Learning Pragmatic Routines during Study Abroad: A Focus on Proficiency and Type of Routine

  • Eva Alcón Soler Universitat Jaume I
  • Ariadna Sánchez Hernández Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg


The present study explores pragmatic learning during study abroad (SA) programs, focusing on gains in learner recognition and production of pragmatic routines, and considers whether proficiency and type of routine play a role in this. One hundred and twenty-two international students in their first semester of study at US universities completed a pre-test and a post-test version of a vocabulary knowledge scale (VKS) and a written discourse-completion task (DCT). Pragmatic routines elicited for recognition were categorised according to how bound they are to specific situations, while production routines were operationalised in terms of prototypicality. The results revealed that knowledge of pragmatic routines increased during a semester abroad, particularly in terms of recognition. While this increase was unrelated to proficiency, type of routine did play a significant role. Students showed greater gains in recognition of situational routines and in production of those that are highly-prototypical. The findings of the study underline the importance of SA programs for the acquisition of pragmatic routines, and suggest that exposure to routines in relevant contexts enhances pragmatic development.Keywords: interlanguage pragmatics; study abroad; pragmatic routines; L2 pragmatic competence; recognition; production

Author Biographies

Eva Alcón Soler, Universitat Jaume I
Eva Alcón Soler is Full Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University Jaume I, and leader of the “LAELA. Lingüística Aplicada a l’Ensenyament de la Llengua Anglesa” research group [“Applied Linguistics to English Language Teaching”]. Her research interests include the acquisition of L2 pragmatics, the role of interaction in L2 learning and multilingualism. She has published widely on these issues, both at an international—Communication and Cognition, International Review of Applied Linguistics—and at a national level—Atlantis, Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada, Revista Española de Pedagogía, among others.
Ariadna Sánchez Hernández, Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg
Ariadna Sánchez Hernández is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer in English Linguistics at Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany). She is also a member of LAELA research group. Her research interests include interlanguage pragmatics, second language acquisition, intercultural competence, the study abroad context, and psychological and sociocultural adaptation by study abroad learners.


Alcón, Eva. 2015. “Instruction and Pragmatic Change during Study Abroad Email Communication.” Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching 9 (1): 34-45.

Bardovi-Harlig, Kathleen. 2008. “Recognition and Production of Formulas in L2 Pragmatics.” In Understanding Second Language Process, edited by Zhaohon Han, 205-222. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

—. 2009. “Conventional Expressions as a Pragmalinguistic Resource: Recognition and Production of Conventional Expressions in L2 Pragmatics.” Language Learning 59: 755-795.

Bardovi-Harlig, Kathleen and Beverly S. Hartford. 1993. “Learning the Rules of Academic Talk: A Longitudinal Study of Pragmatic Change.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 15: 279-304.

Bardovi-Harlig, Kathleen and Maria-Thereza Bastos. 2011. “Proficiency, Length of Stay and Intensity of Interaction and the Acquisition of Conventional Expressions in L2 Pragmatics.” Intercultural Pragmatics 8: 347-384.

Barron, Anne. 2003. Acquisition in Interlanguage Pragmatics: Learning How to Do Things with Words in a Study Abroad Context. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Bataller, Rebeca. 2010. “Making a Request for a Service in Spanish: Pragmatic Development in the Study Abroad Setting.” Foreign Language Annals 43 (1): 160-175.

Coulmas, Florian. 1981. “Introduction: Conversational Routine.” In Conversational Routine, edited by Florian Coulmas, 1-17. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.

Iwasaki, Noriko. 2010. “Style Shifts among Japanese Learners Before and After Study Abroad in Japan: Becoming Active Social Agents in Japanese.” Applied Linguistics 31 (1): 45-71.

Kasper, Gabriele and Kenneth R. Rose. 2002. Pragmatic Development in a Second Language. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kecskes, Istvan. 2000. “Conceptual Fluency and the Use of Situation-bound Utterances in L2.” Links & Letters 7: 145-161.

Nattinger, James R. and Jeanette S. DeCarrico. 1992. Lexical Phrases and Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Pawley, Andrew and Frances Hodgetts Syder. 1983. “Two Puzzles for Linguistic Theory: Nativelike Selection and Nativelike Fluency.” In Language and Communication, edited by Jack C. Richards and Richard W. Schmidt, 191-226. London: Longman.

Roever, Carsten. 2005. Testing ESL Pragmatics: Development and Validation of a Web-based Assessment Battery. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Schauer, Gila. 2009. Interlanguage Pragmatic Development: The Study Abroad Context. London: Continuum.

Schmitt, Norbert and Ronald Carter. 2004. “Formulaic Sequences in Action: An Introduction.” In Formulaic Sequences: Acquisition, Processing and Use, edited by Norbert Schmitt, 1-22. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Schmitt, Norbert, Zoltán Dörney, Svenja Adolphs and Valerie Durow. 2004. “Knowledge and Acquisition of Formulaic Sequences.” In Formulaic Sequences: Acquisition, Processing and Use, edited by Norbert Schmitt, 55-86. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Taguchi, Naoko. 2011. “The Effect of L2 Proficiency and Study-Abroad Experience on Pragmatic Comprehension.” Language Learning 61 (3): 904-939.

—. 2013. “Production of Routines in L2 English: Effect of Proficiency and Study-Abroad Experience.” System 41: 109-121.

Taguchi, Naoko, Shuai Li and Feng Xiao. 2013. “Production of Formulaic Expressions in L2 Chinese: A Developmental Investigation in a Study Abroad Context.” Chinese as a Second Language Research Journal 2 (1): 23-58.

Wesche, Marjorie and T. Sima Paribakht. 1996. “Assessing Second Language Vocabulary Knowledge: Depth vs. Breadth.” Canadian Modern Language Review 53: 13-40.

Wray, Alison. 1999. “Formulaic Language in Learners and Native Speakers.” Language Teaching 32 (4): 213-231.

Xiao, Feng. 2015. “Adult Second Language Learners’ Pragmatic Development in the Study-Abroad Context: A Review.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 25: 132-149.