Speaking skills are perceived as the most appropriate way of evaluating the ability of language students to use the language in the most effective manner. In the study, the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis as well as the use of its principles and analytical tools would be basically critiqued from a You Tube video by Naomi Simpson ESL Students Talk. It is worth mentioning that in the video, students at the intermediate level of proficiency in the English language give their views on their interests and experiences. Simpson affirms that learners express their ideas in English to illustrate what they have learnt in the second language thus far. In line with this critique, it is vital to consider relevant principles in the pragmatic approach, including conversational principles, communication intentions, and the type of the discourse, which in this case is an interview of the ESL students. Moreover, attention will be paid to the specific analytical tools such as conversational analysis (CA) in terms of the interaction of the students with the interviewer. The nature of language use in the video is apparently perfect, given that the students are at the intermediate level of proficiency and willing to learn more about English as a second language. The principles of the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis as illustrated in the chosen video presenting students expressing their interests have been upheld in most instances with minimal breaches probably because of the students’ ignorance of some aspects of the language.
One of the most significant principles of the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis is the conversational principle. According to van Dijk, it is concerned with aspects such as the sequential organization, the coherence of the conversation, the ability to rectify conversational errors, and the roles and speech acts of the individuals involved in the conversation. For instance, in the analyzed You Tube video, the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis is well-executed by the intermediate students as they effectively understand what needs to be done. In fact, they comprehend the basic idea of the interview that is to try to use the language and reflect in it in a perfect manner, which they perfectly accomplish. In the course of their conversation, they effectively adhere to the conversational principle and express their ideas in turn. It is worth mentioning that there are no such instances when some student interrupts the other one. Simpson asserts that despite the effect of their respective first languages, they endeavor to use the English language that highlights their high interest and focus on understanding and using the language. In most instances, the conversational principle leads to the creation of identities in the process of speaking. During an interview with the students, identities are created through their interactions with the interviewer and their ability to express themselves in the English language while explaining different likes and interests. Behnam and Pouriran agree that the use of the English language by these students works in tandem with the conversational principle because they take part in the colloquy and have the ability to express their views in the interview. In fact, the language does not need to be perfect at all times to achieve the conversational threshold. The most important thing as exhibited in the case of these students is to continue the conversation and insure it conforms to the required manner.
Another vital principle of the approach is the communication intention. The principle basically refers to the aim of the information being passed in the course of a conversation. Bois explains that communication intention is concerned with whether the spoken words meet the target based on the point being addressed. For example, the intention of the interview with the ESL students was to understand their feelings about learning English as a second language and what opportunities they believe it might afford them. The spoken conversation involving students is vital because it assists in the achievement of the intention of communicating the required message about the English language and its usage in different contexts. As intermediate ESL students, they excellently demonstrate self-belief and determination in their choice to pursue English as a second language. However, the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis is quite ineffective in cases when it does not attain the purpose in terms of satisfying the target audience and providing them with the desired information. Apparently, there were some cases when the intention of the interview was not clear because of the accent of students. Thus, it was necessary to pay closer attention to understand the whole intention of the conversation. The choice of words and grammar made it rather difficult, but the main point of interest is that the intention of the communication was conveyed in every way possible to the audience. Cornish holds that when the intention of the communication is clearly relayed, there is always a chance that other people will understand it and adjust to the relevant situations without any problems. The understanding of the required intention is illustrative of the efficiency of language in terms of achieving its purpose with regard to the target audience. Nevertheless, a language fails to reach its desirable level of efficiency when it cannot communicate its purpose to individuals. In this case, the ESL students insure that their intermediate English serves its purpose and the communication of the intention is realized.
The type of discourse is also a relevant principle under the pragmatic approach. Some of the key types of discourse with respect to the pragmatic approach include narratives, jokes, and interviews. Adjei stresses that the nature of the discourse options is always anchored in the context of the communication relating to linguistic and situational terms. With respect to the ESL students, the type of the discourse is the interview as they do not necessarily engage in a conversation. Hereby, this means that this approach is effective in terms of its construction as an interview and is suitable for the students as they are able to air their views about English as their second language. It is easier to gather information using this principle, as it applies to the students in the video. For example, Simpson reiterates that the context in its linguistic terms is also appropriate as it is clear that students have their own native languages, but they are at the intermediate level of their English learning process. Thus, this gives the audience an opportunity not to judge their pronunciation and articulation of specific English words because they are only in the learning process. In explicating interview as a type of discourse, it is vital to understand that the need to communicate occupy the first place before the content and form. Apparently, this aspect could be said to have been executed in the middle of the conversation. For instance, the spoken words do not necessarily precede content and form among all students, thereby limiting this factor in the process of the interview. Haworth explains that the success of interview as a form of discourse is based on the fact that it provides every ESL student with an opportunity to state what they feel about different aspects, including the process of learning English as their second language. Thus, they have an opportunity to express their areas of satisfaction and challenges that they face during the learning process.
The pragmatic approach to discourse analysis is anchored in the principle that ideologies are produced and reflected in the use of the discourse. There are ambiguities in the way the ESL students live in line with this approach. In fact, there are undeniable deficiencies in the spoken interview in terms of meeting the criteria of this principle because the students are basically in their learning process. Thus, some of the views they present do not necessarily create ideologies that are reflected in the use of the discourse. For instance, Shopen confirms that most of the students make it quite challenging to understand the nature of their ideologies, especially because of the way they pronounce some English words due to the influence of their native languages. Hereby, emotions help one to understand their point, which is to master English and excellently apply it to different contexts. Consequently, it would be much better if the students were able to organize their ideologies in such a way that they were reflected in their discourse. The problem is that there are ambiguities in the use of their language and the failure to match ideologies with the set discourse. Thus, it would be rather difficult to know that this is an interview because sometimes the students spoke freely as if they were not responding to the questions.
The other principle is that discourse both reflects and reproduces social relations. Haworth opines that the interview, as the type of pragmatics used for the ESL students, does not fully uphold this principle since there should be elements of the social relations. In fact, the only social aspect present in the educational element is a clear understanding that the students are pursuing English as their second language. However, social relations between the students and the interviewer or any other part of the society are not effectively created. Van Dijk holds the view that the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis tends to be more effective and satisfactory in instances when it establishes and encourages a common bond between individuals through social relationships. In fact, social relationships created through the use of language are always instrumental in leading to a sustained communication between the participants. Bois further notes that the communicative relationships make it easier for both communicators to have a smooth flow of ideas between themselves. However, the gaps in social relationships in this conversation could have been improved through initial claims on the social standing of the students as well as the interviewer’s standing. Thus, they should not have only been dependent on the use of words such as “The English language” to signify relationships. Therefore, they should have explained the social context in which language is effectively used in the process of their individual communication.
The key analytic tool defining the pragmatic approach to discourse analysis in a clear manner is conversational analysis (CA). In this case, the conversational analysis applies to the connections between the students and the interviewer. It can be noted that ESL students clearly comply with the conversational analysis (CA) in the course of the interview. For example, Simpson confirms that for all students, it is easier to derive content from what they say in the course of their communication and aspirations for the English language. In fact, they always answer when the interviewer asks them questions, thereby reflecting their ability to master the English language as fast as possible and apply it to their conversational process. According to Shopen, information, as used by these students, is always supposed to give the audience an opportunity to make a reasonable judgment of truth rather than taking into consideration the content of exchanges. It is easier to capture the interest of these students in their use of the English language through their thinking process and expressions, thereby utilizing the conversational analysis (CA) in the clearest manner possible.
In conclusion, the chosen interview involving ESL students meets the criteria of the numerous principles applicable to the pragmatic discourse approach. For instance, the conversation principle is seen right with regard to the context and emphasis of the message focused on learning the English language. Moreover, there is the intention of the communication, which is to inform the audience of the students’ desire to learn the English language in the most effective manner. The mode of the discourse, which is the interview, is framed in a clear manner that makes the conversation more sensible and direct in conveying information to the target audience. The best characteristic of spoken communication is that it makes individuals much closer through social relationships as well as exhibits the proficiency of a person in the given language.