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Jornadas de formación de equipos técnicos estatales 2011-2012.
Queretaro, Quer. October 24-26, 2011.

Special thanks to professors from FES Acatlán, UNAM who shared this workshop with teachers from all over the country. We hope to see you soon.

Communicative competencies of english language III

Communicative Language Teaching

Presenter: Cristina

Social constructivist perspectives draw our attention to language as communication across individuals.

"Communicative competence" has become a household word in SLA, and still stands as an appropriate term to capture current trends in teaching and research.

As the field of second language pedagogy has developed,
what characterizes the present era?
Almost certainly the answer lies in our recent efforts to engage in communicative language teaching (CLT).
The "push toward communication" . (Higgs & Clifford 1982)

The communicative nature of language classes characteristics of CLT:
Classroom goals are focused on all of the components of communicative competence and not restricted to grammat­ical or linguistic competence.
Language techniques are designed to engage learners in the pragmatic, authentic, functional use of language for mean­ingful purposes. Organizational language forms are not the central focus but rather aspects of language that enable the learner to accomplish those purposes.
Fluency and accuracy are seen as complementary principles underlying communicative techniques. At times fluency may have to take on more importance than accuracy in order to keep learners meaningfully engaged in language use.
In the communicative classroom, students ultimately have to use the language, productively and receptively, in unrehearsed contexts.


Language Competence
Organizational Competence Pragmatic Competence
Grammatical Competence Textual
Sociolinguistic Competence
-Sensitivity to
Dialect or
-Sensitivity to
-Sensitivity to
and Figures
of Speech

Organizational competence: all those rules and systems that dictate what we can do with the forms of language, whether they be sentence-level rules (grammar) or rules that govern how we "string" sentences together (discourse). Canale and Swain's sociolinguistic competence is now broken down into two separate pragmatic categories: functional aspects of language (illocutionary competence, or, pertaining to sending and receiving intended meanings) and sociolinguistic aspects (which deal with such considerations as politeness, formality, metaphor, register, and culturally related aspects of language).

Functions are essentially the purposes that we accomplish with language, e.g., stating, requesting, responding, greeting, parting, etc. Functions cannot be accomplished, of course, without the forms of language: morphemes, words, grammar rules, discourse rules, and other organizational competencies. While forms are the outward manifestation of language, functions are the realization of those forms.

Functions of language

Communicative acts that bring about a particular condition

Control of events of certain power as the maintenance of control

The use of language to make statements, convey facts and knowledge, explain, or report

Serves to ensure social maintenance such as knowledge of slang, jokes, folklore, cultural mores, polite­ness and formality expectations, and other keys to social exchange.

Allows a speaker to express feelings, emo­tions, personality, and “gut-level" reactions.

Involves language used to acquire knowl­edge, to learn about the environment. Heuristic functions are often conveyed in the form of questions that will lead to answers.

Serves to create imaginary systems or ideas. Telling fairy tales, joking, Poetry, tongue twisters, writing a novel, are all uses of the imaginative function.

A single sentence or conversation might incorporate many different functions simultaneously

Communicative Competence

The aspect that enables us to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific contexts.

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)
and basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS)
CALP is what learners often use in classroom exercises and tests that focus on form. BICS, on the other hand, is the communicative capacity that we acquire in order to be able to function in daily interpersonal exchanges.

Discourse competence is the complement of grammatical competence in many ways. It is the ability we have to connect sentences in stretches of discourse and to form a meaningful whole

One learns how to do conversation, one learns how to interact verbally, and out of this interaction syntactic structures are developed.

Evelyn Hatch (1978: 404)

Communicative Approach: interdependence of language and communication

Being able to communicate requires more than mastering linguistic structures.
Students may know the rules of linguistic usage, but be unable to use the language.
(Widdowson 1978)

It became clear that communication required that students perform certain functions as well, such as promising, inviting, and declining invitations within a social context .
(Wilkins 1976)

Communicative Language Teaching aims broadly to apply the theoretical perspective of the Communicative Approach by making communicative competence the goal of language teaching and by acknowledging the interdependence of language and communication.

is a unified, but broadly based, theoretical position about the nature of language and of language learning and teaching.

Communicative Language Teaching Principles

Whenever possible, 'authentic language'—language as it is used in a real context—should be introduced.
Being able to figure out the speaker's or writer's intentions is part of being communicatively competent.
The target language is a vehicle for classroom communication, not just the object of study.
One function can have many different linguistic forms. Since the focus of the course is on real language use, a variety of linguistic forms are presented together. The emphasis is on the process of communication rather than just mastery of language forms.
Students should work with language at the discourse or suprasentential (above the sentence) level. They must learn about cohesion and coherence, those properties of language which bind the sentences together.

Games are important because they have certain features in common with real communicative events—there is a purpose to the exchange. Also, the speaker receives immediate feedback from the listener on whether or not he or she has successfully communicated. In this way they can negotiate meaning. Finally, having students work in small groups maximizes the amount of communicative practice they receive.

Students should be given an opportunity to express their ideas and opinions.

Errors are tolerated and seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills. Since this activity was working on fluency, the teacher did not correct the student, but simply noted the error, which he will return to at a later point.

One of the teacher's major responsibilities is to establish situations likely to promote communication.

Communicative interaction encourages cooperative relationships among students. It gives students an opportunity to work on negotiating meaning.

The social context of the communicative event is essential in giving meaning to the utterances.
Learning to use language forms appropriately is an important part of communicative competence.
The teacher acts as a facilitator in setting up communicative activities and as an advisor during the activities.
In communicating, a speaker has a choice not only about what to say, but also how to say it.
The grammar and vocabulary that the students learn, follow from the function, situational context, and the roles of the interlocutors.
Students should be given opportunities to listen to language as it is used in authentic communication.

Reviewing the Principles

1. What are the goals of teachers who use Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)?
The goal is to enable students to communicate in the target language.

2. What is the role of the teacher? What is the role of the students?
The teacher facilitates communication in the classroom.
Students are, above all, communicators.

3. What are some characteristics of the learning process?
The most obvious characteristic of CLT is that almost everything that is done, is done with a communicative intent.

4. What is the nature of student-teacher interaction? What is the nature of student-student interaction?
The teacher may present some part of the lesson, such as when working with linguistic accuracy.

At other times, he/she is the facilitator of the activities, but she/he does not always him/herself interact with the students.

Students interact a great deal with one another. They do this in various configurations: pairs, triads, small groups, and whole group.

5. How are the feelings of the students dealt with?
One of the basic assumptions of CLT is that by learning to communicate, students will be more motivated to study a foreign language since they will feel they are learning to do something useful with the language.

6. How is language viewed? How is culture viewed?

Language is for communication. Linguistic competence, the knowledge of forms and their meanings, is just one part of communicative competence. Another aspect of communicative competence is knowledge of the functions language is used for.

7. What areas of language are emphasized? What language skills are emphasized?

Language functions might be emphasized over forms. Students work on all four skills from the beginning. Just as oral communication is seen to take place through negotiation between speaker and listener, so too is meaning thought to be derived from the written word through an interaction between the reader and the writer.

8. What is the role of the students' native Language?

The target language should be used not only during communicative activities, but also for explaining the activities to the students or in assigning homework. The students learn from these classroom management exchanges, too, and realize that the target language is a vehicle for communication, not just an object to be studied.

9. How is evaluation accomplished?

A teacher evaluates not only the students' accuracy, but also their fluency.

10. How does the teacher respond to student errors?

Errors of form are tolerated during fluency-based activities and are seen as a natural outcome of the development of communication skills.


Another important issue in describing communicative competence is the way we use language in different styles depending on the context of a communicative act in terms of subject matter, audience, occasion, shared experience, and purpose of communication. A style is not a social or regional dialect, but a variety of language used for a specific purpose.

Styles vary considerably within a single language user's idiolect. When you con­verse informally with a friend, you use a different style than you use in an interview for a job with a prospective employer. Native speakers, as they mature into adulthood, learn to adopt appropriate styles for widely dif­ferent contexts.


Language becomes distinctly human through its nonverbal dimension.


Oratorical style is used in public speaking before a large audience.

Deliberative style is also used in addressing audiences, usually audiences too large to permit effective interchange between speaker and hearers, although the forms are normally not as pol­ished as those in an oratorical style.

Consultative style is typically a dialogue, though formal enough that words are chosen with some care.

Casual style is conversations between friends or colleagues or some­times members of a family.

Intimate style is one characterized by complete absence of social inhibitions.

Styles are manifested by both verbal and nonverbal features.

Registers are commonly identified by certain phonological variants, vocabulary, idioms, and other expressions that are associated with different occupational or socioeco­nomic groups.

The Ecology of Language Acquisition

A good teacher offers practice, a bad one offers theories.

Anthony de Mello

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