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.


New Position at CASLS

Come join our team! The Center for Applied Second Language Studies is looking for a Pedagogical Experience Designer. This person will create, implement, and evaluate curricular materials for learners studying a second and/or foreign language in formal instructional contexts and out-of-classroom spaces. See the full position description at

Topic of the Week: Three Ideas for Including L2 Pragmatics in Your Classroom

By Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

For classroom purposes, it can be helpful to define pragmatics as “meaning as communicated by a speaker (or writer) and interpreted by a listener (or reader)" (Yuul, 1996, pp.3-4). This focus on meaning is critical for successful communication and can help learners move beyond a one-to-one association with words and structures towards a more comprehensive approach to the language they are learning. While often the source of funny anecdotes, pragmatic missteps can cause frustration for learners as they interact with expert speakers of their target language.

Explicit pragmatic instruction and attention to pragmatic behaviors in the language classroom can help learners avoid miscommunication, and, when missteps occur, analyze their implications. While complex approaches are possible, and in some cases, feasible, attention to pragmatic details in the everyday classroom is also possible.

  1. Ask learners to observe the ways people around them greet one another, make a list, and then analyze them in class by social dimensions, such as age, power, and closeness. This adds to the greetings often learned in a textbook and expands learners’ understanding of possible greetings.
  2. Have learners watch the ways people tell stories in 1 or 2 films being watched and then have them make a list of three pragmatic strategies for increasing the intensity of a story or lessening the importance of a detail, for example. Then, demonstrate to learners the ways stories can be used in making apologies.
  3. Offer learners three lexical phrases used for complimenting and have them look for those items in a corpus. Then, ask them to categorize the type of compliment associated with each item as well as the three most typical responses.

Activity of the Week

  • Complimenting Strangers in German

    Chris Meierotto is a graduate student in the Language Teaching Specialization program at the University of Oregon.

    Learning objectives: At the end of the lesson, students will be able to...

    • identify 4 aspects (clothing, effort, character, and appearance) on which compliments can be made after listening to a radio program with 100% accuracy.
    • create a list of rules for appropriate German compliment responses on the 4 aspects after watching/listening to the audio and video recordings accurately.
    • give and respond to compliments on the 4 aspects in German appropriately.

    Modes: Interpersonal Communication

    Materials needed: Handout, videos, compliment cards


    1. Greet Students: Ask students to think about the last compliment they gave or received. Have students brainstorm and speak with their partner to answer the following 4 questions:
      1. Was fuer einen Kompliment haben Sie bekommen? (What was the compliment?)
      2. Wer/Von wem hast du den Kompliment gegeben/bekommen? (Who gave/who did you give the compliment to?)
      3. Wie hat den Person zu dem Kompliment reagiert?/Wie gefällt es dir den Kompliment zu bekommen? (How did the person react to the compliment? /or How did you like the compliment?)
      4. Zu welchen Dinge koennte man einen Kompliment geben? (What types of things can you compliment on?)
    2. Tell students that they are going to listen to a short radio program from a famous German radio program called DRadio Wissen. Tell students that they will listen to the recording twice. The first time, they will complete the front of the handout to check their comprehension, and the second time, they will listen and take notes about the way that Germans receive compliments based on 1. Clothing, 2. Effort, 3. Character, and 4. Appearance.
    3. After students watch and complete the worksheet, have a group discussion and draw students focus onto the way in which the people in the interview reacted towards compliments on appearance, compliments on clothing, and compliments on character. (Try to elicit that the compliments on clothing were downplayed, that compliments on appearance resulted in elicitation of more compliments, and compliments on effort drew the most positive response)
    4. Tell students that they will watch a short video clip about two young men giving compliments to strangers in Germany. Tell students to evaluate the compliments that each of the young men gave on the sliding scale format on the following criteria: Formal vs Informal, Personable vs Rigid, Nervous vs. Relaxed. Also, students will evaluate the ages of the people who received the compliments, as well as well as the overall perceived success of the compliment. Students should also make note of any interesting language the heard from the activity.
    5. After students are finished watching the short video a few times, they compare answers in a small group and create 3 ground rules for complimenting strangers in German.
    6. Foster a short brainstorming session to assess student language evaluations. Use document camera to check the sliding scale evaluation.
    7. Instruct students to then turn their handout over and focus on reexamining the questions after observing and analyzing how people gave and received compliments in both the radio recording and in the video. Ask students to discuss the questions in small groups, and to try to draw parallels between the compliment responses in both forms of media with both the reaction and the language.
    8. Each group should come up with rules for how compliments can be accepted in German. Students present their rules for receiving compliments on the criteria listed on their handout (clothing, appearance, effort, and character).
    9. Students practice giving and receiving compliments using the rules they have established from what they have observed and analyzed in class. Give students a few notecards, each that prompt a type of compliments and to whom the compliment should be directed to. Each student will give a compliment to two different students using the criteria on their notecard. When students receive the compliment, they should receive it according to the rules they just established as a class.
    10. Instruct students to provide feedback on each other’s performance and offer suggestions for variation.

    Notes (adaptations, etc.): A possible extension: in the next lesson, students examine some authentic texts of different styles of compliments exchanged on social media. Before class students can find and bring examples of compliments and responses in German on social media to class.

CASLS Spotlight: New President and COO for U.S.-China Strong Foundation

The U.S.-China Strong Foundation has recently selected a new president, Travis Trainer, and also a new Chief Operations Officer, Morgan Jones. As we mentioned in a previous spotlight, CASLS was named as one of the implementation partners for U.S.-China Strong Foundation’s 1 Million Strong initiative. CASLS is part of the technology platform, along with VIPKID and Mandarin Matrix, and will help by developing and using technology to improve and create greater access to Mandarin language classes. CASLS is working with the technology implementation partners and the U.S.-China Strong Foundation to identify funding opportunities that would allow the initiative to provide an integrated and sustainable suite of tools accessible to all Mandarin learners.

Language Corner

Showcasing Literacies: A Weather Warmup Activity and Parent Displays

Source: A Global Classroom Back to Quick Links


Dorie from the Global Classroom website describes several inspirational ideas that tie together wonderfully: a warmup activity in which students ask Siri in Spanish what the weather is in different cities in South America (and explore the cities in Google street view), and the creation of a trifold board and an infographic to display in a community event showing how language skills are part of 21st century literacy. Read the blog post at

Watching the News in a Target Language

Source: Fluent in 3 Months Back to Quick Links


In this post, Benny Lewis gives several reasons for watching the news in your target language to improve your proficiency, along with guidelines for getting the most out of it. He ends with links to good news resources in French, German, Spanish, and Mandarin.

Read the post at

A Flipped Language Classroom

Source: Transparent Language Back to Quick Links


High school Spanish teacher Heather Witten has been flipping her Spanish class for seven years. In this short blog post, read what she likes about a flipped classroom and how it has resulted in a student-centered classroom:

The Impact of Different Writing Activities on Vocabulary Learning

Source: ELT Research Bites Back to Quick Links


Anthony Schmidt summarizes a 2017 study by E. Rassaei on the impact of three different post-reading writing activities on L2 vocabulary learning. In part, his discussion deals with the role of output activities in effective language learning (as opposed to an input-only approach). Read his summary here:

How to Maximize Google Drive for Online Language Teaching

Source: Lindsay Does Languages Back to Quick Links


If you teach languages online, these tips for using Google Drive in your teaching will give you some good ideas. The post also includes references to other online tools that you can incorporate into your teaching, such as Memrise, Forbo, and Soundcloud.

Read the post at

Article: Language Teacher vs. Acquisition Facilitator

Source: Language Magazine Back to Quick Links


In this recent article in Language Magazine, teacher trainer Carol Gaab describes how she teaches her students, who are professional baseball players, English and Spanish. She uses a yearlong theme to guide her selection of authentic resources and provides them with lots of comprehensible input, primarily through the TPRS (teaching proficiency through reading and storytelling) method.

Read the article at English Idioms

Source: Back to Quick Links


Here’s a new website where English learners can learn some idioms with the help of Iddy, an alien who’s trying to make sense of English idioms. Explore it at

USA Learns: Website for Adults Learning English

Source: USA Learns Back to Quick Links


USA Learns is a free website for adults to learn English. The site’s beginning and intermediate English courses include hundreds of educational videos that teach American English. USA Learns also has thousands of English learning activities and quizzes with immediate feedback.

Explore this resource at

New Feature on Quizlet: Quizlet Learn

Source: Various Back to Quick Links

Nearly ten years ago we wrote about Quizlet, an online study tool designed by a high school student ( The latest tool in Quizlet is Quizlet Learn, which helps students plan ahead for studying for a test and adjusts the difficulty of practice questions to a student’s performance. Learn more about Quizlet Learn in this video: Quizlet is available at

Methods for Grouping Students

Source: On the Same Page ELT Back to Quick Links


Here are three different ways to put students into non-random groups; the grouping activity itself serves as an additional interpersonal activity:

Six Questions Parents Can Ask about Dual Language Immersion Programs

Source: add.a.lingua Back to Quick Links


Dual Language Immersion is an increasingly popular method to improve some students’ proficiency in their heritage language and English, while at the same time English-speaking students learn a second language. Here is a list of six questions that parents can ask about dual language immersion programs if they’re thinking about enrolling their children there, based on add.a.lingua’s suggestions for best practices:

Taking the Holistic Approach with English Learners

Source: Language Magazine Back to Quick Links


Margarita Calderón and Shawn Slakk write, “English learners (ELs) are no longer solely the responsibility of the ESL teacher. The entire school’s staff of educators—counselors, secretaries, and of course administrators included—should embrace the success of ELs along with all their peers. Leadership teams are deliberately deciding to focus the majority of their staff development days, professional learning communities (PLCs), teacher learning communities (TLCs), and coaching efforts on the success of English learners. To start, they reanalyze ELs’ placement and success trajectories, in order to chart changes in staffing, school schedules, and teacher and student support systems.”

Read their description of common factors and components of a successful whole-school approach here:

Two Techniques That Boost Spoken Fluency Via Repetition

Source: Language Gym Back to Quick Links


Gianfranco Conti describes two techniques that scaffold students’ repetition of a spoken presentation, improving their overall performance. The techniques, “4, 3, 2 technique” and “Market place,” are described in this post, along with a discussion of why they are effective.

Read the post at

Professional Development

Become an Oral Proficiency Interview Tester

Source: ACTFL Back to Quick Links


ACTFL is seeking language professionals to serve as part-time language testers. The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is a nationally recognized method of assessing spoken language proficiency. The test assesses what a speaker can do with the language rather than focusing on the structures and abstract vocabulary that a speaker knows. The test is administered over the telephone by an ACTFL Certified Tester and rated (graded) by a second Certified Tester.

ACTFL has space available in upcoming training sessions for native speakers of the following languages: Afrikaans, Arabic-Libyan, Armenian, Assyrian, Baluchi, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Chechen, Danish, Dhivehi, Dutch, Finnish, Fon, Fula-Toucouleur, Greek, Hmong, Icelandic, Kashmiri, Kazakh, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kuwaiti, Lingala, Luganda, Malayam, Mandingo-Bambara, Mossi, Norwegian, Pahari, Quechua, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Slovenian, Tamazight, Tibetan, Tigrinya, Turkmen, Uighur, and Zulu.

For more details go to

Online Course: Multilingual Practices: Tackling Challenges and Creating Opportunities

Source: Future Learn Back to Quick Links

Learn about central aspects of multilingualism in today's globalized societies, such as cognition, policies and education in an upcoming free online course from Future Learn, “Multilingual Practices: Tackling Challenges and Creating Opportunities.”

The course begins on April 10. Learn more at

Call for Papers: Journal of Second and Multiple Language Acquisition

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links


The editors cordially invite you to publish your research in Journal of Second and Multiple Language Acquisition- JSMULA, a journal free of charge for both authors and readers since 2013.

JSMULA is a quarterly, double-blind peer reviewed journal which publishes original theoretical and applied research papers in second and multiple language acquisition. Publication language is English but research papers to be submitted may study the acquisition or learning of any language as a second, third or multiple language.

View the full call at

Professional Development Opportunities: Camp Musicuentos and the Brave Little Tailor

Source: Musicuentos Back to Quick Links


Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell will be offering two different kinds of workshops this coming summer, Camp Musicuentos and the Brave Little Tailor.

Camp Musicuentos is an intensive, 2-day workshop intended to help you plan your units for the coming year as far as possible in the amount of time given. Participants will discuss and implement strategies for choosing and sequencing units, designing proficiency-based assessments, identifying what students need to be successful on those assessments, and determining how those fit into daily lesson plans.

(Base)Camp Musicuentos will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, June 15-16.
Camp Musicuentos Northeast will take place in Warwick, Rhode Island, July 10-11.

The Brave Little Tailor series of four workshops focuses on comprehensible input strategies, with a special focus on authentic resources. Each workshop will have only four participants. The workshops will take place July 29, August 26, September 23, and October 28 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Get full details about and register for any of these workshops at

CALPER 2017 Summer Workshops

Source: CALPER Back to Quick Links


Our sister LRC the Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research at The Pennsylvania State University has been offering professional development opportunities for language educators since 2003.

In 2017, CALPER will conduct four workshops:

  L1 Use in the Language Classroom, June 19-20
  Teaching Social Meaning in Language, June 21-22
  L2 Vocabulary Teaching and Learning, June 23
  Chinese Program and Curriculum Design, June 23-24

For more details about these workshops, go to


Book: What Is Cultural Translation?

Source: Bloomsbury Publishing Back to Quick Links


What Is Cultural Translation?
By Sarah Maitland
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

What Is Cultural Translation? In this book, Sarah Maitland uncovers processes of negotiation and adaptation closely associated with the translation of languages behind the cultural phenomena of everyday life. For globalized societies confronted increasingly with the presence of difference in all its forms, translation has become both a metaphor for thoughtful encounter and a touchstone act for what we see, do and say, and who we are.

Drawing on examples from across cultural domains (theatre, film, TV and literature) this work illuminates the elusive concept of 'cultural translation'. Focusing on the built environment, current affairs, international relations and online media, this book arrives at a view of translation in its broadest sense. It is a means for decoding how we shape the cultural realm and serves as a vehicle for new ways of seeing and being that question the received ideas that structure the communities in which we live.

Written in a clear and engaging style, this is the first book-length study of cultural translation. It builds a powerful case for expanding the remit of translation to cover the experience of living and working in a globalized, multicultural world, and is of interest to all involved in the academic study of representation and contestation in contemporary cultural practice.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Task-Based Language Learning in a Real-World Digital Environment

Source: Bloomsbury Publishing Back to Quick Links


Task-Based Language Learning in a Real-World Digital Environment: The European Digital Kitchen
Edited by Paul Seedhouse
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing

How can you use the latest digital technology to create an environment in which people can learn European languages while performing a meaningful real-world task and experiencing the cultural aspect of learning to cook European dishes? This book explains how to do this from A to Z, covering how a real-world digital environment for language learning was designed, built and researched.

The project makes language learning motivational and fun by tapping into people's interest in both cooking and technology – you can learn a language while cooking and interacting with a speaking digital kitchen. The kitchens provide spoken instructions in the foreign language on how to prepare European cuisine. Digital sensors are inserted in or attached to all the kitchen equipment and ingredients, so the digital kitchen detects what learners are doing and gives them feedback. Learners are also able to communicate with the kitchens and can ask for help via photos and videos if they don't understand any foreign language words.

Based on two research grants, the book provides five research studies showing the learning experiences of users in five European countries. The book explains the principles and procedures involved in the project, enabling others to design and implement a real-world digital learning environment in the same way. It includes numerous photographs of the system in use and evidence of how and what 250 users actually learnt.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Entrenchment and the Psychology of Language Learning

Source: de Gruyter Back to Quick Links


Entrenchment and the Psychology of Language Learning: How We Reorganize and Adapt Linguistic Knowledge
Edited by Hans-Jörg Schmid
Published by de Gruyter

In recent years, linguists have increasingly turned to the cognitive sciences to broaden their investigation into the roots and development of language. With the advent of cognitive-linguistic, usage-based and complex-adaptive models of language, linguists today are utilizing approaches and insights from cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, social psychology and other related fields.

A key result of this interdisciplinary approach is the concept of entrenchment—the ongoing reorganization and adaptation of communicative knowledge. Entrenchment posits that our linguistic knowledge is continuously refreshed and reorganized under the influence of social interactions. It is part of a larger, ongoing process of lifelong cognitive reorganization whose course and quality is conditioned by exposure to and use of language, and by the application of cognitive abilities and processes to language.

This volume enlists more than two dozen experts in the fields of linguistics, psycholinguistics, neurology, and cognitive psychology in providing a realistic picture of the psychological and linguistic foundations of language. Contributors examine the psychological foundations of linguistic entrenchment processes, and the role of entrenchment in first-language acquisition, second language learning, and language attrition. Critical views of entrenchment and some of its premises and implications are discussed from the perspective of dynamic complexity theory and radical embodied cognitive science.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Subscriber Profile

Larry Ferlazzo Login
Email: Back to Top
Language: ESL/Bilingual
Content Area: ANY
Level: ANY
State: California
Group: Intercom

InterCom articles do not necessarily reflect the view of CASLS, and the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply endorsement.
For subscription information or to edit your InterCom profile:
Send questions about InterCom to

InterCom made possible through support from:
U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI funding for National Language Resource Centers.
Copyright © 2017 Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS)