spaceCenter for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Important Information for Teachers


This website is available for use in your classroom with learners of Spanish. It can be used in a variety of ways and helps bridge the gap between the need for pragmatic instruction in the second language classroom and the lack of curricular materials available. This site is specifically designed to be a self-access website so that students can complete the materials at home or in a language lab. However, we highly recommend that the materials be supplemented and discussed in the classroom.

This page contains valuable information that will help you when using this website. It answers the following questions:

What should the language level of my students 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 language level, please see What's my level?.

What materials are available on this website?

This website contains a total of nine units. Supplementary information has also been incorporated throughout the website. The modules available are:

  • Introduction to Pragmatics (to be completed before any of the other modules)
  • Compliment Sequences (Compliments and Compliment Responses)
  • Gratitude & Leave Taking
  • Requests
  • Apologies
  • Invitation Sequences
  • Service Encounters
  • Advice, Suggestions, Disagreements, and Reprimands
  • Considerations for Pragmatic Performance (a reference module)

The content within each module varies based on the empirical research available; however, each unit consists of six basic sections.

  1. Introduction to the communicative act
  2. Interaction with the communicative acts
  3. Presentation of pragmatic strategies specific to each communicative act
  4. Exploration of social factors
  5. Navigation of language variation
  6. Summary page

Are the materials designed for my students' communicative needs?

The materials in this website cater directly to college-age learners of Spanish who are also advanced speakers of English. This does not mean that the materials are not valuable for users who are not in this group. Rather, it means they may need to be creative when imagining themselves 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

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

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

However, having said that, we want express caution 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. Furthermore, if Spanish is being used as a lingua franca by two non-native speakers, the pragmatic tendencies will also be different. Therefore, students should always be encouraged to serve as their own data collectors when interacting with native speakers. The strategies given in this website are a good start to helping their observational and interpretation skills. Click here for a complete list of helpful strategies learners can use to improve their 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 learners understand these tendencies and practice strategies that can help them identify variation.

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

In many cases, delivery will be accepted even if learners violate certain rules. If people recognize them as a nonnative speaker, they might be less likely to take offense at any awkward pragmatic moments. In other cases, utterances 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 students learn tendencies of native speaker behavior. We leave it up to them to decide just how much they wish to conform to a "native-like standard" in their pragmatic behavior.

What is the interface between this website and a course of instruction?

This website can be used in a number of ways by learners. First of all, it was designed to be completely self-accessible for your students. Feedback is scaffolded throughout the website and much of the technical terminology has been removed. That means your students can used the website completely autonomously. Therefore, one scenario would be giving them the website as a resource and encouraging its use throughout their language learning journey.

The other end of the spectrum would involve making the website an integral part of your course in which the activities are required and students actually turn them in. You will note that there are response spaces throughout the website. Currently, these are not submitted to a database, but the responses could be printed and then turned in or saved into a separate document. We caution too much evaluation of pragmatic practice, since there is such a wide range of variation. Suggestions for using the site in your courses are given in the next section.

There are also many other scenarios in between. Our suggestion is that you use the site in a way that best fits the needs of your students. Its primary function is to be used as a language learning tool by students, not a textbook. The big advantage of the site is that learners can access it from anywhere in the world and work with it on their own, thereby enabling them to be lifelong learners!

How should I use this website?

We recommend you use this website in a way that best benefits your classroom. After completing the Introduction to Pragmatics module, learners can complete each module in order or skip around. If you are using this website in conjunction with a course, you should always follow the objectives of your course. Also, we encourage you to have students keep the URL handy when studying abroad. You never know when a situation may arise when they need to thank someone or apologize and they have no idea how to do it. Since the internet is available around the world, web-based materials can be especially helpful for those abroad.

Here are some additional ideas for using this website:

  • Introductory unit with student data collection: The website can be used as an introduction to different features of Spanish pragmatics. Students can then engage in their own data collection, role plays, and simulations.
  • Module-by-module approach: Each module is completed for a comprehensive look at Spanish pragmatic practices. Follow-up can then be done in the classroom or online using computer mediated communication tools.
  • Section-by-section approach across modules (e.g., language variety): Students can explore certain areas of each module. For example, they would explore how language variety affects different communicative acts by exploring the language variety section of each module.
  • Student team reports: Each group of students completes one module and then reports what they have learned to the rest if the class.
  • Further web exploration on Spanish pragmatics by students: In conjunction with the website, students would be asked to do online research of their own using empirical studies available.

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

It is important to remind students that the transcripts are provided as a tool, in case they get stuck or want to take a more detailed look at some of the language being used. It is very important that they try to complete the activities without the written transcripts first, and then, if they still ned help, they can use the text.

Why is the website written in English?

This was purposely done for three 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 students answer 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 the learners of Spanish have a high proficiency, students 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.

(3) To make the website more accessible as a strategies-based model for learning pragmatics in other languages.

Are there other resources available for teachers?

Yes. Additional information about pragmatics and communicative acts is available at /speechacts at the University of Minnesota.

Sample materials for using the Japanese counterpart of this project (created by Andrew D. Cohen and Noriko Ishihara) can be found at the bottom of the For Teachers section on their website. These include sample reflective journaling tasks and sample website survey activities.

In addition, instructional models and activity ideas specifically related to Spanish are available at These materials were created by J. César Félix-Brasdefer at Indiana University. Félix-Brasdefer was the outside expert advisor for this project.

Should you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.

Is the material used here really accurate? What if it does not reflect what I actually say?

Because there is variation, even among native speakers in the way they speak, and because much of our language use is unconscious or automatic, appropriate use of language or appropriate speech norms to be taught in the classroom must be research-based.  The linguistic samples and exercises in these materials are based on past research findings from empirical research in Spanish pragmatics. The resources used to create each module are given on the summary page of each unit.

Nevertheless, due to the very nature of speaker variability (e.g., personality, age, gender, level of education, and cultural background), the samples and answer keys may not always match what you would say and how you would say it in your variety of Spanish. Language variety is a very important aspect of Spanish pragmatics and must be considered. The goal of this website is to give learners viable strategies for effectively dealing with many different varieties of Spanish, if need be.

In order for learners to acquire and use Spanish communicatively, the sample dialogues were recorded in the most natural way possible. While they are role plays, only the situation was given to the speaker. It is our intention to provide to learners examples of appropriate native speaker behavior in authentic contexts.  It is recommended that instructors use these materials to encourage learners to focus on the appropriate use of Spanish, not grammatical accuracy or analysis of linguistic form.  Learners can begin to develop a tolerance of ambiguity while focusing on the main idea and appropriate use of Spanish, rather than worrying about understanding every single word used in samples. Written transcripts of the dialogues are also provided to enable more thorough comprehension.

Back to the Top






Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) • 140 University International Center • 331 17th Ave SE • Minneapolis, MN 55414 | Contact CARLA