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Pragmatic development in a multilingual classroom in Spain: A longitudinal study
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Abstract

In Spain, English learning coexists with learning of regional and minority languages. This situation has led to a unique classroom configuration involving plurilingual programmes. This situation is considered ideal because recent studies have shown that being multilingual is a valuable asset for learning pragmatics (Alcón-Soler 2012; Portolés 2015; Safont-Jordà and Alcón-Soler 2012; Safont-Jordà and Portolés 2015). Adopting a multilingual turn perspective (Cenoz 2013; Ortega 2014; Taguchi 2014), this study investigated pragmatic development in a multilingual classroom in the Valencian Community in Spain, where English, Catalan and Spanish coexist in a single classroom. Participants were 313 high school learners of English and 12 teachers. Each learner wrote three argumentative essays (about 120 words each) over one academic year in three languages: English, Catalan and Spanish. A mixed method approach was used to examine learning trajectories of two types of pragmatic markers: (1) textual markers used to guide the reader through the text (e.g., in addition, however, firstly) and interpersonal markers used to involve the reader in the argument (e.g., in my opinion, I think, it is possible that). Quantitative analyses revealed learners’ gains in their use of textual pragmatic markers in English, while the development of interpersonal pragmatic markers showed irregular patterns. Developmental trajectories in the minority language (Catalan) and the L3 (English) were more fluctuating in both types of markers, and the patterns interacted with each other, which contrasted with linear development found in the majority language (Spanish). These findings are discussed in relation to how factors such as learners’ pragmatic awareness, teachers’ practices and the sociolinguistic context of the study may interact in the process of pragmatic learning in the multilingual classroom.

Summary

Students in a multilingual classroom in the Valencian Commuity in Spain (N=313) wrote an argumentative essay three times over a year in three languages. Pragmatic markers in the essays showed dynamic changes in the minority language (Catalan) and the L3 (English), contrasting with linear development in the majority language (Spanish).

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