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: Crafting Context: Building Learners’ Pragmatic Competence via Complex Learning Scenarios

Stephanie Knight, CASLS Assistant Director

Developing the pragmatic competence of learners involves unpacking and exploring the various complexities of communication. One way to approach this process is the use of complex learning scenarios.

Complex learning scenarios, or immersive, play-oriented experiences in which participants work together to complete multistep tasks (e.g., decoding of texts, solving of problems) to discover and unpack critical information about various speech acts, hold incredible potential for the language classroom. These tasks, particularly when woven together by a salient narrative, have the potential to promote meaningful social interaction, high-order cognitive engagement, risk-taking, and the acquisition of critical knowledge and skillsets needed to master the speech act at hand.

In order to articulate a learning environment in which in which these positive affordances are likely realized, teachers should consider three major areas of design: 1) Context/Narrative; 2) Critical Skills/Dispositions; and 3) Content/Concept. Each of these areas is mutually reinforcing. As a result, all three areas should be developed in concert with one another in lieu of in a linear fashion.

  • Context/Narrative:  The importance of context in language acquisition is widely acknowledged (e.g., Atkinson, 2002; Canale and Swain, 1980; and Hyland, 2007). Establishing a clear context and purpose behind the series of tasks that learners engage in will provide them with the information that they need to truly unpack the speech act around which the complex learning scenario revolves. For example, articulating the social distance, or closeness, one has with fellow interlocutors within the learning scenario will necessarily impact the language choices that should be made.
  • Critical Skills/Dispositions: In order to develop pragmatic competence, learners need to develop 1) knowledge of how to form utterances; 2) the ability to analyze language so that they can craft (and interpret) utterances in alignment with their desired illocutionary force (intended meaning); 3) awareness of how utterances impact their fellow interlocutors; and 4) the ability to articulate their reasoning behind the communicative choices that they made (for more information, please see this InterCom post and Sykes, Malone, Forrest, and Sağdıç, in press). In the context of a complex learning scenario, practitioners must consider how the play environment can promote each of those skills; interactions must promote that learners consider all of these facets and should be intentionally designed to foment skill development.
  • Content/Concepts: Concepts serve to orient content and promote that learners retain targeted content over an extended period of time. Additionally, they facilitate that learners connect and transfer their content knowledge across domains (Erikson, Lanning, and French, 2017). The spirit of this reality has been explored in L2 contexts in the emerging field of Concept-based Pragmatics Instruction (CBPI). In CBPI classrooms, learners first explore concepts (e.g. social distance) to inform their consideration of how to communicate to achieve desired meaning (e.g. van Compernolle and Henry, 2015). The play environment within a complex learning scenario has the potential to prime learners to orient to this more holistic lens rather than focusing, in a more limited nature, solely on the language content itself (though the content will still be learned). 

To better understand how this work might be operationalized, consider, for example, a complex learning scenario designed to help learners understand how to formulate requests (speech act) directed at someone with whom the level of social distance (concept) is high. At the beginning of gameplay, learners are introduced to the narrative (context) of the person to whom they need to learn to make a request and are given information so that they understand why the request must be made in the first place. Then, through a series of interactions designed to cultivate critical skills and dispositions within learners, the learners uncover critical grammar and vocabulary as well as strategies for mitigating requests and for forming both speaker- and hearer-oriented requests (content). To ultimately succeed, learners must formulate requests In a way that demonstrates awareness of the context as well as awareness of their fellow interlocutor’s reactions to their requests.

No matter how the work is operationalized (as a complex learning scenario or in some other iteration), educators delivering lessons related to the study of pragmatics should consider the areas of Context/Narrative, Critical Skills/Dispositions, and Content/Concepts. As such, this week’s Activity of the Week is designed to walk educators through the process of planning while keeping those interrelated areas in mind.



Atkinson, D. (2002). Towards a sociocognitive approach to second language acquisition. The Modern Language Journal, 86(4), 525-545.

Canale, M., & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.

Erikson, H. L., Lanning, L., & French, R. (2017). Concept-based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom. Corwin Publishing.

Hyland, K. (2007). Genre pedagogy: Language, literacy, and L2 writing instruction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 16, 148-164.

Sykes, J., Malone, M., Forrest, L., & Sağdıç, A. (in press). Comprehensive framework for assessing intercultural-pragmatic competence: Knowledge, analysis, subjectivity, and awareness. Encyclopedia of Educational Innovation.

van Compernolle, R. A., & Henery, A. (2015). Learning to do concept-based pragmatics instruction: Teacher development and L2 pedagogical content knowledge. Language Teaching Research, 19(3), 351-372.

Activity of the Week

  • Crafting Context in Your Classroom

    This activity is designed to help teachers plan a lesson related to the development of pragmatic competence in learners. Note that while the components are presented in a particular order, all three are mutually reinforcing and should be developed in concert.


    Teachers will be able to:

    • Articulate the context in which learners will explore a relevant language function
    • Articulate the critical skills and dispositions they wish to help learners develop during a given lesson
    • Articulate the relevant content and concepts in a learner experience centered on a relevant language function

    Materials: Complex Learning Scenario Design Template


    1. Begin with a brainstorm about what language functions, content/concepts, or critical skills you want your students to develop and acquire. For example, for the language function of apologies, you may want learners to explore how social distance (how well speakers know one another) impacts their language choices and teach them to notice social cues that indicate if an apology is accepted or not.

    2. Then, fill out the Complex Learning Scenario Design Template. For each box, address the questions and fill in any additional relevant information that will help you craft your learning scenario. As you fill them in, make sure that all of the boxes, when taken together, form a cohesive lesson. You may wish to work on all the boxes at once or do one box at a time and revisit them in concert at the end. They key here is that you are in the driver’s seat! Work in whatever way supports your cognitive processes. An example of how each box might be addressed for a lesson about apologies is provided below:

    • Context/Narrative: What is the given context? What will happen? What needs to be resolved? A student asks to borrow their teacher’s book and accidentally spills coffee on it. Now, the student needs to apologize to the teacher in such a way that 1) the apology is understood and 2) the student appears to have been forgiven.
    • Critical Skills/Dispositions: What cognitive and social skills do you want your learners to develop and refine? How will the play environment facilitate said development? During the scenario, the teacher will indicate, with various non-verbal cues, the degree to which the apologies is accepted and whether the student is forgiven. The student must demonstrate awareness of these cues and draw conclusions that discern whether the teacher’s degree of acceptance is more related to intercultural norms than it is to personality.
    • Content/Concepts: What content/concepts will be involved? Learners will demonstrate understanding of common semantic chunks related to apologies we well as an understanding of strategies (e.g., grounders/explanations) to use to support the delivery of an apology in a situation in which the social distance is considerably high and there is a power differential (the person who is receiving the apology holds more power in the relationship).


    Though this activity uses apologies as its example language function, any language function could be substituted.

CASLS Spotlight: Congratulations, STARTALK Summer 2019 Programs

Now that STARTALK summer programs have closed, the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon extends its congratulations to everyone who participated. This summer, students continued to develop their reflective practices via the use of Pulsar (, an online language learning portfolio developed by CASLS that is based on the LinguaFolio framework. Additionally, STARTALK teacher programs began using Catalyst ( this summer. Catalyst provides a space for teachers to develop professional connections and build a professional dossier based on the TELL framework (  CASLS would like to thank our collaborators at PEARLL ( and NFLC ( for their ongoing collaboration in these endeavors. CASLS would also like to thank everyone who has used and provided feedback on the new platform. You made this summer truly stellar!

abstract logo with squares and a line with the word catalyst

Language Corner

Lesson Plan for Exploring Gender Diversity in the Sciences

Source: Sandy Millin Back to Quick Links


In this blog post, Sandy Millin offers a lesson that she did with her students related to women in the sciences. The lesson begins with inquiry, delves into examining the discourse patterns within different biographies, and ends with learners proposing and defending solutions regarding the expected participation of women in the sciences.

For the full blog post and the related materials, check out :

11 Back-to-School Strategies for Teachers of ELs

Source: TESOL International Association Back to Quick Links


This blog post offers eleven great tips for attending to the social-emotional and academic needs of English language learners. Some of these tips include establishing a welcoming environment, pronouncing the learners’ names correctly, exploring any curricular components that are typically conceptualized as given understandings, and celebrating the learners’ cultures.

Read the full blog post at:

Special Person Interviews

Source: Back to Quick Links
Special person interviews are a great way for you and your class to get to know each other. In this post, Christy of Christy's Classroom shares a variety of follow-up activities to do after the original focus on one person:
For an introduction to the "special person" technique, see this article:
Here are some interview questions in a variety of languages:
Here’s more about the how’s and why’s of this technique, especially targeted at Spanish teachers:

September 27 is World Tourism Day

Source: EduBlogs Back to Quick Links
This blog post highlights that world tourism day is approaching and links to both a previous post about the top tourism destinations as well as the United Nations’ webpage explaining the day, its purpose, and its origins. This post will be a beneficial starting point for many teachers who wish to explore both the economic impact of global tourism as well as a variety of cultural products associated with tourism. The products may be explored for their overt representations, as well as the more subtle cultural nuances that they represent.

Crafting a Positive Learning Environment

Source: Fluency Matters Back to Quick Links


This blog post explores different techniques shared by Justin Slocum-Bailey regarding how to center learners and focus their minds on learning. Some of these techniques focus on breathing, the use of silence, and the extent to which locations in the classroom impact memory and meaning making.
Read the full blog post at:

The 10 Most Popular Free Technology Posts in August

Source: Free Technology for Teachers Back to Quick Links
This blog post provides links to the most popular posts related to free technology for teachers in the month of August. For teachers wishing to explore the Google Suite, this is a great place to start.

Six Word Memoirs to Seed the Classroom Mosaic

Source: Kevin’s Meandering Mind Back to Quick Links
The blog posts highlights the use of the six word mosaic at the beginning of the year to learn more about them. It would be a great activity to use in a language classroom at any level, but especially with beginning learners of any age.

Professional Development

Call for Proposals: 10th International Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links


10th International Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics
The International Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics (WSS) is a biennial conference that brings together scholars and students from around the globe involved in the study of language in society with a particular focus on Spanish and/or contact situations between Spanish and other languages. All fields and methodologies are welcome, including synchronic and diachronic approaches to language, quantitative and qualitative research, language variation and change, contact linguistics, bilingualism and multilingualism, Spanish in the US and Spanish in the Southeastern US, pidgin and creole languages, language policy and planning, and language ideologies.
The 2020 conference, its 10th edition, will be held at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center in Atlanta, on April 16-18. There will be two pre-conference workshops on April 15.

Call for Papers:
We invite abstracts for individual papers (20 minutes, plus 10 minutes for discussion), organized panels (3 or 4 participants for a total of 90 minutes or 120 minutes, respectively) and/or poster presentations. Papers and poster presentations can be delivered in Spanish or English.
Individual and poster presenters should submit an abstract of 300 words in length. Panel organizers should submit a 300-word description of the panel together with a 300-word abstract for each presentation. Submissions are limited to one individual and one joint abstract per person. Please DO NOT include any personal information in the abstract file you are uploading. The organizers may choose not to accept your abstract if personal information is in the file.
For the full call for papers and abstract submission info, visit:

Abstracts Due: November 15, 2019

Call for Papers: World Congress of Applied Linguistics (AILA2020)

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links
AILA2020 is the World Congress of Applied Linguistics, hosted by the Dutch Association of Applied Linguistics under the auspices of the International Association of Applied Linguistics. The conference covers all subfields and areas of Applied Linguistics and will take place from August 9-14 in 2020 in Groningen, the Netherlands. The conference is the world's largest conference on Applied Linguistics, and we as conference organizers aim to bring together participants from all over the world to present their research.
The conference consists of close to 200 thematic strands called symposia to which we now invite you to submit your paper to.
On submission, you will be asked to indicate which type of presentation you aim for. There are three types allowed at AILA 2020:
- Featured multimodal presentations (BY INVITATION ONLY)
- Standard multimodal presentations (i.e. presentations)
- Focused multimodal presentations (i.e. posters with a poster pitch)
Your submission will need to include the following:
- Author(s) and affiliation(s)
- Title: max. 20 Words
- Abstract: max. 300 Words
- Summary for in program: max. 50 Words
Please find more information on the submission process, as well as a list of all symposia (strands) you can submit your paper to, on our website:
This is also the website through which to submit your paper. Deadline for submission is September 16, 2019.
We are looking forward to welcoming you in Groningen!


New Issue of Intercultural Pragmatics Journal

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Volume 16, Issue 4 of the Intercultural Pragmatics Journal is available online with a collection of articles of interest to teachers and researchers of any language.
In this issue:
A modality-based approach to the United Nations Security Council’s ambiguous positioning in the resolutions on the Syrian armed conflict
Rosa, María Victoria Martín de la / Romero, Elena Domínguez
Swearword strength in subtitled and dubbed films: A reception study
Briechle, Lucia / Eppler, Eva Duran
Pragmatics in the interpretation of scope ambiguities
Apresjan, Valentina
Indirect reports as semantic-pragmatic games
Yasrebi, Sepideh
Rachel Giora Michael Haugh: Doing Pragmatics Interculturally: Cognitive, Philosophical, and Sociopragmatic Perspectives
Zhang, Jiayao / Chen, Jing, Jonathan Culpeper Michael Haugh Dániel Z. Kádár: The Palgrave Handbook of Linguistic (Im)politeness
Jia, Yanli / Wu, Liangping

New Issue of Journal of Language Contact

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links
Publisher: Brill
Volume 12, Issue 2 of the Journal of Language Contact is available with a collection of articles of interest to those interested in languages in contact with one another, language teaching and learning in community contexts, and bilingualism.
Is there a Central Andean Linguistic Area? A View from the Perspective of the “Minor” Languages
By: Matthias Urban
Pages: 271–304
Language Contact in Social Context: Kinship Terms and Kinship Relations of the Mrkovići in Southern Montenegro
By: Maria S. Morozova
Pages: 305–343
Some of Them Just Die Like Horses. Contact-Induced Changes in Peripheral Nahuatl of the Sixteenth-Century Petitions from Santiago de Guatemala
By: Agnieszka Brylak
Pages: 344–377
Open Access
Loss of Morphology in Alorese (Austronesian): Simplification in Adult Language Contact
By: Francesca R. Moro
Pages: 378–403
Adpositions in Media Lengua: Quichua or Spanish? – Evidence of a Lexical-Functional Split
By: Isabel Deibel
Pages: 404–439
Gender Lender: Noun Borrowings between Jingulu and Mudburra in Northern Australia
By: Rob Pensalfini and Felicity Meakins
Pages: 440–478
The Matrix Language Turnover Hypothesis: The Case of the Druze Language in Israel
By: Afifa Eve Kheir
Pages: 479–512
2017. Signifier. Essai sur la mise en signification, written by Robert Nicolaï,
By: Gilles Siouffi
Pages: 513–516
2016. Beyond Language Boundaries. Multimodal use in Multilingual Contexts, edited by Marta Fernández-Villanueva and Konstanze Jungbluth
By: Miriam Weidl
Pages: 517–522
2018. Bilingualism in the Community. Code-switching and Grammars in Contact, written by Rena Torres Cacoullos, and Catherine E. Travis
By: Eliane Lorenz
Pages: 523–531
The full description is available at:

Book: Voices of a City Market

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links
Voices of a City Market: An Ethnography
By Adrian Blackledge and Angela Creese
Published by Multilingual Matters
This book breaks new ground in its representation of the voices of people in a superdiverse city as they go about their everyday lives. Poetic, polyphonic, and compelling, it places the reader at the heart of the market hall, surrounded by the translanguaging voices of people from all over the world. Based on four years of ethnographic research, the book is a gift to the senses, evoking the smells, sights, and sounds of the multilingual city. This is a book that reimagines the conventions of both ethnographic writing and academic discourse.

Book: Language Acquisition and the Multilingual Ideal

Source: Bloomsbury Back to Quick Links
Language Acquisition and the Multilingual Ideal: Exploring Japanese Language Learning Motivation
By Toshiyuki Nakamura
Published by Bloomsbury
Examining the motivational development of Japanese language learners, this book investigates the relationship between their future self-image as Japanese speakers and their broader self-image as multilingual individuals.
The book compares two groups of Japanese language learners, one from Australia and the other from South Korea. Questioning how motivation is influenced both by native languages and by the other languages which learners speak or study, Toshiyuki Nakamura uses dynamic systems theory (DST) to uncover how knowledge of English in these different contexts motivates the learning of Japanese. Employing the concept of 'domain of possible selves' as an analytical framework, the book also provides a detailed description of the development of the learners' visions of themselves as users of Japanese and uncovers various aspects of Japanese language learners' L2 self.

Book: Reflective Practice in ELT

Source: Equinox Publishing Back to Quick Links
Reflective Practice in ELT
By Thomas S. C. Farrell
Published by Equinox Publishing
Reflective Practice in ELT is the first book in a new series consisting of several practice-oriented books that introduce cutting-edge research and practical applications of that research related to reflective practice in language education. Written by the series editor, this book acts as an introduction to the series. It discusses the concept of reflective practice in general, outlines the various models and approaches to reflective practice, and gives guidelines on cultivating reflective practice.

Call for Proposals: Bilingualism and Beyond: Advancing the Thinking on Pedagogies, Policies and Practices / Le bilinguisme et au-delà : Faire avancer la réflexion sur les pédagogies, les politiques et les pratiques

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links
CCERBAL 2020 Conference, in collaboration with the EDiLiC International Association
April 30 - May 2, 2020
Bilingualism and Beyond: Advancing the Thinking on Pedagogies, Policies and Practices
Françoise Armand - Université de Montréal
James Cummins - University of Toronto
Onowa McIvor - University of Victoria
Eva Vetter - University of Vienna
A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE. The world has taken a multilingual turn: an increased awareness that monolingualism is an exception rather than a norm and unprecedented mass migrations have created impetus for continued pedagogical, assessment, policy, and technological innovations to reflect changing global realities. New calls for recognition and specific actions to support diversity, inclusion, equity, and citizenship related to languages have also come to the forefront of global thinking.
THE CANADIAN CONTEXT. In keeping with global trends, Canada has entered a new era in its thinking and actions regarding the role and impact of languages in its complex and diverse social fabric. Continuing to celebrate French-English bilingualism, the Government of Canada has recently launched consultations on modernizing the Official Languages Act and has announced new investments to implement a free learning and maintenance program for French and English. Strong voices for according a new place and offering higher recognition to Indigenous languages have triggered consultations and subsequent enactment of the Indigenous Languages Act (June 2019). Furthermore, close to 23% of Canadians report having a language other than English or French as a mother tongue (Statistics Canada, 2017).

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