Development of Language Proficiency and Pragmatic Competence in an Immersive Language Program

Vahid Rafieyan, William Rozycki


Since pragmatic competence and grammatical competence are two distinct aspects of communicative competence (Bachman, 1990), a high level of grammatical competence may not lead to a high level of pragmatic competence, rather it can be best developed through immersion in the target language. In this respect, this paper addresses three research questions within the context of an immersive language program in an EFL setting: 1) Does instruction in an immersive language program have a significant effect on language learners’ general language proficiency? 2) Is there any significant relationship between language learners’ general language proficiency and their pragmatic competence? 3) Is there any significant relationship between language learners’ level of language contact and their pragmatic competence?

In the experiment, Japanese first-year college students (n=18) were assessed through TOEFL PBT at the start of a one-year language immersion program. The subjects thereupon participated in an intensive language program. At the end of the academic year, all subjects took another TOEFL PBT along with a pragmatic competence test (Bardovi-Harlig, 2009) and a language contact survey. The statistical findings of this study demonstrated a significant positive effect for immersive language program on general language proficiency. However, the findings found no significant association between general language proficiency and pragmatic competence and only a weak correlation between language contact and pragmatic competency. This suggests that developing general linguistic proficiency and immersive language contact with a target language do not automatically ensure the acquisition of pragmatic competence.

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World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

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