October 13, 2004

whole communicative competence

Follow-up to 2 from Yuan's blog

Communicative Competence

Since it trends to be a common term in English Language Teaching, applied linguistics have all kinds of editions to describe its definition. It seems a milestone, which stands for a movement from the rules of grammar, towards the ability to use language.

Faech, C., Haastrup, K. and Phillipson, R. (1984) wrote on Learner Language and Language Learning, communicative competence has the following components:
phonology/orthography, grammar, lexis, pragmatics, discourse, communication strategies and fluency. All these components can be divided into the following groups.

Phonology/orthography, grammar, lexis all these rules of language form refer to as linguistic competence which seems as the core part in the former English Language Teaching. Now we cut down its reputation never to say it is not important as before, however, it still the basic level to reach communicative competence.

Leave linguistic competence, it seems we couldnít talk about the pragmatic and discourse knowledge. So, we use the term pragmatic competence to call the combination of the above three parts. It accounts for the speakersí abilities to use the wide range of vocabulary, grammar, etc appropriately in particular social circumstances or professional context.

Strategic competence, actually, means to use all kinds of tactics to keep interaction going. It is better to use the strategic competence to fill the gap in communication when the linguistic and pragmatic competences donít work well. Actually, when the two works well, and speaker also has a high capacity of strategic competence, it is quite sure that the communication will be more lively and brilliant.

Different from strategic competence, fluency, actually, need speaker reach a good command of linguistic and pragmatic competence. There is a misunderstand that clearly expressing the meaning has already attained the aim of communication. Fluency is superimposed on the level of communication. However, according to the tolerance test, the poor fluency will impede the communication.

Next edition is from Canale and Swain (1980). It is widely said that communicative competence is made up of four parts: grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence. Grammatical competence has the same effect with the linguistic competence, which is focus on the literal meaning of communication. Sociolinguistic competence is the capacity to match the register to the situation. It seems that many communication failures happened by foreign language learners which keep the language with the status, role, attitude, purpose, degree of formality, social convention and so on properly. Discourse competence refers to the ability to link and make the suitable interaction in a coherent way. Pragmatic competence seems the combination of the there competence: grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence and discourse competence. The same with Faech, C., Haastrup, K. and Phillipson, R. (1984), strategic competence, use the strategies to make effective communication, both verbally and non-verbally.

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