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This study examined the effectiveness and usability of a scenario-based interactive practice in teaching Chinese formulaic expressions. Thirty students enrolled in Chinese classes in a U.S. university interacted with characters in videos featuring scenes recorded in Shanghai. Students were prompted to use formulaic expressions during their text-based interactions with built-in characters. Several game-like features were incorporated into the practice (e.g., a plot and settings, character selections, and point systems). Pre-, post-, and delayed posttest results showed that students made significant gains in their knowledge of formulaic expressions after the practice, and their knowledge was maintained 2 weeks later. Interviews with individual students revealed some features that motivated them with the practice (e.g., videorecordings of authentic situations, interactions with the characters). However, some students did not perceive the practice as a game-like experience because of the linear, structured nature of the practice and limited decision-making power, leaving room for design improvement in the future.
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Taguchi, N., Li, Q., & Tang, X. Learning Chinese formulaic expressions in a scenario-based
interactive environment. Foreign Language Annals.
This is the accepted version of an article published in Foreign Language Annals by the American
Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL),
https://www.actfl.org/publications/all/foreign-language-annals. This article may be used for non-
commercial purposes.
Introduction
While proficiency in a second language (L2) requires knowledge of grammar and
vocabulary, such linguistic forms provide only part of the knowledge and skills that are required
to perform communicative functions (e.g., greeting): alone, they do not guarantee successful
communication. Knowledge of context (whom to greet and when), cultural norms, and social
conventions is equally important to successful communication. Thus, pragmatics – knowledge of
linguistic forms, their social functions, and context of use – represents a critical aspect of L2
learning. Thomas (1983) argued that pragmatics entails two interrelated components:
pragmalinguistics and sociopragmatics. Pragmalinguistics concerns linguistic forms and their
communicative functions, while sociopragmatics involves understanding the social norms and
conventions that guide language users’ way of behaving. Both components need to be addressed
in teaching so that learners understand which linguistic forms to use to achieve their
communicative goals, and how their language use impacts others in a particular context.
A number of studies have been conducted to date using a variety of instructional methods
and tasks designed to teach pragmatics (for a review, see Taguchi, 2015). These studies
demonstrated the importance of five primary components: (1) input, (2) metapragmatic
explanations, (3) production tasks, (4) consciousness-raising tasks, and (5) feedback. However,
both the tasks and the findings are limited due to issues of contextualization, interaction, and
learner agency. Because most studies provided pragmatic input (pragmalinguistic forms and
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contextual factors) in written or audio-recorded dialogues and although a few made use of video,
learners had to imagine, rather than actually participate in, the situation; thus, participants’
language use was only weakly contextualized. In addition, in many studies, learners took the role
of an observer, watching scenes as a third person. In the studies in which leaners could take on a
more active role, opportunities for interaction have been limited to structured output exercises
and/ or role plays, in which learners assumed assigned roles and interact with others within the
confines of the imagined situation. Finally, many studies used explicit metapragmatic
explanations, rather than having learners make and reflect on their own pragmatic choices or
revise their choices voluntarily. Thus, the impact of learner agency has been overlooked. In sum,
existing practice has been researcher-driven, using pre-selected tasks that were presented in a set
order, giving learners little autonomy to decide on their course of action.
In contrast, the study reported here made use of a computer-based instructional platform
that was specifically designed to avoid these limitations. Using this platform, L2 Chinese
learners engaged in a series of scenario-based, semi-interactive exchanges with characters who
appeared in videos that were recorded in Shanghai. The platform incorporated several gaming
elements that enabled learners to take on a character and select different situations in which to
practice. Learning outcomes and interview data from 30 students provide insights into the
usability of this approach to teaching pragmatics, in this case, formulaic expressions.
Background
Virtual Participatory Environment and Gaming in Pragmatics Teaching
Pragmatics refers to the linguistic resources that are needed to perform communicative
acts, as well as the knowledge of cultural norms that allows one to understand how a
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communicative act will be perceived (Thomas, 1983). The teaching of pragmatics thus must help
learners to bring together their knowledge of the culture, the social context, and the actual
language that is needed to carry out a communicative function (for a review, see Taguchi 2015).
Among various forms of technology-enhanced teaching, a virtual environment is particularly
promising for pragmatics learning because it provides immediate and convenient access to
contextualized communicative practice that can be altered to meet individual learners’ needs (for
a review, see Taguchi & Sykes, 2013; Taguchi & Roever, 2017). In the virtual world, learners
can simulate a variety of participant roles across diverse social situations, and develop
pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic knowledge while completing goal-oriented tasks.
Several studies have examined the efficacy of a virtual environment for L2 learning
(Berns et al., 2013; Liou, 2012; Milton et al., 2012; Peterson, 2005, 2011). The most notable
trend is the use of digital games. With the expansion of the internet, various online games have
attracted millions of users who interact with each other to complete in-game tasks. This trend has
inspired L2 researchers to draw on the power of digital games when designing instruction
(Cornillie, Thorne, & Desmet, 2012; Gee, 2007; Reinhardt & Sykes, 2014; Squire, 2011; Sykes
& Reinhardt, 2012). Sykes and Reinhardt (2012) call this trend game-based research, i.e., using
game design principles to create instructional tasks that target specific pedagogical goals and
elicit certain language behaviors that are aligned with those learning objectives.
In L2 pragmatics, only a few studies have attempted game-based research (Holden &
Sykes, 2013; Sykes, 2009, 2013). These researchers developed original games to teach pre-
selected pragmatic features in existing L2 classrooms. Sykes (2009, 2013), for example, explored
the efficacy of an immersive gaming space in teaching Spanish speech acts. In a digital space
emulating local Spanish communities, learners practiced requests and apologies while
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completing goal-directed tasks with computer-generated avatars. Results revealed only a small
gain in learners’ request-making strategies after a few sessions of gameplay, but the gain was
larger for apologies. The lack of gain in request-making may indicate that a mere in-game
practice may not generate sufficiently robust learning when systematic focus-on-form activities
and feedback are not embedded in the practice.
Sykes’ subsequent work focused on feedback as part of the learning mechanism. Holden
and Sykes (2013) created an iPod-based mobile game to teach Spanish pragmatics. They
developed a plot in which learners had to solve a murder mystery by collecting clues from non-
player characters (NPCs). Some NPCs preferred a direct style of speaking, while others preferred
an indirect manner. Learners had to manipulate different styles to obtain clues. Linguistic
choices that matched with NPCs’ preferred styles led to more clues, whereas inappropriate
linguistic choices resulted in game-end experiences. However, usability testing through
interviews, observations, and gameplay data revealed that the feedback was not salient enough
for learners to notice and act on it. Based on the findings, the authors made the feedback more
exaggerated, but this adjustment did not result in more significant learning outcomes.
While pragmatics was not the target area, several studies created a game-based, virtual
participatory environment where pragmatics learning could take place. Wik and Hjalmarsson
(2009) developed a dialogue system that involved a role-play game with a built-in conversational
agent. Simulating a flea market scene in Sweden, learners of Swedish practiced communicative
functions such as requesting a product and negotiating price. Learners received feedback from
the agent, who smiled at deal closings and looked angry after bartering for a long time. In
another study, Si (2015) created a virtual platform for teaching Chinese. She designed an
immersive environment where learners interacted with each other using the Microsoft Kinect
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camera and Teamspeak 3 (voice chat service). Working within a “school café” environment,
learners collaborated with their peers to complete a variety of activities, such as pushing a table
or moving a box. These activities elicited a variety of speech acts (requests and suggestions).
When interviewed, learners stated that it was a positive learning experience; however, the study
did not assess how much learning of Chinese (e.g., vocabulary, speech act strategies) actually
resulted from this immersive practice.
As illustrated above, there is a small body of research on interactive, immersive virtual
environments that integrate playful, game-like features to promote learning. These studies
demonstrated that rich contextual cues and high levels of interaction within the virtual
environment support pragmatics learning. The game design itself also provides an autonomous
learning space where learners can decide on their own course of action as they progress through
in-game tasks (Schwienhorst, 2002). Finally, previous studies show that salient feedback
mechanisms also assist learning, especially when feedback is pre-programmed in a way that the
system automatically responds to learners’ pragmatic choices and provides learners with
immediate opportunities to modify their choices (Holden & Sykes, 2013).
Formulaic Expressions
Definitions of formulaic expressions vary, but the literature points to several common
characteristics (Bardovi-Harlig, 2012; Wray, 2002; Wood, 2006). Formulaic expressions are: (1)
(semi) fixed multi-word sequences; (2) stored in memory as a holistic unit; (3) phonologically
coherent (produced without pause); (5) syntactically irregular (e.g., in the expression “beat
around the bush”, “bush” must be singular); (6) community-wide in use; and (7) bound to
specific speech events. Based on these characteristics, formulaic expressions in this paper were
defined as fixed syntactic strings tied to specific situations and communicative functions.
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Formulaic expressions are useful linguistic resources because they permeate everyday
communication and assist social participation. Existing findings generally support positive
effects of residence abroad on formulaic learning (e.g., Taguchi, Li, & Xiao, 2013). However,
the effects differ between comprehension and production. Roever (2005) found that ESL learners
achieved better comprehension of formulae than EFL learners. Taguchi (2011) found that L2
English learners who studied abroad outperformed their counterparts without study abroad
experience on comprehension of formulae. However, the study abroad advantage was not found
in production studies. Bardovi-Harlig (2009) compared comprehension and production among
ESL learners in a U.S. university and found that learners’ comprehension was better than their
production. In Taguchi (2013) L2 English learners with and without study abroad experiences
evidenced similar profiles in their production of formulaic expressions.
These findings suggest two implications for the teaching and learning of formulae. First,
the modality effect found in previous studies indicates that formulaic expressions are best
practiced when production and comprehension are combined because these skills call for
different linguistic and cognitive resources. Comprehension occurs without precise linguistic
parsing by relying on contextual cues, but production requires a fine-tuned grammatical analysis.
Hence, comprehension practice can assist the initial entry of formulaic expressions into memory,
but interpretive practice needs to be supplemented with production experiences so that learners
can fine-tune their use across different situations. This is particularly important for formulaic
learning because incorrect forms, for example in word order or word choice, can lead to non-
target-like expressions: Omitting the word “to” in the formulaic question “For here or to go?”
results in a non-native-like expression.
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In addition, previous studies documented the positive influence of study abroad
experience, at least on comprehension, suggesting that formulaic expressions are best taught
through participation in communicative events in a local community. Because formulaic
expressions are community-wide in use and are tied to ordinary speech events, it makes sense
that formulaic development happens in a context where the target language is widely spoken.
However, since observing learners’ uptake and use of formulaic expressions is difficult if not
impossible in regular, on-going daily social events, technology-supported instruction, for
example in the form of a multi-modal situation-based platform, can provide learners access to
formulaic language use in real-life situations so they can both understand the function of highly
context-dependent, culture-specific formulae and use them in the context of on-going,
meaningful exchanges.
Drawing on previous research into these two critical domains -- pragmatics and
formulaic expressions-- this study investigated the advantages of teaching pragmatics, in this
case, formulaic expressions, in the context of an interactional space that allowed L2 Chinese
learners to practice understanding and producing formulae in realistic, video-recorded, semi-
immersive situations. Instruction incorporated several gaming elements, including clearly-stated
learning objectives contextualized practice, decision-making mechanisms, interactions with
video-based characters, and timely feedback and assessment criteria. The following research
questions guided the investigation:
1. To what extent do L2 learners of Chinese improve their knowledge of formulaic
expressions as a result of engaging in scenario-based interactive practice, and do they
maintain those gains?
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2. To what extent do learners perceive scenario-interactive practice to be a useful,
immersive-like, and game-like experience?
Methods
Participants
Thirty students (13 males and 17 females; mean age of 20.5) who were enrolled in the
Chinese language program in a private university in the United States volunteered to participate
in the study, including five students from the elementary-level courses, 12 intermediate-level
students, and 13 at the advanced-level. Twenty-five were native speakers of English, four of
Korean, and one was a native speaker of Hindi. On average, they had 33 months of formal
Chinese study, ranging from seven to 120 months. Seven had prior study abroad experience
ranging from one to six months. All participants reported using a computer every day; however,
18 participants reported that they rarely played computer or online games, while 12 students
reported playing games from one to four days per week. From the pool of 30 students, 24 were
selected to participate in a follow-up interview, including all elementary-level students (five
total) and all intermediate-level students except for one who did not agree to be interviewed (11
total). Because the advanced-level group had the largest number of participants (13 total), in
order to balance the number of participants at each level, eight students were selected for the
interview. Maximum variation sampling was used to select these eight students so as to counter-
balance gender, age, and L1 backgrounds.
Target Formulaic Expressions
The study targeted 28 formulaic expressions that most naturally occur in specific
situations to accomplish particular communicative functions (Appendix A). For example, the
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expression
便宜点吧
[A little cheaper] occurs when bargaining with a street vendor in China,
while the phrase
最近怎么
[How have you been?] occurs when opening a conversation. To
identify target expressions, the authors selected 11 formulaic expressions from Taguchi et al.’s
(2013) study, which examined L2 Chinese learners’ knowledge of formulaic expressions that
were useful in study abroad contexts. These 11 expressions were included in Chinese reference
books and recorded in the authors’ field notes, along with the situations in which they were used.
Situations were subsequently piloted with Chinese native speakers in China to see if they did
indeed elicit the intended formulaic expressions. The native speakers also rated the commonality
of each situation by indicating the extent to which the situation occurred regularly in their own
experience. In addition, 17 new expressions and situations were created for the present study.
Following Taguchi et al., the authors identified a set of possible expressions and the situations in
which they would be used and then piloted the situations with 32 native speakers of Chinese.
Following Bardovi-Harlig’s (2009) criteria, situations that were judged as occurring regularly by
50% of the native speakers were retained. Of the 28 selected expressions, 15 appeared in
participants’ textbooks, but were presented with English translations but without opportunities
for communicative practice.
Interactive Dialogues
Unlike existing practice opportunities in virtual learning environments and games, the
design opted not to create a 3D immersive space where participants interacted with built-in
avatars, primarily because most researchers do not have expertise in game design, programming,
computer graphics, or animation. Instead, after identifying the target formulaic expressions, a
series of dialogues were developed in which those expressions naturally occurred. Three native
Chinese speakers checked whether each dialogue flowed naturally and several dialogues were
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revised based on their feedback, resulting in ten scenarios, formatted like the sample situation
and dialogue between
店员
[a shop assistant] and
顾客
[a customer] below (English translation
added):
Situation: You are shopping at Raffles City Shanghai. A shop assistant walks up to you
to offer help, but you don’t need her help. While browsing, you see a T-shirt you like.
You wonder how much it is and if it fits you.
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店员:
您好。请问您要买什么
[Hello, how can I help you?]
2
顾客
:
我随便看看
[I’m just looking.]
3
店员:
好的,需要什么告诉我
[Alright, please let me know if you need any help.]
4
顾客:
请问,这件
T
恤衫多少钱
? [How much is this T-shirt?]
5
店员:
这件
T
恤衫
120
[It’s 120 RMB.]
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顾客:
我可以试一下吗
[Can I try it on?]
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店员:
当然可以。那里是试衣间
[Sure, the fitting room is over there].
In this dialogue, which purposively includes three formulaic expressions (lines 2, 4, and
6), participants took the role of the customer. The authors then video-recorded native Chinese
speakers acting out the dialogues and videos were edited (e.g., sound effects) using a ready-made
video-editing software like iMovie. During the editing process, the targeted formulaic lines, in
the above example, the customer’s, were eliminated. To play their role in the scene, participants
were asked to select, and later produce, an appropriate formulaic expression from among four
options.
Response options
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For each dialogue, one correct option and four error options were provided. The error
options involved three error types: pragmalinguistic, sociopragmatic, and sequential. In the
sample item below, Option A is the correct response.
Situation: At a fruit vendor, you want to buy some apples. So you go to the vendor. Ask
the price of the apple and bargain for a lower price.
小贩
[Vendor]
买点苹果吗
[Do you want any apples?]
顾客
[Customer]: A.
苹果多少钱
? (CORRECT)
[How much is the apple?]
B.
苹果多少
? (pragmalinguistic error)
[How much is the apple?]
C.
这个苹果值多少钱
? (sociopragmatic error)
[How much value is the apple worth?]
D.
你有多少苹果
? (sequential error)
[How many apples do you have?]
Pragmalinguistic errors contained syntactic/lexical errors or syntactic/lexical deviations
from the target formulaic expression (e.g., unnecessary characters are added or some characters
are missing, which make the expression non-formulaic). Option B above illustrates this error
type because
[money] is missing when asking for price. Sociopragmatic errors involved
expressions that presented a mismatch with the given situation for one of the following reasons:
(1) the expression is too formal/elaborate or too informal/rude for the situation or (2) the
expression does not convey the illocutionary force required in the situation. In the above
example, Option C illustrates this error type because
[worth] is typically used for an valuable
object in a more formal situation. Sequential errors involved an expression that is grammatically
correct but not sequentially relevant to the preceding utterance. Option D illustrates this error
type because the sentence is about the number of apples, not about the price, which is irrelevant
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in the preceding discourse. When participants made a wrong choice, a hint corresponding to each
error type popped up on the screen.
The Game
The ten video tasks involving the 28 targeted expressions were incorporated into a coherent
set of connected interactive scenes, mapped in Figure 1, that was created with Adobe Captivate
software and took into consideration Sykes & Reinhardt’s (2012) ten critical components.
----------
Insert Figure 1 about here
----------
Figure 1. Task situations
The overall plot of the ten scenarios involved a college student (Zack or Mary depending on
participant’s choice of main character) who was studying abroad in Shanghai. The learning
objective (to use formulaic expressions) and goal of the game (to successfully navigate the ten
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real-life scenarios by interacting with local Chinese speakers) were clearly stated. Three
feedback mechanisms were also incorporated: leveling, points, and hints:
(1) Leveling: Ten tasks were categorized into three levels of difficulty based on the length.
Higher-level tasks yielded more points upon completion.
(2) Points: Participants received four points if they answered correctly on the first try, three
points on the second try, two points on the third, one point on the fourth.
(3) Hints: Participants received hints when making a wrong choice.
These features added playfulness, supported imaginative language use, and provided deep
contextualization to what would otherwise be purely rule-based instruction. Because learners
could complete the scenarios in their preferred order, the game also offered learners a certain
degree of autonomy.
For each task, participants first read a situational scenario. After reading the
scenario, they played a short video clip in which a native Chinese speaker enacted his or her role
in the dialogue. The speaker’s utterances were also displayed at the top of the screen in Chinese
with Pinyin support. Participants then responded to what the character said by choosing the
correct formulaic expression from a multiple-choice list displayed in Chinese, also with Pinyin
support. If players made a wrong choice, a hint was provided, for example “Hint: The expression
is not appropriate for this situation. Think about the situation (setting, characters’ roles, topic,
communicative function) and try again.” After choosing the correct option, they moved to the
next part of the dialogue.
Once they had completed all of the multiple-choice questions for a particular scene,
participants reviewed the targeted formulaic expressions by filling in the blanks in the dialogue.
To check their work, they clicked on the “submit & compare” button and compared their
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utterances with correct utterances that popped up on the screen. Players were asked to revise
their utterances when mistakes were made. After completing the interaction (choosing responses,
writing responses, comparing and editing responses), participants returned to the initial task map
showing all 10 situations. Their total score appeared on the screen and, if desired, they selected a
new situation.
Assessment Measures
Participants’ knowledge of formulaic expressions was assessed with a production and
comprehension test prior to, immediately after, and two weeks after the scenario-based
interactive practice. To reduce the practice effect, two parallel test versions were created by
making minor changes in the scenarios and choice of non-target expressions. To avoid priming
participants with target expressions, the production test was administered before the
comprehension test.
The production test was composed of seven background scenarios, presented in English,
and seven corresponding dialogues, all in Chinese. Four of the scenarios and target dialogues
elicited target formulaic expressions and three distractor dialogues elicited non-target
expressions. These background scenarios and dialogues were presented on a computer screen.
Each target dialogue contained four to eight blanks into which students typed formulaic
expressions in Chinese. The scenarios and dialogues differed from those that were used in the
interactive practice.
The comprehension test had 28 multiple-choice items. Each item contained a situational
scenario, provided in English, which prompted participants to select the utterance that was most
appropriate in the given situation. Each scenario was followed by a multiple-choice question
with four answer options, one correct answer (target formulaic expression) and three error
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options (in Chinese). The error options contained three types of errors: pragmalinguistic,
sociopragmatic, and sequential. The scenarios and option sentences differed from those used in
the interactive practice.
Interview
In order to gauge participants’ perceptions of the scenario-based interactive practice
experience, one-to-one interviews were conducted with 24 participants in English. Interview
questions addressed participants’ like and dislikes, as well as most and least favorite and/or
useful aspects of the experience. Questions also addressed the extent to which participants felt
like they were interacting with, or observing “others” interact with, the characters and the extent
to which they considered the experience to be a game or game-like experience (e.g., fun, re-
playable).
Procedures
Prior to launching the main study, the entire pre-assessment, game experience, and post-
assessment process reported above was piloted with five students who were enrolled in Chinese
classes at the target institution, but who did not subsequently participate in the main study. Slight
modifications (e.g., making the font of Pinyin smaller, changing the location of several icons,
incorporating longer video clips) were made based on their performance and feedback. The main
study followed the same procedures. On Day 1, after signing the consent form, participants
completed the pretest online. No time limit was imposed, and all participants completed both the
production and comprehension pretests in about 50–70 minutes. Participants completed all 10
scenarios at their own pace, also on Day 1. On Day 2, they completed all 10 scenarios again and
then completed the posttest. Finally, on Day 3, which took place about two weeks later,
participants completed the delayed posttest. Participants were interviewed at the end of either
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Day 2 or Day 3. Interviews ranged from 15 to 45 minutes in English, and were audio-recorded in
a quiet office on campus.
Data Analysis
This study addressed two research questions: (1) participants’ gain in the knowledge of
formulaic expressions as a result of two sessions of scenario-based interactive practice; and (2)
participants’ perceptions of interactive, virtual game-based practice.
To address the first question, pre, post, and delayed posttests were scored and compared
using within-subject analysis. The comprehension test had 28 multiple-choice question items.
One point was assigned per correct answer. For the production test, two native Chinese speakers
with Chinese teaching experience rated participants’ utterances using a six-point scale ranging
from 1 (cannot evaluate) to 6 (excellent). Six points (full score) were assigned to an utterance
that represented a target-like expression. Five points were given when the utterance was slightly
different from the target expression due to minor grammatical and/or lexical errors that did not
obscure meaning. Four points were given when the utterance differed from the targeted
expression, but was still comprehensible and appropriate and if the grammatical and/or lexical
errors did not obscure meaning. Three points were given when the utterance contained notable
grammatical and/or lexical errors. Two points were awarded when the utterance was
incomprehensible or too limited to evaluate. One point was awarded when participants did not
respond. After the initial norming session, two raters assessed each utterance independently.
Utterances from the pre, post, and delayed posttest were randomized to avoid rater bias. The
inter-rater reliability was determined by conducting Cohen’s κ (κ = .83, p < .0005), which
showed the strong rater agreement (81.9%). When raters’ judgments differed by a single point,
an average score was assigned. Discrepancies of two points or more were discussed until
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consensus was reached. Non-parametric tests were used because the posttest data did not confirm
normal distribution.
To address the second research question, the researchers conducted a content analysis of
the written interview transcriptions. Participants’ responses to each interview question were read
together and analyzed for recurring patterns, which were summarized as notable trends.
Results
Learning and Retention of Formulaic Knowledge After the Scenario-based Interactive Practice
Table 1 displays descriptive statistics of pre-, post-, and delayed post-test results (n=30).
Table 1
Descriptive statistics of comprehension and production test scores
Mean
SD
Max
Comprehension test
Pretest
18.3
3.5
23.0
Posttest
25.5
2.3
28.0
Delayed posttest
24.9
2.9
28.0
Production test
Pretest
109.4
13.9
128.0
Posttest
132.0
11.1
143.0
Delayed posttest
125.1
9.41
134.0
Note. Score range of the comprehension test was 028 (28 items total), while that of the production test
was 28–168 (28 items total, each scored on the range of 1–6).
On the comprehension test, participants made sharp progress after just two practice
gaming sessions, and they largely maintained this gain two weeks later at the delayed posttest.
This was confirmed by the Friedman test. There was a significant difference across the three test
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sessions (χ2 = 51.6, p < .0005). The Wilcoxon test detected a difference between the pre- and
posttest and between the pre- and delayed posttest (Pre-Post; Z = -4.8, p < .0005; Pre-Delay: Z =
-4.8, p < 0.0005), but detected no difference between the post- and delayed posttest, meaning that
the learning was maintained.
Table 2 provides data on the distribution of error options among the multiple-choice
responses on the comprehension test (see the methods for the definition of each error type). At
all three testing points (pre-, post-, delayed posttest), participants who did not select the correct
response the first time most frequently selected the option containing a pragmalinguistic error,
followed by the option containing a sociopragmatic error. The percentage of both error types
decreased after the scenario-based interactional practice, but the degree of decrease was much
larger for sociopragmatic errors than for pragmalinguistic errors. Throughout the tests, response
options containing a sequential error were infrequently chosen.
Table 2
Distractor error analysis in the comprehension test
Test/Distractor
Pragmalinguistic
error
Sociopragmatic
error
Sequential
error
Correct
response
Pretest
17.1%
13.4%
2.1%
66.6%
Posttest
5.4%
1.5%
1.9%
91.1%
Delayed posttest
7.6%
2.1%
1.0%
89.2%
Turning to the production data, participants showed a gain from the pre- to the posttest,
but their scores dropped at the delayed posttest. The Friedman test revealed a significant
difference across test sessions (χ2 = 49.6, p < .0005). The Wilcoxon test detected a significant
difference between the pre- and the posttest (Z = -4.8, p < .0005), and the pre- and the delayed
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posttest (Z = -4.7, p < 0.0005). Unlike the comprehension results, there was a difference between
the post and the delayed posttest (Z = -3.7, p < 0.0005), indicating that the learning was not
maintained two weeks later.
A closer analysis of the production data showed variations in the degree of learning
among formulaic expressions. For example, the expression
便宜点吧
[A littler cheaper], became
target-like after the practice as shown in the following sample data from one participant.
Pretest:
我没有么多,不可能
[I don’t have that much money. (It’s) impossible to be that expensive.]
Posttest:
便宜点吧
[A littler cheaper]
Delayed posttest:
便宜点吧
[A littler cheaper]
The utterance produced at the pretest could be considered as a hint because it did not directly
convey the communicative function of “bargaining for a lower price”. After two sessions of
practice, the native-like expression emerged at the posttest and was retained at the delayed
posttest.
In contrast, the expression
我随便看看
([I’m just looking] when refusing a shop
assistant’s offer of help did not remain native-like at the delayed posttest, as shown in the
following data from the same participant:
Pretest:
你好,我想看看,没有问题
[Hello, I want to take a look. I don’t have any questions.]
Posttest:
我随便看看
[I’m just looking.]
Delayed posttest:
我先看看一下
[I will first take a look.]
20
Although the participant’s utterance became target-like at the posttest, he was not able to retrieve
the correct form at the delayed posttest. A portion of the expression was native-like (i.e.,
看看
meaning “take a look”), but the utterance was not entirely correct because both
看看
and
看一下
convey the same meaning and it is incorrect to use both parts together.
Interview Results
Interview data were analyzed for content based on the questions encompassing several
areas: aspects of the practice that participants liked/disliked or felt useful/not useful, whether the
participants felt immersed, or engaged, in the scenes, and the extent to which they considered the
experience to be a game. Several notable trends were revealed.
The majority of participants reported that contextualization was their favorite aspect of
the practice experience (15 responses). This approach integrated textual, visual and auditory cues,
creating a multi-modal exercise, which further allowed learners to practice comprehension and
production in an integrated manner. On the other hand, the production practice (“putting-it-
together”) was revealed to be the least favorite part of the learning experience: Eight learners
mentioned the high cognitive demand due to the need to recall the utterances and type the
responses in Chinese. A larger number of participants (12) requested more diverse situations
beyond the ten that were included. Five of the 24 interviewees also requested greater agency, for
example, the option to select a different story line or create their own character.
In terms of the feeling of engagement with the characters, nine participants did not
express strong feelings on this topic. Seven participants felt that the learning experience offered
an immersive experience in which they could interact with the characters directly. Comments
from these participants suggest that the angle from which each video was recorded (one main
character who made direct contact with the game participant by looking the video camera and
21
speaking directly to the camera) contributed to the immersiveness of the learning experience.
For example, one participant responded, “[I felt like I was] interacting with the characters
because I was the only person. The perspective was me.” The use of authentic scenes that
captured real-life people in everyday situations in Shanghai helped to generate a strong sense of
authenticity and cultural immersion.
However, eight participants reported feeling that they were observing the situation as a
third person or playing someone else’s character rather than their own. Interview data suggest
that the appearance of the multiple-choice questions in the middle of the interaction, which
halted the video after the character’s utterance or question until the participant had selected the
correct response from among those offered, limited the extent to which the experience could be
viewed as a real-life interaction in which participants were able to respond freely using their own
words and seamlessly continue their conversation. Participants reported that the appearance of
the multiple-choice questions was “disruptive” and “exercise-like”. In addition, several
participants reported that they wanted to produce their own responses orally, rather than select an
option, because the pre-determined options were not personalized or realistic; one student
pointed out that, “in real life there are several ways of saying things”.
In terms of the game-like feeling, 10 participants reported that they had a game-like
experience thanks to features that allowed them to select their own character; navigate through
the map to go to different locations; receive feedback via the point system; and interact with
video-based characters. However, 13 participants felt that the experience was clearly a learning
activity and was not “gamey;it was instructional but not recreational due to the multiple-choice
questions and production practice (“putting-it-together”), which resembled classroom exercises.
Participants also mentioned that several other factors that made the game “un-playable”. For
22
example, the point system was not motivating because gaining points was not linked to any
extrinsic reward or part of a larger competitive framework. As some participants commented that
a good reward system is crucial to make a game re-playable, that is, “after accumulating points,
you can use points to buy something or move to a different level.” Similarly, some participants
reported that there was “not much stake” and no “penalty” was imposed for wrong answers.
They suggested that adding some time constraints or a ranking system would make the
experience more competitive. In addition, the small number of scenarios made the “game”
repetitive, a limitation that could be eliminated by adding more situations in which players could
“learn new things,” and offering a more coherent story line that allowed more personalized
decision-making options (i.e., going through specific scenarios to achieve individual goals).
In summary, interview data showed that, while participants enjoyed learning formulaic
expressions by means of a scenario-based, semi-interactive experience, their perceptions of the
immersive quality and game-like nature of the experience varied. While the videos recorded in
real-life contexts in Shanghai made the practice more fun and engaging and clearly distinguished
it from textbook-based learning, the response formats (multiple-choice and production practice)
detracted from the immersive-feel and the repetitive format, limited range of scenarios and
absence of a reward system made the practice more like a learning activity than a re-playable
game.
Discussion
This study reported on a scenario-based interactional platform whereby L2 Chinese
learners completed a dialogue with a character in a video featuring a scene in Shanghai.
Formulaic expressions (targeted pragmatic knowledge) served as linguistic resources that
participants needed to complete each dialogue and progress through the task. Accumulation of
23
formulaic knowledge was considered to be a by-product of the participants’ successful
completion of the goal-oriented, interactive scenarios. Various game-like features incorporated
into the task design—plot and setting, role playing, competition (levels and rewards), timely
feedback—were expected to make this form of task-based practice fun and re-playable, thus
promoting the participants’ engagement in the task. These design features were incorporated to
address gaps in the existing practice of pragmatics teaching (Taguchi, 2015), which are largely
limited in contextualization, interaction, and affective considerations (e.g., motivation, learner
autonomy).
Learning gains
Indeed, learning of formulae did occur as a by-product of the practice. Initially, the
participants’ receptive knowledge of target expressions was only moderate (about 60% on the
comprehension test), but it jumped to 90% and remained at the same level two weeks later. Post
hoc error analyses showed that the participants’ sociopragmatic errors decreased the most,
suggesting that the learning experience helped them recognize the relationship between the form
and the context of use. Similarly, the participants’ productive knowledge showed a strong gain,
shifting from 64% at pretest to almost 80% at posttest.
Formulaic expressions are tied to recurrent communicative situations and functions (e.g.,
Bardovi-Harlig, 2012; Wray, 2002). Hence, contextual parameters (settings, speakers’ roles,
topics, and communicative goals) need to be mapped onto forms in order to facilitate learning
and subsequent effective language use. Given their community-wide use, formulaic expressions
can be learned effectively when they are presented as occurring in a local community. Video
clips featuring local neighbourhoods, combined with simulated interactions with community
members, probably made the form-function-context mappings more salient for participants and
24
supported the retention of the expressions in participants’ long-term memory. The transition
from comprehension-based to production-based practice was designed to help participants re-
produce the expressions and to revise their work when errors were made. This learning sequence
involved multiple modalities (comprehension and production), input cues (visual, auditory, and
textual), and contextual representations (e.g., ordering at a restaurant, asking directions at a
major sightseeing spot), all of which probably contributed to strengthening participants’ learning
of formulae, and supported access and retrieval two weeks after the learning experience was
completed.
However, the findings showed that knowledge when measured in the production test
was not equally robust. The participants achieved almost 80% on average at the immediate
posttest, but the rate dropped to 74% at the delayed posttest. Unlike the comprehension test
results, the difference between the two tests was statistically significant. These findings
corroborate previous findings that formulaic knowledge does not develop in parallel in the
interpretive (comprehension) and presentational (productive) modes (e.g., Bardovi-Harlig, 2009;
Bardovi-Harlig & Bastos, 2011; Taguchi, 2011, 2013). Furthermore, while some existing
findings indicate that learners’ comprehension of formulae is supported by immersive
experiences abroad, this has not been shown to be the case regarding production: Taguchi’s
(2011, 2013) studies found no study abroad advantage in the production of formulae, although
such an advantage was found for comprehension. L2 learners also demonstrated stronger
formulaic knowledge in a comprehension task than in a production task (Bardovi-Harlig, 2009).
Unlike previous studies conducted in a naturalistic (uninstructed) setting, this study
implemented focused instruction with the clear objective of improving formulaic knowledge in
both the interpretive (receptive) and presentational (productive) modes. Still, the modality effect
25
on instructional outcomes found in the study suggests that, just as residence abroad is no panacea
to the productive knowledge of formulae, instructional effects may not manifest strongly in
production, either. This is the case even when the instruction is designed to maximize the
understanding of formulaic expressions as attempted in this study (e.g., contextualized input
promoting the saliency of form-function-context associations, incorporation of the community-
sense).
The rather weak instructional effect on production found in this study is understandable
considering the linguistic and cognitive demands posed by production. Although learners can
comprehend overall meaning without a bottom-up analysis of forms, production requires precise
linguistic processing. Furthermore, linguistic preciseness is particularly critical for formulaic
expressions because incorrect word order or word choice can obscure meaning. For example, the
difference between the questions “Do you have the time?” and “Do you have time?” is the matter
of only one word (“the” in the former), but their meanings and communicative functions are
totally different. As Pawley and Syder (1983) claimed, formulaic competence requires “native-
like selection”— the ability to select the exact strings of preferred forms, and native-like
selection is revealed more clearly in production than in comprehension because production data
show learners’ exact choice of lexis and grammar. Word choice errors and grammatical mistakes
found in the participants’ production data in this study (see examples in the results) indicate that
participants had difficulty producing the exact linguistic strings that are preferred among local
members of the Chinese-speaking community.
Perceptions of gaming features
In addition to learning gains, interview data from this study demonstrated that
technology that is readily accessible (videos, instructional software) can be used creatively to
26
generate focused and realistic, semi-immersive contexts for pragmatic language use. However, as
noted above, a number of participants nominated the production practice as their least favorite,
commenting that this portion of the experience was “difficult”, “boring”, and “time consuming”.
First, unlike the comprehension practice that was embedded within a culturally-rich, video-based
interaction, the production practice was presented as a stand-alone fill-in-the-blank exercise. It is
possible that this format failed to engage participants or motivate them to pursue precise forms.
In addition, unlike the comprehension portion of the experience, focused feedback was not
offered on the forms that participants produced. After filling in blanks, they simply had to hit the
“submit-and-compare” button to pull up the model responses and then copy the responses
verbatim. Since rewards (i.e., points) were not offered upon completion, it is possible that the
lack of game-generating features in the production task (no rewards, no feedback, no interaction)
made the production task less engaging, leading to the frail knowledge base that was revealed on
the delayed post-assessment.
Furthermore, although the study incorporated Sykes and Reinhardt’s (2012) components
for designing games for educational purposes (e.g., feedback, rewards, plot and settings), the
data suggest that the mere existence of those components does not automatically lead to a game-
like experience. The key seems to be about how to implement those components to generate
game-like feelings and behaviors (e.g., re-playablity, engagement, goal-orientation, motivation).
For example, while a reward system (i.e., points) was incorporated in the design, the system was
not motivating for some participants because of its low-stakes nature and the fact that points
served no instrumental purposes (i.e., using points to accomplish something within or beyond the
game). Similarly, although the characters, plot and setting served to connect the ten interactive
situations, several participants reported that the plot was not coherent -- success or failure in any
27
of the ten stand-alone situations did not have down-stream implications or consequences as the
learning experience progressed. Allowing participants to create their own character and produce
their own responses rather than selecting from the options provided would also promote
participants’ originality and autonomy. The feedback system could also be improved: Feedback
was provided in a fixed, linear format, appearing in a box every time a correct answer was
selected or a mistake was made. One participant mentioned that she did not even notice the
differences among feedback types (e.g., pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic feedback) because
they all looked the same to her. These comments suggest that how feedback is given (e.g.,
explicitness, manner, timing, format) is important in generating a game-like feeling. These
operational details also affected the participants’ perceptions of immersiveness. Although scenes
were filmed from the participant’s angle and incorporated turn-taking mechanisms (taking turns
with the characters in the video by exchanging responses), some participants commented that it
was hard to feel immersed because ultimately the participant’s interaction with the character was
limited by the multiple-choice format and feedback mechanisms, which disrupted the
conversational flow. Thus, the way in which game design components are actualized, rather than
the components themselves, needs to be addressed. Playfulness and re-playability make a game
attractive (Sykes & Reinhardt, 2012). Lacking these features, participants will not choose to
“play” over and over again and thus accumulate the massive amounts of practice that lead to
robust learning. In conclusion, synchronizing content learning with learners’ affective and
behavioral needs has the potential to transform a mundane language practice experience into an
engaging, self-guided learning experience that leads to more robust and sustained learning.
Pedagogical implications
28
This study offers important pedagogical insights into the impact of video and gaming
experiences on learning outcomes. Since pragmatics involves using language appropriately to
carry out communicative functions across a range of social contexts, it can only be learned in
deeply-contextualized environments. Embedding language within culturally-rich interactions, for
example, using video to depict the many possible ways in which a situation could be negotiated,
is thus essential to the teaching and learning of pragmatics. Although videos nearly always are
provided by textbook publishers and are commonly used, students are usually positioned as
observers rather than participants. In the observer role, students are not expected, or even invited,
to analyze the socio-cultural context, make active linguistic choices, or engage in turn-taking.
Editing to remove one speaker’s lines in a video-recorded conversational exchange, as was done
in this study, or simply stopping the video at the end of a speaker’s turn, can set the stage for
class discussion about what could, or should, be said and how the subsequent turn at talk would
be perceived by the other interlocutor(s) in that particular cultural and social context. As
demonstrated in this study, exploring different ways of using video can promote situated,
interactive practice and make language learning more participatory, meaningful and effective. In
addition to the use of video, the study also demonstrates the efficacy of a multi-modal approach.
Using multi-modal input (texts, audio, graphics) and output (reading, writing, and listening) not
only reinforced learning, but also offered a more accessible and focused approach than short- or
long-term, or even repeated study abroad experiences. Furthermore, a multi-modal, video-based
approach is also more accommodating of students with different learning styles.
The study also has implications for gaming and game-like learning. The strong learning
outcomes that were observed among the participants in this study, along with their positive
perceptions of game-based learning, indicate that incorporating various gaming features (e.g.,
29
rich contextualization cues, interactions with video-based characters, autonomy in choosing a
character and the order in which the ten scenes would be enacted, and the point system as a
means of receiving immediate feedback) can motivate learners to play-- and hopefully re-play --
real-life interactions across multiple, varied, and socially-nuanced iterations. What is more, out-
of-class game-based opportunities to learn and practice essential language content and analyze
how and with whom particular expressions should be used also free up face-to-face instructional
time for other communicative purposes. The findings also point out that designers of virtual
learning environments must actively consider the extent to which affective factors (e.g.,
motivation, drive, and playfulness) are incorporated into the game, while simultaneously
ensuring that learners acquire the language skills that they need to meet learning targets and
objectives.
Implications for future research
In future studies, researchers and practitioners should also consider ways to address
learners’ use of formulaic expressions in the interpersonal mode. Although it is challenging for
speech recognition software to identify variations in a spoken utterance, this is increasingly
feasible once all of the situations and their corresponding formulaic expressions have been stored
in the database. Additionally, in this study learners participated in the same 10 scenarios over
two practice sessions. While it is possible that the repetitive practice reinforced participants’
understanding of formulaic expressions, direct repetition also reduced learners’ use of these
expressions to a limited number of situations and rendered their interactions less game-like.
Since, in a real game, players always encounter new situations and challenges as they progress
through in-game tasks, future research should include more scenarios and more diverse
conversational partners.
30
Finally, this study presented formulaic expressions as a series of syntactic strings that
need to be memorized through recognition and production-based practice. Although this
instructional approach is fitting for the construct of formulae (chunks and fixed expressions),
future research can explore a different approach that can strengthen learners’ memory of
formulaic expressions. There are several exemplary approaches (e.g., Boers, Eyckmans, Kappel,
Stengers, & Demecheleer, 2006; Boers & Lindstromberg, 2009). In Boers, et al. (2006), the
authors exposed L2 English learners to authentic language use (audio, video, and textual) while
directing their attention to formulaic sequences in the texts. The tasks that strategically promoted
noticing of formulaic sequences (i.e., gap-fill exercises focusing on formulae; exercises of
highlighting frequent word combinations) were found to be effective in promoting learners’
knowledge of formulaic expressions. Boers and Lindstromberg (2009), on the other hand,
presented a variety of activities, for example formulae elaboration activities that made use of
images to present the expressions and formulae consolidation activities that used rhymes
associated with the expressions. Future research can incorporate these instructional approaches
into the game-based interactive environment that was used in this study.
Conclusion
This study created an interactive participatory platform incorporating a virtual reality-
feel and some elements of game playing to advance the current practice of pragmatics teaching.
The platform was designed in a way that L2 learners of Chinese interacted with characters in a
simulation-based, multi- modal space while using target pragmatic forms (i.e., formulaic
expressions). The study revealed three major findings: (1) L2 Chinese learners showed strong
gains in their knowledge of formulaic expressions after two game-based learning sessions; (2)
learners retained their gains two weeks later, although their retention was more prominent in the
31
interpretive (comprehension) mode than in the interpersonal (production) mode; and (3) learners
had generally positive feelings about the scenario-based, semi-interactive experience, but they
expressed mixed feelings about the immersive quality and game-like nature of the experience
due to: (a) the exercise-like response format (i.e., multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blanks);
(b) limited options in the course of action they were allowed to take; (c) limited variations in the
situational scenarios; and (d) the absence of a truly motivating reward system. These findings
should inform future game development and research. Because empirical data are considerably
limited regarding the cause-and-effect relationship between learners’ participation in virtual
gaming and increased pragmatic knowledge, more research is clearly needed. Critically, such
research should employ a systematic experimental design to directly assess learning outcomes
resulting from game play. In addition, while virtual learning games can seek to incorporate the
features of recreational games, they also need to incorporate clear learning objectives in order to
ensure that the types of learning that are expected from game-based interaction actually occurs.
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Appendix A
Target formulaic expressions
Target expression
English translation
Communicative function
(
这辆车
)
到……吗?
Does (this bus) go to …?
Ask if this bus goes to a specific
destination
请问,哪辆车到……
Which bus goes to …?
Ask which bus goes to a specific
destination
……多少钱?
How much is …?
Ask for price
便宜点吧
A little cheaper!
Bargain for a lower price
不好意思,我得先走了
I’m sorry, I have to leave early.
Apologize for leaving early
不好意思,我来晚了
I’m sorry. I’m late.
Apologize for being late
不起
(
,我没去上您的课) 。
I’m sorry (for my absence).
Apologize for being absent
那我先走了。
OK, Im leaving.
Say goodbye (variant forms)
明天见!
See you tomorrow!
谢谢我吃饭!
Thank you for inviting me to dinner!
Express gratitude for an invitation
太谢谢您了
Thank you so much!
Express gratitude in formal
situations
谢谢你啊
Thank you!
Express gratitude in informal
situations
最近怎么样?
How have you been?
Greet with small talk
请问个位置有人吗?
Excuse me, is this seat taken?
Ask for the availability of a seat
我可以坐吗?
May I sit here?
Make a request (variant forms)
我可以一下吗?
May I try it on?
36
可不可以……呢
May I …?
请问,去……怎么走
Excuse me, how to get to…?
Ask for directions
大概要多久
How long does it take?
Ask for distance
(
)
随便看看
I’m looking.
Refuse help from a shop assistant
太好了
Wonderful/Great!
Express excitement
你想吃点什么
What would you like to eat?
Ask for food preference
里的……不错?
is good here (a restaurant)?
Recommend a dish in a restaurant
(
务员
)
来……
Wait/Waitress, (we) want …!
Order food
打包
Wrap up!
Ask for warping up.
您是……吗?
Is that speaking (Caller requesting
who answered the phone)?
Confirm the identity of the
receiver on the phone
我叫……
I’m ….
Introduce oneself
(
请问
)
您什么候有空
(Excuse me,) when will you be free?
Ask for someones availability
... In contrast, the availability and amount of native-like input in a SA environment is unlimited in principle, and yet, developmental studies reveal exposure and frequency do not necessarily lead to a better command of FL. L2 users are often reported to fall short of target-like levels in terms of FL comprehension, but more so with FL production, as shown in studies across languages, including L2 Chinese (e.g., Bardovi-Harlig and Su 2018;Taguchi, Li and Xiao 2013;Taguchi, Li and Tang 2017;Yang 2016). ...
... Whilst L2 Chinese studies have so far independently examined acquisition of FL during study abroad (e.g., Bardovi-Harlig & Su, 2018;Taguchi, Li and Xiao 2013) or the effects of instruction of pragmatic routines (e.g., Li, 2012Li, , 2013Li and Taguchi 2014;Taguchi, Li and Tang 2017), to the best of our knowledge, no study has combined these variables. In this study, targeted instruction is applied to enhance formulaic output across a range of social contexts (e.g., invitations to dinner, gift-giving) and transactional contexts (e.g., ordering at a restaurant, taking the bus), which SA sojourners are likely to encounter. ...
... Taking technology-assisted learning one step further and focusing on the learning of Chinese formulaic expressions, Taguchi, Li and Tang (2017) In summary, production of FL has been shown to be more problematic than comprehension, associated with higher cognitive and linguistic demands placed on language learners and the need for linguistic and sociocultural precision when executing formulaic expressions (Taguchi, Li and Tang 2017). Additional empirical attention in the area of formulaic production is therefore needed. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
This study investigates the immediate and sustained effects of a pre-departure study abroad training on the oral production of L2 Chinese formulaic language across a range of social and transactional interactions. Eighteen upper-intermediate learners of Chinese were assigned to either an instructed or non-instructed group to determine the efficacy of instruction designed to enhance their study abroad year in China and beyond. A three-stage pre-post-delayed longitudinal experimental design was adopted to examine instructional effects over an academic year, elicited by means of a computerised oral task (COT). The assessment was based on quantitative appropriateness ratings and a qualitative analysis of the output. Results show that the instructed group outperformed the control group immediately after the the pre-study abroad (pre-SA) instruction, as well as after the year abroad. The significant difference between the two groups, however, decreased after the period abroad as the control group also showed significant improvement without the pre-SA instruction. Nevertheless, the sustained effect of the instruction enabled the experimental group to retain their competitive edge, even after a year in the target language country. The findings demonstrate the longitudinal benefits of pre-SA instruction.
... A domain that has seen a notable amount of dialogue-based CALL studies is pragmatics instruction. Using in some cases relatively accessible technological tools, such as page-by-page interaction with pre-recorded messages or self-analysis of their speech by the learners, researchers have been able to demonstrate that simulated conversations had strong effects on the acquisition of pragmatically appropriate speech acts (Alemi & Haeri, 2020;Sydorenko et al., 2018) and of formulaic expressions (Taguchi et al., 2017). Those studies also attest to the merit of embodied agents, either through a physical robot or presented dynamically on-screen (video recording or avatar), for the acquisition of politeness, gestures, and pragmatics in general (Alemi & Haeri, 2020). ...
... The designed and focused interactions offered by dialogue systems constitute an ideal environment to research SLA theories, particularly to test interactionist hypotheses. They offer reproducible conditions of interactions, something that could be difficult to achieve with human interlocutors, while remaining realistic (Taguchi et al., 2017). Besides, abundant process data, including keystroke information, audio signal, and interface engagement, can easily and systematically be collected during the dialogue. ...
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Dialogue systems allow a user to interact, orally or in writing, with an automated interlocutor, whether it is referred to as a chatbot, a robot, a conversational agent or an intelligent personal assistant. We discuss the different typologies of dialogue-based computer-assisted language learning (CALL), the natural language processing (NLP) technology operating those systems, and the issues of their instructional design. We review the scientific findings on the cognitive, behavioral and emotional effects of dialogue systems. Finally, we provide recommendations for the use of dialogue-based CALL in foreign language learning and teaching, as well as for the development of new conversational applications.
... In terms of how much students like to interact with animated characters or other virtual agents as opposed to human interlocutors, many studies show that students generally react positively to such technologies even when ASR error rates are somewhat high (see Morton et al., 2012), but the specific design features or individuals' personalities affect students' perceptions (e.g. Forsyth et al., 2019;Morton et al., 2012;Sydorenko, 2011;Sydorenko et al., 2018;Taguchi et al., 2017). For example, some students dislike the computer system when the virtual agents speak too fast or interrupt them (Forsyth et al., 2019); some students with outgoing personalities prefer to talk to human interlocutors rather than simulated characters (Sydorenko et al., 2018). ...
To examine the utility of spoken dialog systems (SDSs) for learning and low-stakes assessment, we administered the same role-play task in two different modalities to a group of 47 tertiary-level learners of English. Each participant completed the task in an SDS setting with a fully automated agent and engaged in the same task with a human interlocutor in a face-to-face format. Additionally, we gauged students’ perceptions of the two delivery formats. Elicited oral performances were examined for linguistic complexity (syntactic complexity, lexical variety, fluency) and pragmatic functions (number and type of requests). Learner performance data across the two delivery modes were comparable although learners spoke slightly longer in the SDS task and used significantly more turns in the face-to-face setting—a finding that may be due to participants deploying more social rapport building moves, clarification requests, and backchanneling. The attitudinal data indicate that, while many learners liked both delivery formats, there was a slight preference for the face-to-face format, mainly due to the presence of body language. Overall, results show that fully automated SDS tasks may constitute a feasible alternative to face-to-face role-plays. Nevertheless, when possible, learners should be given a choice in task format for both learning and assessment.
... Learners can also experience the consequences of their pragmatic choices by receiving timely and individualized feedback. Given these potential benefits, digital games hold the promise of transforming the current practice of pragmatics teaching, which often falls short of contextualization of materials, provision of interaction opportunities, and implementation of autonomous learning (Taguchi, Li, & Tang, 2017). ...
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Digital games offer a promising platform to engage second language (L2) learners in contextualized language practice, including pragmatics practice. Although scholars have made strong claims on the benefits of game-based learning, empirical findings have not yet established strong support for the effectiveness of games. Existing studies are mostly descriptive rather than experimental; few studies have compared L2 learning outcomes between a game-based learning group and a comparison control group. To fill this gap, this study investigated the instructional and motivational effects of a digital game on learning Chinese formulaic expressions. We developed two digital learning environments: a scenario-based digital game (Questaurant) and an interactive online lesson. Forty-nine learners of Chinese in two U.S. universities were randomly assigned to the game group (n = 25) or the online lesson group (n = 24). Both groups equally improved their knowledge of formulaic expressions after the respective learning session. However, the game group showed a significantly higher level of motivation compared to the online lesson group.
... Sydorenko (2015) and Sydorenko et al (2018) created a computer-delivered simulation task in which L2 English learners produced requests to a person in a pre-recorded video. Taguchi, Li, and Tang (2017) created scenario-based simulations where L2 Chinese learners interacted with people in videos using formulaic expressions. Rockey, et al (2020) used the program FlipGrid to deliver a video prompt and video-recorded participants' nonverbal behaviors in request-making. ...
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This study intends to contribute to the methodological debate into L2 pragmatics research by examining the usability of immersive virtual reality (VR) for developing a pragmatics task. The study compared participants’ speech act performance between two closed role-play tasks using different mediums: computer-based and VR-based. Sixty-two native and nonnative speakers of English completed both tasks eliciting speech acts (requests, refusals, and opinions). The impact of task medium was assessed on oral fluency and use of speech act strategies. Both groups spoke more slowly and used more modification devices in the VR-based speech acts; However, the directness level of the main speech act strategies was similar between the two task mediums. In the speech act situations involving a large social distance, unequal power relationship and a high degree of imposition, speech rates were slower and the use of modifications was greater than those involving a small social distance, equal power relationship and a low degree of imposition. While the native speaker group used fewer direct strategies in the former situation type regardless the task medium, the nonnative speaker group was less direct in the former situation type in the VR condition only.
... Pressures from the face-threatening nature of functional language such as refusals and disagreements, for instance, may be alleviated in simulated contexts, allowing for a stress-free, 'low-risk' learning experience (Sykes et al., 2008) which can be individualised and paced (Gee, 2005;De Freitas, 2006). Many of these advantages are illustrated in recent studies employing a range of technologies for developing pragmatic competence (Cunningham, 2016;Sykes, 2009Sykes, , 2013Johnson and deHaan, 2013;Taguchi et al, 2017;Yang and Zapata-Rivera, 2010). ...
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This study employs innovative ICT tools to enhance an explicit instructional period to help international learners develop their pragmatic competence, defined as ‘the ability to communicate and interpret meaning in social interactions’ (Taguchi, 2011: 289). Specifically, the study focuses on developing Mexican learners’ ability to produce pragmatically appropriate refusals and disagreements in spoken English, which are relatively under-explored interlanguage features and have been reported to differ among Spanish and English first language speakers (e.g. Félix-Brasdefer, 2006; 2008). Virtual role-plays and online learning activities designed for the study are incorporated into the instruction with an experimental group (n=16), and used as assessment tools during the testing stages which include a control group for comparison purposes (n=16). A pretest–posttest design is employed to measure the extent of instructional gains within and between the two groups. In addition, participants reflect on their experience of using technology enhanced materials. The results are viewed from the perspectives of how appropriate the responses are, acknowledging that differences in the status of the interlocutor and contextual situation will trigger different ways to refuse or disagree, and from a linguistic perspective with regards to the content and organisation of the responses. The aim is to examine to what extent technology-enhanced teaching and learning can benefit the development of these specific pragmatic targets.
... Cao Chung Weighing an Elephant [123] The Elephant and the Blind Men [123] Simulated real-world 3D-DGBLL [42] Contextual learning RPGs [120] Handheld sensor-based vocabulary games [112] RPG for incidental lexicon acquisition [90] WiCFG [59] Interactive learning environment [100,127] Virtual Knee Surgery by Edheads [126] Scenario-Based Interactive Environment [136] Prêt à négocier [64] The Conference Interpreter [135] Game-Based System for ASL using Kinect [66] Little Ingenius [81] Idiomatico [130] ARCS-based game [70] My Pet Shop [115] ImALeG [94] Kes Sesi [48] Cool Nurse [74] Virtual Reality Assisted Language Learning game [121] Enskill English [124] TALSQ [72] DiMaCA-based application [21] MMORPG-based English Learning Environment (MELE) [84] Spaceteam ESL [71] Competitive Cloze Game [87] Complexity-based competition game [86] SELS [51] Contextual RPG [85] Wordsearch [52] BSL RPG game [105] ...
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Considerable changes have occurred in language learning with the introduction of gameful approaches in the classroom and the increase in the popularity of language applications like Duolingo. A review of existing studies on such approaches to language learning shows that gamification tends to be the most popular approach. However, this popularity has been achieved at the expense of other gameful approaches, such as the use of digital games. To gain a clearer picture of the developments and gaps in the digital game-based learning research, this paper examines and categorizes observations about game elements used in published papers (n = 114) where serious and digital games were tested in language education settings. Game element analysis reveals that (1) the most frequently occurring elements in digital game-based language learning (DGBLL) are feedback, theme, points, narrative, and levels; (2) even though there was significant variance in the number of elements observed in DGBLL, both the bespoke and off-the-shelf games show similar high-frequency elements; (3) DGBLL has been applied to vocabulary acquisition and retention in many cases, but lacks implementation and testing in input and output language skills; (4) although there is some consensus on the most frequent elements, the design patterns of common elements according to age group and target language skill show considerable variance; (5) more research is needed on less common design elements that have shown promise in encouraging language acquisition. The synthesis of information from the collected papers contributes to knowledge regarding DGBLL application design and will help formulate guidelines and detect efficacy patterns as the field continues to grow.
... Although the advancement of technology has transformed our traditional ways of teaching pragmatics, empirical data is still substantially limited when it comes to the cause-andeffect relationship between L2 learners' participation in technology-enhanced contexts and their learning outcomes. Several studies adopted a pre-post design to examine whether technologybased mediums lead to increased pragmatic knowledge (Sykes, 2009(Sykes, , 2013Taguchi, Li, & Tang, 2017). However, these studies did not use a comparison group; as a result, they were not able reveal what characteristics of technology-mediated contexts can produce strong evidence of learning. ...
Article
This special issue presents the current state of second language pragmatics research and instruction situated in the broader scope of globalization. Seven empirical papers included in this volume represent three strands of research: (a) pragmatics in lingua franca communication, (b) multilingual and multidialectal pragmatics, and (c) technology-mediated pragmatics learning and teaching. These papers collectively address how new contexts in today’s globalized world have engendered new ways of conceptualizing and teaching pragmatics.
Article
Developing pragmatic competence implies the learning of the norms and principles that affect the behavior of participants in a culture (i.e. sociopragmatics) and the ability to choose the language to realize those norms (i.e. pragmalinguistics). Learning to be pragmatically appropriate in the second language (L2) is not easy, and although it is possible without instruction, research shows that instruction helps development (Plonsky & Zhuang, 2019). This article advocates that technology-mediated tasks are an excellent and effective pedagogic tool to promote L2 pragmatic development. The article will introduce some key findings of studies that incorporate technology and pragmatics as well as those that have investigated tasks and L2 pragmatics to then focus on those studies that incorporate the three elements: tasks, technology and L2 pragmatics. These studies are grouped by their main focus of investigation: (1) the task, (2) the technology, or (3) the L2 pragmatic feature. As a whole, these studies show the possibilities that tasks and technology-mediated contexts have to engage learners in discursive practices that may not be possible otherwise, exposing them to the cyberpragmatics of an ever-growing digital world. Finally, lines of new research to advance the field are suggested.
Article
The increasing mobility of speakers of different languages to different countries, together with the globalized world we live in, have led to multilingual societies in which linguistic exchanges between both native and non-native speakers have become a very common practice. This reality emphasizes the need to help learners of foreign and second languages become not only linguistically competent but also pragmatically competent, in order not to sound impolite or inappropriate in the target language. Addressing this need, studies in interlanguage pragmatics (ILP) have explored which methodology is most effective for teaching pragmatics. Earlier ILP studies compared explicit versus implicit instruction, highlighting the key role of explicit metapragmatic explanations. More recently, scholars have investigated how to create opportunities to for authentic pragmatic practice inside the classroom. To do so, some studies have implemented task-based language teaching to provide students with goal-oriented meaningful activities that address their real-world needs. Other studies have incorporated technology-enhanced materials such as simulated immersive environments and computer-mediated communication to promote students’ engagement in authentic use of the language beyond the classroom. Another current concern in L2 pragmatic instruction is how to account for the emergence of English as an International Language (EIL), and the consequent need to guide learners into acquiring language as a tool to mediate across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Different studies have adopted an EIL perspective, proposing the enhancement of students’ metapragmatic awareness and strategies to deal with the hybrid nature of English and its associated varieties and cultures. The special issue ‘Teaching second language pragmatics in the current era of globalization’ aims to illustrate such current trends, with six contributions by distinguished scholars in the field of L2 pragmatics from all over the globe.
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Empirically validated techniques to accelerate learners’ uptake of ‘chunks’ demonstrate that pathways for insightful chunk-learning become available if one is willing to question the assumption that lexis is arbitrary. Care is taken to ensure that the pedagogical proposals are in accordance with insights from vocabulary research generally. © Frank Boers and Seth Lindstromberg 2009. All rights reserved.
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This study investigated the development of L2 Chinese formulaic competence in a study abroad context. Participants were 31 American students studying Chinese in a university in China (intermediate-level). They completed a computerized speaking test consisting of 24 formulae-use situations twice during their semester-long study abroad in China. The learners produced a formulaic expression according to each situation, and their production was evaluated on appropriateness (rated on a four-point scale by native speakers) and planning time. In addition, a survey was administered to gather information about the learners' perceived frequency of encounter with formulae-use situations. The learners showed significant gains on appropriateness and fluency. Reported frequency of encounter with target formulae-use situations did not correlate with the gains in formulae production, except for the learners with lower pretest score. Qualitative analysis revealed four patterns of change: (1) change toward target formulae, (2) change toward target-like slot-and-frame patterns, (3) change toward non-target formulae; and (4) stabilized non-target formulae use.
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Technology-informed approaches to L2 research and teaching have prompted great interest by both researchers and practitioners alike. This book highlights the relationship between digitally-mediated technologies and second language pragmatics by presenting exemplary applications of technology for both research and pedagogy. Part I presents technology-informed research practices that range from measuring response times when processing conversational implicature to studies examining systematic pragmatic learning via online activities and multiuser virtual environments, as well as analyzing features of pragmatic language use in social networking and longitudinal learner corpora. Part II surveys a variety of technology-assisted tools for teaching pragmatics, including: place-based mobile games, blogging, web-based testing, and automated text analysis software. The volume will be of interest for those interested in technological tools to expand the scope of traditional methods of data collection, analysis, and teaching and critically examining how technology can best be leveraged as a solution to existing barriers to pragmatics research and instruction.
Article
The digital gaming industry has captured the public's attention worldwide and in the United States alone, the video game industry is predicted to increase by 30% from 2010 to 2019, reaching $19.6 billion in revenue (Takahashi, 2015, n.p.). Not surprisingly, digital gameplay is also rapidly expanding in educational domains. Although researchers have often cautioned that digital games are not a panacea or magic bullet, for the past decade educators have been exploring the inherent complexities and benefits of digital gaming and the significant opportunities they provide for effective, meaningful learning across disciplines (Caillois, 1961; Gee, 2007; McGonigal, 2013; Squire, 2009). World language learning and teaching have followed suit. This piece provides a brief exploration of the use of digital games in the language learning context and offers three ideas for future work in this area: (1) increased access to community-based games, (2) meaningful incorporation of virtual reality, and (3) increased access to commercial games.