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.


Broken Links in Last Week's Activity of the Week

You may have noticed that the links to the handouts to accompany last week's Activity of the Week didn't open. We have corrected the problem, and they should now work if you go to the online version of the activity at Unfortunately, we cannot change the links in your email itself once it has been sent. Thank you to our alert subscribers who informed us of the problem!

Topic of the Week: Learners as Intercultural Participants

by Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

It is no secret that the state-of-affairs in language education is changing, sometimes for the better and sometimes in challenging ways. As we continue to expand, transform, and shape curricular models in response to shifting enrollment numbers, alternative funding models, and emerging research on best practices, it is critical to keep our ultimate goal at the forefront. In the end, we all aim to increase opportunities for meaningful person-to-person communication through speech and written texts. Whether it is on the subway, in a digital discussion forum, or on an airplane, people have more and more opportunities to interact with others from all over the world.

Essential to this mission is one's ability to both express and interpret meaning in an appropriate way, no matter the context. This month's InterCom returns to a focus on pragmatic skills to highlight ways in which classroom practice can integrate pragmatics to ensure learners have the skills to be strong participants in intercultural, multilingual discourse through the accurate expression of meaning. Take for example, the misstep that can occur when someone uses the greeting, "Hi, how are you?" and is met with a more detailed response then "I'm doing well, you?" This simple structure often causes confusion in that learners interpret the meaning as a genuine inquiry into their state, when, in most cases, "Hi, how are you?" serves as a formulaic greeting with a simple, short response.

Fundamental to the success of pragmatic instruction in the classroom, thereby minimizing such missteps, is a strong focus on positioning learners to be intercultural participants from day one. This means utilizing patterns to guide learners in predictable ways while, simultaneously, teaching skills to co-construct their interactional experiences and, when needed, offer alternative responses.

In the weeks to follow, we explore three areas which extend the opportunity to address meaning at all levels, from the first week to the advanced level – learner choice, accurate assessment, and the expansion of interactional contexts for multilingual discourse.

Activity of the Week

  • Pragmatic Patterns in Classroom Situations

    by Lindsay Marean, InterCom Editor

    As a Potawatomi person, I am active in learning and promoting our Potawatomi language. One time an elementary teacher, who was learning Potawatomi as a second language, asked a Potawatomi elder who speaks Potawatomi as a first language for some words and phrases that she could use in classroom management.

    “How do you say, ‘May I go use the restroom?’” she asked.

    “Well, you just wouldn’t say that,” the elder answered. “If you need to pee or poop, you don’t need anyone’s permission to do that, regardless of your age.  You would just let the teacher know where you were going. But also, you wouldn’t say ‘use the restroom.’ In Potawatomi there’s nothing wrong with talking about body functions, so you’d say either ‘I’m going to go pee’ or ‘I’m going to go poop.’”

    This experience taught me the importance of documenting the pragmatics of a language and of drawing students’ attention to pragmatic differences between languages. This week’s activity makes use of a situational questionnaire to discover and then teach appropriate responses to different situations in a typical K-12 classroom.


    • Administer the Classroom Situations Questionnaire to fluent speakers of the target language (you can do this orally by asking the questions and then writing down the speakers’ answers).  Compile all responses to each prompt.
    • Use the same questionnaire with your students, but talk about appropriate responses in the students’ first language (in my case, English).
    • Now distribute the compiled responses that the fluent speakers gave in the target language.  Compare the students’ responses in their L1 with the expert speakers’ responses in the target language, using the discussion questions provided.
    • Role-play classroom management situations with students, using the target language pragmatic norms that you’ve discovered using the questionnaire.

    From now on, you and your students can manage classroom situations using not only the vocabulary and syntax of your target language, but also its pragmatic norms!

CASLS Spotlight: Student Workers Bring Fresh Ideas to CASLS

Loreli Mann is a CASLS Fellow, and is currently contributing to the launching of CASLS' database for place and experience based language-learning projects. Loreli received her BA in Spanish and Spanish American Studies at Mills College in 2014. She is currently an MA student in the Language Teaching Specialization program in the University of Oregon Department of Linguistics. Loreli says she's "excited to be a part of the CASLS team!"

Ben Pearson is a CASLS Fellow and comes as an MA student from the Language Teaching Specialization program in the University of Oregon Department of Linguistics. He has been doing research on gaming pragmatics and task-based language teaching and is currently working on the Games2Teach website. Ben says, "CASLS has given me the opportunity to work in a very specialized field that I really enjoy. I am grateful to be professionally developing myself in the field of Linguistics, as well as applying my knowledge and expertise to gaming. I am looking forward to contributing to the work everyone does here, and learning some more along the way."

Colin Riegler is a student web developer at CASLS. He spends much of his time doing tech support, web design, and generally making things look good and run well. Colin says, "I’m very interested in cognitive science, and enjoy investigating the mathematics of neuroscience."

Colin, Loreli, and Ben in front of the Baker Center

Language Corner

Follow BBC News in Your Target Language on Twitter

Source: BBC News Back to Quick Links


The BBC puts out news in more than 27 different languages at (for a complete list see You can visit each language’s news website to read the news, or you can follow the news on Twitter and stay up-to-date on current events in your language of choice. For example, BBC Persian, BBC Pashto, BBC Swahili, BBC Tamil, etc., have articles and tweets in your language of choice. You can also tweet in your language to the BBC and let them know what you think about current issues.

Follow BBC Persian on Twitter
Follow BBC Pashto on Twitter
Follow BBC Swahili on Twitter
Follow BBC Tamil on Twitter
And many more…

Ideas for Virtual Field Trips

Source: MiddleWeb Back to Quick Links


Are your students studying Egyptian history? Take them on a virtual tour of the Egyptian Antiquities collection in the Louvre! This is an example of how you can successfully use virtual field trips in your classroom. Read Barbara R. Blackburn’s article, which finishes with links to good virtual field trips, at

Article: Why Parents Might Choose NOT to Raise a Child in Two Languages

Source: Salon Back to Quick Links

In a fascinating essay that connects well to this month’s theme of intercultural pragmatics, Janice P. Nimura writes about why she and her husband have chosen not to raise their daughter in both Japanese and English - her Japanese would be missing its pragmatic component, possibly resulting in more misunderstandings than if she were monolingual in English.

Read the article here:

Vocabulary Review Activity: “Minimal Lines”

Source: Language Sensei Back to Quick Links


Here is a description of a low-prep vocabulary review activity that encourages extra interaction among students and also challenges them artistically:

Pragmatics and Speech Acts Website

Source: CARLA Back to Quick Links


What is pragmatics? What are speech acts? Where can you learn more? A good place to start is CARLA's Pragmatics and Speech Acts website. Learn some background about why it's good to teach speech acts, read descriptions of them, access a bibliography about pragmatics and speech acts, learn specific strategies for Spanish and Japanese, and more.

Access the resources at

Listening Through Video: 7 Things to Keep in Mind

Source: Richmond Share Blog Back to Quick Links


In this article, Luiz Otávio Barros looks at various issues and strategies related to using authentic videos in the classroom. He makes some interesting points to consider and also includes an English video-based lesson exemplifying the 7 tips posted.

To access the article and lesson go to

Five of the Best Apps that Help Teachers Communicate with Parents

Source: The Guardian Back to Quick Links


This article looks at 5 apps that can be used to communicate with parents effectively: Bambizo, ClassDoJo, Edmodo, Pupil Asset, and Remind.

Access the article at

Professional Development

New James E. Alatis Prize for Research on Language Policy and Planning in Educational Contexts

Source: TIRF Back to Quick Links


The International Research Foundation for English Language Education announces the new James E. Alatis Prize for Research on Language Policy and Planning in Educational Contexts. The prize will be awarded annually to an outstanding article or chapter written about language planning and/or policy in educational contexts. Along with the recognition, a prize of US $500 will be awarded, beginning in 2016.

The nomination deadline is November 16, 2015.

For full details go to

ACTFL Professional Awards

Source: ACTFL Back to Quick Links


The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL)’s Awards Program recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of language education. Here are the different awards that are offered:

•    ACTFL Edwin Cudecki Award for Support for Language Education (for advocates in Illinois)
•    ACTFL/Leo Benardo Award for Innovation in K-12 Language Education (for those teaching a majority of underserved students)
•    ACTFL-NFMLTA/MLJ Emma Marie Birkmaier Award for Doctoral Dissertation Research in Foreign Language Education
•    ACTFL Award for Excellence in Foreign Language Instruction Using Technology with IALLT (K-12)
•    ACTFL/Cengage Learning Faculty Development Programs Award for Excellence in Foreign Language Instruction Using Technology with IALLT (Postsecondary)
•    ACTFL-NYSAFLT Anthony Papalia Award for Excellence in Teacher Education
•    ACTFL-NFMLTA/MLJ Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign Language Education
•    ACTFL Florence Steiner Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education (K-12) (for teachers with at least 5 years of K-12 teaching experience)
•    ACTFL Wilga Rivers Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education (Postsecondary) (for teachers with at least 5 years of post-secondary teaching experience)
•    ACTFL Melba D. Woodruff Award for Exemplary Elementary Foreign Language Program
•    ACTFL Nelson Brooks Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Culture

Most of these awards’ application deadline is May 28. Learn more about all of them at

Collaborative Research, Innovation and Standards Program

Source: GALA Back to Quick Links


The Collaborative Research, Innovation and Standards Program (CRISP) is an initiative of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), the world's leading trade association for the language industry. CRISP offers an inclusive platform for voluntary cooperation among language enterprise stakeholders. CRISP seeks to bring together participants to produce concrete results that advance the industry and create innovative solutions for shared problems.

Since CRISP touches on many areas – collaborative projects, industry standards, research, and so forth – the program is divided into 4 “Clusters”:

 Research & Analytics
 Tools & Process
 Global Skills

Each “Cluster” group’s relevant related topics and subjects together, so it is easier to understand, manage, participate, and achieve publishable results.

The results of CRISP projects will be made available broadly for free or, in some cases, at reasonable cost.

GALA members, CRISP program participants and their companies, and sponsor companies have access to all deliverables and information created by Clusters. All others (non-GALA members, those who are not participating in CRISP, etc.) may be charged a fee for access.

For more information about CRISP, go to

MOOC: Shaping the Way We Teach English, 2: Paths to Success in ELT

Source: Coursera Back to Quick Links


Last January the University of Oregon started the second round of MOOCs for ELT professionals. Here you can see the first part that was offered.
This second part starts May 11 and the topics include:
•    Week 1: Integrating skills and using tasks to motivate learners; project overview, introductions
•    Week 2: Alternative assessment that shows what learners can do with language; lesson plan phase 1 is due
•    Week 3: Incorporating individual learning differences in instruction; peer and self-evaluations are due
•    Week 4: Ideas for effective classroom management; final lesson plan is due
•    Week 5: Improving practice with reflective teaching; final peer and self-evaluations are due.

Learn more about this MOOC and register for free at


Book: Assessing Multilingual Children

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links


Assessing Multilingual Children Disentangling Bilingualism from Language Impairment
Edited by Sharon Armon-Lotem, Jan de Jong, and Natalia Meir
Published by Multilingual Matters

This book presents a comprehensive set of tools for assessing the linguistic abilities of bilingual children. It aims to disentangle effects of bilingualism from those of Specific Language Impairment (SLI), making use of both models of bilingualism and models of language impairment.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Foreign Language Learning as Intercultural Experience

Source: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers Back to Quick Links


Title: Foreign Language Learning as Intercultural Experience: The Subjective Domain
Edited by Arnd Witte and Theo Harden
Published by Peter Lang International Academic Publishers

Learning a foreign language in its cultural context has a significant effect on the subjective mind, ranging from the unsettling to the inspirational. The complex interplay between native and foreign languages, their cultural conceptualisations and discourses and the mind and body of the learner results in the subjective construction of individual positionings located «in between» the languages and cultures involved. These processes are not restricted to the cognitive level of learning but also involve deep-seated habits, values and beliefs. These habits, values and beliefs are to a certain extent the result of subjective experiences and feelings; however, they are also embedded in a socio-cultural network of concepts, norms, traditions and life-worlds, so that they are characterised both by the learner’s subjectivity and by the sociality and (inter-)culturality of their environment.

The essays in this volume explore the subjective dimension of intercultural language learning, ranging from theoretical considerations to empirical studies and providing stimulating insights into this important area of study.

To purchase the book or see the table of contents go to

April 2015 Issue of Reading in a Foreign Language

Source: NFLRC Back to Quick Links


The April 2015 issue of Reading in a Foreign Language, a twice-annual free online publication from our sister LRC the National Foreign Language Resource Center, is now available at In this issue:

Effects of forward and backward contextual elaboration on lexical inferences: Evidence from a semantic relatedness judgment task
Akira Hamada

Reading and learning from L2 text: Effects of reading goal, topic familiarity, and language proficiency
Yukie Horiba & Keiko Fukaya

First language grapheme-phoneme transparency effects in adult second-language learning
Elizabeth Ijalba & Loraine K. Obler

Language learner strategy by Chinese-speaking EFL readers when comprehending familiar and unfamiliar texts
Jia-Ying Lee

The influence of translation on reading amount, proficiency, and speed in extensive reading
Nobuko Sakurai

The issue also includes reviews and a discussion of the question “What constitutes extensive reading?”

Access the issue at

Spring 2015 Issue of CLEAR Newsletter

Source: CLEAR Back to Quick Links


The spring 2015 issue of the CLEAR Newsletter from our sister LRC the Center for Language Education and Research is available online at

This issue features the theme “Flipped Classrooms” and a feature article by Le Anne Spino and Daniel Trego, “Strategies for Flipping Communicative Language Classes.” The issue also include information about CLEAR’s 2015 summer workshops and more information about CLEAR’s work, including its Rich Internet Applications.


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