Developing Oral Communicative CompetenceMeasuring communicative competence of second language speakers with accuracy has been considered to be a difficult task. One of the major reasons in support of this argument is the lack of definite parameters for an accurate evaluation.
Often linguistic competence is taken to be the yardstick for measuring communicative competence. In order to measure objectively the communicative competence of a second language speaker, we need to define what is communicative competence and distinguish it from linguistic competence.
After that we should examine how they are related to each other and establish their relationship. This evaluation will reveal that a speaker naturally moves from communicative competence to linguistic competence.
A child first learns to speak, then progresses to learn the linguistic features like syntax and grammar. Hence, the natural course of acquiring a language should be from communicative competence to linguistic competence.The focus of interest in this study is the case of Nas who is a second language learner who wants to develop his oral communication skills.
In order to make Nas proficient in oral skills to enable him to discharge his present duties effectively and help him to progress in his career, a strategic plan is devised for the development of his oral communication skills.
It is not the usual academic practice drills. His tutor has developed a plan fully incorporating the dynamics of oral communication skills as(Savignon, 1976) points out: “it is not a question of patching up existing programs with communication practice drills or pseudo communication but of redefining our goals and rethinking our methods”(p.4)In the light of the above finding, it is relevant to evaluate the development of oral proficiency of the second language learner Nas as a case study. The strategy adopted for developing the oral skills of Nas can be evaluated by using the above parameter.
Before attempting to assess the learner, it is necessary to have sufficient background information about the learner. This requirement has been successfully met by gathering the personal details of Nas.Nas moved from his native Algiers to the United States in a, “quest to gain and live a better life and to be able to make enough money to send a certain amount back to his family each month.” His Uncle Talib has lived in America for seven years and was the main reason Nas relocated to the United States.
Nas is currently working as a valet attendant at a hotel. (Excerpts from the case study)The first requirement of an effective teaching strategy is to understand the learner fully.The teacher has attempted to initiate Nas into interactions, which are spontaneous, unrehearsed and realistic. According to Savignon the linguistic features of communication are embedded in the cultural context of the speaker.
They include a host of non-verbal communication cues such as distance, posture, gestures and facial expressions. The learner in question communicates in this manner. Nas is not constrained by the grammatical correctness of his utterances. He is keen to transfer his ideas using all the non-verbal skills along with his verbal knowledge.
This shows that his strategic competence in communication is very high.His language proficiency is quite high. He is fully bilingual with Arabic and French and he can also understand a bit of Spanish. His English abilities are elementary.
That being said, when speaking with him he is quite effective at communicating his ideas through non-verbal methods and through his own patience. (Excerpts from case study)The acquisition linguistic features may help a person to improve communicative competence, but accuracy in the use of all these linguistic elements is not essential to communicative competence. The traditional method of measuring communicative competency was based on discrete elements of language such as pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. This approach is defective because an integrated skill is broken down into elements of language for the sake evaluation.
This method also fails to take into account the complexity of communicative setting. This undue emphasis on linguistic accuracy can discourage the development of strategies necessary for communicative competence. This observation is in perfect harmony with the strategy adopted by the teacher for the development of the oral communication skills in Nas. Though his grammatical competence is on a lower footing, his discourse competence strong due to the clarity of his thoughts, his body language ease and confidence in the delivery of his speech.
When communicating, his ideas come across quite clearly and the thing I noticed most about this statement was not the broken grammar, but the clarity of thought and the seriousness with which he delivered his ambition. He maintains eye contact and uses his hands to emphasize his points, which makes it appear that he is confident and comfortable speaking English. (Excerpts from case study)In oral language development students should get opportunities to engage in real-world language activities. As communication is always a personalized and spontaneous event, it cannot be programmed but one should make it happen.
To improve second language oral proficiency, it is necessary to provide opportunities for meaningful social interaction. This can give the learner an opportunity to understand the nuances of speech production and delivery. In the case of Nas this opportunity is ample so he can develop his oral language at a faster rate. Another important factor in the acquisition of a second language is the motivation of the learner.
This is evident form the response he gave to the teacher. His motivation is real and not a forced one. Since it has to do with future life he will learn the language at a faster rate.Authors Suzanne F.
Peregoy and Owen F. Boyle in the book Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL summarize that, even with cultural and social restraints, it is still possible to become fluent in a second language as long as the second language learner is ambitious and dedicated (60). This illustrates Nas’ personality and attitude towards learning English. He is “eager and willing” to be taught and learn English and he always has questions to ask.
This will make the learning and teaching experience much more positive because his questions will ensure that he is getting the most out of each tutor session. (Excerpts from the case study)The teacher’s observation of the learner and the strategy presented in dealing with the learner and the goals to be achieved are clearly laid out in the strategic plan. The questions asked to the learner are relevant and useful in formulating teaching strategies. Communication with the learner to elicit vital information will help the teacher to figure out the thinking patterns of the learner.
So the teaching strategies can be modified to get maximum benefit out of the teaching process. It is evident from the case study that the teacher sees the process of teaching as a collaborative activity. This is a vital tool in the acquisition of a second language. Social interactions of Nas in the work place and his interactions with the teacher can help him to achieve his goal effectively.
His attitude revealed in the work place through his interactions with the colleagues point to the fact that his socio-linguistic competence is very commendable.The fact that he will continue to ask questions, make mistakes and correct himself is an accomplishment unto itself and he is the type of person who does not take the easy way out. This will make the tutoring process not only easier, but much more enriching for the both of us because he wants to learn English and I want to help him to accomplish his goals. (Excerpts from the case study)In the light of above analysis of the learner Nas, it is evident that his oral communications skills can improve at a faster rate due to many favorable factors.
The only area of his weakness is his grammatical competence. The other areas are in very strong positions. His strategic competence is highly effective. The positive factor that influences him in his pursuit is his ambition to ‘become like his uncle’.
This is a natural outcome of his personality. His practical approach to his task and the immediate goal of achieving his objective of being ‘able to share a joke with his colleagues and laugh’ also shows that he has strong socio-linguistic skills. A collaborative effort from the teacher and the learner is essential to overcome this hurdle.In developing oral proficiency along with grammatical competence, it is essential to observe and analyze the cultural background and the thinking pattern of the learner in order to formulate effective strategies of instruction.
Given to the special condition of Nas, his immediate requirement is development of oral skills, which essential for him to gain acceptance and identity in his profession at present. As the above analysis shows the goal of oral competence can be achieved easily but achieving grammatical accuracy in his utterance needs effective collaborative form Nas and his tutor. Since each learner is unique, different strategies are needed for different learners. Since the plan and implementation of the teaching strategies out lined in the case study are based on the parameters of effective teaching and learning of oral language, Nas can achieve his goal of communicative competence easily.
Finally, he needs to redefine his approach to grammatical competence through mutual collaboration by fixing realistic and achievable goals. ReferencesPeregoy, Suzanne F., & Owen F. Boyle.
(2008). Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL5th ed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc.Savignon, J.
S. (1976). Communicative Competence: Theory and Classroom Practice.(Paper presented at the central state conference on the teaching of foreign Language, Montreal, 1976).
Eric Database, (ED 135245).
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