Essay on Communicative Competence in Second Language Acquisition

Nowadays learning a second language has become one of the major tasks for most of students, who would like to get good jobs, develop friendly or business relations with people from other countries or want to train their memory and so on. There are numerous methods, techniques and approaches to teaching and learning a foreign language. In this paper we are going to discuss four examples of theories for acquisition of the second language, including their advantages, disadvantages and examples of classroom applications.

Communicative language teaching was developed on the basis of the well-known audio-lingual method. The main characteristic feature of this method is its concentration on providing to the students a lot of various contexts for learning the target language. This method has not the aim of developing strict grammatical structures and exercising them, instead it is related first of all to the meaning of the language. Native – like pronunciation is also not so important. According to the supporters of this method – communicative competence is the major target, and at the same time the main criterion of the second language acquisition. Communicative language teaching is said to be a rather broad approach, not simply a method of teaching, proscribing the concrete classroom activities. There is a list of principles and features defined, the most well-known and accepted of which are the following, listed by David Nunan:
– learning and teaching of the second language through communication in the target language
– application of the authentic texts for the learning situations
– concentration of the students not only on learning the language, but also on learning management process
– considering of the personal experience of the learners for classroom learning
– building a connection between classroom learning activities and activities outside the classroom (Bax, 2003)

Taking account of all these features helps to make the process of learning the language interesting and captivating, students are able to feel relaxed, which is rather important for good memorizing of the material as well as development of speech. There can be numerous examples of exercises, based on this method, students are encouraged to talk about the things, which are interesting to them, or some controversial question is set for two groups, one of which should make pro arguments and be ready to discuss, whereas the second groups should seek for contra arguments. Important is the fact, that students speak only in target language both when discussing in their groups as well as, when taking part in the dispute.

Task Based Language Teaching is an approach, which is based on providing the amount of learning material, which would be necessary for the students in order to fulfill a certain task. This is very close to people’s everyday usual activities, like making a phone call to arrange a meeting with a friend, to go shopping and so on. Here students are to complete tasks, using the second language for this. Like in the previous approach meaning is of the highest importance, not grammar. An important role is played by communication, it is actually the key element for solving a problem. The activities, students are engaged into, are usually real to life, or at least very close to real ones. There is a priority for completing a task. Some examples of the tasks could be like: working on a family tree, solving a riddle or leaving a message for somebody on his answering machine (Frost, 2005). In general, the principle is, that tasks focus on some form, not individual one, and students are to complete this task in the process of communication. This method seem to be more democratic in comparison to the Communicative Language Teaching, as it allows each student to work at his own individual pace, within the frames of his own interests’ area and provides as much as possible freedom to the learner. The teachers’ role is very similar to the teachers’ role in the CLT, i.e. – the role of helper.

The third method, we are going to talk about is the Monitor Theory. Mostly this method is used for teaching adults. According to this theory, adults have two independent systems for developing ability in second language: “subconscious language acquisition and conscious language learning, and that these systems are interrelated in a definite way: subconscious acquisition appears to be far more important” (Stevick, 1990). Certainly the both systems are closely related in the process of language acquisition, however, the central role is still played by the subconscious one. When people learn the second language – they are certainly involved into the process of communication in the target language, for the speaker in this case the more important is the message he is sending, and not the form or grammatical accuracy. Native speakers are of great help, because their speech patterns and forms, used in the correct way, help the learners during their acquisition process, because they are able to “improve” their mistakes themselves, often subconsciously. The process of conscious language learning is related to direct mistakes corrections and explanation of concrete rules. Thus the Monitor Theory is based on the assumption, that conscious learning is monitor for a student. The fluency of utterances depends on the results of active communication, whereas conscious learning is important for improvement or necessary changes of the acquired system before producing the utterance, or in same cases after. According to this theory – this is the best way to improve mistakes in speaking.

The fourth method of second language teaching is called the Silent Way. Its primary task is to force students to be independent and autonomous learners, by developing their own conceptual models of all aspects of the language (Stevick, 1990). The way for reaching this aim is experimentation. Caleb Cattegno, developing his general pedagogical approach on this basis, underlined, that our whole life consists of changing time for experience. Thus students, learning the second language, are provided with the chance to make their own judgments about the language, about the basic principles, connections, meanings and so on. The way, how students learn to connect sounds with meaning, can be demonstrated with simple example with sound- color chart, where on the black background there are several rectangles of various colors drawn, each color stands for the phoneme of the target language. The teacher is to keep silent and just to point with a touch to several rectangles and the students are able to produce any utterance, in case they are aware of the connection between sounds and colors.

Overall, in this paper we have briefly studied some methods for second language acquisition and provided possible examples of classroom activities. All these methods have their weak and strong points and certainly the best way for a teacher would be to use all the advantages of each method.


Bax, S (2003) The end of CLT: a context approach to language teaching. ELT

Brown, H. D. (1994) Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Prentice Hall.

Frost, R. (2005) “A Task-based Approach.” British Council Teaching English.

Krashen, S. D. (1988) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Prentice-Hall

Stevick, E. W. (1990). Teaching Languages. A Way and Ways. Newbury House, Rowley, Massachusetts

Willis, D. (2007). Doing Task-based Teaching. OUP

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