AI Chatbots for Enhancing Pragmatic Competence in Second Language Learners (74068)

Session Information: Artificial Intelligence
Session Chair: Minchang Sung

Saturday, 11 November 2023 11:00
Session: Session 1
Room: Kirimas
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 7 (Asia/Bangkok)

The significance of pragmatic knowledge in human communication is well-established in major theoretical models of communicative competence (Bachman & Palmer, 1996; Canale & Swain, 1980). Teaching and learning pragmatics in a second language (L2) is crucial, thereby necessitating effective instructional methods (Plonsky & Zhuang, 2019). The field of pragmatic instruction has recently begun to explore the contributions of technology to the teaching of pragmatics (González-Lloret, 2019, 2022; Maa & Taguchi, 2022; Sykes, 2018; Taguchi, 2023). These studies suggest that tools like computer-mediated communication and digital games offer rich contextual environments that enable learners to explore and practice language use related to pragmatics with a diverse range of communication partners. Through technology, L2 learners can immerse themselves in simulated discourse scenarios and interact with unique interlocutors, experiences not easily replicated in traditional classroom settings.
Building on the potential of technology in pragmatic instruction, this study investigates the role of AI chatbots, which have become increasingly prevalent online (e.g., ChatGPT), in enhancing L2 learners’ pragmatic competence. While existing literature acknowledges the effectiveness of AI chatbots in language learning (Huang et al., 2021), there is a dearth of research on the integration of chatbots in pragmatic instruction, with Baek (2021) being a notable exception. Recognizing that chatbots present ample opportunities for practicing pragmatics in varied communication scenarios, we developed chatbots to enable L2 learners of English to practice PDR-high requests—requests directed at someone of higher status or authority, characterized by social distance and a high degree of imposition. Utilizing the Dialogflow CX console on the Google Cloud platform, we designed chatbot responses and user intents based on major pragmatic steps such as opener (e.g., Well. Can I ask you a favor?) and grounder (e.g., As you know, we had planned to …). Additionally, we developed variations of chatbots for each scenario to facilitate practice from different power dynamics. We expect that interaction with these chatbots will enhance L2 learners’ metapragmatic awareness and pragmatic competence. This study also underscores the potential utility of AI chatbots as practical tools for L2 pragmatic instruction.

Abstract Summary
This study explores the use of AI chatbots in improving second language (L2) learners' pragmatic competence. Pragmatic knowledge is crucial in human communication and learning it in L2 requires effective instructional methods. While technology, such as computer-mediated communication and digital games, offers rich contexts for practicing pragmatics, there is limited research on integrating AI chatbots for this purpose. We developed chatbots that enable L2 learners to practice PDR-high requests, which involve making requests to individuals of higher status or authority. By utilizing the Dialogflow CX console on the Google Cloud platform, chatbot responses and user intents were designed based on major pragmatic steps. We posit that interaction with these chatbots will foster L2 learners’ metapragmatic awareness and pragmatic competence, highlighting the potential of AI chatbots as valuable tools for L2 pragmatic instruction.

Min-Chang Sung, Gyeongin National University of Education, South Korea
Sooyeon Kang, Sinyeon Middle School, South Korea

About the Presenter(s)
Sooyeon Kang received her doctoral degree in English Language Education at Seoul National
University in Korea. Her research interests include pragmatics, task-based language teaching, learner corpus research, and language learning and technology.

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