PRAGMATIC DEVELOPMENTAL PATHWAYS BY SAUDI LEARNERS OF ENGLISH DURING STUDY ABROAD
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Recently, it has become increasingly popular among Saudi students to study abroad. There are, for example, currently 58,726 Saudi students studying at the university level in the United States. During their study abroad (SA) journey, when they wish to say something to someone, they need to determine the situationally-appropriate utterances: What can be said, to whom, where, when, and how. From the interlanguage pragmatic (ILP) perspective, the SA context is assumed to provide more opportunities to communicate with native speakers, and these opportunities are believed to lead to pragmatic gains (Kinginger, 2008, 2009).Guided by five research questions, this study investigated the development of pragmatic competence among Saudi second language (L2) learners of English during their SA experiences in the United States. The main areas of investigation in this study are: 1) assessing three aspects of pragmatic competence pragmatic appropriateness judgment perception, production, and comprehension with a focus on the speech acts of request, refusal and apology as well as implicature and 2) exploring the pragmatic developmental pathways of how their pragmatic competence develops while studying abroad in the United States.The study utilized an explanatory sequential mixed method design, with a quantitative phase followed by a qualitative phase. Seventy Saudi L2 students completed three pragmatic measures, namely, multiple-choice-discourse completion test (MDCT), written completion test (WDCT), and implicature listening test (ILT) that were administered electronically through a software for gathering data called Qualtrics. This was followed by semi-structured interviews with a sample of eight students who participated in the quantitative phase of the research.Several major findings were uncovered. In phase one, findings revealed that Saudi L2 learners were relatively competent in identifying, producing, and understanding appropriate language in contexts. Interview data suggested that there is a need to have a broader focus in language learning, including, beside grammar structure and vocabulary accuracy, the considerations of speech appropriateness and the different cultural issues. The interview data also discussed the participants acquisitional and developmental pathways of pragmatic competence as well as the sources they utilized to gain and develop their pragmatic competence in the SA context. Finally, the study concluded that almost all participants perceived SA in the native country to be helpful for developing pragmatic skills.