On Developing Communicative Competence

Lou Ruijuan Most Chinese students, especially those with low foreign language levels, are used to memorizing the language but reluctant to speak in the target language. They may be familiar with the sentence patterns but do not know how to start and end a conversation and how to express themselves in a particular situation. So it is a main task for a teacher to develop students’ communicative competence. I. Obstacles in Communication While it is difficult to enable low-level students to express themselves correctly and fluently in English in the classroom, the following troubles for them to communicate in English are realized. . Poor language abilities. Vocabulary is one major problem.

New words always stand in their way of communication. Limited grammar knowledge is not enough to make themselves understood. Poor language ability often cause them to fail to understand what the teacher says in the class . They do not know what is introduction; they are confused about how do you do” and “what do you do”. They may ask you “where are you come from. ” etc. 2. Lack of conversational strategies. Low level students have difficulties in conducting a real-life conversation . They hesitate to start and end conversation.

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They do not know when and what to speak in a particular situation. They are reluctant to express strong emotions such as excitement and surprise. 3. Less pressure on students. For low level students, most of their teachers are Chinese. They are more dependent on their teachers. Very often when they fail to understand and to express themselves, Chinese will be brought in for convenience. Their communication is usually filled with Chinese words and sentences. All these obstacles hamper students in English communication. So in the oral communicative class we teachers should be aware of it and our teaching should be adopted by it.

II. Focus in communicative language teaching Today English is becoming a communicative tool and the purpose of learning is to to communcate. Acquiring communicative skills is one of the key goals in lanaguage learning. In other words, communicative speaking is designated to help studetns develop confiddence and skill in using english for communication. Promoting students’ ability in communication should not only focus on language ability , but also on communicative strategies. Chinese students are used to memorizing the language structure including new words, drills and grammar points, they pay less attention to them.

They are poor in the use of the language. so in the communicative oral class, a vitla role, of teachers is to motivate students by showing them that English communication is worthwhile, guiding students to become more confident and independant, and help students try ways of learning and new strategies for communication. In addition, for low level students, to improve the language and to introduce conversational rules and strategies are two balanced tasks. III. Stages in teaching communicative speaking There should be four stages in the communicative language teaching: presentation, practice , communicative activities and feedback session. . Presentation. It means to present students with clear information about the language point to be taught. This may be a structure, a lexical item or a function etc. It includes explaining to students what the new language means and how it is used . Take making suggestion s for example, the procedure should be (1) Teacher begins with the question on how to make suggestions (2)

Teacher writes on the blackboard sentences used to express suggestions such as “why do you … , You’d better If I were you… (3) Teacher explains their usage and function to the class; (4) the teacher provides examples for students (5) Ask students to practice these sentences in order to enable them practice the newly leant language structure. Presentation plays an important role in successful teaching. Different ways of doing this may stimulate students’ interest and lead to mastery of the language. A teacher may present the materials by:(1) Making use of text: students may learn the spoken language directly in situations in which it is most commonly used; (2) Asking questions relevant to the topic to be discussed. tudents are motivated to think and speak in English; (3) Presenting pictures to prompt students initiatives and may encourage active participation in the class; (4) Listening to dialogues so that students feel familiar with typical realistic spoken language. 2. Practice of the language points This stage is designed to provide students with a good opportunity in practicing the language points just leant at presentation stage. It involves controlled practice of function leant with the help of suggested vocabulary and structure and free practice in which students improvise on the new function or language point learnt .

For example, at presentation stage, students are introduced the language function of how to ask where the things are and the prepositions of place. At the practice stage, they are shown a picture of room and asked to tell where the things are. 3. Communicative activities At this stage , the teacher involves students in activities in which the language items newly learnt become an instrument of communication rather than being an end in itself. As the focus at this stage is on communication, the students will be required to use any or all the language that they know.

They will be urged to retrieve the English that they have in their language store to carry out some communicative task. In order to obtain the ultimate goal — to communicate in the target language, a teacher should create vivid, productive and flexible teaching methods to arouse students’ enthusiasm and initiative. Here are a series of approaches I have used in organizing communicative activities in my class. (1) Communication games The communicative games are based on the principle of the information gap. students are put into situation which are “game-like” and have to use all and any language they posess to complete the game.

For example, after introducing how to describe people and things, I tell my students to work in pairs and give them letters A and B. Each student A is shown a picture which is not seen to student b till end of the game. students B has to draw an identified picture by listening to his partner’s instructions and ask questions where necessary After that, I compare the students’ works of art with the original to see how successful the activities are and make some comments on it. (2) Problem- solving activities In these activities, students are faced with a problem to be solved. Students are divided into several small groups .

They are given a considerable amount of information and told to make a decision or suggestion They may be asked to decid where to go on their vacation, or what presents to buy for their parents ‘ wedding ceremony. They nay be the panel members on a radio program to answer the questions from listeners. These activities are successful in promoting free and spontaneous use. (3) Interpersonal exchange Based on Gertrude Moskowitz’ concept of “humanistic techniques”, a teacher may produce such exercises as the following which are often incredibly productive e in terms of the amount of language students use. 4). Simulation an role playing This activity aims at giving students practice in real world English by creating the presence of a real-life situation in the classroom. For example, students are mentioned to be a waiter or waitress in a restaurant , or to be reporter to interview a famous director etc. Students will need to do a certain amount of “acting” in taking part in a simulation and play a role. But this is not acting in the classical sense, of course, it simply means that students are prepared to enter into the activities with enthusiasm. There are some troubles for low-level students.

But it is the case that some shy students and low-level students are more talkative and active when playing roles. They are motivated to be willingly involved in the classroom activities. Simulations and classroom interactions are highly productive of language and extremely enjoyable for students with the teacher’s help and encouragement. (5). Creating dialogues Creating dialogues is a good form of oral practice for the beginners. I often invite students to come to the teacher’s platform with the outlines for reference to act out their dialogues, after giving the situation.

In order to ensure other students listen to their fellow students attentively, some questions should be asked after activities and a comment is necessary. 4. Feedback stage It is important for the teacher to conduct feedback about the content of classroom activities. This is a good opportunity to introduce English conversation rules and strategies in a particular situation and promote students’ awareness of cultural difference. At this stage, a teacher should be concerned with the ability to communicate efficiently rather than only with linguistic accuracy.

Although students make various errors, they are provided with opportunity and stimulation for oral communication with English they have. Practicing may enable to master what they have learnt. IV Comments on English teaching for low level students 1. The ultimate aim of communicative speaking is to develop students’ communicative capacity. In most cases, the classroom may be the only place for Chinese students to speak in English. so it is essential that a teacher create a real-life English learning environment instead of depriving students of opportunities. in speaking English. . Most teachers find hard to apply English teaching in low-level class and do not exert any efforts in promoting students’ independance and confidenace… . But I think it is feasible and quite helpful to develop student’s ability in language using. For low-level students, their English is quite limited. They should be exposed to as much authentic English as possible so as to form a habit of speaking in English. It is very important to practice constantly. 3. Low-level students are not used to English teaching . They may often bring Chinese in their conversation for convenience.

They may fail to understand a simple sentence. But it is advisable for teachers to attempt various ways to help students, such as (1) Explaining again in simpler sentences. (2) Using the objectives, pictures, gestures and simple drawings on the blackboard. (3) Choosing suitable examples (4) providing hints, cues and key words to help students to speak up. 4. Most of all, teachers’ role in the commmunicative class is not the giver of information, but to create a climate, a kind climate, a kind of class “culture” where English is useful and necessary.

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