Communicative approach to language teaching has been widely recognized in print in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) over three decades. Currently, in various types of language institutions over the world, including universities and colleges, language teachers and curriculum researchers have advocated communication-oriented teaching syllabus, admitting that it is more effective ways for improving students’ communication skills. Thus, such tedious and ineffective methods as grammar-translation methods have been rejected. In this paper, at first we look at what is communicative competence and then outline the importance of communicative language teaching and its role.
Communication is considered the important language skill in the teaching and learning process. This includes how the lecturer deliver the message and meaning to the students and how the students express their mind to the lecturer or to other students. Many tasks involved verbal interactions in which the speaking skill was important. Other English basic skills such as writing and reading are also important because in the teaching and learning, especially language teaching, a qualification of writing and understanding texts is needed and there are some tasks involving writing or reading activities. Listening skills are also important and required as much as other skills. The students have to understand what the lecturers explain and the lecturers need to catch what the students say and express. Although the importance of four English basic skills is well recognized, there is opinion with regard to the aspect of communication that is required in the tasks. The lecturers view that in the teaching and learning process, meaning is also important. In real communication in a teaching and learning process, the purpose of communication and the way of communication are important. In other words, the aims of delivering and catching meaning are important. All the students in the interviews share this view. They consider conveying meaning or information is primary. The conveying of information emphasizes meaning and the way of communication between the lecturer and the students is necessitated from the needs of the students. Although in many cases, the students make grammatical mistakes in their utterances in the process of communication, it is still tolerated by the lecturer and in here the lecturer gives some corrections to the mistakes. In a teaching and learning process, the way of communication and delivering or understanding meaning is important. It is in line with the educational perspective, where the expert argues that both delivering and understanding meaning and the ways of communication are equally important in teaching and learning. The expert’s view suggests that a teaching and learning of a language program should also include accuracy and fluency. These views between the expert and lecturer about communication and meaning point to the need for a syllabus that can integrate communication skills and linguistic features. In a competency task-based language teaching perspective, tasks can be designed in the classroom to integrate communication skills and language features. Tasks required learners to utilize their language resources to engage in the language to achieve communication goals. Task-based language teaching recognizes the importance of language forms that can be brought into consciousness through provision of feedbacks from the lecturer. The lecturers are more concerned with transferring information and their short-comings in the use of language are compensated for with non-linguistic aspects such as contextual supports or gestures. This, then, could result in lexicalized forms of communication, a form of communication that emphasizes fluency at the expense of language structures.
Communicative competence has been defined and discussed in many different ways by language scholars of different fields. The successful language use for communication presupposes the development of communicative competence in the users of that language and that the use of language is constrained by the socio-cultural norms of the society where the language is used. It has been several decades since the communicative approach to language teaching first appeared in print in the field of second language acquisition (SLA). In various types of language programs, language educators and curriculum researchers have implemented communicative-oriented teaching syllabuses to seek for more effective ways for improving students’ communication skills to replace the traditional, grammar-oriented approach in the past. To some English educators, however, a Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach is challenging to adopt in their classroom. Communicative competence, which is viewed as the basis of CLT, has been developed on native-speaker norms that are different socioculturally and educationally from those of the non-native speaker (Samimy and Kobayashi, 2004). The idea of communicative competence is originally derived from Chomsky’s distinction between ‘competence’ and ‘performance’. The former is the linguistic knowledge of the idealized native speaker, an innate biological function of the mind that allows individuals to generate the infinite set of grammatical sentences that constitutes their language, and the latter is the actual use of language in concrete situations. By competence, Chomsky (1965) means the shared knowledge of the ideal speaker-listener set in a completely homogenous speech community. Such underlying knowledge enables a user of a language to produce and understand an infinite set of sentences out of a finite set of rules. The transformational grammar provides for an explicit account of this tacit knowledge of language structures, which is usually not conscious but is necessarily implicit. Hymes (1972) says that “the transformational theory carries to its perfection the desire to deal in practice only with what is internal to language, yet to find in that internality that in theory is of the widest or deepest human significance”. Hymes (1972) considers Chomsky’s monolithic, idealized notion of linguistic competence inadequate and he introduces the broader, more elaborated and extensive concept of communicative competence, which includes both linguistic competence or implicit and explicit knowledge of the rules of grammar, and contextual or sociolinguistic knowledge of the rules of language use in contexts. Hymes views communicative competence as having the following four types: what is formally possible, what is feasible, what is the social meaning or value of a given utterance, and what actually occurs. Hymes (1974), retaining the idea of Chomsky’s underlying grammatical competence, looks at contextual relevance as one of the crucial aspects of one’s knowledge of language and claims that meaning in communication is 14 determined by its speech community and actual communicative events. In addition, Hymes was inspired by Noam Chomsky's distinction on linguistic competence and performance. He proposes that the speakers should study the knowledge that people have when they communicate. Just like linguistic competence which tells one whether a sentence is grammatical or not, communicative competence tells one whether an utterance is appropriate or not within a situation. Hymes was among the first to use the term communicative competence. For Hymes, the ability to speak competently not only entails knowing the grammatical rules of a language, but also knowing what to say to whom in what circumstances and how to say it (Scarcella, Andersen, and Krashen,1990). Hymes was also among the first anthropologist/ethnographer to point out that Chomsky’s linguistic competence lacks consideration of the most important linguistic ability of being able to produce and comprehend utterances which are appropriate to the context in which they are made. It is part of that ability to know when to use, “Would you like to start now,Sir/Mom?” and when to use, “Hey, you wanna start now, Mike?” The competence is that all the adult native speakers of a language process must include their ability to handle linguistic variation and the various uses of language in the context. It should encompass a much wider range of abilities than the homogenous linguistic competence of the Chomskyan tradition. Canale and Swain (1980) define communicative competence in the context of second language teaching as “a synthesis of knowledge of basic grammatical principles, knowledge of how language is used in social settings to perform communicative functions, and knowledge of how utterances and communicative functions can be combined according to the principles of discourse”. Canale (1983) views communicative competence as “the underlying systems of knowledge and skills required for communication”. The communicative competence is, then, distinguished from what Canale calls “actual communication”, which is defined as “the realization of such knowledge and skills under limiting 15 psychological and environmental conditions such as memory and perceptual constraints, fatigue, nervousness, distractions, and interfering background noises” (Canale, 1983: 5). As far as performance is concerned, Chomsky’s performance and Canale and Swain’s actual communication point to roughly the same phenomenon of uttering sentences in real communicative situations.
Based on the literature study, the principles underlying Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) are relevant to the Competency Based Syllabus. They are:
- Learners learn a language through using it to communicate;
- Authentic and meaningful communication should be the goal of classroom activities;
- Fluency is an important dimension of communication;
- Communication involves the integration of different language skills;
- Learning is a process of creative construction and involves trial and error.
To conclude, language teaching on the basis of communicative approach has great influence on effective teaching. Communication and interaction among learners help to raise awareness in the class. The factors and reasons given above and the positive sides of communicative approach to language teaching point that it is high time to set our communication competency syllabus in our language institutions.
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