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Interactional strategies used by university students of Italian as a foreign language (IFL) at basic or advanced levels during symmetric conversations


This paper discusses the development of interactional competence in the light of conversational studies. More specifically, the focus will be on the use of discourse markers in semi-guided conversations with learners of Italian as a foreign language (FL). The study has been carried out with university students enrolled in the first and last year of the Undergraduate Course in Italian at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. The heavy presence of agreement discourse markers combined with the sporadic use of competitive interruptions and metatextual discourse markers indicate that the students are not predisposed to a culture of discussion. This result was found both at beginner and advanced levels. Despite some difficulties in managing communication, expressed through hesitation, vertical constructions and requests for help, the informants do not withdraw from the task at hand and do everything they can to maintain the conversation flow. The variety of discourse markers in learners’ interlanguage is essentially the same at both levels, except for agreement discourse markers, which are more varied at the advanced level, and phatic expressions, which are used exclusively at the beginner level. These data lead us to assume that higher levels of competence do not necessarily result in the use of a wider range of discourse markers. Other factors are likely to have influenced learners’ interlanguage, such as the type of input learners were exposed to, as well as their engagement in tasks which required them to notice specific language forms. From a pedagogical point of view, it emerges that suitable observation and production activities should be used from the beginner levels, as these tasks help raising learners’ consciousness about those conversational mechanisms which regulate discussions among native speakers.

interactional competence; learners of Italian as a FL; discourse markers; interruptions

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