Language is a channel necessary for social interactions and produces a better understanding of ones language and culture. Learning a language bestows learners a chance to gain social and linguistic knowledge and to understand when, how and why to say what to whom. A language is regarded as foreign if it is learned in the classroom and not spoken largely in the society where its taught. The essential role of second language teaching and learning is the capacity to utilize language for real-world goals in ways that are culturally appropriate (Zaslow, 2001). Communicative competence thus is the certain aim of every learner.
Besides, communicative competence is the ability of the student to use language for a continuous communication (Canale and Swain 1980). It requires the involvement of the student in the production of the target language. To achieve this, the student needs to acquire the knowledge of the code of the language (linguistic competence) it involves knowing grammar and vocabulary. How to use the word and respond to it appropriately (sociolinguistic competence) it requires understanding the setting of the communication, the topic and the individuals involved. How to bring together different types of language structure oral or written texts (discourse competence). It involves arranging words appropriately to create a conversation, poem among others. Finally ability to identify and repair communication breakdown to enhance effective communication (strategic competence). These four competencies enable the learner to achieve communicative competence (Shrum & Glisan, 2010).
In developing communicative competence, the instructors, for extended have relied on structured textbooks and grammar translation methods to enable learners to understand. It has limitations as students hardly use the language. According to Sauvignon, the improvement of the student's communicative capability does not depend so much on the period they use revising grammatical designs as on the taken opportunities to display, understand, and negotiate meaning in real life situation (Sauvignon, 1997)
Learner communicative competence can be improved through two distinct approaches where the first one is instructional based while the second one is task based. In the task-based approach, the students are given assignments that involve their understanding; interpreting in the target language while their focus is on using the grammatical knowledge they have gained to test their competence.
There are number criteria necessary in developing of instructional methods of learning the second language that attributes to communicative competence
1. Language content/ Alignment with standard
The unit content should always align with the standards that involve two types; first, the Standards for Foreign Language Learning (SFLL) during the 21st century (NSFLEP, 2006) outline the key indicators to be considered in second language learning. The SFLL are based on the following goal are; Communication, Culture, Connection, Comparisons and Communities. These are called the National Standards in Foreign Language Education. The principal objective of these standards is to show how goal areas of language learning are interconnected and to elaborate on the expected learner's abilities at the end of language learning. The SFLL standards to not define specific content or sequencing recommendations thus should not include students as a curriculum. They only provide a framework to enable learners to meet their communication needs under the guidance of the instructor. Besides, with the aid of the suggested content and activities, students can achieve language competency.
The instructional unit should always align with ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012. It should improve learner's communicative competence. Teachers, therefore, need to plan the instructional unit with the preferred language performance description indicated in these guidelines which are developed to assist teachers to understand how well students demonstrate language ability at various points in the course of language learning process. There must be a clear plan for teachers to follow when teaching a foreign language.
2. A real life task that requires reasoning and problem solving.
The second important criteria are the instructional unit that poses a real life task that requires thinking and problem solving. It can be a test that ranges from writing articles, letter, etc.; this is aimed at testing learners grammar or vocabulary. It will help in developing students self- confidence as a result of achievement thus expands the interest of the student. As a result, the students will further their communicative ability.
3. Cultivating Learners higher-order thinking process
It is the third criteria to be realized in the effective instructional unit. The higher-order thinking process includes inquiring, interpreting, presenting, performing creating, designing, composing, judging and evaluating. The teachers should never forget that they're primary focus improving the performance of the students in higher grades. An instructional unit should help develop the critical thinking in students. It can be achieved by proving tasks that or activities that stimulate students to think deep and seek information by themselves.
4. The use of multiple sources of information
It is the fourth criteria of the instructional unit. The information from multiple sources creates a real world in the classroom setting. The core reason for learning a language is to use it outside the classroom. These include authentic materials (materials made by native speakers).Nunan suggests that if learners are to understand written and oral language beyond classroom settings, they should be provided with the structured opportunity to engage with such materials inside the class setting.(Nunan, 2004). Both the authentic and non-authentic sources are important to be used in class for learning language .this is confirmed by both Brown in his book the element of language curriculum and Nunan. They both agree that learners should read many authentic materials of different kinds as this will motivate them and enable them to understand the content and varied subjects. And allow them to relate classroom and the world outside (Nunan, 2004).
5. Interaction/Opportunities to work in interdisciplinary team
These fifth criteria of the instinctual unit. Here the learners should be given a chance to interact in pairs or small groups in class. It is an opportunity that will enable the students to use the language purposefully where they deliberate on choices and negotiate meanings and find solutions to questions presented to them. This will is important as the student interact as peers, hover the presence of the instructor may be necessary to guide them.
Nunan, David, (2004), Task-based Language Teaching. Cambridge Language Teaching Library
Sauvignon M. J. (1997). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics approach. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Shrum, J. L., & Glisan, E. W. (2010). Teacher's handbook Contextualized language Instruction. (4thed.). Boston, MA: Heinle, Cengage Learning.
Zaslow, Brandon. (2001). The language learning continuum. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics.
Hymes, D.H., 1972. On Communicative Competence Sociolinguistic. Eds. J.B Pride and J. Holmes. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Canale, M., and M.Swain, 2003. Theoretical Bases Of CommunitiveAppproaches to Second Language Teaching and Testing, Applied Linguistics. ELT Journal, 1; 1-4.
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