October 2014
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Dr. Francisco Gomes de Matos, ABA Global Education, Recife, Brazil

The ever-expanding field of applied linguistics has led to the rise of an exciting, educationally inspiring emerging branch called peace linguistics. This way of doing linguistics can be related to TESOL by considering the relevance of these two beliefs:

1. All languages can be used for human-improving peaceful purposes.
2. TESOL can help teachers educate learners to use English for the good of humankind.

This brief article aims at implementing the second belief by applying peace linguistics to classroom interaction through two very useful teaching tools that may be new to you. The first is the 3-V activity, which presents communicative alternatives—variants, to use the linguistic term—for language users’ reception and/or production purposes. Being able to vary one`s uses of English is a fruitful strategy for developing skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in general, but can also be applied specifically to accomplish the goal of teaching our students to communicate more peaceably. The second tool is the use of posters, which will be explored as a way to inspire students to be thoughtful about the effects of their language choices on others.

The 3-V Activity

The purpose of this activity is to teach pragmatic differences in English language use. Pragmatics is the study of the communicative effects of language use on interlocutors (i.e., listeners, speakers, readers, writers, viewers, signers). Learners can be encouraged to expand their phraseological repertoire by creating additions to the variants in a task-based activity. Challengingly, in the 3-V activity, students learn to distinguish the pragmatic impact of their choice of variants. Let’s examine a basic 3-V sample. We’ll start simple, with a written task that is receptive in nature.

The Situation: You are a multinational corporation employee. You e-mail three colleagues to ask about some important information that you need to complete your work this week. You receive these three “auto-replies” from your colleagues.

a) Thank you for your message. I will be traveling without access to e-mail until September 1. I will, however, respond to your message when I return to the office.
b) I won´t be in town through August because of my family vacation. No computer use then, so I won`t get your message until I get back. Sorry!
c) Since I´m traveling this month and won’t have access to a computer, I’ll answer your message as soon as I get back in September. Meanwhile, if you have an emergency, you can contact my supervisor Ms. Tanaka at tanaka@mycompany.com.

The Task: Discuss with your group members both the reasons for the language chosen in each message and the pragmatic effect of the variation, and then choose which message you would have used yourself when leaving town.

Teaching Tips: Variant a) is the most formal and professional in terms of language use. While variant b) is quite a bit more informal, it alone includes an apology. Variant c) is somewhere between the other two with regard to formality, but may leave readers less frustrated in that it provides an avenue for further contact.

Using the 3-V for Peace Linguistics Applied to TESOL
As TESOLers, how can we help students identify points/spaces in the communicative dignity continuum, ranging from most to least dignifying? Here is an example of a 3-V activity aimed at challenging learners to engage in such self-aware language use:

The Situation: You are at a university reception, and during a casual conversation you realize that you have unintentionally offended someone you just met. Several possible variants of apologies come to mind, including:

a) Please forgive me—I had no intention of being disagreeable.
b) Sorry—no need to get offended.
c) Terribly sorry—I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.

The Task: Each of these choices might have a different pragmatic effect. Discuss the variants with your group members, and place them in order of increasing communicative dignity. Be prepared to justify why you think some language choices lend more dignity than others.

Teaching Tips: The above activity can be made more challenging by asking students to create a fourth variant which would further enhance the apology`s dignifying effect. It might be helpful also to combine this 3-V with a lesson on nonverbal communication. Have your students role-play their choices, ranging from less to more dignifying by altering their vocal qualities and body language.

Posters as Sources of Inspiration

In addition to the 3-V activity, posters, as conceived and crafted by the author of this article, can be a source of inspiration for applying peace linguistics to TESOL. Posters are readily available on the web, and if you don’t find one ready-made that suits your curricular needs and/or educational approach, new posters are easy to create for yourself.

As an example, here is a poster created especially for English language learners and their instructors: TESOLers as Appliers of Nonkilling, which can be found on the web.

(Click to Enlarge)

The second stanza in the poster could be adapted to Let´s teach words/expressions that


Or, make your own poster from scratch. Here are a site and a video with instructions for digital poster designing. Better yet, talk with your students about what peaceful goals they want to accomplish with English, and have them create their own posters individually or as a class.

Expanding Your Learners’ Peace-Building-Enhancing Skills Through English: A Plea

In committing to helping your students learn to vary their English for peaceful purposes, please consider the classroom implications of these three pairs of rhymed reflections:

Communicative peace/serenity our students can cultivate
when communicative harmony they effectively approximate

Their communicative dignity our students can edify
when using words/phraseologies that peacefully signify

Their communicative humility our students can learn to grow
when to their interlocutors how to avoid arrogance they show


I hope these educationally-oriented remarks have motivated you to start probing possibilities for the application of peace linguistics, especially through the 3-V activity and the use of posters. To help you begin, here are suggested free resources:

  • View a collection of 24 English posters, examples I created of visual-educational-linguistic posters, on the ABA Global Education website.
  • You might be also interested in my recently published article in the Brazilian journal DELTA, “Peace Linguistics for Language Teachers.”
  • TESOLers might like to know about a new dimension derived from peace linguistics: nonkilling linguistics. To learn more, download the book Nonkilling Linguistics: Practical Applications, edited by Patricia Friedrich.

Francisco Gomes de Matos, PhD, is emeritus professor, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil. His academic background is in languages, linguistics, and law. One of the world pioneers in peace linguistics, he advocates what he calls the ultimate fundamental communicative human right, namely, that every person should have the right to learn to communicate peacefully for the good of humankind.


My deepest appreciation goes to Kris Acheson-Clair for her thoughtful, painstaking editing and stylistic polishing of my English. Interacting with her during the article planning/writing/rewriting process has been a most gratifying experience. Her feedback helped me not only refine my written English but also achieve a higher level of reader-friendliness. Without her contribution, I could not have succeeded in relating peace linguistics to TESOL in such a clear, coherent, cohesive, constructive, and creative manner.

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The next issue of InterCom will be a special topic issue devoted to the theme of race and ethnicity. We are curious about our ICIS members! Which groups/labels do you most identify with? I see myself as
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