Processing Language in Social Settings: Impact of Verbal Pragmatics

Language is a key element in satisfactory interpersonal-social relationships. Every day students are faced with understanding language used in social situations. They try to understand what a teacher's tone of voice implies or what a classmate's joke means. Students may require guidance in properly interpreting language in the social context. Activities that target a student's understanding of language that has social meaning (tone, intonation, word choice, use of sarcasm, etc.) will benefit a student in the classroom as well as in every day life.

Here are some strategies to help students process language in social settings.

Helpful Hints

  • The interpretation of another person's feelings is complex. In order to develop a valid sense of another person's emotions, the listener must devote attention to actively listening, and also, review his/her memory for similar social situations.
  • Use films, videos, and plays to discuss how characters feel and what signs, expressions, etc. indicate those feelings. Have students dramatize reading passages and listen to each other speaking, characterizing tone of voice and what it implies.
  • Promote students' understanding of the use of body language and body movement as a cue to how one feels. Give students practice with both "reading" and "projecting" the appropriate body language.
  • It can be very helpful for students to develop an understanding of the language of their peers (peer lingo), even though they themselves may not use that lingo.