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2.1. The linguistic sign
2.2. Spoken and written language
2.2.1. Differences
2.2.2. The Relationship Between Speech and Writing

3.1. The Communicative Function
3.2. The Integrative Function
3.3. Theories
3.3.1. Jakobson
3.3.2. Riffaterre
3.3.3. Blher
4.1. The Communication Process According to Canale.
4.2. Elements within Communicative Competence
5.1. Methodology
5.1.1. The Communicative Approach. The Role of the Teacher Warm-up Presentation Practice Production
5.2. Evaluation.

As language teachers, we have the goal of building what Hymes refers to as
Communicative Competence. In 1957, Noam Chomsky defined language as
a set of sentences, each finite in length, and constructed out of a finite set of
elements. An able speaker has a subconscious knowledge of the rules of
grammar, which allows him to make sentences in that language.
However, in the 1960s Hymes felt that Chomsky had not covered all of the
points. He also felt that the ability to speak does not only include a knowledge of
the rules of the grammar, but the speaker must also know what he has to say,
to whom he has to say it, the circumstances in which to say it, as well as how
to say it. He understood competence as linguistic competence, although this
was for him the grammatical knowledge of idealised speakers of the language,
whereas performance was the actual use of competence in a given exchange.
In other words, competence alone is not enough to explain the knowledge of a
native speaker. The speaker also needs to know how to use his competence in
a communicative situation.
In this unit we are going to look at language and communication , the functions
of language as well as the components of communicative competence and its
implications in the language classroom. The information we will use is taken
from Richards, Halliday, Hymes and Canale.
Communication is understood as the exchange and negotiation of information
between at least two individuals through the use of verbal and non-verbal
symbols, oral and written/visual modes, and production/comprehension
Written and spoken language are the most useful of all the language codes
employed by humans as a means of transmitting thoughts, feelings,
experiences and opinions. It is through language that man is able to let others
know his innermost thoughts and feelings.
We will begin this section by looking at language through linguistic signs.
2.1. The Linguistic Sign.
For both the speaker (the sender) and the listener (the receiver) to understand
each other, they both have to be in agreement about which code they are using.
When we converse with someone, we in turn code and decode messages,
using linguistic signs with which the contents and forms of each message are
built, interpreted and assessed.

The most authoritative work done on linguistic
signs was made by
SAUSSURE, and for this reason we will quote from him. Saussure accepted
that there must be two sides to a meaning, the content and the expression.
The names that he gave to these concepts were: signifi and signifiant.
Saussure believed that the relationship between the object, ideas, etc. on one
hand, and the means used to convey them, e.g. language, on the other,
constituted the meaning. He called this relationship between the signified and
the signifier a Linguistic Sign.
Every language must contain a set of signs, and also that the sender and the
receiver share the code. Then the ideas can be expressed in a concrete way by
means of speech.
We will now go on to provide an examination of spoken and written language.
2.2 Spoken and Written Language
It should be immediately apparent that there are a great deal of differences
between written and spoken language. It is these differences that we will look at
to begin this section.
2.2.1. Differences
The nature of oral communication makes oral discourse contain redundant
information. This comes about as a result of the complexity of a process that
forces both the speaker and the listener to perform highly complex processes
under time pressure. Through this we can see:
1. Syntactic Alterations:
Incomplete/ ungrammatical utterances.
Tags to negotiate intended meaning (er, um, etc.).
2. The Need for Extra Linguistic Elements:
Body posture.
Eye contact.
Facial expression.
The writer has the distinct advantage of being able to read over that which he
has written, and so can remove any mistakes. The speaker does not have this
option. The speaker cannot check the meaning of words in a dictionary, nor can
he change what he has already said. He cannot read over earlier utterances in
the conversation in order to refresh his memory about the direction that the
conversation is taking, and, most importantly, he has to keep talking.

The writer does not, however, have all the advantages. The speaker can tell,
simply by observing his listener, if he is being understood. Eye contact and
gestures to emphasise a point are unavailable to the writer.
The speaker also has recourse to the natural rise and fall of his voice. In a
stress-timed language such as English, rhythm and intonation play a vital role
in ensuring that the message is received in the correct way. Although the writer
can make use of rhythm, the all-important intonation is impossible to reproduce
in writing.
The reasons for choosing one or the other medium depend upon the type of
encounter that is to take place. For example, a husband would rather speak
with his wife face- to-face than through the letter. As valuable as a letter from a
loved one is, it does not replace time spent together.
However the written word, such as a newspaper, gives the reader time to
assimilate the information at his own pace - a luxury that is denied to those who
watch the televised news. A letter can be read over and over again, whereas
oral language is a temporal medium.
When we come to the world of business we find that communication is carried
out by a mixture of the mediums available. Phone calls may be made, meetings
arranged, letters, faxes or e-mails sent. This mixture leads us to the next point
to be discussed:
2.2.2. The Relationship Between Speech and Writing.
Like speech, written communication is a two-way process which includes the
use of both a productive and a receptive skill. When we write we use graphic
symbols, in other words, letters or combinations of letters which relate to the
sounds that we make when we speak. On one level, writing can be said to be
the act of forming these symbols, making marks on a flat surface of some kind.
However, writing is clearly much more than the simple production of graphic
symbols, in the same way that speech involves more than the production of
sounds. These sounds and symbols have to be arranged according to certain
conventions in order to form words. These words in turn have to be arranged to
form sentences. Once this has been achieved, then these sentences, either
written or spoken, have to be linked together in order that they form a coherent
However, one form may be used as a result of the other. Think about a
secretary who writes down a letter that is dictated to her, or a student who takes
notes during a lesson. In these instances speech is transformed into writing, but
it can just as easily happen the other way around, for example if we think about
an actor reading out his lines, or a teacher reading aloud from a book.

3.1. The Communicative Function.
This concerns the transmission of purely referential, denotative information.
Here the speaker is using the language in order to interact with the listener. This
may be done either as an act of friendship, or to try to impart information. In this
category we may find functions such as:

Informing: The sender has a point that he feels is important for the receiver
to know.
Arguing/debating: The sender wishes to change the opinions of the
receiver about a certain subject.
Instructing: The sender wishes to advise the receiver on how to perform a
certain action.
Ordering: The sender uses the language to make the receiver comply with
an order.

3.2. The Integrative Function.

This involves the use of language to mark the speaker as a member of a
particular social group. This can be seen on a number of different levels:

The Class Distinction: Lets take the example of Received Pronunciation.

This, although only spoken by a minority of the population, is what separates
the elite of the society from the rest. The speakers of this accent can
immediately identify with each other, in much the same way that speakers
of a local dialect such as the London accent of cockney are able to
recognise people from the same city.
Professional Language: The use of technical terms, such as those utilised
by doctors or engineers, (otherwise know as jargon) identifies people as
belonging to a social group connected by profession.

3.3. Theories: Jakobson and Riffaterre and Bhler

3.3.1. Jakobson
As language is a system of communication used in different situations of our
social life, Jakobson understood that every utterance has at least 1 function.
The term function is basic for him and he builds his whole theory using it as the
foundation. He distinguishes 6 different functions.

Emotive or expressive function: This is the direct expression of the

speakers attitude towards the message. It is focused on the addresser.
Conative : This is mainly represented by imperatives and vocatives. It
focuses on the addressee.
Referential: This is the use of language to refer to things. It focuses on the
message and the overall context. This is seen as an objective way of

Phatic: This serves to establish, prolongue or discontinue the conversation,
check whether the channel works or attract the attention of the interlocutors.
It is focused on the contact and it often conveys ritualised formulae, e.g.
Hello, how do you do? Nice weather, isnt it? or, to check the channel,
Can you hear me?
Metalingual: The speaker and the receiver need to check whether they are
using the same code. It focuses on the code as the means of
communication e.g: Do you understand? This differs from the above
mentioned phatic in the sense that does not concern itself solely with the
contact that is being made, but with whether or not that contact is made
through the use of the most appropriate forms.
Poetic: This focuses on the message for its own sake. The code now is
regarded as an end in itself. It includes the repetition of sounds, intonation
patterns, etc. This is the sort that is often to be found in literary writings.

All these functions are ever-present in the L2 classroom, so we can always find
ways to show the learner how they work and how they are used in different
types of communicative exchanges, in order to enhance communication and
make it as successful as possible.
3.3.2. Riffaterre
One of the most striking points of his work states the fact that he bases his
theory on the distinction between linguistic and stylistic phenomena.
Therefore, he makes a complete distinction between mere communication and
literary communication, expressing that the complexities of expressive and
affective connotations must be regarded to ensure understanding. This means
that he felt that literary language had a different meaning to the language that
we use in speech, an assumption that may seem obvious, but one that is
important for the learner, as any student of the language who tries to speak like
characters in a book would sound very strange and unnatural.
Riffaterre focuses on the subjectivity of reception and what he called the
perceptual faculties of the receiver. This is to say, that the receiver was
capable of placing his own interpretations on the message that is said, so that
the message received may be completely different from that which was
intended. The receivers perceptual faculties refers to the way that the receiver
is able to perceive the world around him, as well as applying these perceptions
to the messages that are sent.
For Riffaterre, the process of decoding a message by the receiver is more
important than encoding it on the part of the speaker. It doesnt matter what
message is being sent, it is how it is received that is important.
He also believed that the message was a subjective reality apart from any
scientific or linguistic analysis, therefore stating a criticism in relation to those
who insisted on studying the language in a scientific way, such as Jakobson.
This means that language was only as important as the intentions of those who

received and sent messages. Riffaterre felt that Jakobson, by approaching
language from a scientific viewpoint, was ignoring the possibility to use words
3.3.3. Bhler
In 1934, Buhler was concerned with the functions of language from a standpoint
not so much of the culture, but of the individual. Bhler made the distinction into
the following:
Expressive language: orientated towards the addresser.
Conative language: orientated towards the addressee.
Representational language: orientated towards the rest of reality, i.e. anything
other than the addressee or addresser.
Buhlers scheme was adopted by the Prague School and later extended by
Roman Jakobson, who we will look at next.
In relation to all of these functions of language that we have just studied we
have to say that initially L2 learners will use the language for the communicative
function. Pidgins and interlanguages which fossilise, or reach a dead-end, in
the early stages of development remain restricted to the communicative
function. Native speakers of the language use it for both the communicative and
integrative functions, as will those L2 learners who do not fossilise early on.
There is a certain amount of disagreement amongst linguists as to the exact
nature of competence. As we have seen, some such as Chomsky view
competence as linguistic, while others such as Hymes view it as
communicative. Another problem in analysing competence is whether it is to be
treated as Homogeneous (a single set of rules), or Variable (alternative sets
of rules that are drawn upon differently in different situations).
The homogeneous model dismisses stylistic variability, treating it only as an
aspect of performance.
However, the user tends to use rules differently in different situations, one rule
will guide performance on one occasion, and another rule on a different
occasion. In other words, the rules can vary according to the situation that the
speaker finds himself in.
Canale, 1983, distinguishes between communicative competence and actual
communication. When we use language in real-life situations different
surrounding conditions will affect the final outcome and expected success of the
communicative exchange. These conditions could include memory, fatigue,
nervousness, background noise, etc. If the speaker is experiencing any of
these, and there is a good chance that one of them will be going on at the time
of the speech act, then he may find that he has some difficulties in delivering his

message. The knowledge of the student can be related to his skill in
communicating. The competence refers to his underlying capacities, whereas
the actual communication is the manifestation of those capacities.
Canale understands communicative competence as the necessary grammatical
and sociocultural system that both speaker and receiver use in order to
negotiate information. He adjudged the process of communication to have six
different characteristics, which we will look at now.
4.1 The Communication Process According To Canale.

Language is a way that we communicate socially. For this reason we learn it

and use it in order to initiate and maintain social relationships. Without
language we would not be able to function as a society.

Nothing is predictable. The use of the language can change according to the
circumstances. In addition to this, there is room for creativity. Sentences can
be made that go away from the norms of speech, but which can still be

The sociocultural contexts in which we use conversation restrict the use of

the language. In addition to this, clues are provided for the understanding of
the utterances. We can interpret the meaning from the context in which it is

There is always a reason why we use language. It can be to persuade, to

instruct, to advise, to make friends etc. Language is functional, it has a role
to play in our day to day lives.

The conditions in which language is spoken can have a limiting effect, such
as if the speaker is tired or ill.

The material is authentic, as opposed to the kind of language that is found in

the coursebooks, which tends to be contrived and unnatural. This means
that, communicatively speaking, the learners dont come into contact with
true communication

However, students do have to go through several stages in order to reach

communicative competence. This means that they have to satisfy various
components, which we will look at now.
4.2. Elements Within Communicative Competence.
Communication is a form of social interaction within a community, normally
acquired and used in that community. The most important aspect that stands
out about it is that it always has a purpose. On many occasions theres a high
degree of unpredictability and creativity both in form and use, also emphasised
by the fact that it is carried out under limiting psychological conditions, such as
those we have already mentioned (memory, fatigue, etc.).

However, it takes place in discoursive and sociocultural contexts which provide
constraints on the appropriate language used and clues to a correct
interpretation of utterances.
Before we move on to the specific components of communicative competence it
is important to quickly go through the actual nature of communication. In any
communicative exchange there are always different extralinguistic elements,
like the context where the communication takes place or any piece of
information already known by any of the individuals taking part in that
This will certainly add to or modify the information being transferred between
the members of the communicative process. We can also find verbal symbols,
which, put together, form the words that we use to communicate. Finally, in oral
language prosodic features like intonation add extra meaning to those other
elements mentioned before and clearly differentiate between written and oral
language, since intonation can significantly alter the meaning conveyed by
words. To demonstrate this, think of the word thank you said with a rising
intonation, and in comparison with a flat or falling tone. The second
demonstrates that the gratitude is not genuine. Here we have an example of the
same word being used with very different messages.
Any information exchanged between the interlocutors will easily be changed
and qualified by further information such as the context of communication and
the negotiation of meaning between them. The continuous evaluation of the
information and the negotiation of meaning through other questions leads us to
consider that the communication will only be successful if it is conceptually clear
and relevant.
Now that we have clarified a few important points in relation to the very nature
of communication, let us deal with the different subcompetences gathered
under communicative competence. It is important to realise that these
subcompetences are laid out in the Spanish curriculum as being relevant to the
teaching of a foreign language, and have been adapted from the work by
Canale and Swain, (1983).

Grammatical Subcompetence: This simply refers to the mastery of the

language code itself. That is to say, the knowledge of the linguistic signs
needed in order to communicate through language. It takes into account the
need for the speaker to be able to make correct use of language features
such as morphology, syntactics, semantics, phonology and lexis.

Sociolinguistic Subcompetence: This is the appropriate use of utterances

in different sociolinguistic contexts. There are different factors that the
participants will have to take into account in order to successfully reach that
appropriateness. The status of the participants is easily recognisable in the
degree of formality and politeness used. The purpose of the interaction and
the different norms and conventions shared between the people involved in
the exchange will have to be taken into account. They will also need to show

appropriateness of meaning (e.g. communicative functions, different ideas or
attitudes which are proper in a given situations, like inviting or commanding)
and form (proper verbal and non-verbal forms in a sociolinguistic context).
Discourse Subcompetence: This refers to the combination of grammatical
forms and meanings to achieve a unified spoken or written text in different
genres or types of text (e.g. scientific reports, business letters, etc.)
according to the purpose of the communicative exchange and the
interlocutors involved. It can be summarised by saying that it points to how
the different utterances are linked structurally and how they must be
understood as a text. Sometimes, parts of the sentence are not used as the
context of the communication completes any missing words. In an exchange
like the following there is no sign of apparent cohesion, but it is a coherent
discourse as the communication develops and ends successfully due to the
fact that both interlocutors share the rest of the information needed which is
not overtly expressed.
a: The milkmans waiting!
b: The money is in my purse!
a: OK
In the next exchange we can see a clear problem:
a. What did the rain do?
b. The crops were destroyed by the rain.
This above example is one that was provided by Widdowson. The problem is
that, although grammatically correct, the response does not demonstrate
discourse competence because the speaker has not made the answer tie in
with the question. A speaker with discourse competence would have answered:
It destroyed the crops.
It is important here to point out that there are different ways in which we can
contribute to this success that we have just mentioned. The content of the
communicative exchange must be relevant to show coherence, and it must
progress to indicate that the negotiation of meaning is taking place. At the same
time there must be no contradiction to show consistency with the rest of the
exchange, although at different points there could be repetitions, which, as long
as they are relevant, will also add consistency and contiguity to the

Strategic Subcompetence: This is the mastery of verbal and non-verbal

communicative strategies to solve problems during communication.
Sometimes, due to the different conditions in which the interaction can take
place there can be problems or shortages in the amount and quality of the
information exchanged. In other words, there is an imbalance between the
means used and the result or the end of the communication. At the same
time, one of the interlocutors may be finding it difficult to make proper use of


the other four subcompetences and is therefore forced to try to improve the
effectiveness of the communication. This could take the form of techniques
known as Hesitation Fillers such as er, you know, um, etc. or Catch-all
Words such as Whatsitsname... which is used when we dont know what
something is called.
Sociocultural Subcompetence: This is the degree of familiarity with the
cultural and social context in which a language is used. This goes beyond the
sociolinguistic use of the language. The speaker must also know the different
norms of conversation that are used by native speakers, especially the use of
words such as please and thank you, etc. Other kinds of sociocultural
competence that could come in useful for the learner would be a knowledge
of the way that English people start conversations by talking about the
weather, or finish them by the use of strategies such as: Well, I mustnt keep
you waiting.
With the changes to the curriculum, as established by Royal Decree 937/2001
3rd August, we can find the addition of Linguistic Competence which deals
with syntax, morphology and semantics.
The aim of successful teaching in a classroom where the Communicative
Approach is followed, must always take into account that it has to cover the five
subcompetences that we have just explained. There has to be an integration
that prepares students to exploit their limited command of a foreign language in
actual communicative situations and gives them help in relation to how to make
up for any lack of grammatical knowledge that they might face at a given point.
This approach must meet the communicative needs and interests of the
students providing them with the information, practice, and experience needed
as well as knowledge of the foreign culture. Therefore, the traditional role of
grammar in L2 teaching will be that of standing for the functions and
macrofunctions of language in order to have the necessary basis to be
communicatively competent in real-life situations.
In relation to this, it is important to state that the outcome of this teachinglearning situation will be greatly influenced by how the learners are regarded.
The learners contribution to the learner process, or in other words his passivity
or activity, will determine the type of activities carried out. Basically this
suggests that the teaching techniques should be raised in degrees of difficulty
according to the students ability.
However, nowadays this is impractical, if not impossible, due to the variety of
levels that can be found in each individual classroom.
With this in mind we will go on to look at the ways that the content is planned.
5.1. Methodology



In relation to the methodology used it is important to take into account the

learner variables which affect the awareness of learners and the extent to which
they are able to articulate their language-learning needs, such as sex, age,
education, urban-rural background, purpose of the learning, etc. All of these will
have an effect, one way or another, on the ability of the learner to make
progress in his studies, and to maintain a sufficiently high level of motivation.
The first step in the process of deriving content from the data that has been
collected throughout the evaluation process is to examine this data and extract
information relating to the positive reasons that the learners can find for wishing
to learn the language, and which can be translated into communicative goals.
For example, the student may feel that reasons for learning could include the

talk to penfriends
find out about American/British culture
understand TV and radio
travel to England
sing songs in English

In a language programme committed to the direct development of the sorts of

skills required by learners outside the classroom, it is of vital importance to
create as many links as possible between what happens in the classroom and
what happens outside. In developing these links, resources for learning have a
vital part to play.
The second step is to specify the communicative tasks and enabling skills which
learners will need to be able to perform in order to achieve their language goals.
At a post-beginner level these could include the following, all of which are
related to communicative competence:

identifying topic of conversation

exchanging greetings
comprehending requests for personal information
providing personal details
describing objects
offering and asking for help
indicating likes and dislikes

The third step is to provide contextualisation for the tasks by deciding on such
things as topics, settings, interlocutors and so on. These data, which can be
derived from needs analyses, serve to differentiate goals for different learner
The final task in the methodology to be used here is to produce a sample
number of specific objectives which are related, via tasks or skills, to learner


goals. By producing such objectives, one will have a set of ready-made criteria
for judging the effectiveness of the learning process. This step therefore
provides a convenient bridge into the assessment and evaluation phase of the
curriculum-development process.
These variables are at the basis of the methodology that is used in language
teaching today, that being The Communicative Approach.
5.1.1. The Communicative Approach
This methodology has been developed throughout the last hundred years, and
makes use of many other teaching techniques. The basic idea is that the
students acquire Communicative Competence through the five
subcompetences that we mentioned earlier, and through the integration of the
four skills; reading, writing, listening and speaking.
Emphasis is placed on fluency over accuracy, and the students are encouraged
to communicate together in the classroom in a variety of different linguistic
The first area that we must look at here is that of the role of the teacher. Role of the Teacher
Teachers have had to abandon their traditional role of dominance in the
classroom in favour of a less dominant role. In the Communicative Approach
the teacher is there to act as a guide to the students through the different
stages of the lesson.
It is up to him to set the tasks in a way that is as communicative and as
interesting as possible, and also which give the students the opportunity to use
the language so that it doesnt just remain as a written word.
When the students are communicating, the teacher must be a monitor in order
to ensure that all is being performed correctly, and also as a prompter to
enable the students to find new areas to discuss should any conversation that
they have stop.
Overall, we can say that the communicative teacher has to be much more
active than in the past, and he must also take more care to plan certain different
stages of the lesson. It is these stages that we will look at next. Warm-up.
Any language lesson should begin with a warm-up stage. This is so that the
students are acclimatised to the language as they will be coming to the
classroom from another subject where they would have been studying in
This stage should have no didactic purpose, but should be purely


communicative, with the students communicating with the teacher. The
activities that could be done in this stage include brainstorming, revision,
prediction tasks, games, songs, and so on. Presentation.
As the name suggests, this is where the teacher presents to the students the
language or grammar that is going to be taught or practised in the lesson. The
interaction here is teacher led, and is purely didactic.
It is in this stage that the teacher actually teaches. This may take the form of a
grammar point, or it may be vocabulary. Also here, the teacher should ensure
that the students are able to use the correct pronunciation, as well as stress,
rhythm and intonation. Practice
This is a controlled stage where the students are given tasks to perform which
force them to use the target language. This acts as part of the evaluation
process as it is here that the teacher has the chance to see if his students are
able to follow that which has been taught.
There are many different tasks that can be set here, including jumbled texts,
matching exercises, listening or reading activities, answering set
questions and so on. Normally the students will work individually at this stage,
and all the work will be written. Production.
It is here that the students have the chance to actually communicate. It is
supposed to be a free production of the language, but in reality it is only freer,
with the teacher still guiding the students towards the target language.
Normally they will work in pairs or small groups, or, in the case of a discussion,
as a whole class. The teacher may wish to set the students tasks which include
role plays, group work, pair work and so on, as long as the students are
using the language verbally.
Naturally, it is vital for the teacher to know if both the learning and the teaching
techniques are functioning adequately, and this is where the role of evaluation
comes in.
5.2. Evaluation
In the Communicative Approach, the teacher has a crucial role to play in both
student assessment and course evaluation. Evaluation should encompass
student outcomes, causes of learning difficulties and possible remediation.
Teacher self-evaluation, as well as giving the students the opportunity to
evaluate the teacher, the course and themselves, can act as a valuable means


to stimulate the teaching/learning process, as well as the curricular
development. Tools and techniques for evaluation include standardised tests of
various sorts, questionnaires, observation schedules of classroom interaction,
interview schedules and diaries that the learners keep themselves. In an
overcrowded classroom, it may be difficult for the teacher to evaluate if the
students are achieving the desired communicative competence; in fact, this is
one of the failings of the system - it is hard to evaluate. However, the teacher
should try to make the evaluation as individual as possible, as well as covering
as many of the four skills as time will allow. Students must be made aware that
the role of errors is an important one in the Communicative Approach, as they
are seen as a sign that the students are making progress.
However, not all students succeed.
There are many possible causes of learner failure, which include :

inefficient learning strategies

poor attention in class
difficulty with discrete language points
faulty teaching techniques
objectives inappropriate for learners
materials and learning activities inappropriate for learners

In an ideal world, that which was planned would be that which was actually
learned, there would be no unanticipated outcomes, and learners would learn
everything they were taught. However, this rarely happens. To try to avoid this
unsuccessful outcome the monitoring and evaluation element needs to be seen
as parallel with all other elements rather than occurring simply as an appendage
to the instructional process.
This means that the evaluation has to be done in accordance with the teaching,
and should not be seen as an additional element that is simply to be done at the
end of a didactic unit, term or year.
An initial evaluation is normally done at the beginning of the year, and takes
into account many factors, including the previous academic abilities of the
student, as well as personal details such as his family background. It is normally
done through either a test or by looking back at the students past records where these are available.
However, this can also be done at the beginning of each didactic unit so that the
teacher knows how much still has to be taught, or even at the beginning of each
individual lesson so that the previous knowledge of the students is known.
The ability of the students is likely to change throughout the year, for this reason
it is important that the teacher carries out a formative evaluation. This basically
means that the students are being constantly evaluated by monitoring, tests and
so on. The results from each didactic unit should serve to help the teacher to
decide how much extra follow up work the students need in a particular area.


The summative evaluation is done at the end of the year, or at the end of the
didactic unit. It is from this evaluation that the teacher can decide how
successful he has been with his students.
As we can see, the evaluation process is vital if the students are to be assessed
effectively. However, if we were to point out a disadvantage, it would be that in
the gaining of Communicative Competence it is difficult to do an effective
evaluation of a students speaking ability. This is due to the fact that the
classrooms are often overcrowded so not leaving enough time for the teacher to
carry out individual oral interviews with the students.
As we have seen, the development of linguistic ability and the usage of
procedures for the teaching of the four language skills, together with the critical
self-consciousness by learners of their own role as active agents within the
learning process, make the Communicative Approach the most extended
foreign language teaching system.
Reaching Communicative Competence is the main aim of language teaching,
and is laid out as such in the curriculum. Therefore matching what is taught in
the classroom and what they will find outside is of utmost importance. This
means that language teaching has to place the students in different
communicative situations, the kinds of which they could find in day to day life.
This is what the Communicative Approach sets out to do.


Homogenous model : Single set of rules. Variable. Alternative sets of
rules are drawn upon differently in different situations. Canale states
that different conditions affect expected outcome of language use in
real situations. Comm. process according to Canale: Language is
way we communicate socially. Nothing is predictable. Sociocultural
contexts restrict use. There is always a reason why we use language.
Conditions can have a limiting effect. Authentic material is preferred as
opposed to language found in coursebooks.
Components of Communicative Competence: Always has a
purpose. Takes place in situations that provide constraints on language
used and clues to meaning. We must also take into account the five
subcomps as laid out by Canale and adopted by Spanish Education
System. Grammatical, Sociocultural, Discoursive, Sociolinguistic,
Comm Approach in the L2 Classroom: Integration: Sts need to be
placed in actual comm situations. Contribution of learner will mark type
of activities to be carried out. The lesson is divided into several areas:
Warm-up: The students are acclimatised to the language.
Presentation: The teacher presents the students with the tasks that
are to be carried out. Practice: The students are given the chance to
have a controlled practice of the language area that has been taught.
Production: There is a chance for the students to use the language
more freely and in a communicative situation.
Evaluation: Possible causes of learner failure: Inefficient learning
strats. Poor attention in class. Difficulty with discrete language points.
Faulty teaching techniques. Objectives inappropriate for learners.
Materials and learning acts. inappropriate.
Evaluation has to be individual and cover all the skills as
communication is not just about speaking, but also about reading and
There should be an initial evaluation at the beginning of either the year
or the didactic unit or the lesson so that the teacher will always know
the level of the students.
The formative evaluation should be carried out throughout the whole of
the learning process so that the teacher is always aware of the stage
that his students are at.
The summative evaluation is done at the end so that the teacher can
judge if the teaching and learning processes have been successful.
If there are any disadvantages, they are that it is difficult to evaluate
the speaking skills effectively as the classrooms are overcrowded so
making it impossible for the teacher to have individual interviews with
all of the students.


Check your understanding of unit 1 by answering the following questions

1. Give a brief summary of the communication process according to Canale.

2. What are the five subcompetences?

3. What are the stages that should be followed in a lesson?

4. What are the stages of the evaluation process?

5. Name the possible causes of learner failure.