Friday, December 30, 2005

Linguistic Competence and Communicative Competence


Linguists are aware of the inter-relationship between language and the society. But they have not succeeded in describing such a relationship. Phonology, Lexis and Syntax, which are objects of linguistic description constitute only a part of the elements in the code used for communication. The meaning(s) of an utterance (a sentence, a clause, a phrase, a word, etc) do(es) not depend entirely on its form; a lot depend on who says what, to whom, where, why, in what manner and in what effect. In other words, the context of situation in which an utterance is said is very important. For instance, the occurrence “Can I have the salt please?” is interrogative in form but expresses a polite request in a dinning room.
Grammatical knowledge is not enough to help us participate effectively in communicative situation. In addition to acquainting oneself with the forms of language, one must know the following in order to communicate appropriately:
1. The socio-cultural relation: the attitude, values, conventions, prejudices and preferences of the people who use the language.
2. The nature of the participants: the relationship between the speaker and the listener, their occupation, interest, socio-economic status, etc.
3. The rule of the participant: the relationship in social network, father – son, teacher – student, boss – subordinate, landlord – tenant, doctor – patient, etc.
4. The nature and function of the speech: whether it is a face to face talk persuasion, confrontation, or a casual conversation, or a request informal situation, or a telephonic conversation, etc.
5. The mode (medium) of communication: spoken or written or reading from a written script, or unprepared speech.

Communicative competence, indeed, includes the whole of linguistics competence plus the whole of the amorphous (indefinite shape or form) range of facts included under socio-linguistic pragmatic competence (the rules and conventions for using language items in context and other factors like attitudes, values, and motivation. Dell Hymes says that one who studies language should be able:
“to account for this fact that a normal child acquires knowledge of sentence not only as grammatical but also appropriate. He or she acquires competence as to when to speak, when not and as to what to talk about, with whom, when, where, in what manner”. In short, a child becomes able to acquire a repertoire (all the skills, etc that a person has and is able to use) of speech act to take part in a speech act, and to evaluate their accomplishment by others.”

Chomsky believes that linguistic competence can be separated from the rest of communicative competence and studied in isolation but socio-linguist, like Dell Hymes believes that the notion of linguistic competence is unreal and that no significant progress in linguistics is possible without studying forms along with the ways in which they are used. For one thing, social interaction is actually skilled work, and it requires effort. It is not in innate (inborn or genetically endowed). It has to be learnt from others. A person who faces to learn and make himself and others uneasy in conversation and perpetually kills, encounters is a faulty person. Dell Hymes maintains that competence is dependent upon the fore features listed below:
1. Whether (and to what degree) something is possible.
2. Whether (and to what degree) something is visible (in relation to the means available)
3. Whether (and to what degree) something is appropriate (adequate, happy, in relation to the context in which it is used).
4. Whether (and to what degree) something is performed (actually done and what the doing entails).

All these show that the linguistic competence is largely a part of Communicative Competence.
Dell Hymes’ criticism of the concept of linguistic competence is that it is an abstraction without any relevance to actual use. The same criticism has been directed against the notion of communicative competence. According to Widdowson, if linguistic competence is an abstraction of grammatical knowledge, communicative competence is an abstraction of social behaviour. The notion of communicative competence does not include in its purview (the scope somebody’s activities or influence) the actual procedure, which language users adopt in order to participate in language based on activity. So, along with linguistic competence and communicative competence, pragmatic competence should also be brought into focus. Pragmatic competence is the one that underlines the ability to use the language along with a conceptual system to achieve certain aims or purpose. And it determines how the tool can be effectively put to use: It is user-oriented.
We can sum up and say that the following are essentially the components of communication that go into the building up of the communicative competence:
A. Linguistic Knowledge and the Para-linguistic Cues:
(i) Verbal elements (sentences, clauses, phrases, etc.)
(ii) Non-verbal elements (aspects of communicative behaviour, such as: facial expression, body movement, eye gaze, gesture, proximity, etc.)
(iii) Elements of discourse and their organization in connective speech and writing.
(iv) Range of possible variants (possible variations and their organizations).
(v) Meaning of variants to a particular situation.

B. Interaction Skills:
(i) Norms of interaction and interpretation.
(ii) Strategies for achieving desire goals.
(iii) Perception or features (verbal as well as non-verbal) in communication situation (situation of communication).
(iv) Understanding appropriateness in any given situation.

C. Cultural Knowledge:
(i) Socials structure.
(ii) Values and attitudes.
(iii) Cognitive scheme (verbal as well as noun verbal) and the cultural transmission processes.

The setting (means: place) of interaction also is an important factor in defining a situation for instance whether you interact someone in the church, a temple, a mosque, a classroom or a market place contributes to the nature of interaction and the variety of language use.
Another concept useful in understanding communicative competence is the concept of phatic-communion. One purpose of phatic communion is to avoid silence because it may imply hostility or embarrassment when it is not required. For instance, pray hall silence may be a sign of respect but when two acquaintances meet and remain silent, their silence may be interpreted as hostility or, at least, indifference. Some expressions like ‘how are you?’ ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’, etc. are highly conventional but their violation affects communication patterns adversely as often leads to discomfiture (lack of comfort) of participants in the interaction.
The concept of communicative competence introduced by Dell Hymes brought about a shift in the approach method and technique in language pedagogy. Linguists argued that ‘There are rules of use without which the rules of grammar will be useless. A distinction was made between the grammatical rules that enable the users to frame correct sentences and the rules of the use of the languages to accomplish some kind of communicative purpose. Some socio-linguists rather some socio-linguistic principles became the key phrase in language teaching.
The European common market gave a fillip (a thing that stimulates or encourages something) to the communicative approach. There was increased need for teaching adults the major languages of the European common market for increased interaction. Wilkins advocated notional-functional syllabus in his book, Notional Syllabus (1976). He gave a course around the uses or functions to which language is put: For example, one lesson can be planned on requesting information, another on apologizing and the third one on expressing gratitude. Linguists made inventories of functions, notions, and structures but they made no the proposal for the gradation of materials to be used. Grading according to functional complexity did not make any sense to them for a simple reason that syntactic complexity and function are to separated or different parameters.
The major distinctive features of Communicative Approach as contrasted to the Audio Lingual Method are the following:
1. Meaning is more important than the structure and form.
2. Dialogues if used around communicative functions, are not to be memorized.
3. Language item should be contexturized. They should not be taught in isolation as in Audio Lingual Method.
4. Language learning does not imply learning structures, sounds and words but learning to communicate.
5. Effective communication is sought and emphasized instead of mastery and over learning.
6. Drilling is not central but peripheral (secondary or minor importance).
7. Pronunciation needs not be native live but comprehensive.
8. Grammatical explanation is not avoided; any device, which the learners have, is accepted varying according to their age and interest.
9. Attempt to communicate needs not to make only after a long process of rigid drills but from the very beginning.
10. Judicious use of native language is accepted when feasible.
11. Translation may be used when student can take benefits.
12. Reading and writing need not weigh for one’s mastery over speech. They may start from the very first day.
13. The target linguistic system will be learnt not through the teaching of the pattern of the system but through the process of learning to communicate.
14. Instead of linguistic competence, communicative competence is the desired goal.
15. Linguistic variation is accepted as a central condition in method and materials.
16. The sequence of units is determined not by the principle of linguistic complexity but by the consideration of content, function, and meaning, which maintain interest.
17. The teacher helps the learners in any way that motivate them to work with the language (regardless of any conflict theory).
18. Language is not a habit; it is created by the individual through trial and error.
19. The primary goal is not accuracy in terms of formal correctness, but fluency and acceptable language; accuracy is judged not in the abstract but in context.
20. Students should not be subjected to making use of language through machines or controlled materials. They should rather be encouraged to interact with people through pair or group work in real life.
21. The teacher should not specify what language students are to use. Indeed he cannot know or anticipate exactly what language the student will use.
22. Intrinsic motivation will spring not from interest in the structure of the language but in what is being communicated in language.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cognitive Approach (Mentalist Approach)


The Cognitive View of Language Learning
The cognitivists were thoroughly dissatisfied with many of the ideas propagated by the Behaviorists. They maintain that learning cannot be equated with behaviour because observed behaviour is only the outward manifestation of internal changes, which the organism may have undergone as a result of learning. Yet these internal changes are not in themselves observable. In fact, the discipline behaviour may be only for what is called “tip of the iceberg”; the changes of internal state may be far more significant. For example: A parrot being trained to talk may not begin to talk for a long time leading the learner to believe that it was learning nothing. Yet learning could be talent form. When a certain critical stage is reached the parrot might suddenly begin talking. (Cognitive View, language is not behaviour but a mental process, one might speak a language on a stage he reached).
Secondly, the cognitivists believe the view that that language is behaviour is one sided and superficial. Language seems to have a double nature. On the one hand, it is a form of codified, patterned social behaviour, but on the other hand, it is an abstract logical system comparable to mathematics. The difference lies in the fact that while mathematics is derived from some kind of universal logic, language system is largely arbitrary and conventional. However it cannot be denied that language learning means being able to do the right thing at the right time of producing the appropriate behaviour. (According to Chomsky, Mentalist, language has creativity that is rule governed, therefore it is based on logic like math).
The main reason why the cognitivists were thoroughly dissatisfied with behaviorism was that Behaviorism does not distinguish between human and animals and between the higher and lower forms of learning. That is why Behaviorism sounds repugnant to those who believe in the uniqueness of human species.
Further, according to Behaviourism, learning is the outcome of manipulation, which is a coronary (parallel something) of conditioning which implies a process of shaping and molding of behaviour. Desired behaviour is induced and undesired behaviour is extinguished. This means that there is some agency outside the learner to decide what is desirable and what is not. The learner is merely an instrument (student) to be manipulated by the outside agency. It does not take into account the contribution of learner in the process of learning. How could one explain the fact that individual difference exists among learners even among animal learnt? This realization leads to the overthrow of Behaviourist or at least to the modification of behaviorism and the behaviorists view of learning.

BEHAVIOURISM: Stimulus and Response Theory
The Behaviourists provided a very simplistic view of learning in terms of stimulus and response: S --------> R (S goes to R).
According to Cognitivists, however, there is something, which mediates between S and R, and this is the Cognitive function.

S-----> Cognitive Function -------> R

That is why the cognitive function makes the learner monitor and evaluates the different stimuli being received, to coordinate and regulate them, to reject some of them and develop appropriate response to those, which are accepted. That is to say, the Cognitive Function makes the learner the controller of the learning process rather than the passive recipient.
In Behaviorism, or S -----> R model, each bit of learning is treated as though it had no relation to previous learning. The cognitivist tries to relate together the entire history of learning, which according to him forms a totality. He indeed possesses a cognitive man of his environment, which represents the sum of all his learning. When he encounters a new learning experience, it is screened through a cognitive man, which enables the learner to interpret the new experience. Thus the learning process is subjective to constant appraisal and reappraisal of the environment by the learner and constituent readjustment to it. The experiment involving the ape and banana proves this point.
The cognitivists are convinced that learning depends upon perception and insight formation. They feel that all learning is in the nature of problem solving. The learner tries to solve new problem on the basis of previous learning.
Briefly, the stages in the learning process can be characterized as the following:
1 The learner encountering a new situation recognizes it as a problem to be solved.
2. He analyses it and tries to identify the elements or components of the new situation.
3. He compares a new situation with those that he has previously encountered in an attempt to find out if it is similar or different.
4. The comparison suggests to him a plan or strategy for dealing with the new situation but the plan has to be tested.
5. The plan is tried out (tested): if it doesn’t work, it is abandoned and alternative plan is involved and tried. If the plan works, it is stored in the system for use in the future.

For one thing, it should be clear that all situations and experiences are not physical. They may be purely mental, requiring a mental solution in the form of explanation. But the explanation has to be such as can be applied and extended to other situations. In other words, the explanation can still be generated. Basically, all knowledge involves the process of generalizing from particular instances. Learning, in this respect, can be thought of as a process of induction. Individual experiences contribute towards the general pattern of understanding. According to the cognitivists, the learner of the languages possesses some kind of data-processing mechanism. The input to the learner is not just a number of occurrences (to be memorized and imitated). The input constitutes the samples of the language data, which he processes. The output from this data processing is not just a number of sentences but a system of rules, which enable the learner to produce an unlimited number of sentences. The diagram below would show this phenomenon:

Input samples of Data Processing Outout
Language Data ---> Mechanism ----> (system of lg. rules)

If language learning is explained purely in terms of imitation, it should not be possible for a child to produce any occurrences, which he has not heard before (which are not part of the input). Indeed, children constantly surprise their parents by producing occurrences, which have not been heard by them before. Even the behaviorists have to accept this phenomenon and they try to account for it. The explanation offered by them was that a child is able to produce new occurrences through the process of substitution. For instances, the child hears:
1. This is a cat.
2. This is a pen.
3. This is a boy.
4. This is a hat.

This child is able to produce new sentences on the same pattern merely by substitution one item for another:
1. This is a dog.
2. This is a ball
3. This is a house, etc.

According to the Behaviorists, the sentences, which are said to be new, are actually not new. They are merely new combination of words, which the speaker has already received.
But even if this argument is accepted, one finds that substitution does not take place in a random manner. There must be some principles, which determine the choice of items, which substitute each other. Why, for example, does the child substitute ‘cat’, for ‘dog, or why doesn’t he produce, ‘This is a green’ or ‘This is a come’, etc.? (One does not replace ‘noun’ with ‘verb’ or ‘adjective’. Mind makes distinction between grammar categories; Noun is substituted by Noun).
According to the Cognitivists, even a very limited amount of language data may be sufficient to reveal the underlying rules, and once the rule is known, it can be used or applied to produce an infinite number of sentences.
However, it does not imply that the child discovers all the rules of grammar in one instance. Indeed, he discovers the correct rules only gradually. In many cases, the rules, which he first discovers or formulates, are wrong. He arrives at the correct rule after going through a series of incorrect rules. For instances, a child may produce a sentence:
1. Two mans have come.
He does so because his mini-grammar of English tells him that plurals are formed by adding ‘—S’. His mini-grammar at this stage is reflecting of the hypothesis, which he has formed on the basis of data received by him. With new experience and further exposure to the data, he finds that the rule that he has so far internalized applies only to a part of the language, not the whole of it. In any language, there may be an area, which is rule-free. If there are rules, they are applicable only to a limited number of cases. For example, there are no rules to govern the past tense forms of irregular verbs (eat ---> ate; go ---> went; drink ---> drank; etc.) In such cases, one has to learn all the individual items.
The Cognitivist, indeed, tends to look at only that part of the language, where general rules apply, because for him language learning is the process whereby the rules of language are discovered and internalized. The Cognitivist’s view is, therefore, only a portion account of the learning process but it has gained greater acceptance or acceptability than Behaviorist’s point of view.


Behaviourist Approach


In the 19th century in the field of psychology, some behaviorists conduct a research on animals and children how they learn language (Pavlov’s classical conditioning; stimulus – response) trial and error.
(The Behaviourists made research by looking at the behaviour of the objects being researched. E.g. behaviour of dog, cat, child, ect.)

The Behaviourist View of Language learning
The process of language learning according to the behaviourists can be explained in terms of conditioning. The child begins to hear during the 1st year of his life a large number of speech sound produced by his parents. Gradually his learns to associate these sounds with the situations, which accompany them. For instance, the child learns to recognize the sound of endearment, which his mother produces when she feeds him.
After sometime, these sounds become pleasurable in themselves even when they are not accompanied by food. At this stage, conditioning to language has begun. The more frequently the child is exposed to this process of conditioning, the stronger its effect. However its strength of the associative bound between the sounds and the situations accompanying them depends upon the satisfaction, which the child obtains from the conditioning process.
Before long, the child begins to imitate some of speech sounds that he has heard; the child does so in an attempt to control the environment and to invite the attention of his mother. The mother may fail to response to the majority of these random signals, but if the child, by chance, produces the vocal stimulus, which the mother recognizes as the appropriate, she responses. We say that his behaviour pattern has been rewarded or reinforced while all the inappropriate behaviour patterns have been neglected.
When a behaviour pattern is rewarded, this deals to the formation of the bound of association, say between the utterances (stimulus) and milk (response). Initially learning takes places through a random association but once it has been formed it is rapidly strengthened through repetition. The child is able to confirm that a certain vocal utterance is the correct stimulus for the desired response; he can then repeat the utterance each time it is needed.
On the other hand, a behaviour pattern that is not rewarded gets extinguished (will not be repeated by the child). The child will not continue to produce the utterance for which the mother does not take any notice of it. This is said to be the natural process of language learning, which a language-teaching program should try to stimulate. For the teacher, the following implications of the behaviour model of learning are relevant:

1. Language is learnt only through use or practice. The more the learner is exposed to the use the better the chances of learning it.
2. The production of language depends on the situation, which makes its use necessary. Language cannot be taught in divorce from situation; the teacher has to introduce each new pattern of language in a meaningful situation.
3. Producing the correct linguistic response also requires effort. If the learner is not called upon to make this effort there is no learning.
4. Producing the correct response also requires attention. Attention is bound to slacken after a time to prolong. So prolonged practice is less useful than spaced practice.
5. The spoken language comes earlier than the written, and the receptive (passive) experience of language is necessary before any productive (active) use can begin.
6. Learning takes place faster if the correct response toward stimulus is confirmed. The learner must know at once if his effort is right or wrong (rewarded).
7. Learning is still faster if the learner is placed to the situation where he can produce only the correct response. Each incorrect response builds up a faculty behaviour pattern, which interfere with the process of conditioning.
8. Every new item learnt must be reinforced by further practice before further learning begins.

Most of the methods used during the past 70 years for teaching language made use of these assumptions from Behaviorism. They emphasized, repeated but spaced-practice of language material in meaningful situation, in imitation of a given model, first orally and then writing.

Note: Behaviorism does not distinguish between the language of human being and that of animal.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

English as an International Language


English is an international language, spoken in many countries both as a native and as a second or foreign language. It is taught in the schools in almost every country on this earth. It is a living and vibrant language spoken by over 300 million people as their native language. Millions more speak it as an additional language.
English is spoken habitually in the United States, the British Isles, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of South Africa, Liberia, and many territories under the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It is estimated that 300 million people speak English as a second language, and an additional 100 million people use it fluently as a foreign language. As a rough estimate, 1000 million or one billion people around the world have some knowledge of English, either as a native language, as a second language, or as a foreign language.
English is the associate official language of India which has over 1000 million (over billion) people. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and many other nations which were ruled by Britain continue to use English both as an optional medium of instruction in their schools and as one of their official languages. The islands of the Philippines continue to use English as an important tool for education, administration, and for mass media purposes. English is the chief foreign language taught in the schools of Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.
Even though some nations which were ruled by the French continue to teach French as their most preferred second language, English is gaining ground even in these countries. In the former Soviet Union, Russian was the dominant language. Since the break of the Soviet Union, the Central Asian Republics have been rapidly introducing English in their school system as a second or foreign language. In Russia itself, English is gaining ground as the most popular second language. In Japan too, English is the most favored second or foreign language.
Outside Europe, English is the predominant language of international commerce. Although the United Nations and its various agencies have more than one language for transaction, more often than not, English comes to be chosen as the preferred language of communication between the participating member-nations.
All this has happened within the last one hundred years. The ascendancy of English as the most preferred language began two hundred years ago with the colonization of North America, Asia, and Africa by Britain. The Industrial Revolution in Britain, its ever-expanding maritime power, development of material wealth, progress in scientific research and consequent power, all helped the spread of English, even as Britain marched as a great empire. In the Sixteenth Century, English was spoken mostly in England, southern Scotland, and small areas of Wales and Ireland. There were only about two to three million people speaking it as their native language. At present one in seven in this world speak English either as a native language or as a second language.
English was well established as the dominant language in North America in the 17th Century. But its rapid growth was in the 19th Century.
Latin was the main medium of education in western Europe throughout the Middle Ages. French was the language of diplomacy for four centuries, from the 17th to 20th. And yet, at present there is not a single language which can be compared to the position occupied by English as the international language. This is so, even though more people in the world speak Chinese than English as their native language. Spanish may claim a large number of native speakers, but neither Spanish, nor French, nor Russian, nor Chinese can even come close to the level and variety of uses to which English is put in the world.
English is learned everywhere because people have found out that knowledge of English is a passport for better career, better pay, advanced knowledge, and for communication with the entire world. English is also learned for the literature it possesses, and for the variety and rich experience it provides. English has replaced French as the language of diplomacy. In this computer age, English is bound to expand its domains of use everywhere. Everyone wants to appropriate English as their own.
In the Indian subcontinent, English became the dominant language of communication among the educated classes after the famous Minute of Lord Macaulay in 1833.





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