Is It Rude Language? Children Learning Pragmatics Through Visual Narrative

  • Noriko Ishihara


There has been an upsurge of interest in teaching second/foreign language (L2) pragmatics in recent years, but much of this effort has been targeted at adult learners. This article introduces small-scale informal instruction exploring the pragmatic development of 9-year-olds in Tokyo, facilitated through dialogic in- tervention on pragmatics using the visual presentation of narratives. Although the instruction took place in an English as a foreign language (EFL) context, the same dialogic approach is relevant to ESL in Canada and elsewhere, as picture books enrich narratives, visually mediating the context of language use in a manner comprehensible and captivating to young learners. The learners’ pragmatic development was scaffolded dialogically through instructional materials doubling as teacher-based assessments, including formality judgment tasks, discourse completion tasks, and student-generated visual discourse completion tasks, assessed through predesigned rubrics and written reflections by the teacher. Video-recorded data showed that repeated visual assistance provided by the teacher and peers led to enhanced pragmatic awareness and metapragmatic judgments of the relative levels of formality and politeness of the target pragmatic formulas. However, with little L2 exposure, these learners were often unable to produce newly introduced expressions and failed to match the demands of the context with appropriate language choices during this isolated series of instructional events.

Author Biography

Noriko Ishihara
Noriko Ishihara, Ph.D. is Associate professor of EFL/TESOL at Hosei University, Japan. She also leads professional development courses in L2 pragmatics in Japan and at the Center for Ad- vanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include instructional pragmatics, curriculum development, identity, and teacher development.
How to Cite
Ishihara, N. (2014). Is It Rude Language? Children Learning Pragmatics Through Visual Narrative. TESL Canada Journal, 30(7), 135.
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