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Communicative Language Teaching And Communicative Competence

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1395 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Hymes pointed out that those rules are the knowledge of the rules of socio-cultural communication with others; how, what, where, when and in what aspect language is spoken in a proposed society. Therefore, according to Chomsky it can be described as the knowledge of the grammatical and speech rules of a language and the ability to use these rules in the away that does not deviate from the native-speaker’s style to use the language. Hymes, however declared that this definition is not appropriate and, instead, he suggested that effective performance is not the result of linguistic competence given by Chomsky, but by knowledge of the rules of the socio-cultural communication too, and hence communicative competence is actually what results in appropriate performance.

Hymes’ theory took the attention of many syllabus designers to adopt on communicative competence. For instance, Canale and Swain, suggested models for classroom teaching using Hymes’ views. Van Ek and Alexander (1975), and Wilkins (1976) presented ‘the Notional Syllabus’. This syllabus is distinguished by its attention to functions and notions as applications of Hymes’ views.

Curriculum writers like Widdowson (1978,1979), Munby (1978), Breen and Candlin (1980), Littlewood (1981), Brumfit and Johnson (1983), Yalden (1983) Johnson, applied Hymes’ views and devised communicative teaching materials based on these views (Richards and Rodgers, 2001).

The CLT has been widespread based on Hymes’ views occurred in the 1970s. It has established as an approach in the field of language teaching, in which the four language skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) are correlated appropriately, comprehensively and communicatively. This way of teaching defers it from the other teaching methods as for it engages the teachers and students, along with and the materials working as one component towards the use of language as one unit.

Lindsay (2006: 21) points out that it could be said that the communicative method is a result of linguists’ satisfactory with the traditional methods “as these methods put little, if any, emphasis on the ability to communicate or interact”.

However, Richards & Rogers (1986: 50) pointed out that “Communicative Language Teaching is best considered as an approach rather than a method”. Also, Rogers (2001: 9- 10) made a distinction between methods and approaches: methods are teaching systems with prescribed techniques and practices, but approaches deal with language teaching philosophies that can be implemented in the classroom in different styles.

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Widdowson (1990: 159) explained that the communicative approach “concentrates on getting learners to do things with language, to express concepts and to carry out communicative acts of various kinds. The content of a language course is now defined not in terms of forms, words and sentence patterns, but in terms of concepts, or notions, which such forms are used to express, and the communicative functions which they are used to perform”.

Richards & Rogers (1986: 49) stated that the theory of teaching underlying the “Communicative Approach is “holistic” rather than “behaviouristic”. It starts from a theory of language as communication, which implies knowledge of the grammatical system as well as performance”. Also, Aqel (2006) pointed out that the aim of this Communicative approach is to prepare students for “meaningful communication, where errors are tolerated”. The amount of exercises and activities involved with a communicative approach is not restricted and connected with the constructivist theory of learning.

George (1999: 16-17) pointed out that “Constructivism is basically a theory based on observation and scientific study about “how people learn”. “It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences”. This means that the students effectively create their own subjective representations of objective reality. In addition, the teacher in communicative approach is not the centre of all classroom activities as the focus is mainly directed towards the learners (p. 22). Lantolf (2000) called the communicative methodology and constructivist theory of learning “activity theories”. It means that teachers and students have to interact and reconstruct socially with ideas and knowledge. (pp. 12-13).

2.2 Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) & Communicative Competence (CC)

The difference between CLT and traditional teaching methods, like the grammar translation method (GTM) and the audio- lingual method (ALM), is that the CLT approach mainly focuses in teaching and learning a language. The basic goals of teaching using the CLT approach is not rather “its structure” but “communicative function” (Littlewood, 1981; 1998). That is, the main goal of teaching and learning a language is to improve students’ communicative competence (Li, 1998). Thus, theoretically, it is useful to understand and introduce what is “communicative competence”, before understanding CLT.

2.2.1 Communicative Competence:

In the 1970’s, many researchers distinguished between linguistic and communicative competence (Hymes, 1967; Paulston, 1974) to point out the difference between the knowledge of the language forms and knowledge that help learners communicate functionally and interactionally. According to Savignon (1997: 272) Communicative Competence is: “functional language proficiency; the expression, interpretation, and negotiation of meaning involving interaction between two or more persons belonging to the same (or different) speech community”. In addition, Savignon divided communicative competence as having the following elements; 1) communicative competence is a dynamic, but not a static concept. It depends on the negotiation of meaning between two or more learners who share to some extent the same symbolic system; 2) communicative competence involved in both written and spoken language, as well as to many other symbolic systems; 3) communicative competence is context specific. Communication takes place in an infinite variety of situations, and success in a particular role depends on one’s knowledge of the context; 4) competence and performance defers theoretically. Competence is defined as a presumed underlying ability whereas performance as the overt manifestation of that ability. Competence is what one knows. Performance is what one does and 5) communicative competence is relative, not absolute, and depends on the cooperation of all the participants (p. 14-15). Savignon has worked on communicative competence, and her work is known and considered in the field.

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However, Canale and Swain (1980) presented the four- area framework of knowledge and skill regarding communicative competence. They declared that communicative competence involves grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence, and strategic competence. Then Canale (1983: 7) pointed that grammatical competence “focuses directly on the knowledge and skill required to understand and express accurately the literal meaning of utterances”. Sociolinguistic competence refers to the learner’s ability to use the language appropriately in social contexts. Therefore sociolinguistic competence shows the learners’ ability to go beyond the literal meaning of utterances and recognize what is the intent of such utterances in particular social situations. In addition, Canale (1983: 8) says that sociolinguistic competence is important in explaining utterances for their ‘social meaning’.

It is important to acknowledge that communicative competence is a major aspect of CLT, and teachers are said to understand its many aspects.

2.2.2 Communicative Language Teaching:

Researchers and linguistics have focused on the shift from the “language” to “communication”. Brumfit (1988) referred to “communication” as a task to be performed,


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