A pragmatic person is someone who can see things sensibly and realistically, but doesn’t always rely on pure theory. They’re often more interested in the results of their actions, and don’t get caught up in unrealistic dreaming or grand plans. A pragmatic four-year-old wouldn’t expect to receive a unicorn for her birthday, but rather would ask for a gift that would be fun for her.
Pragmatic can also refer to a philosophical trend that looks at concepts through their practical consequences, rather than just following theories. This pragmatic philosophy was primarily developed by American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce and his Harvard colleague William James, although it is a common approach in other countries too. It is now a growing third alternative to the prevailing analytic and continental philosophical traditions, and finds its home in areas such as feminism, ecology, Native American philosophy, and Latin American philosophy.
In language learning, pragmatics takes social and cultural context into consideration. This is what differentiates it from semantics, which is concerned with the literal meaning of words and sentences.
It is what allows us to politely hedge a request, cleverly read between the lines, negotiate turn-taking norms in conversation, and navigate ambiguity in context. For example, if you hear someone say that they’re going to meet “somebody” for lunch, it may mean either they’re meeting their boss or their best friend, depending on the situation.
A pragmatic teacher is someone who is aware of how different cultures and situations have a direct impact on communication, and takes those into account when teaching a foreign language. They are usually more likely to teach students how to speak a language by using real-life examples, and encourage their students to think critically about how they use the language in different situations.
If you want to learn more about the pragmatic language skills of your children, it is a good idea to talk with their doctor or a speech therapist. They can help you determine if there is any issue and provide you with resources and strategies to assist them.
In a technical sense, the word pragmatic can also be used to describe a programming approach that is focused on the most effective and efficient way to process data. This type of approach is based on real-world experience, and takes into account factors such as user behavior and resource availability. It is often seen as a more effective and realistic way to solve problems, but it is not without its critics, who argue that it lacks foundational principles and could be easily misinterpreted. This has led to the rise of more theoretical approaches, such as object-oriented design and the Object-Oriented Programming languages. Regardless, pragmatic is still the most common term to describe this style of programming.