The Quest for Communicative Competence: Theory and Practice


"The journey to language learning has never been smooth. The novice learner must struggle and work hard to overcome both linguistic and social barriers. However, with a CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) approach, the learner should be able to enjoy the journey more and arrive at his/her destination more easily than with other teaching approaches. And as many CLT theorists and practitioners believe, the expedition of learning and acquiring a new language is just as important as the goal itself!"

In this presentation delivered at ALTEC's very first Second Language Acquisition Workshop, Professor Savignon defines communicative competence as the interpretation, expression, and negotiation of meaning in both spoken and written language. Part of the presentation is an elaboration of the following four principle components of communicative competence: grammatical competence (using a rule, not just knowing a rule), discourse competence (beyond sentence-level grammar), strategic competence (negotiation of meaning), and socio-cultural competence (understanding the social context). Savignon discusses the obstacles to implementing CLT worldwide, such as moving a teaching corps away from a master model of content-deliverers to one of active constructors of knowledge and co-constructors of students' knowledge. This, she emphasizes, requires a fundamental shift.

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