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Fluency and Pragmatics Gain Momentum
Kyoto JALT Pan-SIG Conference Report

The second annual Pan-SIG conference, hosted by the Kyoto JALT chapter, was held at Kyoto Institute of Technology May 10 and 11. Featured SIGs included Pragmatics and TEVAL (Testing and Evaluation), with guest speakers Dr. J.D. Brown, Dr. Gabriele Kasper, and Dr. Bob Gibson. More than 50 presentations focusing on three themes—conversational fluency: ideology or reality; pragmatics: connecting theory, research, and practice; and testing and evaluation: communicative language testing—brought speakers from around Japan who presented on a range of topics including teaching techniques, innovations in testing, current research, and more.

The three plenary speakers drew crowds on Saturday. In the opening plenary, “Communicative language testing; a lot of questions, some answers,” Bob Gibson outlined the historical background of CLT and suggested how it can be improved. J.D. Brown’s talk “Promoting fluency over accuracy” began with an exploration of what constitutes fluency and concluded with some practical teaching and testing strategies to promote fluency in the classroom. Gabriele Kasper summarized current pragmatics research and emphasized that students can be taught pragmatic competence in her talk, “Social context and identity in learning L2 pragmatics.”

The conference coincided with a special edition of The Language Teacher, edited by Donna Tatsuki and featuring eight articles focusing on pragmatics and language teaching. On Sunday, Special Session parts 1 and 2 showcased the eight authors responding to the question: what is the relevance of pragmatics to language teaching? Donna Fujimoto’s “Nonverbal pragmatics,” Donna Tatsuki’s “The place of pragmatics in the teaching of language and culture,” and Mayumi Fujioka’s “Raising pragmatic consciousness in the Japanese EFL classroom” were especially insightful.

Though there were many interesting presentations, one of the most professionally done and critical for current research practice was a two part symposium entitled “Practical applications of Rasch measurement theory” hosted by Jim Sick, Edward Schaefer, Kay Irie, and Tomoko Fujita. Jim Sick presented an overview of RMT and the other presenters reported on their own research involving RMT applications in various contexts.

Busy teachers who don’t have the time or money to escape to the national conference should consider attending the Pan-SIG Conference when it’s hosted close to home. It’s a great chance to enhance your professional development in a more intimate setting. Moreover, if you’re interested in presenting, it’s a supportive forum, especially for teachers who are honing their presentation skills. Last but not least, the Saturday evening dinner buffet in the student cafeteria was great chances to “talk shop,” see old friends, and make new ones. Don’t miss it next year!

Report by Heidi Evans Nachi, Sanda, JAPAN
School of Policy Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University

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