael Bacon presented on current successes of Chinese Immersion Programs in Portland Public Schools and The Bridging Project, a future initiative targeting advanced learners a the secondary level.
• Networking and collaboration with colleagues from around the country!

Says Yang of the meeting, "I was really excited to attend this year's meeting. It was my first time to attend and a highlight from this year was meeting coordinators in the various Chinese Flagship Programs and building great connections. It was really nice to know what other institutions are doing."

For more about The Language Flagship Program see:

Dr. Julie Sykes (Univ. of Oregon), Dr. Madeline Spring (Univ. of Hawaii), and Dr. Michael Nugent (DLENSO) present at the Flagship Technology Innovation panel.

Language Corner

Assessing Interpersonal Communication and Interpretive Reading

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

If you are using the NCSSFL-ACTFL Global Can-Do Benchmarks, you are probably looking for more ways to smoothly integrate assessment into your instructional time. Here are two recent blog posts that can help.

First, from the Creative Language Class blog, “4 steps for smooth interpersonal assessments”:

Second, from the Madame’s Musings blog, “Musings on assessing Interpretive Reading”:

Learn English with Songs - The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars

Source: ABA English Back to Quick Links


Do your ESL students want to learn some slang? What’s a snuggie? This recent song post from ABA English will help them learn and practice some slang. The website includes the song with lyrics and key vocabulary. Be sure to preview the song lyrics first to ascertain its appropriateness for your teaching context.

Access this song

Learn English Online Through Movies

Source: Speechyard Back to Quick Links


Speechyard has a collection of TV shows and movies that you can watch with subtitles. Select your L1 and then you can click on the English subtitles to get the definition of that word in your L1. If you sign up you can also add the selected word to a list that you can then study.

Access this resource

Library of Congress Romanization Tables

Source: Library of Congress Back to Quick Links


What is the standard romanization used by North American libraries and the WorldCat library database, among others, for your non-roman script language? Find out by looking up the romanization tables provided by the Library of Congress for your language of choice.

Access this resource

Brief: Better Policy for Dual Language Learners

Source: New America Back to Quick Links


Better Policy for Dual Language Learners was written by Conor P. Williams for New America and released in February 2015. It is the result of a convening of leading experts on dual language learners that took place in December 2014. The experts discussed these three questions: (1) What are the key best practices for dual language learner instruction, policy, and research?; (2) What are the areas of substantive agreement on best practices? How can we convert this into meaningful policy reform?; (3) Are there areas where dual language learner stakeholders substantively disagree to such a degree that it impeded progress?

This brief summarizes the convening event and synthesizes the core messages from the discussions that took place there.

Access this brief at

What is “Sticky Teaching” and How Does it Work?

Source: The Daily Genius Back to Quick Links


Do your students forget what they learned as soon as they learn it? Jeff Dunn gives some facts and some tips about preparing and presenting “sticky content”-- content that students are more likely to remember. “In a nutshell, sticky teaching is when you create and teach lessons that are memorable. They’re sticky. They’re going to be conveying ideas that students will actually (*gasp!*) remember after they leave the classroom.”

Access this article

Article: Shortage of Dual-Language Teachers

Source: Education Week Back to Quick Links


Shortage of Dual-Language Teachers: Filling the Gap
by Emily Liebtag and Caitlin Haugen
May 14, 2015

When examining teachers in dual language programs from a supply and demand perspective, the numbers do not add up.

Dual language programs are increasing across the country—from just over 200 programs in 2000 to nearly 2,000 by 2011. … Research on dual language programs indicates overwhelmingly positive outcomes for students. Program participants are less likely to drop out and have higher academic achievement in certain subjects. Students who learn another language exceed their peers academically, have increased cognitive function and performance, and are more globally competent—and effective immersion programs often lead to students becoming bilingual.

…High-quality instructional personnel who are proficient in the language of instruction are critical to the success of dual language programs. With a nearly ten-fold increase in programs, a rising demand among states and individual districts, and evidence supporting the benefits of dual language learning programs, it is also no surprise that the demand for educators available to teach in these programs has skyrocketed. Considering the lack of language study among teachers…, supply of these teachers is not keeping up with the growing demand.

Read the full article to see what states are doing to fill the gap:

Professional Development

Call for 2015-2016 Proposals: ACTFL and NFMLTA/MLJ Research Priorities Project

Source: ACTFL Back to Quick Links


The purpose of the ACTFL Research Priorities Project is to support empirical research on six priority areas that are currently critical to improving foreign language education. Proposals can initiate a new research study, support/expand a study under way, or explore an emerging research area that is connected to one or more Research Priority areas. The research grants are funded by ACTFL and the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers’ Association (NFMLTA) and the Modern Language Journal (MLJ).

The deadline for proposals is May 29, 2015.

For full details go to

26th Annual Summer Seminar for Language Teachers

Source: CLTA and CWLP Back to Quick Links


“Common Core, World Readiness and Interculturality: The Passport to Global Leadership.”
UC Santa Barbara
July 17-July 22, 2015
Registration deadline: June 12, 2015

The California Language Teachers’ Association and The California World Languages Project’s 26th Annual Summer Seminar for Language Teachers will be held at the University of California, Santa Barbara July 17-July 22, 2015. The theme for this year is “Common Core, World Readiness and Interculturality: The Passport to Global Leadership.” Please register by June 12, 2015.

To learn more visit
To register visit


Book: The Educational Potential of Texts of Culture in Teaching English to Senior Secondary School Students

Source: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers Back to Quick Links


The Educational Potential of Texts of Culture in Teaching English to Senior Secondary School Students
By Olga Aleksandrowska
Published by Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
This book addresses the issue of using texts of culture in the EFL classroom. It analyzes some of the common problems observed in the teaching of English to senior secondary schools students, particularly in the context of the school leaving examination. It offers a discussion of the role of English language education in the school curriculum and stresses the importance of using texts with cognitive appeal at lessons. It presents the impact of literature, films and songs on the student’s overall development and a set of criteria for text selection. It also investigates the English teacher’s role in exploiting the educational potential of culture texts and proposes a way of integrating them with a system of preparation for the school leaving examination in English.

For more information on content and to order, go to

Book: The Language of Service Encounters

Source: Cambridge University Press Back to Quick Links


The Language of Service Encounters: A Pragmatic-Discursive Approach
By J. César Félix-Brasdefer
Published by Cambridge University Press

Service encounters are ubiquitous in social interaction. We buy food and everyday items in supermarkets, convenience stores, or markets; we purchase merchandise in department stores; or we request information at a visitor information center. This book offers a comprehensive account of service encounters in commercial and non-commercial settings. Grounded in naturally occurring face-to-face interactions and drawing on a pragmatic-discursive approach, J. César Félix-Brasdefer sets out a framework for the analysis of transactional and relational talk in various contexts in the United States and Mexico. This book investigates cross-cultural and intra-lingual pragmatic variation during the negotiation of service. The author provides a broad review of research on service encounters to date, and analyzes characteristics of sales transactions, such as participants' roles, pragmatic and discourse functions of relational talk and address forms, the realization of politeness, and changes in alignment from transactional to relational talk.
•    Examines face-to-face interactions in commercial and non-commercial service encounter settings, including the analysis of transactional and non-transactional talk
•    Analyzes pragmatic and sociolinguistic variation, including linguistic, regional, intra-lingual, and gender variation
•    Reviews and evaluates methods and techniques for the collection and analysis of corpus data in service encounters in naturalistic settings

To see the table of contents and order the book, go to

Book: Productive Foreign Language Skills for an Intercultural World

Source: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers Back to Quick Links


Productive Foreign Language Skills for an Intercultural World. A Guide (not only) for Teachers
Edited by Michal B. Paradowski
Published by Peter Lang International Academic Publishers
The past two decades have created quantitatively higher and qualitatively different demands for foreign language skills. Learners’ needs, expectations and contexts of language use have undergone radical and far-reaching transformations. This collection of essays by experienced educators, teacher trainers and researchers from diverse linguistic, cultural and professional settings offers a fresh perspective on the aspects and ways of teaching skills which are crucial to contemporary language instruction, especially at the more advanced stages, but which have oftentimes been unjustly neglected in the classroom. The book discusses issues ranging from approaches to teaching, contexts of instruction, testing and assessment to curriculum development and technology in the classroom.

For more information on content and to order, go to

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