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Lecture 2 Language learning and language teaching

Key questions:

1. Communicative language teaching

2. The concept of communicative competence


Communicative language teaching is based on a number of typical features of the communication process (Littlewood, W. 1981. Communicative language Teaching. CUP. Savignon,S. 1983. Communicative Competence: Theory and Classroom Practice. Mass. Widdowson, H. 1979. Teaching language as Communication. OUP). Language learning is understood as learning to communicate through communication. The emphasis (stress) is put on the meaningful and motivated use of language by the people who communicate in order to achieve a certain goal. Language for learning is derived from communicative experience in a variety of real world situations. Fluency is put over accuracy. Interactive learning is encouraged as the way towards acquiring communication skills.

Communicative teaching is a way of teaching a language through communication. The way towards communicative teaching method can be traced in the chart below:

Method Grammar-translation Audio-lingual method Natural approach Communicative activities
Subject Language forms Language patterns Whole language Human discourse
Learning Language analysis Memorization Exposure to the input Communication experience

Communicative approach is used differently in different teaching cultures. “Teaching culture” is the collective teaching experience, beliefs and practices, which are typical of a certain community or society. Communicative approach is not universally relevant for different teaching cultures. In Japan languages are taught in the typically teacher-fronted and teacher-centered classrooms. A typical lesson consists of the teacher's checking the learner's sentence by sentence translations of a text. Chinese students can be unwilling to ask questions during a communicative lesson because students do not want to interrupt other students or the teacher, it is better to ask after the lesson etc. (Coleman H. 1996.Society and the Language Classroom. CUP). A lesson of English in Russia often includes homework check up, presentation of the new material and reinforcement of the new material. The teacher, who signals when a particular learner is invited to speak, will regulate learners' participation in the lesson (Millrood, R. 1999. How Native English Speakers Can be Better English Teachers in Russia. The Internet TESL Journal. Vol..5 No 1 1999. Ellis, G. 1996. How culturally appropriate is the communicative approach? ELTJ. Volume 50/3. P. 213-218)

The concept of communicative competence is based to a large extent on
the work of the sociolinguist Dell Hymes.

The idea of communicative competence started to develop with the construct of "linguistic competence". Linguistic competence is understood as innate knowledge of language (Chomsky, N. 1986. Knowledge of Language: It's Nature, Origin and Use. N.Y. P. 24. Aitchison, J. 1999. The Articulate Mammal. An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. L.,N.Y.P.180-182. Harley,T. 1997. The Psychology of Language. Psychology Press. P.141). Linguistic competence is only part of what is needed for communication.

Communicative competence encompasses the knowledge of how to use the language in the real world. (Hymes, D. 1971. On communicative Competence. University of Pennsylvania Press. Bachman, L. 1990. Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. OUP. P.87).

Communicative competence can be described as including grammar competence (knowledge of grammar rules, lexis and phonetics), pragmatic competence (knowledge of how to express a message), strategic competence (knowledge of how to express a message in a variety of circumstances), social-cultural competence (knowledge of social etiquette, national mind-set and values etc.) (another description of communicative competence can be found in Canale, M., and M. Swain. 1980.

Communicative competence breaks down into the two major components of the knowledge: knowledge of the language and knowledge of how to achieve the goal of communication


Communicative competence    
Knowledge of the language Knowledge of how to use the language  

Competence is not the same as ability. In order to be able to communicate, people need psycho-physiological mechanisms, i.e. communicative skills (After Bachman, L. 1990. Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. OUP. P. 84-85).

Communication is the process of interpersonal interaction and requires the knowledge of social conventions i.e. the knowledge of rules about proper ways to communicate with people.

In accordance with the social conventions, participants in communication perform communicative functions (to socialize, to inform, to persuade, to elicit information, to manipulate behavior and opinions, to perform rituals etc), communicative roles (leader, informer, participant, entertainer etc) (Ellis, R. 1994. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. OUP. P. 160). In order to perform these functions a speaker needs more than just th knowledge of the language.

The process of communication is characterized with communicative strategies of achieving a goal through communication (Pollak A. Communicative strategies at work. NJ 1995). Success of communication depends very much on the knowledge of successful strategies chosen by the speakers. Successful strategies are known as the “four maxims” of good communication (Grice, H., 1975. Logic and conversation. Speech Acts. N.Y. Academic Press.) These maxims include quality (say only what is supported by evidence), quantity (say no more and no less than you think is needed), relevance (say what is relevant to the point of communication) and manner (present your ideas clearly an unambiguously) The four maxims of successful communication can be used in teaching how to communicate effectively (Brown, G. and G.Yule. 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. CUP. P. 71)

Communication strategies can be goal-oriented (having a particular goal in mind), partner-oriented (with the partner and his comprehension in mind, using negotiation of meaning, persuasion, self-correction, repetition, etc) and circumstances-oriented (behaving according to the situation) (Wood B. Children and communication. NJ. 1981).

An integral part of communicative competence (the knowledge of how to communicate with people) is the non-verbal communication. It includes proxemics (physical distance and life space in the process of communication), kinesics (body language, gestures and postures), facial expression (smiles, eye-contact), haptics (the use of touch in communication), clothing and physical appearance in the process of communication (the concept of decency in clothing and physical appearance), paralanguage (“um-m”, “uh-huh” etc).

Communicative techniques. A technique is a way for a teacher to organize a learner activity. The purpose of communicative techniques is to teach communication (After Littlewood, W. 1981. Communicative Language Teaching. CUP). Communicative techniques can develop in learners productive, receptive and interactive skills that are necessary for effective communication. Activities with listening and reading aim at developing in learners skills of receiving information. Activities with speaking and writing develop in learners skills of producing information. Both can be learner interactive and thus promote communication.

Communicative techniques fall down into a number of groups:

· Language arts are oriented towards a communicative task but are not “communicative” in themselves.

· Language for a purpose is what the learners might need to learn how to request information, how to change somebody’s behavior or train of thought, how to co-ordinate efforts in a team, how to express one’s emotions etc.

· Communicative games can be alternative communicative techniques with a challenge, rules, procedure and winners.

· Personal language use develops in learners the skill of expressing one's own attitudes and values.

· Theatre art develops communicative skills in simulations such as role-plays.

· Debating society teaches problem-solving skills.

· Beyond the classroom activities imply contacts with the native speakers and using the mass media available to the learners and relevant to their level of language studies (Adapted from Savignon, S. cited in Berns, M. 1990. Contexts of Competence. Social and Cultural Considerations in Communicative Language Teaching. N.Y. P. 88-89)


Date: 2014-12-22; view: 800

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