Essay on communicative competence

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In order to expand the notion of communicative competence, this article will first establish working definitions of language, text and 'literacy'. The third part uses theories from new literacies studies to tie together and expand on the common trends in the other two theoretical paradigms. Points of similarity from each paradigm have been highlighted in order to expand on the idea of communicative competence and provide a theoretical rationale for using video in the EAL classroom.

Notions of language and literacy Expanded definitions of language and text It is not clear where the boundaries of language and other forms of communication lie. A concern with 'signs' rather than words suggests that music, sound effects, Downloaded By: [University of Cape Town Libraries] At: 6 August pictures, and clothing can be seen to belong to 'signifying practices', namely processes of human communication which are employed in a structured way, and are thus 'language-like'.

The expanded definition of language employed in this article includes clusters of different sign systems, both verbal and non-verbal, as well as features of discourse, narrative and genre. Within this framework an analogy between video texts and written language can be drawn. They are both methods of conveying or signifying meaning, which are used in different ways by different social agents in different social and cultural contexts. Both depend upon a degree of shared understanding between their users, which is learned rather than innate; and both are in a constant state of historical change and evolution.

A text can be conceptualized as something that is woven from several different semiotic threads, which means that all texts are in a sense multimodal. Analysis of a video text therefore needs to be a multisemiotic analysis which looks at how other semiotic modes interact with verbal language in producing meanings. The context o f the text goes beyond what is said and written, it includes 'other non- verbal goings-on - the total environment in which a text unfolds' Halliday 4. Using video in the classroom can serve as a means of raising awareness amongst speakers of English as an Additional Language EAL of the interface between linguistic and non-linguistic.

Communicative competence and multiliteracies essay

In video the context in which a language element occurs is both linguistic the other language it is surrounded by and non- linguistic the people, events and things present when language is uttered. Video can bring realistic contextualization of language in situations which cannot otherwise be readily reproduced in the classroom. Awareness of the socio-semantic interface aids language comprehension by encouraging greater understanding of the context. Fairclough , Kress and Van Leeuwen , drawing on Halliday, work with a multifunctional view of text. This view sees any text as having three main functions: ideational representing objects and their relations in a world outside the representational system ; interpersonal projecting a particular social relation between the producer, the viewer and the object represented ; and textual the capacity to form complexes of signs or texts Kress and Van Leeuwen Expanded definition of literacy An expanded definition of the concept 'text' will have implications for the perceived nature of literacy.

This article argues that literacy or communicative competence refers to any form of social communication or practice that requires a form of language code. Kress and Van Leeuwen view the visual as a 'language' Downloaded By: [University of Cape Town Libraries] At: 6 August and describe a 'grammar' of visual design, namely the conventions that have become established in the course of the history of visual semiotics. This 'grammar' goes beyond formal rules of correctness. It is 'a means of representing patterns of experience' Halliday 17 and is not looked at in isolation from meaning and social context.

Semiotic 'potential' is defined by the semiotic resources available to a specific individual in a specific cultural, social and psychological history.

Application of a Communicative Competence Skill Essay Example

Language users are thus, neither wholly subject to a monolithic language system, nor are they completely free to create their own meanings. They are socially and linguistically determined, but there are also contradictions and spaces in which they can determine themselves. Visual literacy is thus not a single set of disembodied skills, but a set of social practices that are inevitably plural and diverse. Literacy cannot be separated from social and affective dimensions. According to Kress, forms of representation and forms of communication are at one with forms of subjectivity, identity and personality Not only do different forms of communication constitute identity, but different forms of communication use different technologies that in turn involve different social relationships.

These theoretical points seem to be captured in David Barton's pluralistic definition of literacy: 'a set of social practices associated with particular symbol systems and their related technologies. To be literate is to be active; it is to be confident within these practices' Barton in Buckingham This definition incorporates the social aspects of literacy, the notion of pictorial conventions, as well as technology.

Kress claims that it is the technological and the productive aspect that qualifies a particular semiotic system for admission to the status of literacy. In the word 'active' we also get the sense of 'writing' or production. The word 'confident' implies mastery over the processes by which culturally significant information is coded. What this def'mition ignores, but this article highlights, is that literacy also involves transcoding from one semiotic system to another. Literacy always involves 'a system both of expression and recording in physical, material and permanent form the meanings expressed in the first semiotic system in ways which are specific to the second semiotic system' Kress A task-based approach to EAL teaching An expanded notion of comprehensible input Krashen stresses that language learning comes about through using language communicatively and rejects methods of language teaching which view Downloaded By: [University of Cape Town Libraries] At: 6 August grammar as the central component of language.

He sees acquisition as the basic process involved in developing language proficiency and distinguishes this process from learning.

Communication Competence

Acquisition refers to the unconscious development of the target language system as a result of using the language for real communication. Learning is a conscious process and refers to the formal study of language rules. According to Krashen's 'Monitor Hypothesis', it is the acquired system that we call upon to create utterances during spontaneous language use; and learning is available only as a 'monitor' of the output of the acquired system.

Krashen addresses the conditions necessary for the process of 'acquisition' to take place. He describes these in terms of the type of 'input' the learner receives. This is done with the help of context or extra-linguistic information' Affective variables act to impede or facilitate the delivery of comprehensible input. Krashen mentions three categories of affective variables, namely motivation, self-confidence, and anxiety. It is the contention of this paper that the high expectation of pleasure amongst students when confronted with video creates a positive classroom atmosphere, improves motivation, and, handled correctly, increases self-confidence.

These factors serve to lower the affective filter, thus creating an atmosphere conducive to language acquisition. According to Krashen, language learners should take an active role in ensuring comprehensible input, and learners are expected to participate in communication activities with other learners. His only solution is that the teacher plays a more important and therefore dominant role in the language classroom as the primary source of comprehensible input in the target language.

Thus, the teacher has a more centre-stage role than in many other communicative methods. When the teacher is the primary or sole source of comprehensible input, the language-learner is not exposed to the diversity of accents, speed of speech, intonation, and diction of different speakers in different contexts. Krashen admits that the range of discourse that a student can be exposed to in a second language classroom is quite limited, no matter how 'natural' it is made: Downloaded By: [University of Cape Town Libraries] At: 6 August 'There is simply no way the classroom can match the variety of the outside world' Krashen This seems to point to the fact that other voices besides the teacher's and the students' need to be introduced into the classroom, and that the input needs to be authentic.

This article suggests that introducing video into the classroom could go some way towards addressing this issue of the need for multiple voices in comprehensible input. Video introduces a range of speakers, a range of discourses, as well as a range of different contexts into the classroom. Krashen claims that the best input is so interesting and relevant that the acquirer may 'forget' that the message is encoded in a foreign language. However, he admits that 'it is very difficult to present and discuss topics o f interest to a class of people whose goals, interests and backgrounds differ from the teacher's and each other's' This article argues that video reception and production could provide this common unifying interest.

He claims that 'comprehensible input' is an inadequate concept for language pedagogy: 'Comprehensibility is not an attribute of some sample of language in relation to some learner: a crucial Teaching for Prabhu is primarily a matter of regulating the level of comprehension needed by setting up goals, and only secondarily a matter of doing things to the input, such as simplifying it. Genuine communication actively engages learners in interaction and helps them acquire the nuances of communication that cannot be acquired merely through exposure to comprehensible input.

Prabhu advocates that co-operative tasks, which foster equal participation, form the basis of a goal-directed communication curriculum. A workable definition of task In order to clarify the sense of the term 'task', Prabhu divides meaning-focused classroom activity into three broad types. Perhaps the only time this would be used would be when giving instructions as to the working of the camera, TV and video machine.

The second is reasoning-gap activity which involves deriving new information from given information through processes of inference, deduction and practical reasoning. These activities point to the task- based approach's emphasis on right answers. The third type of task is opinion-gap activity which involves 'identifying and articulating a personal preference, feeling or attitude in response to a given situation' 47, emphasis added.

Often the 'given situation' is an issue brought in from outside the classroom, like 'discussion of a social issue' It is difficult, however, to create an authentic 'situation' in Downloaded By: [University of Cape Town Libraries] At: 6 August the classroom which generates strong emotions and opinions. This article argues that video production creates opportunities to express real opinions related to a common goal. It also records experience and is thus an activity that encourages self-reflection. However, the tasks generated by viewing and producing a video appear to be different from all three types of tasks mentioned above.

Prabhu's general and wide conception of a task, however, is useful to work with. They provide the opportunity for learners to express meaning about a specified content, using the meaning-potential they have developed up to that time. Tasks generated by video reception and production allow the ideational, interpersonal and textual functions of language to come together.

The unpredictable nature of discourse and the variable relationship between form and function are accentuated by these types of tasks, and interaction among students is provided for to an optimal degree. Through learner-involvement in tasks, language teaching is not done through description or information, but through experience.

In performing a task such as scripting and filming a role-play, the task at hand is the centre of attention and language incidental. The language used is naturally contextualized, thus producing the most rapid learning of meaning. Prabhu speaks about 'alternative languages' in which some of the thinking in tasks can be done, such as logic, arithmetic, and diagrammatic representation.

Reception and production of video requires the understanding of various 'other languages' or semiotic codes, such as visual symbols, body language, tone of voice, editing techniques, music. For example, instructions on using the video camera need to be given verbally, rather than simply demonstrated. Students then need to teach each other about the camera in order to transform what they have heard into something that they in turn tell. A product is defined as a piece of comprehensible information, written, spoken, or presented in a non- linguistic form. Prabhu does not deny the value of emotional involvement for language acquisition, but implies that rational activity is more suitable for language teaching.

He claims that there is a 'sense of frustration in not being able to put across one's meaning' which he describes as a 'risk However, some kind of emotional involvement which involves real personal investment as well as frustration is imperative if meaning- based communication is to take place.


  • Communicative competence - Wikipedia;
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  • In a task such as scripting and producing a video students have a strong sense of purpose, and to attempt to create an environment that limits these emotions would be artificial. Video as a technical medium requires precise language, especially in the language of instruction to the camera person.

    This necessitates reformulation of obscure drawn-out sentences, and a more precise syntax and vocabulary. At the same time, however, the language of creativity is tapped. Half-formed ideas, wisecracks and puns are encouraged through the joint construction of a short narrative and production. With an environment that encourages the use of these different kinds of language and skills, the interests of a culturally diverse group can be tapped. Prabhu mentions the problems of simulation and real-life talk as a reason for structured task-based teaching.

    Students regard simulation as non-serious and tend to only engage in it as deliberate language practice work. Real-life talk, on the other hand, tends to conflict with notions about the classroom and, he claims, is viewed by students as only a preliminary to more serious work.

    However, these approaches are not mutually exclusive. Through using video programmes and the camera, opportunities for both simulation and real-life talk are created in a real context. Tasks around both video reception and production enable learners to assume many different roles, such as camera technician, director, actor, co-ordinator, negotiator; but these roles are not assumed in any simulated or artificial way.

    Learners are also able to draw on their individual lives and cultures in terms of approach and ideas, body language, music, and narratives. Prabhu and the task-based approach do not advocate the use of group work in the classroom. Task-based teaching is based on the principle that interaction between the teacher and the student, or between a text and the student, is more beneficial than interaction Downloaded By: [University of Cape Town Libraries] At: 6 August between one learner and another, as students' internal systems need to continually encounter 'superior data'.

    Video production and reception are a way out of a teacher-dominated classroom, while still providing opportunities for comprehensible input as well as defined tasks. Students interact with each other, with the teacher, with the task at hand, as well as with the language of the video programme, and are thus provided with a range of language 'data'. One of the main shortcomings of the task-based syllabus is that there is not necessarily any meaningful connection between tasks, which could result in a series of rather contrived and disjointed activities. What is needed is one large task acting as an overarching framework to generate smaller tasks, and video can provide such a framework.

    Each task can teach one aspect of video, such as camera angles or the relation between image and sound. These tasks and learnt skills are thus not isolated but feed into a composite knowledge as well as the final video production. Media education and muitimodai iiteracies Many of the same pedagogical issues to be found in language-learning theories are equally prevalent in thinking around media education.

    Issues such as the relative importance o f cognition and affect, the relationship between teacher dominance and group work, learning and acquisition, and the importance of production will be explored. Separation of affective and cognitive processes As in language teaching, when teaching the media one must be careful not to focus exclusively on cognitive understanding, and marginalize pleasure and subjectivitiy.

    In the formulation pleasure is produced 'for us' rather than 'by us', the audience is denied an active role, and is cast as the victim of ideological workings completely beyond its control. However, one needs to regard ideology as a process of negotiation between text and reader rather than a property of the text, in order to gain an insight into the paradoxical pleasures which texts offer. If media education is to be effective, it must enable students to explore and to reflect upon their 'subjective' responses to the media, rather than seeking merely to repress them in favour of supposedly 'objective' analysis.

    The ability to criticize is not necessarily incompatible with pleasure and can often be pleasurable in itself. To oppose 'pleasure' and 'ideology', or 'emotion' and 'reason', is to over-simplify complex learning processes. Uneasy relationship between teacher dominance and groupwork An emphasis on analysis in media education often sits uneasily alongside arguments for equal dialogue between teacher and student, and for a process of open investigation.

    While students are often encouraged to reach their own conclusions, in practice there is often little opportunity for them to generate their own readings. This approach largely fails to recognize the nature and extent of students' existing knowledge of the media. Learning versus acquisition Buckingham posits a Vygotskyan approach to media education. Vygotsky distinguishes between 'spontaneous' and 'scientific' concepts.

    Spontaneous concepts develop largely unconsciously, while scientific concepts arise from the process of teaching and involve 'metacognition', not only of the object to which the concept refers, but also of the thought process itself. Buckingham claims that Vygotsky's arguments about the teaching of scientific concepts have considerable relevance to media education. Learners' existing understanding of the media constitutes a body of 'spontaneous' concepts.

    Communicative Approach

    Media education offers a body of 'scientific' concepts that can enable students to think and use 'media language' in a more conscious and deliberate way Vygotsky's theory of spontaneous and scientific concepts has a strong affinity with Krashen's distinction between language acquisition and language learning. Krashen sees 'acquisition' of the target language as a result of using the language to communicate. This view would serve to support Buckingham's point that it is through production here media, rather than language production that students make explicit and develop their existing knowledge.

    Learning refers to the formal study of language rules and is a conscious process. According to Krashen, learning is available only as a 'monitor' of the output of the acquired system.