History Of The Competence Versus Performance English Language Essay

The term was invented by the linguist Dell Hymes in 1966, showing that he dislikes the idea of Noam Chomskys (1965) about using the distinction between competence and performance. To follow Chomskys abstract opinion of competence, Hymes agreed to be responsible for ethnographic exploration of communicative competence that included “communicative form and function in integral relation to each other” (Leung, 2005). Hymes, who pioneered the approach, now known as the ethnography of communication, it is one of the most important approaches in the oral competence.

Many discussions has occurred with regard to linguistic competence and communicative competence in the second and foreign language teaching literature, and many scholars have found communicative competence as a superior model of language following Hymes’ opposition to Chomsky’s linguistic competence. This opposition has been adopted by those who seek new directions toward a communicative era by taking for granted the basic motives and the appropriateness of this opposition behind the development of communicative competence.

Use in education

The study proposes the use of a competency-based approach and presents a detailed process for developing such a course step-by-step, with a focus on students with the needed competencies in English oral communication in the Language School at Uasd. Many studies have talked about the need for English oral communication and a discrepancy between the university English language curriculum and English language requirements for jobs (Phosward 1989; Silpa-Anan 1991; Boonjaipet 1992; Crosling and Ward 2002; Vasavakul 2006). Dominguez and Rokowski (2002) refer to the same issue as ‘the abyss existing between the goals of the academic and the professional world’ and propose an idea of bridging the gap between English for Academic and Occupational purposes. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to develop an English oral communication course for senior English students. The course emphasizes competencies in English oral communication since English oral skills are reported as the most wanted and needed for Communication in the classroom. The notion of communicative competence is one of the theories that underlie the communicative approach to foreign language teaching. Especially in the area of speaking, competencies in English oral communication are considered a valuable asset for senior students in the Language School. The course is thus expected to equip senior students with English oral competencies so that they will receive more opportunities when they finish the University. The word communication comes from the Latin word cmmunicare which means ‘that something becomes common’ (Nilsson, 1990:7). No matter what people are going to do when they meet, whether it is to dine, play or work, they communicate by means of signals, gestures, looks, intonation and words. It is an unavoidable process. Communication includes many things such as sharing information, feelings, thoughts and influences (Nilsson, 1990:7). It is an important social process and functions as a tool for contact, transfer of ideas, influences and development.. One of the most fascinating characteristics of humans is their ability to communicate, create social reactions and complex societies (Nilsson, 1990:9)

Canale and Swain (1980) defined communicative competence in terms of three components:

grammatical competence: words and rules

sociolinguistic competence: appropriateness

strategic competence: appropriate use of communication strategies

Canale (1983) refined the above model, adding discourse competence: cohesion and coherence

A more recent survey of communicative competence by Bachman (1990) divides it into the broad headings of “organizational competence,” which includes both grammatical and discourse (or textual) competence, and “pragmatic competence,” which includes both sociolinguistic and “illocutionary” competence. Strategic Competence is associated with the interlocutors’ ability in using communication strategies (Faerch& Kasper, 1983; Lin, 2009).

Through the influence of communicative language teaching, it has become widely accepted that communicative competence should be the goal of language education, central to good classroom practice. There are many good writers and speakers but few good listeners. Most of us filter the spoken words addressed to us so that we absorb only some of them – frequently those we want to hear. Listening is an art which not many people cultivate. But it is a very necessary one, because a good listener will gather more information and achieve better rapport with the other person. And both these effects of good listening are essential to good communication. For oral communication to be effective, it should be clear, relevant, tactful in phraseology and tone, concise, and informative. This is in contrast to previous views in which grammatical competence was commonly given top priority. The understanding of communicative competence has been influenced by the field of pragmatics and the philosophy of language concerning speech acts as described in large part by John Searle and J.L. Austin.

Competence versus Performance

“Linguistic theory is concerned primarily with an ideal speaker-listener, in a completely homogeneous speech-communication, who know its (the speech community’s) language perfectly and that it is unaffected by such grammatically irrelevant conditions as memory limitations, distractions, shifts of attention and interest, and errors (random or characteristic) in applying his knowledge of this language in actual performance.” Chomsky, 1965

Chomsky differentiates competence, which is an idealized capacity, from performance being the production of actual utterances. According to him, competence is the ideal speaker-hearer’s knowledge of his or her language and it is the ‘mental reality’ which is responsible for all those aspects of language use which can be characterized as ‘linguistic’. Chomsky argues that only under an idealized situation whereby the speaker-hearer is unaffected by grammatically irrelevant conditions such as memory limitations and distractions will performance be a direct reflection of competence. A sample of natural speech consisting of numerous false starts and other deviations will not provide such data. Therefore, he claims that a fundamental distinction has to be made between the competence and performance.

Chomsky dismissed criticisms of delimiting the study of performance in favor of the study of underlying competence, as unwarranted and completely misdirected. He claims that the descriptivist limitation-in-principle to classification and organization of data, the “extracting patterns” from a corpus of observed speech and the describing “speech habits” etc. are the core factors that preclude the development of a theory of actual performance.

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