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Essay: The goal of teachers who use the Communicative Approach is to have students become communicatively competent.


“the goal of teachers who use the Communicative Approach is to have students become communicatively competent. While this has been the stated goal of many of the other methods, in the Communicative Approach the notion of what it takes to be communicatively competent is much expanded.” State the reasons why you are for or against the above idea.
(The notion of communicative competence as expanded in the communicative approach)

In the English language teaching methods come and go but few can establish themselves firmly in the field. The Communicative Approach is one of those few exceptions it has gained much popularity since its advent in the late 1960s. Most of the value of this approach lies in the fact that it expands the notion of communicative competence in such a way that no other method is able to.

First, the Communicative Approach highlights the fact that understanding language functions is an important aspect of communicative competence. This can be clearly seen in the following comparison. The Direct Method, the Audio-Lingual Method and the Communicative Approach are similar in that they all aim at teaching language for communication. However, each of them has its own way to achieve its goal. While the Direct Method tries to establish a direct link between the target language and meaning by immersing students in a rich sample of the structural and lexical items being taught and the Audio-Lingual Method insists on mastery of structural patterns through imitation and repetition, the Communicative Approach stands out with its emphasis not only on linguistic forms and meaning but also on functions. It claims that as language is used for performing a variety of functions such as apologizing, requesting, thanking, inviting, an understanding of language functions is really necessary. Learners need to know that a function can be realized by different forms or that a form can serve different functions. What is important, learners must draw on this knowledge to choose the most appropriate form to fulfill the function intended. So, though the Communicative Approach is not the first to put forward the idea of teaching a second/foreign language for communication, it is definitely the first to advocate the learning of language functions to gain communicative competence.

The Communicative Approach emphasizes that the ability to use language appropriately is another essential aspect of communicative competence. The principle applied here is that grammatical competence and lexical knowledge are not enough to enable students to operate efficiently in the target language. They must be able to use the language appropriate to the speech event they find themselves in. Some variables that decide the appropriateness of their language use are the purpose of their interaction, the role relationships between them, the topic they are engaged in and the shared knowledge they have. In other words, by considering who they are talking to, what they are talking about, when, where, and why they are talking, speakers know what words to use. And of course, the ability to use language appropriately helps to distinguish skilled communicators from unskilled ones.

The Communicative Approach also points out that the ability to develop strategies that can ensure effective communication is an indispensable part of communicative competence. As the Communicative Approach views langue as a vehicle for communication the process of negotiating meaning receives much attention. Engaged in oral communication, speakers not only have to make themselves understood but also have to interpret the listener’s intention correctly. To do this they need to employ a number of strategies to make sure that communication can take place smoothly. These strategies cover a wide range, from initiating and maintaining communication, sharing and clarifying information to reparing, redirecting and terminating communication. Obviously, successful communicators must be able to devise strategies that suit them as well as the social context they are involved in.

It can be concluded that the concept of communicative competence as defined by the Communicative Approach is very broad indeed. It embraces three fundamental dimensions: the ability to use linguistic means to realize a variety of language functions, the ability to use language appropriately with due consideration of the social context in which communication takes place and the ability to develop strategies to manage the negotiation of meaning. This specification of communicate competence is the hallmark of the communicative Approach because it cannot be founding the theoretical framework of any other method of or approach to language teaching.

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