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Topic 3 – Development of language skills: listening, speaking, listening and writing. Communicative competence in English.

3.1. INTRODUCTION

The present topic deals with the four linguistic skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, and Communicative Competence in English.

Following L.O.E 2/2006, 3rd MAY we can see that “Acquire basic communicative competence in at least one foreign language to enable them to express and understand simple messages and get by in everyday situations”.

There exists a great difference among the different foreign language learning methods.

But what exactly must teachers teach in a foreign language class? The student must learn to listen, speak, read and write. The four skills are necessary.

In order to achieve a proper learning, it is convenient to follow an order:

-Not speaking before listening.

-Not reading before speaking.

-Not writing before reading.

If we aim at enabling our students to communicate in English, our approach to the study of the so called Four Skills must be comprehensive, global and integrative, as far as possible in the context of statutory education. In the hand if we have in mind to follow a more structural approach to English teaching , then we can treat the topic in a more one by one skill.

However at present we think we have no choice because cognitive psychology has shed light on the process of learning in general and on language learning more precisely and its finding show that learning is a global process, in which the brain apprehends the different aspect of reality as wholes, not bit by bit.

Current Communicative approaches to second/ foreign language teaching, advice to try to replicate the spontaneous process of L1 acquisition, as far as possible and we consider that this is the approach to our future teaching task implied by the title of this theme.

For the reasons above mentioned , we are going to begin by defying the different aspect that constitute communicative competence according to Canale and Swain , (1980) which has been adopted by the Spanish national syllabus for foreign languages. This model consists of five subcompetences:

GRAMMAR, DISCOURSE, SOCIOLINGUISTIC, STRATEGIC AND SOCIOCULTURAL COMPETENCE.

GRAMMATICAL COMPETENCE: the ability to put into practice the linguistic units according to the rules of use established in the linguistic system.

When trying to define grammatical competence it is a must to mention CHOMSKY because he was the first to speak about competence and performance in the 60,s, taking as a basis the distinction that DE SAUSSURE had made between language and parole. CHOMSKY has done a lot of research, which has eventually led to the concept of communicative competence. As we understand it nowadays.

SOCIOLINGUISTIC COMPETENCE: the ability to adequate the utterances to the specific context, in according with the accepted usage of the determined linguistic community.

HALLIDAY, who started from CHOMSKY´S views, but taking into account language in its social perspective. HALLIDAY, on his turn, is interested in language in use in the functions realised by speech.

According to this theory language functions are formal features of language, which enable communication to take place.

HALLIDAY rejects the distinction between competence and performance, as being of no use to study the sociological aspects of language and he developed a socio-semantic approach to language and language in use, trying to explain the relationships between language events and social context.

In this approach, he includes the notion of language potential, which is the set of options in meaning that are available both to listener and speaker. This implies that the speaker have behaviour options which he translates linguistically as semantic options, encoded in linguistic forms.

SOCIOCULTURAL COMPETENCE: which has to be understood as a certain awareness of the social and cultural context in which the foreign language is used.

As far as HYMES is concerned, he criticises CHOMSKY because his notion of competence does not account for the sociocultural dimension of language, which is something CHOMSKY left out on purpose, for the methodological reasons.

HYMES, on the contrary, posits that to establish the idea of C.C. we need to know whether something is formally possible .If something is feasible, according to our means and whether it is appropriate in relation to a context, we should also take into account whether it is done and what its doing implies.

That is, according to Hymes, C.C. implies:

A) Grammatical ability to use what is formally possible

b) Psycholinguistic ability to use what is feasible.

c) Sociocultural ability to use what is contextually appropriate.

DISCOURSE COMPETENCE: the ability to use different types of discourse and organize them according to the communicative situation and the speakers involved in it.

Current research has shown that communication cannot de understood unless we move away from the sentence level and try to understand language at discourse level, however complex it may result.

According to this, discourse competence would be the ability, which enables us to interpret individual message elements in terms of their relationship with the full text.

Also includes understanding lexical cohesion devices in context as well as grammatical cohesion devices in order to notice the cohesion of the different genres.

On the other hand it also comprises it also comprises grasping oral discourse patterns as well as written discourse pattern to be able to notice coherence in different genres.

STRATEGIC COMPETENCE: the ability to define, correct or in general, make adjustments, in the communicative situation

Strategic competence is related to current interest in the cognitive devices through which we apprehend reality:

Related to strategic in so far as it is relevant for communication we should mention the following devices:

a) The use of reference sources

b) Grammatical and lexical paraphrase

c) Requests for repetition

D) Use of non-verbal language

E) Use of a single grammatical form

F) Use of the most sociolinguistic neutral form when we are not sure.

G) Use of the first language knowledge as an aid

H) Use of non-verbal symbols or emphatic stress or intonation to provide cohesion and coherence.

I) Use of pause filters and turn-taking devices.

Now, we will focus on HOW TO TEACH STUDENTS TO COMMUNICATE

a) From the point of view of the grammatical competence, they should learn to cope with difficulties in phonology, orthography, vocabulary, word and sentence formation.

b)As far as sociolinguistic competence is concerned , they should be able to understand the social context in order to express and understand the social context in order to express and understand social meanings properly.

c) Referring to sociocultural competence they should get at least some command of the basic social and cultural features of L2

d) In relation to discourse competence they should be able to distinguish the different devices to use in oral and written discourse

e) Finally, in relation to the strategic competence, they should be able to use strategies to cope with grammar problems, with sociolinguistic difficulties as well as with discourse difficulties in general.

3.4. PRODUCTIVE AND RECEPTIVE SKILLS

Anyone who uses a language correctly has developed a number of different abilities. In the most general way, we may identify four major skills: speaking and listening, which are said to be related to the language expressed through the aural medium; and reading and writing, which are related to the visual medium.

Speaking and writing involve some kind of production on the part of the language user. They are thus said to be productive skills. On the other hand, reading and writing are considered to be receptive skills, since the language user is receiving writing or spoken language.

The language user is very often involved in using a combination of these skills, so that, for instance, a participant in a conversation has to develop at the same time, both the productive skill and the receptive skill.

Learning to speak and to understand means learning the language, whereas reading implies that the language is already know and that we are using its graphic representation.

Communication is an extremely complex and ever-changing phenomenon. Nevertheless there are certain characteristics which have a particular relevance in the teaching and learning process of a language. By effective communication, we mean that there is a desire for the communication to be effective both from the point of view of the speaker and of the listener.

The are some general features which characterise oral and written communication, that is, when a speaker or writer is developing his productive skills, we may suppose that:

-The speaker/writer wants to speak/write

-He has some communicative purpose and wants something to happen as a result of what he says/writes.

-He selects the language he thinks suitable in order to achieve his purpose.

Listeners or readers of a message also have some features in common, when they are developing their receptive skills:

-They want to listen to something.

-They are interested in what is being said.

-They have to be ready to process a great variety of grammar and vocabulary to understand exactly what is being said.

Listening or learning to listen in order to hear and understand properly.

-First of all, there are several general principles in teaching / learning listening comprehension, and these principles are:

Listening comprehension lessons, it must have definite goals, carefully stated. These goals should fit into the overall curriculum.

Listening comprehension lessons, it should be constructed, with a carefully step-by-step planning. This implies that the listening tasks progress, from simple hearing based activities, to more complex understanding based ones as our pupils gain in language competence.

-We can use several STRATEGIES in order to develop listening comprehension such as: SCANNING, SKIMMING, RECONSTRUCTION OF ORAL DISCOURSE, PREDICTION, RECOGNIZING INTERNAL STRUCTURES AND CONNECTORS, GUESSING FORM CONTEXT, and, EXTENSIVE and INTENSIVE STRATEGIES.

SCANNING or looking for specific details. It’s better to say questions before the listening practice.

SKIMMING or to identify the principal ideas. F. instance, we want that our pupils ask themselves, what is this text about? And to guess the type text (poem, folk tale), settings (place, street), characters (formal, informal, neuter), and key words.

RECONSTRUCTION OF ORAL DISCOURSE: after we refer to the first listening, the teacher can make a conceptual map on the blackboard, considering a word or sentence as the listening key.

PREDICTION, pupils can predict what will be the next one that they are going to listen.

RECOGNIZING INTERNAL STRUCTURES AND CONNECTORS: this strategy gives us clues about the content. F. example:

FALL/RISE INTONATION and the particle BUT indicate contrast expression

SO + FALL INTONATION indicate “RESULT”

FIRST, THEN, FINALLY, help us to identify and arrange sequences in different parts.

GUESSING FORM CONTEXT: is to find out the meaning of unknown words. We can use gestures, pictures…

Learning to read and write

Learning to read a foreign language is obviously not a primary aim of early learning of English.

Nevertheless, the two skills of reading and writing are learning tools, which it would be wrong to ignore, as they occupy a position of fundamental importance in the objectives of primary school education and in the activities of the pupils.

Learning to read in English will gradually give young beginners an ability to read autonomously as they acquire both the necessary ability and the taste for reading.

There are publishers specializing in English as a foreign language that offers illustrated readers for children. The adventures of the animal and human heroes in these books excite the interest of the children and encourage them to read on.

ACCORDING TO THE SENSE USED we have READING BY EAR and READING BY EYE

READING BY EAR: we can’t read without the phonic element, that’s to say, reading is a lineal process and we advance identifying and reproducing the phonic elements of texts. This strategy is very important in the first stage of learning a foreign language.

READING BY EYE: the relation between written word and signification is direct. Thus, the words are read as units with meaning without the participation of an intermediate mechanism. This strategy is used with pupils who have a certain reading fluency and.

ACCORDING TO THE ACTIVITIES USED we have SCANNING, SKIMMING, FOLLOW A SEQUENCE, SURVIVAL READING, PREDICTION, INFORMATION TRANSFER.

SCANNING or looking for specific details such as a friends address. It’s better to say questions before reading.

SKIMMING or to identify the principal ideas. F. Instance, we want that our pupils ask themselves, what is this text about? And they can identify type text (poem, folk tale), settings (place, street), characters (formal, informal, neuter), and key words.

FOLLOW A SEQUENCE: it’s useful to understand instructions or identifying. F. Instance the life phases of famous people.

SURVIVALS READING: it’s referred to localization of text, which help us to find something that we are looking for in an urban context. F. instance: traffic signals with sort text (ONE WAY), or informative signals (EXIT, MIND THE GAP)

PREDICTION, when we can use clues which show. What’s going to the next f. instance, we say: ‘there was an Englishman, a Frenchman, and an Irishman.

INFORMATION TRANSFER: this strategy permits us to translate determined facts of a text to different ones. F. Instance: A travel or adventure story can be transformed in a comic or map.

About READING SKILLS: and according to Harmer we can divide these skills into two types: GENERAL UNDERSTANDING and SPECIFIC UNDERSTANDING.

-GENERAL UNDERSTANDING is concerned with the treatment of a text as a whole. They include the following micro skills: PREDICTION, EXTRACTING SPECIFIC INFORMATION, and GETTING THE GENERAL PICTURE.

-SPECIFIC UNDERSTANDING is subsequently and involves a detailed comprehension of the text. They include: INFERRING OPINION AND ATTITUDE, DEDUCING MEANING FROM CONTEXT, and RECOGNIZING DISCOURSE PATTERNS AND MARKERS.

We can also talk about READING ACTIVITIES, and are commonly divided into THREE TYPES: PRE- READING, WHILE READING and POST- READING ACTIVITIES.

PRE- READING ACTIVITIES have as a main aim to arouse our pupils’ interest in what they are going to read. They may include: PRE-LIMINARY DISCUSSION, HEADLINESS AND TITLES, and SEQUENCING PICTURES.

WHILE READING ACTIVITIES for general and specific understanding. They may include: SUGGESTING A TITLE, UNDERLINE THE INFORMATION REQUIRED, and CHART COMPLETATION.

POST- READING ACTIVITIES can be thought as a follow up work. They may include PREPARE A SIMILAR NEXT, PARTICIPATE IN A ROLE-PLAY BASED ON THE NEXT MAKE A DRAWING.



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