ESL Term:

Pragmatic Competence

ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


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pragmatic competence:

This is a part of communicative competence that involves being able to use language in interpersonal relationships, taking into account such complexities as social distance and indirectness. 

As an example of indirectness, consider the conversation:

A: How was the movie?

B: Well, the sound track was ok.

A second language learner may take that at face value not having the essential pragmatic knowledge that B is avoiding a direct answer because the direct answer is that the movie wasn't good.

Pragmatic competence is thought to be difficult to teach and have serious real consequences for second language learners that include failing to get jobs and good grades. For an interesting article see Kasper 1997.

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