spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Important Information for Student Learners

Here is some valuable information that will help you when using this website. It answers the following questions:

What should my language level be before using this site?

These materials have been designed for numerous levels of language learners (novice high to advanced low according to the ACTFL oral proficiency guidelines). Therefore, they will provide valuable information for learners at all levels, when used properly. In order to get a better idea of how you can best use this site according to your language level, please see What's my level?.

Are the materials designed for my communicative needs?

The materials in this website cater directly to college-age learners of Spanish who are advanced speakers of English. This does not mean that the materials are not valuable for you if you are not in this group. Rather, it means you may need to be creative when imagining yourself in certain contexts. Nevertheless, the materials will be beneficial to all who use the site for improving pragmatic abilities in Spanish.

How do I navigate this website? What do I do if I cannot view the videos?

A complete, printable guide explaining how to navigate and play the videos is available. For additional help, you may contact us at

What does pragmatics mean?

You will learn about the meaning of pragmatics in much more detail in the introductory unit of this website. On a very basic level, pragmatics refers to the way we convey meaning through communication. This meaning includes verbal and non-verbal elements and varies depending on the context, the relationship between people talking, and many other social factors. In the Introduction to Pragmatics module, you will explore examples and each of these features in more detail.

Will what I learn here work in any Spanish-speaking community?

This website is designed to help you learn strategies for learning pragmatic features of Spanish as well as give you some specific examples from native speakers that you can use to start building your repertoire. Therefore, the skills you gain from this website should be very helpful for you in any Spanish-speaking community.

However, having said that, we want to caution you in generalizing pragmatic practices to any Spanish-speaking region or language variety. While tendencies do exist, there are no set rules governing how to perform specific communicative acts. Sometimes pragmatic failure even occurs between two native speakers. Furthermore, if Spanish is being used as a lingua franca by two nonnative speakers, the pragmatic tendencies will also be different. Therefore, you should always serve as your own data collector when interacting with native speakers. The strategies given in this website are a good start to developing your observational and interpretation skills. Click here for a complete list of helpful strategies you can use to improve your pragmatic abilities.

What does it mean to be "correct" in regards to pragmatic behavior?

The truth is that in dealing with language in a social context, there is always variation, even among native speakers. Many factors influence this variation (e.g., age, gender, social status, geographical region). For this reason, there is not a single best way to say something. Rather, there are tendencies or preferred approaches. It is our intention to help you understand these tendencies and practice strategies that can help you identify variation.

Should I be expected to perform a communicative act the way a native Spanish speaker does?

In many cases, your delivery will be accepted even if you violate certain rules. If people recognize that you are a nonnative speaker, they might be less likely to take offense at any awkward pragmatic moments. In other cases, your utterance may be accepted, but may still be inappropriate. In still other cases, it may not be acceptable at all. Many times people are not aware of pragmatic features of their own language. These materials are intended to help you learn tendencies of native speaker behavior. We leave it up to you to decide just how much you wish to conform to a "native-like standard" in your pragmatic behavior.

What are the ways I can use this website in order to learn about pragmatics in Spanish?

We recommend you use this website in a way that best benefits you! The website is designed to be used completely independently, so you have the advantage of accessing it from anywhere any time. In fact, we encourage you to keep the URL handy when studying abroad or interacting with people in Spanish. You never know when a situation may arise when you need to thank someone or apologize and you have no idea how to do it. The feedback for each of the modules is built into the site so you can self-correct as you go.

After completing the Introduction to Pragmatics module, you will have the background necessary to complete each module in order or to skip around. Also, you can look at specific sections of each module (e.g., the strategies section from Apologies, Requests, and Gratitude) or work though each module from start to finish. We also suggest returning to the modules as your language skills develop. Each time you work through a module, you will learn something more or pick up on something different.

How should I use the written transcripts provided with each language clip?

It is important to remember that the transcripts are provided for you as a tool, in case you get stuck or want to take a more detailed look at some of the language being used. It is very important that you try to complete the activities without the written transcripts first, and then, if you still ned help, you can use the text. While this may seem more difficult at first, it is an important step in improving your pragmatic skills. When interacting in a Spanish-speaking country, you will not have access to a written transcript of the conversation. The more practice you can get without the transcript, the better off you will be.

Why is the website written in English?

This was purposely done for two reasons:

(1) To make the site more accessible for the maximum number of learners at a variety of language levels. If the website was written in Spanish, it would severely limit the availability of the site to learners at lower levels. We recommend answering all of the activities in Spanish whenever possible. We recognize that switching between the two languages is a difficult skill, but it is well worth the effort.

(2) To help students specifically focus on pragmatic aspects of language. Research has shown that pragmatic features of a language are especially difficult and subtle. By having access to the materials in a language in which you are highly proficient, you will be able to focus primarily on the pragmatic features of language in the activities and not on the language of the instructions or navigation tools.

How do I insert accents in my responses?

Accents may inserted in a number of ways. First of all, you can use an international keyboard and enter them as you would in a document. You can also use the following keyboard shortcuts:

á ALT+160

é ALT+130

í ALT+161

ñ ALT+164

ó ALT+162

ú ALT+163

¿ ALT+168

¡ ALT+173


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