Reflection No. 20
Building a Communicative Syllabus
Unit 7 Language and Communication
Module 2 Linguistic Description for Foreign Language Teaching
Adrián de Jesús Girón Chávez
MEILE June 4th, 2010
Building a Communicative Syllabus
English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers have an interesting dilemma during the process of teaching the target language totheir students. First, teachers feel they need to focus on accuracy, as their learners need to know the grammar rules that they must follow in order to organize their vocabulary into correct language production. The students’ production at this stage is usually at the sentence or phrase level, since they are more concerned with producing accurate sentences than paying attention to meaning and context.After their students achieve a good level of linguistic competence, EFL teachers face the problem that their learners cannot communicate effectively. Their output is likely to be accurate but poor in terms of fluency. It is at this point when teachers start worrying and then they focus on helping their learners to develop their communicative competence. Fortunately, it is possible to achievethis goal, by implementing classroom activities that engage students to use the target language to express meaning in context. These activities should encourage learners to put their linguistic knowledge in practice for the benefit of communicating their ideas, opinions, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.
In order to solve this dilemma, it is necessary to design a syllabus or programme thatconnects these competences along with other elements of language. This essay intends to discuss what materials, processes, and activities a communicative syllabus needs to have in order to develop the ability to communicate fluently and accurately. In this reflection, the type of organization for this particular syllabus will be discussed, as it can be structural, functional, and discursive or even acombination of all these features. Finally, the author of this paper will reflect on how to integrate the procedures and routines of communication to an EFL syllabus.
Designing a Communicative Syllabus
Widdowson (2003) argues that communicative competence is a complex ability that may be misunderstood by many EFL teachers. In his opinion, the expert states that EFL students do not need to becompetent, but capable to communicate with other language users. Capability is taken by Widdowson as a parameter that can be measured in short-term, as it is required in every educational institution that teaches English as a foreign language. EFL students need to prove they are capable of transmitting meaning through the use of the target language, and exams are the means for excellence to test howcapable students are. This is precisely the dilemma described at the beginning of this paper.
In order to design a good syllabus, it is necessary to consider parameters, such as the one Widdowson (2003) proposes, and processes. Munby (1978) affirms that the first step to design a syllabus is to adopt a particular theoretical perspective. This selected approach will determine the parameters andprocesses that will constitute the syllabus. Parameters include students’ needs, as the main and initial factor that will establish the goals of the programme. In this case, EFL students need to be capable to communicate their ideas and have a successful interaction with other English speakers.
Other important parameters for syllabus design are the cognitive level of students and the contextualknowledge (Munby, 1978). The author of this paper believes that students who are beginners should slightly focus on grammar rules, since they have to know and master language structures so that they can use them later to communicate. On the other hand, when EFL students move on to intermediate levels, it is imperative that they start developing a communicative ability. This requires EFL teachers...
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