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Topic 7 – The oral foreign language. The complexity of understanding the overall meaning in oral interaction: From audition to active and selective listening. Taking word of imitative reproduction to autonomous production.








In order to develop this unit we will divide this essay in five main chapters. The first one will analyze in detail the term communicative competence and its evolution through new methods and approaches. The second chapter will emphasize the importance of the development of the four skills viewed as the manifestations of interpreting and producing discourse. The four part will establish the importance of working the four skills as a continuum and finally a conclusion where educational implications will be discuss and a commented bibliography will be included for further references.


Nowadays the most accepted instructional framework in second language programmes is Communicative Language Teaching ( henceforth CLT). Its main goal is to achieve communicative competence. This theoretical term refers to being able to use the linguistic system effectively and appropriately in the second language and its culture.

The first time the concept of communicative competence was used was in 1965 by Noam Chomsky. In his structuralism work he defined language as an infinite set of utterances constructed out of a finite set of items. He stated that an able speaker has a subconscious knowledge of the grammar rules that allows him/her to produce correct grammatical utterances ( competence) and, on the contrary, the actual production of language in specific situations is defined as performance.

There were several reactions against Chomky´s definitions. It is worth mentioning Campbell´s (1970) who highlighted the importance of the socio-cultural aspect of language and pointed out that Chomsky had left out the appropriateness rather than correctness in grammar.

In 1972 halliday published “ The Theory of social interactions in contexts”, where he describes three main components of the context in which an interaction takes place, and which will affect grammar and performance. The three main aspects of contexts are Field ( the subject matter), tenor ( relationship between participants) and Mode ( written and oral language and rhetorical mode).

In 1972 Dell Hymes brought out the importance of the “ rules of use” and the socio-cultural aspects, functions and participants. For him the rules of grammar are useless without the rules of use. Hymes declared that “an able speaker not only knows how to produce correct grammar structures, but he/she also knows to whom, where and why”. He replaced the term competence by that of Communicative Competence and emphasized four aspects of Communicative Competence (FOSA).

· Feasibility: an able speaker knows if something is possible or not in a language.

· Occurrence: an able speaker knows how often an item occurs and act accordingly.

· Systematic Potential: and able speaker has the ability to create new utterances.

· Appropriateness: an able speaker knows the adequate language according to the circumstances.

In 1980´s Canale and Swain published an article about the rules of grammar and the rules of use. They agreed on both aspects being compulsory and needed reciprocally. They developed the first model of communicative competence for language courses and defined the term by four subcompetences.

· Grammatical competence: Knowing how to use grammar, syntax and vocabulary of a language.

· Sociolinguistic competence: knowing how to use and respond to language appropriately given the setting, the topic and the relationship amongst people communicating ( Speech act theory and context of situation).

· Discursive competence: knowing how to interpret larger contexts and how to construct longer stretches of language so that the parts make a coherent whole. This subcompetence is directly tied up to the second part of this unit in which the four skills will be analyzed.

· Strategic competence: know how to recognize and repair communication breakdowns and enhance effectiveness of communication.

This model was later extended by Van Ek, who stressed the importance of the socio-linguistic competence and he introduced the notion of Social competence, which is described as the will and skill to interact and the socio- cultural is defined in terms of appropriateness and adequacy to the given circumstances.

In 1983 widdowson was the first to pay attention to the concept of performance and the real use of language. He defined competence as the knowledge of linguistic and sociolinguistic conventions and Capacity as the ability to use such knowledge to create meaning. He distinguished in performance usage and use. The former, as the manifestation of knowledge both oral and written, and the latter, as the manifestation of knowledge as meaningful communicative behavior.

In the same year Sandra Savignon directed the emphasis on the aspects of ability and capacity. As for her, communication is a dynamic exchange of information in which the linguistic competence must adapt itself to the information input, linguistic and paralinguistic, of one or more interlocutors. She also illustrated some aspects of the communicative competence in foreign language courses. First she highlighted the willingness to take the risk to speak and write in another language, second, she defined communicative competence as the ability to function in a truly communicative setting. She also established the relationship amongst Canale and Swain subcompetences. The strategic competence is used at initial stages of communicative competence development and its use decreases since the linguistic competence and discursive competence increases.

Sandra Savignon prescribed that competence is only observable and assessed through performance and Communicative competence is relative, not absolute because it comes in degrees depending on the cooperation of the interlocutors.

In 1989 Wolfson included some cross-curricular considerations based on the idea that socio-linguistic interferences arise during contact between cultures with different systems. He outlined a model of rules of speaking with pedagogic purposes including culture aspects.

In 1999 Bachman and Palmer published a model of Communicative Competence based on three major components.

· Language knowledge: both organizational ( grammar and textual knowledge) and pragmatic ( functions of language).

· Strategic knowledge: communicative strategies and metacognitive strategies ( developed and analysed in the four skills).

· Pshyhopsychological: based on productive and receptive skills.

In 2001 the Common European Framework of reference for Languages: teaching and learning ( henceforth CEFR), described achievement of learners in foreign languages. It established a system of validation of language ability and established six levels of language individual proficiency. The CERF divided general competence in languages in knowledge, skills and pragmatic competence. The four types of language activities or skills are: reception (listening and speaking) and production ( listening and speaking).

In 2013 the organic Law on the Improvement of Quality on Education established the four skills as the basis for language courses and focuses on achieving European objectives on language learning. Amongst its objectives it is established that at the end of the primary stage of educations children must develop basic communicative competence in at least two languages. And its contents are divided in four blocks. 1. Comprehension of oral text. 2 Production of oral texts… etc


As stated above, in order to use language effectively a variety of skills must be developed. Aims of language courses and evaluation criteria are defined in terms of these four skills. receptive ( Listening and Reading) and productive ( speaking and Writting).

In this unit we should focus our attention on oral skills. Listening and Speaking.

Listening: listening comprehension is more than just hearing. it is the children’s ability to discriminate sounds, understand the meaning of words, distinguish the attitude or the tone of the speaker and recognize differences amongst registers and dialects. According to the current research on oral comprehension, adults spend 40-50% of communication time listening. It means that students are involved in this activity more often than in other forms of oral communication inside and outside the classroom


  1. GIVE STUDENTS CONFIDENCE: Our pupils must understand they might not be able to discriminate every sound or understand every word but they are not asked to do so. They need to guess from context and get the gist or main ideas of the listening or reading.
  2. CONTEXTUALIZED TASK: teachers must give enough vocabulary or grammar rules to understand the listening /reading.
  3. DEFINE GOALS AND TYPES OF RESPONSE: we must explain our students why are we listening/reading. it is important to set goals before starting the activities to decrease stress on children. main goals on receptive skills are.
    1. improve general attitudes- enjoyment, concentration..
    2. improve metalinguistic aspects of language.
    3. reinforce conceptual development
    4. interact with others.
  4. HELP STUDENTS DEVELOP STRATEGIES: Rubin defined strategies as cognitive steps or operations used in learning and solving problems. we have three different types.
    1. BOTTOM- UP: These strategies are based on the text. students build up knowledge supported by the information given. Skimming and scanning are reading techniques that use rapid eye movement and keywords to move quickly through text for slightly different purposes.Skimming is reading rapidly in order to get a general overview of the material. Scanning is reading rapidly in order to find specific facts.
    2. TOP-BOTTOM: which are based on students previous knowledge. In reading and listening is important to predict through images and previous activities so they can be prepared for future information, and guessing meaning from context is a key strategy to overcome difficulties in both listening and reading.
    3. METACOGNITIVE: refers to methods used to help students understand the way they learn; in other words, it means processes designed for students to ‘think’ about their ‘thinking’.


1. PRE LISTENING: explain background goals, create expectations and motivate and introduce vocabulary.

2. WHILE LISTENING:define what is important, practice strategies. define specific listening tasks. Listen and repeat ( chinese whisperer), listen and discriminate (fill in gaps) listen and perform ( simon says, TPR) lISTEN AND mATCH ( bINGO). lISTEN AND SEQUENCE ( STORIES) LISTEN AND CLASSIFY ( PICTURES).

3. POST LISTENING: brief review, debates.

https://www.eflmagazine.com/the-three-stages-of-a-listening-activity/ en este link te ponen un ejemplo del modelo de tres estapas con un listening.

Furthermore, we must give students enough practice, in extensive and intensive listening.

● Extensive listening (where a teacher encourages students to choose for themselves what they are going to listen to and do so for pleasure and general language improvement. Nowadays thanks to new technologies, students can whatc series online, they can listen to podcast and even listen to audiobooks regarding masterpieces of literature.) This material for extensive listening can be found from a number of sources: audio versions of books, recordings of authentic materials (such as songs, short videos or films), and audio course books.

● Intensive listening – usually requires employing taped materials. The issue that needs to be addressed here is the number of times the listening material can be replayed. This remains a perennial problem and scholars view the question differently. So, if the students are to get the maximum benefit from a listening, then the text should be replayed two or more times.


is the ability to communicate orally with reasonable accuracy, continuity and cohesion, so does the listener won’t lose attention or interest and the communication flow is maintained.


In current methods students should improve three different areas of knowledge in order to develop speaking competence. First the mechanics, use of the right words in the right order). secondly the functions, speech acts can be produced for information exchange or for interactive purposes. Last, the socio-cultural dimension, including turn-taking, roles and pauses.

regarding theories on developing speaking skills, Stoval established a distinction between speaking ability and Fluency ability. The former relies on a measure of knowing language( based on grammatical aspects) and the latter is based on the ability to communicate with others, and interchange meaning. he also defined three areas of knowledge:

● mechanics: right order of words, and pronunciation.

● functions: when the clarity of the message is essential ( functionality unit 1&2). there are two main functions, transaction and interaction.

● socio-cultural aspects: turn-taking, roles and pauses.

Hadley proposed an approach to develop speaking proficiency based on the combination of language input, structured output and cultural forms.



The integration of skills can be defined as the combination of two or more skills within a communicative task. By integrating skills we make classroom work closer to real life, where more often than not we integrate more than one skill. In addition, some concrete reasons are given by Read (1985): Continuity – Realism – Appropriateness – Variety – Recycling – Confidence. When preparing classroom activities we should prepare “Input” before “output” activities. Most of the combinations of skills exemplify the usefulness of presenting a receptive-interpretative skill before asking students to produce something, that is to say, providing “comprehensible input” before asking students for any “output”. In this sense, it is advisable for listening to precede speaking or reading to precede writing.


Brown, S. (2006) Teaching Listening. Cambridge University Press


LEER : https://www.pulib.sk/web/kniznica/elpub/dokument/Bernatova8/subor/Vovk.pdf especifica cómo desarrollar actividades de listening y la importancia en el aula.

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