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What is communicative ability?

Littlewood, W. (1996 ). What's communicative ability. En W. Littlewood, Communicative Language Teaching (pgs. 0-0). UK: Cambridge University Press.

Structural and functional views of language


Grammatical system, describing ways in which linguistic items can be combined.

The sentence structure is stable and straightforward

Structural and functional views of language


Meaning The communicative function is variable and depends on specific situational and social factors

A single linguistic form can express a number of functions A single communicative function can be expressed by a number of linguistic forms

Three aspects of understanding functional meaning

The ability to understand linguistic structures and vocabulary
Knowledge of the potential communicative functions of linguistic forms The ability to relate the linguistic forms to appropriate nonlinguistic knowledge, in order to interpret the specific functional meaning intended by the speaker

Social meaning

Interpretation of the social situation The social situation determines the nature of the language The language can help determine the social atmosphere of the situation

Relating forms to meaning

These techniques are used to
enable students to acquire linguistic forms and relate them to communicative function, nonlinguistic reality and social context.

Structural practice

Focus attention sharply and unambiguously on an important feature of the structural system

Prompt: John has written the letter Response: He wrote it yesterday. P: John has seen the film.

R: He saw it yesterday.

Relating structure to communicative function

Learners must make linguistic choices that are not mechanical but correspond do specific meanings to be conveyed

P: By the way, has john written the letter yet? R: Yes, he wrote it yesterday. P: Ha he seen the film yet? R: Yes he saw it yesterday.

Relating language to specific meanings

The learner adapts his language so that it reflects some aspect of non linguistic reality, such as the concrete situation, a picture or personal knowledge P: Shall we go to the cinema? R: Oh no, I dont feel like going to the cinema. Or The cinema? Yes, thats a good idea.

Relating language to social context

Students must learn to relate language to the social meanings that it carries and to use it as a vehicle for social interaction. Learners begin to interact as equal partners in a exchange.

S1: Which one do you prefer, tea or coffee?

S2: I prefer tea.

Social Interaction activities

Social interaction activities

Learners must pay greater attention to the social as well as the functional meaning that language conveys. The classroom is also a real social context in its own right

Using the foreign language for classroom management

Using the foreign language as a teaching medium Conversation or discussion sessions

Basing dialogues and role plays on school experience

Simulation and role-playing

The learners focus should be more firmly on the communication of meaning Learners must identify with their roles in the interaction more deeply Learners must create the interaction themselves, on the basis of their roles and the meaning that arise

Continuum which links precommunicative and communicative activities


Performing memorized dialogues Contextualised drills Cued dialogues Role-playing



Communicative activities: some general considerations

Purpose of communicative activities

They provide whole-task practice

They improve motivation

They allow natural learning

They can create a context which supports learning

When using Functional communication

activities and social interaction activities the learner has to activate and integrate his pre-communicative knowledge and skills, in order to use them for the communication of meanings. Students are therefore now engaged in practicing the total skills of communication.