spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
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Service Encounters

In this module, you will learn the ins and outs of service encounters in Spanish.

What are service encounters?

Service encounters are transactional interactions in which one person (e.g., a vendor, office clerk, travel agent) provides a service or good (e.g., a product, an appointment, airline tickets) to another person.

Many different communicative acts are included in service encounters including, for example, greetings, leave takings, requests, and offers. It is importatn to fully understand the service encounter context in order to appropriately perform communicative acts. Many of the pragmatic strategies addressed in the other modules still apply to the communicative acts produced in service encounters; however, this unique service context warrants detailed pragmatic exploration.

In this module, we will specifically address unique features of service encounters as well as the pragmatic strategies used in this specific context. We will look at three specific components of service encounters:

      • Openings and Tone Setting
      • Negotiating Service
      • Closing the Interaction & Leave Taking


An Example Service Encounter in Peruvian Spanish

Play the example below to get an idea of what a service encounter sequence between a vendor and a client in a market in Peru. As you listen, pay special attention to the different components of the service encounter itself. Can you find the opening, the negotiation of service, and the closing?

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Were you able to find examples of each component of a service encounter? If not, go back and listen again until you feel comfortable with the structure of this sequence. You may also use the written transcript for help by clicking the "color code" button on the transcript page. The opening, negotiation of service, and closing have been highlighted for you.

What do you think might be the most difficult aspect of service encounters? Why?

What will you learn about service encounters in Spanish?

In this module, we will explore service encounters in detail by examining various components of the service encounters and strategies used to interact appropriately.

At the end of the module, you will know how to:

  1. Identify the opening, negotiation of service, and closing of a service encounter.
  2. Understand various pragmatic strategies (i.e., sociocultural and language strategies) you can use to interact in service encounters.
  3. Understand and evaluate important contextual and social factors to consider in invitation sequences.
  4. Understand and consider distinctions between service encounters in different language varieties.


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