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Why is it important to learn how to perform communicative acts?

Most of what is considered miscommunication or rudeness can be attributed to the use of inappropriate pragmatic strategies for the specific context.

Miscommunication & Pragmatics

Think of a situation where you felt that the person was rude, especially a nonnative speaker. Take a moment to consider why you thought the person was rude. Here are some possible situations:

A man walks into a bookstore and says to the clerk, "Give me the new Harry Potter NOW!" Why might this seem rude? Was the request the person made too direct? Did it feel like an order?

A close friend forgets your birthday. She says, "Sorry, I was busy." Why might this seem rude? Did the person's apology seem insincere or overbearing?

Has something similar happened to you when speaking Spanish? Maybe someone didn't understand you were asking for something? Or maybe you felt like your personal space was violated? Part of understanding communicative acts is to learn to communicate and understand the intended message.

angry man

This is essential to your ability to communicate in Spanish as well as in your native language. Just knowing the words is not enough. You could speak with perfect grammar and vocabulary, but that does not matter if you are not communicating the proper meaning. This helps explain why pragmatic errors can even occur between two native speakers. Consider the example that follows.

Let's Practice!

The importance of these factors is best demonstrated through an example. Hannah (standing) and Tarrin (sitting), two classmates, are talking in class one day. Hannah really likes Tarrin's shoes and compliments her on them.

Watch some of their conversation below and then complete the activities that follow.

How would you respond to Hannah's compliment? Did Tarrin seem upset? Would you be?

What kind of impression would you get of Hannah if you were just meeting her for the first time?

What general observations can you make about the culture in which this interaction occurred? How do you think Tarrin's reaction would be different if the participants were Spanish speakers?

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